Going Solo: Single Parenthood, life lessons, Preggers

savor.

The following popped up in my Timehop today. It is from August 30, 2015. First of all, I cannot believe a year has gone by already. Bella starts her second year of school next week and I still remember the shock on her face when she took her first steps. I remember how she felt as a tiny infant snuggled up on my chest and sleeping on my belly. I still remember those first tiny kicks that I felt inside me. What a joy this journey has turned out to be. What a surprise it is to find out this little human chose me as her mother and I never realized just how much I needed her in my life. I only wish it would all slow down because I want to savor each of these moments for a little longer before they end up as yesterday.

I read this and I want to remember it and I know a lot of people can relate:

August 30, 2015, 10pm

I’m listening to Lumineers, packing up The last of Bella’s baby clothes, and crying. Tomorrow is the first full day of the first full week of school for her. School. This life goes way too fast. A month less than three years ago,  I found out she was coming into this world. Three years. That’s it. It seems like it was last week. I have learned so much about life and about myself in that time; definitely more than I ever learned in all 20 years of school. I have learned what I am capable of(and that it’s more than I ever imagined) I’ve learned what is truly important in life, and why love and forgiveness are way more valuable than any hatred or anger or. I’ve learned that money and things mean nothing in this life. I have learned to stop planning and just live. I have learned that chocolate hand prints on my wall are just as awesome as my art collection and that there isn’t a bad day in the world that can’t be cured by a toddler smiling ear to ear, yelling “mommy,” and running into your arms at the end of the day. I’ve learned that loving and supportive friends and family are a rare and priceless thing to have. I’ve learned to really give: my heartFullSizeRender (2), my money, my time, and that giving is the secret to why any of us are here in the first place. I’ve learned that having a child is a gift and should never be taken for granted. I’ve learned to give thanks for that gift endlessly. I’ve learned that being there for Your child and giving her your time means more to her than any toy or material thing you can give her. I’ve learned that even a two-year-old can show compassion and love beyond measure. And finally, I’ve learned that happiness is a choice, and when you choose it you realize that your life is suddenly easier and better than you ever knew it could be. So, thank you to all of you who have been and are a part of our life. Bella and I give thanks everyday for the people and love we have in our lives. We consider ourselves very lucky. The last three years have been the best and most exciting years of my life and I cannot wait to see what our future has in store for us.

And it’s all still true!

 

 

 

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Preggers

Every Child Should be Celebrated. Every Child.

Some babies are planned. Some are not. Some have two married parents, some have adoptive parents, and some have just a mom or just a dad. Some have two moms and some have two dads. Some children are raised by their grandparents or aunts and uncles. Some have biological parents and step parents raising them. There is no right way for a child to be raised. I have worked with children who were raised in a nuclear family and who have a multitude of behavioral and developmental problems. The two parents in the home are not a guarantee of a healthy happy child. I have worked with just as many children who are from single parent families who are top of their class, star athletes, and have no apparent social struggles.

I think we worry too much about how a child is going to do before we even give that child the chance to do just fine. My child has a mother who did not expect her or plan her and who is still in disbelief every time I look at my belly and see her growing there. Still, she has a mother who believes she is here for a reason and is willing to give up anything and anyone just to have her. She has a father who has decided not to be involved in her life. I have worried. I have cried. Her father and I have both made assumptions about how this will affect her and she isn’t even here yet.

I have worked with children in Kenya, Guatemala, Nicaragua, India, Puerto Rico, and all over the United States. Some of these children have experienced trauma that you and I will never even begin to understand or experience. The one thing I have learned from them, however, is that children are resilient. They can be faced with the most horrific circumstances and yet they smile and laugh and dance in the rain. Then they go on to succeed despite the fact that the adults and/or systems in their lives have done nothing but create hurdles for them. So why is it that we don’t give these children a chance to show us what they are made of? Why do we write out their future before they are even out of the womb? Does a child in the suburbs living in a big house with a picket fence really have it any better than a child growing up in the projects? Maybe. Maybe not.

This morning I went into the school where I have been working with a program that combines art and education. We have kids who have been abused, torn from their native countries and brought to the US as refugees, who have gone from foster home to foster home, and who have lived in violent communities in the city. As I watched them dance across the stage in perfect form laughing and smiling, my worry went away. I was raised by two parents who were married and loved each other and that is the only reason I worried for my daughter. I had two parents who were both involved in my life and both of them loved me very much. I got good grades, went to good schools, never got into any serious trouble; I traveled the world, and went on to get a Masters Degree. It is what worked for me. My daughter has one parent and I have no idea what kind of school she will go to or what challenges she will have, but she will figure out what works for her and she will be just fine. In fact, she will probably be more than fine. As for my students here and in Kenya; they are going to be just fine too. I think they are all going to blow our minds someday and ignore the labels they’ve been given and leap out of the boxes society put them in.

So next time you see a pregnant woman who you think is not in the ideal situation, stop right there. At least let that kid get out of the womb before you start writing his future. And for goodness sake, congratulate that mother, give her flowers, throw her a party. She is creating a life inside her and for all we know, that little human will cure cancer someday.

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Preggers

One Will Become Two

“I wonder everyday as I look upon your face, Everything you gave, And nothing you would take, Nothing you would take. Everything you gave…Did I say that I need you? Oh, did I say that I want you? Oh, if I didn’t I’m a fool you see,..No one knows this more than me. As I come clean”

~Eddie Vedder

Dear Isabella,

In about 7 weeks, you and I will meet in person. You are the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thought on my mind when I go to bed. I cannot imagine that will change for the rest of my life. I truly believe that the day I die, you will be the last thought on my mind. I hear music now, music I have heard for years, and it all reminds me of you. You are a classical masterpiece, a sonnet, a love song. You are Pearl Jam, John Butler, Dave Matthews, and the Lumineers. You are Jay-Z and Kanye West. You are Alicia Keys. You are hip hop and rock, heavy metal, country and a lullaby all wrapped into one.

Before you were, I was alone. I have always been alone. Then, one day, I learned that you were growing inside me and that feeling of being alone, that feeling that has always been in my life was gone. People have asked how I dealt with this whole pregnancy alone. The thing is that I have never been alone in any of it. It has been you and me from day one. We have shared tears and laughter. We have shared ice cream and steak. We went to concerts and Phillies games. We even ran a half-marathon together. We traveled across the south and we did it together.

I want you to know that I will never regret making the decision to keep you. It has been an honor to spend the last eight months carrying you with me wherever I go.  It has been my joy to be one with another human being as miraculous as you. Although I know that you and I will have many memories together in the future, there is a part of me that is already sad about that day that is coming in a few weeks when we will be physically separated. It will be so exciting to finally hold you in my arms, but hard to let go of the us that is one so that we can become two.

Someday, several years from now, you will venture off on your own and I will not get to hold you in my arms every day. On that day I will remember that you are the only other human being in this world that was ever a part of me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I will remember this and be forever grateful for the blessing of being chosen by you to be the vessel that brought you into this world. And on that day I want you to know that it was this time, this crazy 40 weeks of my life, which I will always cherish as the best of my life. I love you.

Love,

Mom

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Preggers

pity.

When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.”   ~Buddha

In the last week, I have heard the following statements from people:

“My heart breaks for you”

“I am so sorry you have to go through this”

“I pity you.”

“This is going to be so hard for you.”

“It hurts us that you are going through this.”

STOP THE MADNESS AND STOP THIS PITY PARTY!

I beg you. I do not have cancer. I am not dying. I am having a baby for goodness sake! Do you understand how incredibly exciting and wonderful that is? There is a beautiful perfect human life growing inside me right now. She wiggles and squiggles and she is a miracle. There is nothing sad or ugly or bad about that. Nothing! I am not a victim, I am a mom. And, although I did not ever plan to be a single mom, I still chose this. I could have given this baby up or terminated the pregnancy months ago. No one forced this on me and there was always a choice. If I have given the impression that I want you to feel bad for me, please know that that is the LAST thing I need right now.

There are millions of starving people this very moment. There are people living on the street and losing their jobs. There are people fighting for their last breath because cancer has once again taken over another undeserving body. I was not raped or beaten or shot or stabbed. I, like more than 13 million other people in this country, and millions of other people around the world, am a single parent. This is not a new concept and it is not even a permanent condition. Just because my experience is different than yours does not mean that it’s any less wonderful.

If I was married and this baby was planned, I would still have trials and tribulations. I might end up with a husband who is no help at all or who cheats on me or who unexpectedly dies. There are no guarantees in this world and in this life. We cannot plan out a perfect little life and know that it is going to just happen. If that was the case, I would have been married years ago, my dad would have walked me down the aisle and he would have given me my first dance at my wedding. He also would have never had cancer in the first place.  I would be a star on Broadway and run a school in Kenya’s Mathare Valley so every child there could have a solid and free education and food on the table every night. That is not reality though.

How many people actually experience everything working out exactly how they planned and expected? Are you married to the person you expected? Are your kids exactly how you dreamed they would be? Are you working in the job you dreamed of having and living in the house that you used to sketch as a kid? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean your life is bad. Most of us are running with Plan B or even C!  Even the children who are starving and have lost their parents to disease and violence find a reason to throw their heads back and laugh once in a while. I know because I have seen it with my own eyes. Life is unpredictable and we can roll with it, love it, and laugh about it or we can be bitter and ungrateful and blame everything and everyone else for our unhappiness. I am only 35, but I have felt heart break and disappointment and fear. I know that no matter what happens that is out of my control, my happiness is the one thing that is in my control.

You want to be there for me and support me? Then join me! This is fun stuff. Ask me how I’m doing once in a while. Come paint with me or hang a picture or two in the baby’s room. Laugh with me when I talk about hemorrhoids and stretch marks and my crazy hormones. You feeling bad for me will not get us anywhere and frankly it’s bumming me out.

For those of you who get this, thank you! The encouragement I have received through messages, phone calls, cards and gifts has been beyond what I could have ever imagined and far outweighs the pity. I leave you with two of my favorite quotes from friends in the last week. Both of these men pulled me out of a funk when I was freaking out and what they said was perfectly said and perfectly timed.

“Nothing about this is bad. How this happened is not bad. You have done nothing wrong. You have actually done everything right. The initial shock of it all was scary and hard, but there is nothing bad or wrong about your situation. You eat all the right foods, you take vitamins, you go to classes and do research. You are preparing for the baby in every way and have been taking care of yourself. This is all good and everything about it is good. If people can’t see that, then that is their problem.”

“You’ve got this. Ever since I met you, I’ve thought you were brave. I wouldn’t expect anything other than you keeping this child and taking on the challenge of raising her because that is who you are. You wanted to go to India, so you did. You wanted to leave PA and go to Chicago by yourself for college and you did. As long as I’ve known you, you say you are going to do something and you do it. Why should this be any different?”

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Losing Dad, Preggers

good morning.

Tonight is the eve of my dad’s birthday. I used to stay up till midnight to wish him a happy birthday. Tonight I decided to just be alone and think about him. Last year, his birthday hit me like a brick. It was the hardest emotional day for me following his death. It made things real and I have a feeling tomorrow will be no different. So, to make things a little bit easier, I figured I would write a little something about who he was. In his honor, I turned on some hymns, closed my eyes, and thought about what I could share.

For those of you who knew my dad, you knew him as a friend, a pastor, a preacher, a reverend, a doctor. You knew him as the man who always said “good morning” no matter what time of the day or night it was. To him, it was always morning, always a new day, always good. He had three bouts of cancer and he still said “good morning.” You knew him as that guy with the bushy beard, flannel shirts, fun ties, huge smile, and corny jokes. He was the guy who did your wedding or comforted you when someone you love died. You knew him as the guy who always came to the hospital to visit you, even when he was sick himself. You knew him as a good tipper because, as he said to me one day at a restaurant, “I probably make more than our server and I am on medical leave. She works hard every day and she needs that money more than I do.” You knew him as the man who was always reading more than one book and always wanted to know what you were reading. You knew him as the guy with the fig trees. You knew him as the man who, even after 43 years, was still head over heels in love with my mother. He was quick to laugh and smile and slow to anger. He did not hold grudges, he forgave, he loved, and he encouraged all of us to do the same.

I knew him as dad. I knew him as the guy who rarely went a day without calling me or texting me to see how I was doing. He remembered my friends and he remembered their stories. He listened. He was excited about everything I did. He was excited about what I was about to do. He never hesitated to tell me how proud he was of all of his children. He said we were all so different, but he loved us all the same and was so grateful that he could consider us his friends. Even when I worked in a bar, he was proud of me and saw past the work I was doing to see how I connected with people there. He was my weather channel. He warned me about bad weather and reminded me how to drive safely. He gave me updates when the Susquehanna was slowly creeping up its banks and getting dangerously close to my house. He showed me how to pump my gas, how to change my headlights, put air in my tires, fill my fluids, and replace my windshield wipers. He taught me how to find a stud and hang a picture. He taught me how to do my taxes. He went with me every time I bought a car and he taught me what questions to ask and how to choose the most reliable and sensible car.  I think he saw early on that my independent and stubborn nature would probably keep me single for a long time, so he taught me things to help me survive.

He took me to the Indian buffet, the Chinese Restaurant, and the Mexican restaurant and I watched him sweat through every meal. When the food came, he always looked at me and said, “You pray, I’ll pay.” Perhaps he knew I needed to pray more often. Perhaps he just wanted to take his almost always single daughter on a date. Whatever it was, he made me feel important. He taught me not to give up on people. He said, “People will let you down. They will disappoint you. Sometimes you will give them a chance even though you know they are going to let you down. Still, you need to give them that chance, because everyone needs someone who believes in them and sometimes that is all it takes for them to surprise you.” I wonder now how many times I was that person for him.

The last year has been a hard one. I miss his calls and texts. I miss his smile and his laughter. I miss the way my dog’s ears perk up when I say “grandpa.” I miss the weather updates and reminders to put my wiper blades up before it snows. I miss our dinners out and the way his voice sounded when he said, “wonderful!” I miss him every time I see my daughter kick through my skin because I want to call him and tell him how amazing I think life is and how this little thing inside me is such a miracle. Although he would not have been thrilled to learn that I had sex before marriage and that the father of my child was nowhere to be found, I like to think that the idea of another grandchild would have made him absolutely elated no matter what the circumstance.  I like to think that he would have bragged about her arrival.

Though I miss him, I still see him and sense him around me. Today I saw snow on the blooming daffodils outside my house and it made me think of him. I saw them and thought about how dad would see that and say, “Excellent!” Then, he would call me and tell me to stay off the roads and put my windshield wipers up. Just as he did when he was alive, these thoughts of him made me smile.

So, now that it is officially midnight and officially my dad’s 65th birthday, I simply send out into the universe a smiling “Good Morning!” and a sounding “Happy Birthday Dad! I love you!”dad

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Preggers

dance.

I am 13 weeks away from meeting my first child. Deciding to keep her came easily. Once I knew she was in there and saw that little heart beating on the sonogram, there was no other option for me. I didn’t care how my social life would change or how my family would feel about this child coming into the world out of wedlock. I didn’t care how society would view me. I didn’t care how her father would react when I told him I was keeping her. I didn’t care how she would affect my living situation or my job. I saw that little heart beat and just knew that I needed to protect it and knew that I would never let it go. I knew she was a gift and I was immediately willing to fight for her. No other person’s opinion or rejection of her mattered.

This week I have been reflecting on how my life has changed, how it was just six short months ago, and how it is about to change again. I think despite the joy and excitement every mother feels with the coming of her child, there is also sadness. There is a life that was and a new life that will be. Pregnancy is the ten months of in between where you taste a little of the old life and a little of the new life at the same time. Your friends begin to change, you start to eat and drink differently, and your house slowly transforms. Still, you can go out without finding a babysitter, you can go away for the weekend at a moment’s notice, and if you’re lucky, you can sleep in. You still only have you to worry about and care for.

dance

Seven months ago I was enjoying a carefree life with a new job, a summer fling, baseball games, bike rides, and bottles of wine. When I felt like it, I sat out on my porch and had a cigarette while I watched the sun set over the Susquehanna or stayed late for impromptu dance parties with friends. I ran almost every day. I spent my summer on the river bank drinking craft beers and white wines with good friends. A child was the last thing on my mind because I felt amazing and thought I could probably live this way forever and die totally happy. I had a naïve mentality that nothing could change unless I changed it and pregnancy was not on my radar. This life, though wonderful, also comes with a certain level of foolishness and selfishness.

A few days ago I walked around my house. I ran my hands over my heavy bag and boxing gloves, I looked at the bottle of gin untouched and covered in dust, and I looked at the clothes that no longer fit. I closed my eyes and played Zac Brown’s “free” full blast as I remembered the night in September when I listened to it live in Nashville with a whisky and coke in my hand only hours after running a half marathon. Motherhood was not on my mind and single motherhood was unthinkable. Being single, free and without kids seemed like the perfect life to me.  I had no clue that only two days later my world would change forever. I will box again and run again and I will even enjoy a nice glass of wine here and there, but that life is gone. The thing is, I am 35 and I have enjoyed absolute freedom for 15 years. I have travelled the world, I have completed my education, I have gone out and partied and come in with the sunrise hundreds of times.  I loved that life and enjoyed it, but I have a feeling I am not really going to miss it.

Now, I am thinking about daycare, care seats, strollers, and good school districts. I skip the bottle of wine and the night out so I can have more money for my baby. I look at baby clothes and decorating ideas on Pinterest. My car is full of secondhand bottles and clothes and they look like priceless treasures to me. Now, I am already looking forward to nights at home with my daughter playing dress up and tea party and having permission to be a kid again. Don’t get me wrong. I will still dance till sunrise. The difference is that now I will be dancing because there is joy that has entered my life that is far beyond any joy I have ever experienced before.

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Going Solo: Single Parenthood, Preggers

solo.

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

~Lao Tzu

Pregnancy has highs and lows. Tonight should have been one of my highs, but it was a low. At first I thought I wouldn’t write about it, but then I wouldn’t be sticking to my original goal of this blog. I decided to write this blog to openly share my honest experience. This post is not about getting sympathy for my situation, but to be honest with you about even the hardest parts of all of this. It is not about pretending that the single woman’s pregnancy is all strength and wonderfulness. It is not about hiding my real fears and frustrations. It is about telling you the truth.

About a month ago, I signed up for a six-week childbirth class. This is not a Lamaze class but a class all about pregnancy and childbirth and methods to make labor and childbirth as easy as possible. I am so excited to meet my daughter and to be honest; I am excited for the birthing process. I feel like it’s such an amazing thing that can only happen to women and only women can do.  This child birthing class is the first real step towards that crazy wonderful day.

When I got home from work, I got my list, gathered my pillows and blankets, changed my clothes, and filled up my water bottle. I was so excited to go learn about childbirth and what I am about to experience. When I walked into the class, the chairs were set up in a circle in pairs. I didn’t even notice at first until all the other couples came into the room one by one and sat down. I looked around and suddenly felt more alone than I can ever remember feeling before. There we were: ten excited giggling couples and me. I wanted to grab my pillows and blanket and run for the door. I don’t know why I didn’t think this through or predict this would happen. I have enjoyed this pregnancy so much and felt so supported by the people around me that I haven’t really felt like it was any different than any other woman’s pregnancy.

As each of the couples went around the room introducing themselves and talking about how excited they were for their babies, tears welled up in my eyes. The husbands all joked about passing out and hovering in the corner on the day their wives gave birth and the wives laughed and kissed them and I suddenly realized how this is supposed to look. It was the first time I realized I really am doing this alone. It was the first time I felt unadulterated anger towards my daughter’s father. I have tried to tell myself it is better to do this alone than with someone who doesn’t want to be here or who treats me poorly. I have tried to be forgiving towards him.  I have tried not to focus on him or whether or not I agree with how he has handled all of this. But in this moment, in this class, when I sat there beside an empty chair in a room full of couples, all I could think about was how hurt and angry I am with him. I just cannot understand a man who would simply walk away from a life that he created and leave me, a person he once called a friend, to do this alone.

Believe it or not, this has probably been the lowest moment in my pregnancy. I made it through the 2.5 hours of class, said my goodbyes and made it to my car before totally breaking down and crying all the way home. This was not my finest moment in any respect. On the drive home I decided that I am going to focus on my daughter and keep repeating to myself that I am doing this for her. That thought alone is the only thing that will get me through the doors of my class for the next five weeks and it is the only thing that will get me though the other moments I am about to face alone. With each class I attend and each appointment or event  I go to alone, I will get stronger and stronger and it will all be ok.  It will be the immense love I have for her that will teach me to be strong, teach me to stand alone and be ok with that feeling, and it will be that love that will help me truly forgive.

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