The solo par­ent: ad­vice & sup­port

Whether it’s by choice, or cir­cum­stances, be­ing on your own through your preg­nancy can be scary. But it doesn’t have to lonely, or less mag­i­cal, with the right sup­ports in place, writes Lori Co­hen

Your Pregnancy - - Contents -

“I’M GO­ING TO

have a baby!” you tell peo­ple. Ex­cit­ing, daunt­ing, over­whelm­ing… these are all nor­mal ways for a mom-to-be to feel. But when there’s no “we” in the equa­tion, you may also feel iso­lated and out of touch with your cou­pled-up preg­gie friends. “The pres­sure of hav­ing all the re­spon­si­bil­ity fall on you can be mas­sive and there may be an el­e­ment of per­ceived stigma for be­ing a sin­gle mom,” says Sally Baker, a so­cial worker in pri­vate prac­tice. Guilt, re­gret, anger against the child’s fa­ther, fi­nan­cial wor­ries, con­cerns about what you will tell your child one day – these are all sen­ti­ments you may feel at dif­fer­ent in­ten­si­ties through­out your preg­nancy. Your friends and fam­ily may shrug these off as wasted emo­tions, but Sally says they are all real and the trick is to process them. “You’ve got to go through them, but re­mem­ber that any­thing can change at any time, so rather live in the mo­ment than ag­o­nise over the fu­ture,” she rec­om­mends.

CON­NECT WITH YOUR­SELF

To find the joy in your preg­nancy, fo­cus on your re­la­tion­ship with your­self, she says. “Build­ing your re­la­tion­ship with your­self and your baby con­sciously can be an in­cred­i­bly en­rich­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Eat­ing well, tak­ing care of your­self, jour­nalling, walk­ing and read­ing are all ways to do this,” says Sally. “Alone­ness is hard,” she ac­knowl­edges, “and hav­ing a baby will not au­to­mat­i­cally make you feel whole.” Spend­ing time with friends and fam­ily who make you feel good – and keep their judg­ments to them­selves – is a use­ful strat­egy to make you feel more con­nected, says Sally. These peo­ple will form the back­bone of your sup­port struc­ture and your “vil­lage” that will join you at your doc­tor’s ap­point­ments and scans and be there to help you through the birth and be­yond.

SPEAK UP!

You’re go­ing to need to find your voice to make this work, how­ever. Peo­ple can’t guess your needs, al­though they will be ea­ger to help, so you need to be clear about how, and when, they can as­sist you. Be sure they are up to the com­mit­ment in terms of the emo­tional en­ergy and time they can spend with you – hav­ing an open, hon­est con­ver­sa­tion about this will en­sure your ex­pec­ta­tions are man­aged or give you the time to pull in some­one else who can de­liver. Help­ing does not al­ways re­quire huge ges­tures. Sim­ple things can make a dif­fer­ence. Do you sim­ply need hugs ev­ery now and again? “Spend time with friends that like to hug you and make you feel good. Feel­ing good is good for your baby too,” says Sally. Many sin­gle moms-to-be choose to take their own mother or sis­ter along to an­te­na­tal classes so they can pre­pare to be a birth part­ner. “Choos­ing the right class is im­por­tant. Some fo­cus on build­ing your in­ner sup­port dur­ing birth rather than fo­cus­ing on the sup­port of some­one with you, which is use­ful for sin­gle moms birthing,” says Sally. How­ever, Sally sug­gests you also en­gage in ac­tiv­i­ties such as preg­nancy ex­er­cise classes where you don’t feel it’s so glar­ing that you are sin­gle. Af­ter the birth in­fant mas­sage classes or mom and baby classes also pro­vide

en­vi­ron­ments where you can spend time hav­ing fun with your baby and share with other women. This of­fers you an ad­di­tional stream of sup­port but also the op­por­tu­nity to form friend­ships. “It’s hard for a lot of peo­ple to reach out like this, but it’s es­sen­tial,” stresses Sally. Sup­port groups for sin­gle moms also give you “adult” time to chat about your chal­lenges (and joys!) with like-minded peo­ple. Ma­ter­nity coach Tsholo Bless says preg­nancy mas­sage and reflexology, which she of­fers her clients, are hugely ben­e­fi­cial. “They help bal­ance the hor­mones, are a vi­tal stress re­lief and give you a space to be quiet, re­flect and let go of what’s go­ing on in daily life and work to pre­pare you emo­tion­ally for birth,” she says.

DEAL WITH THE DE­TAILS

On a prac­ti­cal level, you need to en­sure you have a list of ICE (in case of emer­gency) peo­ple who can lit­er­ally drop any­thing for you if you need help. Your bestie may live a fair dis­tance from you and be car­ing for a tot of her own, so she may not be the best per­son if you hit a curve-ball at 2am. Con­sider who lives close to you and can be there for you dur­ing the day or night when you need them. Write up your birth plan and de­tail any med­i­cal is­sues you have and keep these on you in case you end up in hos­pi­tal with­out your cho­sen per­son. Work­ing with a doula or ma­ter­nity coach can be a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence too, says Tsholo, as they are able to help you make de­ci­sions with­out the bag­gage or emo­tions that come with a fam­ily mem­ber, but they are also armed with the cor­rect sci­en­tific and med­i­cal knowl­edge to en­sure you are prop­erly in­formed. “You can meet with a doula and start build­ing a rap­port in your sec­ond trimester,” she sug­gests. “Trainee doulas look­ing for ex­pe­ri­ence can be a so­lu­tion for those that are fi­nan­cially strained. Post­par­tum doulas can also of­fer you the help and sup­port you need once you are home from hos­pi­tal. This can range from help­ing you with breast­feed­ing, just be­ing com­pany or help­ing out around the house,” sug­gests Sally. Night nurses are pop­u­lar. Why not ask your friends to con­sider con­tribut­ing to a night nurse fund in­stead of baby gifts? Fi­nally, there are no rules, stresses Sally. “This is your jour­ney, with your baby. Do what works for you.”

YP

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