Don’t all young mum’s know the question: When is it ok to leave my baby for the first time with someone else? A question that is quickly followed my doubts and concerns: will the babysitter be able to put my baby to bed, comfort it, feed it, will they let me know if something is wrong?,…
This question only gets more serious when you’re a single parent. I am basically my kid’s only permanent carer. He is of course used to my family’s faces by now but I am the one who changes his nappies, helps him fall asleep and so on. Thankfully he is a pretty outgoing baby but still, it is different to fall asleep without mama around or to just play with a new person. So I just used to bring him to meetings with friends, he would fall asleep in his pram anyways when tired. But now that he is a little older things are different. I also really want to go to that party, it is my friend’s 30th birthday and I haven’t been out dancing in over a year. My family says I should just go, as long as I am back before his nightly feed, which is by now in the early morning, he won’t even notice. And so I confirm. But the closer we get to the date the more the doubts start creeping back in. And at some point I cancel. Because I know I wouldn’t really enjoy my time but constantly be checking my phone, calculating at what time I should leave and so on. Little one might be ready but I am not. Yes, I admit it: I am the one who is not ready!
Instead I book an appointment at the hairdresser to get a new cut. During the day I am ok to leave him with family for two hours. I know they will entertain him and he will barely notice I was away. Mum needs time to get used to things. She also has to learn how to be independent again…
I think it is every new mum’s nightmare but even more so if you’re single: getting sick or injuring yourself. For a while that question had been on my mind, things like: what if I get the flu, I better don’t go skiing this year,…
You try to be oh so careful but then it happens in the most every day situation. For me it only took someone pushing past me on the stairs. My baby was in the sling, I was going to catch a train and someone just slightly pushed me. Next thing I know I’m tripping and all I can do is put an arm around my baby. Good thing was that it was already the last step of the stairs. Usually I would have been able to stop anything from happening but this time my only instinct was to take care of my child. And so it happened: I twisted my ankle and am sitting on the floor with sharp pain in my right leg and no idea how to get back up with the kid in the sling. He thought it was oh so funny, laughing at the sudden movement but then got irritated as we were not moving anymore. To make things worse the other people in the station only stared but didn’t offer any help. It took someone getting off the train to offer me help.
Thankfully I was able to walk, if only slowly and under immense pain. My best friend came to pick me up at home and drove me – and the baby – to A&E where they thankfully felt sorry for the little one and had us skip the line a bit. The good news: nothing broken or torn. The bad news: it would be really painful for a week and completely healed only in 2 months time.
Back at home I had to sit down and cry, be angry with the dad: if he was at least showing the smallest bit of responsibility. Then I could have called him to come and pick up his son and look after him for the next two nights, when I wasn’t able to stand up with the baby on my arms. But no, he had cut every line and if it wasn’t for my friend, then I don’t know how I would have coped. It brought darker, deeper questions on: what if something more serious had happened to me, so that I’d had to stay at the hospital? My parents are in no way able to mind a baby for more than a few hours at the moment. What if, god forbid I’d die? Where would my son end up and with whom? Should I not be prepared for any eventuality?
To be honest: no, because we can’t forsee every eventuality. We should plan for emergencies but not in all detail as it depends on who is around and free at that moment in time. And then we have to trust that all will work out in the end while not taking too many risks. It is not fair that I have to do this on my own but as an afterthought it is still better than living with an irresponsible person. Things are the way they should be in the end and it did work out for us this time. Thanks to my amazing friends.
This is probably a never-ending list if I was to ask other expecting single parents for their fears and I am curious to hear your thoughts about this. This is however just my personal fears as far as I can remember them still, with added comments on the reality with my son.
- How will I ever find time to shower? – In the beginning I felt bad every time I left him in his cot for 10 minutes so I could shower. But then you learn that you just use the opportunities the way they arise: shower while he is taking a long nap, happily moving in the morning,… Or even just go and shower when he is refusing to fall asleep – usually he passes out within two minutes if I just leave the room. I guess it is lack of distraction.
- What if my baby is colicky and will cry for hours? – The first few weeks the fear was very real for me but thankfully I have a curious, mostly happy baby. I think even if he had turned out colicky the way to live would be the same: bring him with you to as many places as possible so you get a change of scenery.
- Will I ever have time to be alone again and if not how will I cope? – Strange thing: whenever I get me time at this still early stage I don’t really know what to do with myself and I get terribly restless. When he is sleeping for two hours I work a lot. But if someone takes him for a walk I feel like I am missing a limb. But yes: we get time by ourselves once we are ready to trust others to mind our baby.
- Can I bring the baby to the café/pub/library/…? – Or do I have to stay at home all the time now? Well the answer is: bring your baby wherever you want to go, as long as it is not a health risk for it (e.g. if smoking is allowed or if the music is too loud) and it doesn’t mess with your baby’s sleep. Don’t worry all the time about what other people might think. My little man was three weeks when I took him to the pub in the afternoon to watch a match and he slept right through it.
- What if I am sick? – a very real fear and I still don’t have a definite answer for all scenarios. How to cope with an injured leg will be a post of its own however the good news is: it is not as bad as I thought it would be.
I somehow fell into motherhood and then I fell in love with motherhood. My partner and me were basically just separating after 2 years of ups and downs when I found out that I was pregnant. It became clear almost immediately that he didn’t want anything to do with the pregnancy or the baby and after trying for a few months the situation became so ugly and tense that I gave up on trying to get him involved in his future baby’s life.
The big question then was: how do I do this – parenting, motherhood – in a way that will make both me and my kid happy? There are so many single mothers and fathers out there who raise kids by themselves but I didn’t know anyone – and still don’t up until today – who went through pregnancy and parenting by themselves basically from day one. The short answer: you just do it. The rest just becomes clearer along the way.
What I really needed were my friends and family. In the beginning I was basically living a continent away from my family, I had moved for university and was still abroad when I gave birth. While initially I had imagined myself fairly independent, I soon learnt to always calculate with the worst option. An emergency C-section and a subsequent kidney infection meant that I was not able to go to any appointment on my own but had to rely on my friends for lifts to the GP or to do the shopping for me. Never before had I been depending on anyone like that and it meant to forget about my pride and just say thanks when someone offered help. I will feel forever grateful to have such amazing friends, who made a difficult situation a wonderful experience.
Being a mum, however much I stumbled into parenting, soon became a natural thing and I don’t miss my intellectual work at all for most of the day. Never having co-parented I don’t miss a partner, especially as I now live with relatives after all. But time and again I face challenges that other parents would not. I therefore felt it was the right decision to create this blog to share some of my stories and experiences with mums in similar situations – I’ve chatted with a few on baby apps and have learnt how many of us face similar questions. If one pregnant lady out there gets comfort and motivation out of my story then I’m happy.