Going Solo: Single Parenthood

A Guide for New Single Mothers

I’ve been a single mother for exactly 38 days. If you count from the point in my pregnancy when I started doing this alone, I have been a single mom for a little under 9 months. Either way, I am no expert, but I have learned a few things. The following is a guide for other single moms and/or new moms. Some of it also applies to dads, but mostly I am uspassing this on to other women who find themselves in a similar predicament to my own. It is a little long, but I haven’t written in a while and I’ve been taking notes for the last few weeks. Enjoy. Also, feel free to send me additions. I can use all the help I can get at this point.

Sometimes you just need to cry it out.

This goes for you and the baby. It’s ok if she cries a little and it’s definitely ok if you need to cry too. She is a baby. Babies cry. Take a deep breath and let it happen. Do NOT freak out! This will only make her cry more. Sometimes you will need to cry more than she does and you will wish you had some giant person to swaddle and rock you till it all goes away. Go to a quiet place and just let it out. Then, follow this action by dancing it out. From Brittany to Beyonce, there are hundreds of songs available that will work to dry your tears and make you feel better again. This is life. It is beautiful and painful all at the same time. Embrace it.

Assembly required

From now on, everything requires assembly and batteries. Invest in a good set of tools. Every single mother should get an honorary engineering degree by the time her child is 3. You can also expect to learn a little Spanish and Chinese in this process because sometimes the directions only come in these languages. Don’t feel bad if you make it half way through the assembly and have to throw something. Just walk away from it, get a glass of wine and return to the project when you are breathing normally again.

There will be milk

If you are breast-feeding, expect milk when you don’t expect it. It will come out of every opening on the baby and it will come out of you. Sometimes this will happen in large quantities, so learn to roll with the punches and laugh it off. I often go through as many clothing changes as my daughter. This morning I didn’t even get my coffee before it was squirting out her nose and down my shirt.  Pack away all the silk in your wardrobe for when your child is about 3 or 4. Actually, you may just want to go ahead and switch to all cotton for the next 18 years.

Ralph

If your baby’s diaper causes you to dry heave or puke, this is normal and ok. You are not less of a mom. Just put the baby in a safe place and remove yourself until you are done. Don’t let her see you until you’ve up chucked or hacked it all out. You don’t want her to get a complex just yet.

You are now a monkey

Learn to do things with your feet. You are about to go back a step in evolution and bring out the monkey inside. When you have been up half the night calming a fussy baby and you finally rock her to sleep in your arms, do not put her down for any reason. You have two feet. Before you know it, you will be using them to open and close doors, pet the dog, walk the dog, climb trees, and make a pot of coffee (the last two take practice, but you’ll get there).

The father of your child.

Here is a subject people around you will want to avoid talking about. Despite the fact that it took two people to make your child, if one is missing, people generally don’t want to hear about him. I try not to bring mine up often, but I’m going to go there just this once to make a few things clear. I’ve talked to many single moms about their baby’s father and this is what I’ve learned. Also, I am no angel and I am not handling this perfectly, but I’m trying to work on all of the following.

Forgive him. No amount of nasty bitter resentment will make him change and you dwelling on him and your anger towards him is time wasted. That time should be spent focusing on your new bundle of joy 🙂

Don’t try to make sense of his actions. Not many people can understand a man who walks away from a pregnant woman or who wants nothing to do with his own child, so don’t try to. You will drive yourself crazy.

Find one trusted friend you can vent to about him. Keep it to just that friend and never talk badly about him in front of your child. It doesn’t matter how old your son or daughter is now, they will remember what you’ve said about him.  When they get older they will have their own opinion about their father. Let them come to that opinion on their own.

Look in the mirror and say these words “it’s not me, it’s him.” you will feel guilt that your child doesn’t have their dad around and it will hurt like hell. The things he has said and done to you will keep going through your mind and you will begin to think there must be something wrong with you. Why else would he walk away from his own child? Stop right there! He is the one with the problem. Trust me. You are amazing and it is incredible that you are even surviving each day. You pay the bills, change the diapers, go to work everyday, and wipe your child’s tears. You are a freaking superwoman! He cannot hurt you unless you let him, so don’t let him. To be honest, now that my daughter is here, I actually feel bad for her father because he is missing out. She is so wonderful that I can’t imagine WHAT in his life could possibly trump her greatness.

When you look at your child and you see him in her eyes or expressions, do not let this upset you. When someone says she looks just like him, just nod and smile. In fact, agree, because you know its true. You got the best thing he had to offer. Your child is half him and half you. Of course she will remind you of him sometimes and possibly everyday. There was obviously something you liked about him at some point or you wouldn’t be looking at a baby right now. Just admit that to yourself and be glad she at least got some good DNA. J

Your body

You just spent 9 months creating a human being. A human being! Then, you either went through major surgery to get him out or you pushed him out through a very tiny opening. You will get your body back. Do not worry. Be patient with yourself and focus on your baby. Personally, I am registered for a half-marathon in 4 months. My training right now is rocking, swaying, and squatting. In a month, I’ll be taking long walks with the baby. In two months, I’ll be running. Until then, I am going to enjoy my widened hips, enormous breasts, and floppy belly and remember the awesome feat this body just accomplished.

Ask for help. Accept help.

You do not need to prove anything to anybody, so don’t try to be a hero or a martyr. You are already the only one paying the medical bills and waking up five times a night to feed your child, you do not need to do everything else. If someone offers to make or buy you a meal, accept! If someone offers to watch the baby while you sleep, hand that child over. If someone offers you baby clothes or a diaper genie, take it. If someone wants to walk your dog, let them. Swallow your pride because this is not about you. This is about your child. I came into this doing everything for myself and being too proud and stubborn to get help from anyone. I even worked two jobs just to pay for everything. During my pregnancy, when I could barely move, I realized that I could do this alone, but I wouldn’t do it very well. So, I asked for help with my baby’s room, with cleaning my apartment, and with getting baby supplies. I even had friends who were willing to go on ice cream runs for me when I had a craving. As a result, I am humbled and grateful beyond measure and my daughter is happier and better off as a result. Someday, when you and I get used to this single mommy thing, we will pay it forward and help someone else.

Shower

Take a shower. Brush your teeth. I know it seems like you don’t have any time any more, but a simple shower or tooth brushing is going to make you feel amazing. Also, invest in a bouncy seat or ask around and see if anyone has one that they are done using. Put that baby in the seat, open the shower curtain enough for your baby to see you, and clean yourself girl! I find this works best right after the baby gets a bath. She is usually calm long enough for me to take my own shower. When you are covered in puke, poop, and drool, a shower is all you need to feel human again.

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Going Solo: Single Parenthood

You Were Always There

Dear Isabella,

Today you are 24 days old. I still can’t believe you are finally here and are no longer a belly bump. I have been thinking a lot about that moment when we met and I want to write it down before I forget.

When the doctor lifted you up and put you on my chest, we looked into each other’s eyes and I felt like I already knew you. You looked exactly like I had imagined. You had black hair, my nose, and your father’s eyes. I couldn’t get over how very familiar you were to me. You were and are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

A friend of mine told me that she can’t remember life before her daughter was born. For me, it’s more like I can’t remember you not being there with me all this time. Standing in front of the Taj Mahal that balmy Indian afternoon, you were there with me. Flying across the Kenyan countryside dodging giraffes and monkeys in a Land Rover in search of a lion, you were there. You were there with me in the crystal blue waters of Puerto Rico and the crisp chilly waters of the Alaskan shoreline. You climbed Mount Helena and danced to the Jazz pumping through the streets of New Orleans. In Guatemala and Nicaragua, you saw the beauty and joy in the eyes of the children in the slums. Every moment, every adventure in my life, you were there. I felt you with me. I just didn’t know till now that it was you.

Isabella, my life has been free and full of excitement since I was born. I have been lucky and blessed to have incredible opportunities fall in my lap. When I found out you were coming, there was a selfish part of me that almost gave you up. I thought my adventures and freedom would be over. Now, after carrying you for almost 43 weeks, and caring for you for almost a month, I’m glad the selfish side of me lost. I looked at your eyes this morning and realized that you ARE the next adventure in my life. All of my searching, all of my waiting, brought me here to you. You are the greatest and best journey I will ever go on. The coolest part is that we’ve only just begun. Personally I can’t wait to see where this whole mother/daughter thing takes us.

I Love You!
~Mom

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