Within days of finding out we were pregnant, my husband left and moved out. Morning sickness, fatigue and my first ultrasound were all on my own. When I imagined these moments of my life, he was there. Holding my hair as I knelt over the toilet while green in the face, picking up whatever late-night craving I had from the store, holding my hand as we cried tears of joy while seeing our little baby for the first time on the ultrasound screen. An apparent hole was left where he was supposed to be. As I realized that single pregnancy and single parenthood was now a very real part of my life, I discovered that I am actually not alone. I do not have to do this all by myself and neither do you.
There have been five groups of people who have unquestionably made all the difference in my ability to continue on with pregnancy and become the kind of mom I want to be:
Local authorities gave me legal advice and protected me from unsafe situations. They also referred me to a local organization whose mission is to provide advocacy, shelter and support for people in my situation. This organization provided me with legal counsel pro-bono as well as a support group of people who had similar struggles. Most communities have these organization readily available with founders, volunteers and support groups to love and care for both mom and baby.
There are also incredible housing and sustenance programs for low-income single parents. Programs like WIC and food stamps are readily available to those who need it and use it wisely.
Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other family members give emotional support and loving examples for both mom and baby. They help create feelings of belonging which is vital to being happy and emotionally content. Spend time with them and remind yourself that you are a part of a large group of family members - even if at the end of the day you don't all live together.
You can also get support through guide parents. Similar to godparents (though without the religious affiliation), guide parents support and set an example to the child throughout their life. These relationships help create a group of positive role-models that guide and affect your child.
Sometimes family is not nearby or as readily available for the day-to-day challenges we face as single moms. They may want to be there for everything but can't make it when you're in a last-minute bind or for doctor's appointments, carpooling and errands. Friends and neighbors have been there to help me with tasks as simple as taking my garbage cans out to the curb each week to significant acts of service such as opening their home to me on lonely nights.
At first I had apprehension about opening myself up to my religious leaders and fellow church members about my situation for fear of really segregating myself from other families in my congregation. I didn't want to be seen as the black sheep or thought I might be judged by my situation. But once I pushed myself past these fears and started to open up to those in my church I was greeted with love, acceptance and so much support. Meals have been brought, tears have been shed with me and I am welcomed with hugs and genuine concern each Sunday. Church services have become a place for me to fill my cup with uplifting worship and learning, while feeling safe and accepted by those around me.
'Work stays at work and home life stays at home' has always been a goal of mine. I struggled with sharing my personal situation with my boss and didn't want to be seen as a less-valuable member of our team or unable to carry on with work duties. When I opened up about some of the reasons why I may seem tired, sick and overwhelmed, she expressed a great deal of sympathy and has been understanding of my needs. Schedules at work can often be affected by pregnancy and parenting - especially when you're the only parent running the ship at home. Allowing your colleagues the chance to understand you and your situation will provide patience and support where you need it. In a place where we spend most of our day, it is important to feel encouragement and comfort from those who see you day-in and day-out.
Building my team of support has taken some effort and time. I have needed to reach out to others rather than wait around for circumstances to change or improve by themselves. I trust and allow people into my very personal life and do all I can to make the best of the hard days. We are surrounded by people in our life who care about us and who want to lend a hand but just don't know how to help. Don't be afraid to ask and remember that you do not have to do it alone!