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Going it alone - advice on coping with pregnancy and birth as a single parent

(18 Posts)
Carriel Thu 26-Jun-03 14:00:31

My last book request today - sorry they seem to be coming thick and fast, hope noone minds.
Don't know how many (if any) mumsnetters have done this, but there must be quite a lot of folks out there who face the prospect and I've seen very little anywhere to advise, encourage empathise etc and wondered if we had enough info/knowledge between us to be able to put something usfeul in the next book. So whether it's practicalities, coping with ante natal appointments and forms, the birth or the immediate aftermath (the book is supposed to take folks through pregnancy and up to about two weeks post birth) if anyone has anything to advise, suggest, share - that'd be great.

Tinker Thu 26-Jun-03 19:15:34

Carriel - I faced pregnancy and birth alone, but not sure I've got a lot to add really. Did pretty much everything on my own, no family nearby. All ante-natal appointmnets, classes etc were on my own because, being quite a proud madam, I'm not the sort to ask for help. BUT did get loads. My mother moved to mine about a week before the due date and planned to stay for 6 weeks - didn't last that long. But did have friends offering to be birth partner (and one turned up with her husband as I was in the delivery room and got the full view )

Getting the father to agree to have his name on the birth certificate was difficult - I had to make ALL the phonecalls (lots of pride swallowing)and put pressure on him after finding out I could take him to court if he didn't agree (advice from a wonderful registrar). Daughter was registered late but he (registrar)was fine about it since I had kept him informed.

Also difficult was knowing what to do about tests for Downs etc. Was so full of bravado that I would not have considered termination (having now had a child not so sure I would be so sure).

Just having to make ALL the decisions on my own about EVERYTHING was the hardest part. Getting asked at my ante-natal appointments about family diseases and having no idea about 50% of the family. Having to brave it out at work when I knew I was the object of gossip. Completely panicking about money becuase I just didn't earn enough to pay for childcare (my mum helped financially). Just feeling very very lonely throughout the whole pregnancy. AND YET, I do feel immensely proud that I've done it. I have a tremendous sense of having achieved the best thing in the world on my own, I have much more confidence and know that should I ever be completely alone again with a child, I CAN do it. Would never have chosen this route but it's not been the disaster I (and my mother ) anticipated.

I'm sure I've not really answered your question at all and I'll post again if I can think of real practical advice. Best would be accept ANY offers of help. People genuinely DO care. Don't be proud, accept offers to lend cots, high chairs etc. Accept bags of clothes. I hardly bought anything new. It's not the end of the world to find yourself pregnant and alone, just a temporary blip. But then I was lucky enough to have a job to give me adult contact.

Sorry, I'm really really rambling but I couldn't resist this thread with this title. If I think of anything of real value to say, I'll post again.

anais Thu 26-Jun-03 21:22:35

Hi Carrie.

I went it alone. I chose not to tell the fathers about their babies and therefore there has been no contact since conception

I have been fortunate in having my family around right from the start and I don't know how I would have coped without them.

Ublike Timker I'm a sahm, and at times have felt a bit isolated. Despite living in a town where there is a high percentage of teen /single parents, I know very few, and it's more difficult to relate to people who have their 'perfect family' set up.

Any help I can offer I will be happy to do, but I'm not sure exactly what sort of advice you are looking for. Can you be a little more specific?

Rachael17 Thu 26-Jun-03 22:31:14

hey im gunna b a single mummy and im so glad i have the support of my mum shes gonna b a birth partner to me and shes been going to midwife appointments and scans
family r great and r there wen friends and b/fs arent

Carriel Fri 27-Jun-03 15:34:12

Guess I'm looking for anything you wish someone had told you before you got pregnant/gave birth.

Like what sort of reaction did you get from the health profession. What was the worst and best bit. Was it as you expected. When did you need help most. Did you have a birth partner and were they useful. Was it hard to come to terms with going it alone. Tips on answering insensitive questions that assume you are a couple. Really I just somehow wanted to acknowledge that there are folks out there who do do this and try and give them some special advice - but maybe you don't think that would have been useful... what do you think - do you think a book on pregnancy should include a section for single mums? Maybe it's not necessary - genuinely interested to know your views on this

M2T Fri 27-Jun-03 15:39:33

.....sorry to butt in.... just a quick question for Rachael.

Is your boyfriend definitely out the picture?? I thought you and him were still together!

>M2T sneaks back out...<

Sheila Fri 27-Jun-03 16:08:30


I'm a single parent now but wasn't when DS was born so can't offer much advice on this specific subject but I do think it's a really good idea to acknowledge that not everyone has a bloke looking on dreamily rubbing pregnant tum etc (yuk anyway!), so please do put something in the book.

I think it's important to be positive about the single parent experience (assuming that by the time people have bought the book there's no going back) without underestimating how bloody hard it is.

Sorry not much help but wanted to encourage you. Incidentally, how about a single parent thread on Mumsnet?

Sheila Fri 27-Jun-03 16:18:12

Thought some more about this and wondered if the book will go as far as childcare options?

I think that if you're a single parent and have the money (unlikely I know...!) then it would be worth buying in all the help you can get for immediately after the birth - a maternity nurse, doula (don't know much about these but gather they help during and after the birth?). In the longer term I think a good nanny is a huge boon to the single parent - much better than the average husband in fact. Sadly I don't have either and have to make do with a crappy nursery but that's another story! Main thing to stress is the importance of getting time for yourself any way you can - really hard for any mother but especially so for the single one.

I could go on forever but will stop there. Let me know if you want more detail on any of this.

Tinker Fri 27-Jun-03 19:49:54

Carrie - I think a section on single motherhood is a good idea but I think the real problems/difficulties arise after the birth. The pregnancy experience is pretty much the same as for all mothers, except a bit lonelier - but I'm speaking from the experience of unplanned single-motherhood. I imagine planned may cause more questions possibly.

I'll post more when I've thought of something useful to say.

Rachael17 Sun 29-Jun-03 23:34:51

mt2 i think he's def outta the picture as far as im concerend so im completely gutted about it but i think he still wants to be involved with the baby im jus waiting on him to actually call or meet with me to sort things out

mammya Mon 30-Jun-03 23:36:36

I would second Sheila's idea of a single parent thread!
By the way I wasn't single when I was pregnant and gave birth, so there's no advice I could give here really. Sorry!

anais Tue 01-Jul-03 00:19:11

I just wish people could have been more supportive and trusted in my ability, whereas in reality everyone made me feel like I was completely crazy to be going ahead. I was 17 when I first got pg, and desperately wanted my baby and nobody ever said "you can do this." Even my Gp made it very clear that he thought I was stupid to go ahead with the pregnancy.

I was lucky that despite their disapproval, my parents were really supportive. I guess actually the support really kicked in when I it was discovered at my 20 week scan that the baby had a cleft lip and palate. Suddenly everyone kind of rallied round, and I suppose that was when I needed support the most.

Hospital for me was absolute agony, both after the birth and once my ds was in hospital for the op. I found the attitude of the staff towards me appaling - maybe more because of my age than the fact that I'm single. They tried to do everything for me and assumed I wouldn't be all that interested in my baby.

Anyway I digress. Since I have had baby no 2 people have assumed that I have a partner and that is generally pretty embarrassing. You say "well actually I'm a single Mum" and then they don't seem to know what to say to you. I don't really have any tips on that, would be interested to see other peoples'.

Both my parents where at my son's birth! It wasn't planned that way, it just happened, and it was nice. I think both my parents felt incredibly honoured to be able to witness the birth of their grandson.

I think the advice for single parents needs to be handled very sensitively. Some of the things that I have read in parenting books directed at sp's has been patronising, dismissive and it tends to give a really bleak view. I am actually happy as I am, and it seems everyone assumes I shouldn't be. Apparently I should be leaning on the shoulders of anyone I can find in the community by day and sobbing into my pillow by night. Well excuse me, but there are certain advantages to being a sp (although I guess none that are going to make people go into it just for that...). It's not all bleak, it's hard work, but from my pov at least, I have never known it to be any different. I resent the sympathy my situation sometimes provokes. No, maybe not resent, I just don't need or want it. I'm happy as I am, my kids are happy and not suffering.

Arghh. I'm not even sure waht I'm trying to say here, I'm rambling and just trying to say something useful here! I will have a think over night and try to post something a little more helpful tomorrow.

Tinker Tue 01-Jul-03 00:31:09

anais - relate completely to the 'don't know any other way' bit. I've no idea what being pregnant and raising a child with a partner would be like. If I get pregnant again, maybe I'll be more useful - definitely don't intend to have another pregnacy alone, just because I don't want the hard work of being single parent of 2 kids.

anais Tue 01-Jul-03 00:43:55

Tinker, being a parent of 2 is fab. I want more! I am hoping to be able to adopt once we've moved. But having 2 I feel (maybe way off here!) that people regard me more as a parent than just a silly girl with her mistake IYKWIM. Maybe it's just my age, but I feel people take me more seriously now. Though having said that I did have a group of 'friends' who were so disgusted that I was having a second child that they have not spoken to me since (except one little gathering where it was clear that I was invited just so they could see me failing..)

I love having 2. I have a family and whether or not people choose to accept that, I am happy, WE are happy. I feel more settled with 2.

SueW Tue 01-Jul-03 09:50:12

I'm not a single parent but because of my husband's work taking him overseas for the vast majority of our life, I have pretty much brought up our daughter single-handedly. From my experience I would say the hardest things are:

- you don't want to go to couples antenatal classes cos you've reached the point where you are fed up of partnering the teacher etc

- it's lonely being stuck in hospital for five days and watching everybody else's husband/partner coming in and helping out with the baby

- there's no-one to turn to in the middle of the night when the baby wakes and cries again and you still haven't dropped off from the last time

- there's no advantage to bottle-feeding because there's no-one else to give the bottles

- you have times when you feel so utterly, utterly alone and everyone you do meet assumes that you know how to look after this child you've just had

On the up side:

- there's no-one turning up at 5pm expecting dinner on the table

- you only have to do laundry for yourself and the baby

- if you are breastfeeding and baby''s having a feedfest, you can just disappear to bed with baby and feed and rest

Sheila Tue 01-Jul-03 13:03:53

Anais and SueW - can only speak from my own experience of having started off with a (pretty absent) partner and now struggling to cope on my own. As far as parenting goes I think any sort of partner is better than none! Altho' my former dp was absent to the point where I thought I'd be better off without him, I underestimated how important his sporadic help actually was. I would NEVER actively choose to be a single parent again - the strain of it has nearly killed me! Friends and relatives can help a lot but it's really only a father who can share the really hard graft of lack of sleep, controlling a fractious toddler etc.

Much depends on the type of kid you've got I guess - DS has always been of the non-sleeping, stubborn as a mule variety which doesn't help.

Positives are the closeness of my relationship with him and the absence of rows about my former partner's appalling level of commitment.

Tinker Tue 01-Jul-03 13:55:46

Agree with everything you say SueW.

Anais - I think it's great that you have 2 and love it, understand what you mean about it being seen more seriously than 1. However, since having met someone a year ago, even though we don't live together, my life is just so much easier in terms of managing to get things done-ish. He can look after my daughter whilst I nip out to get some bread, a task that previously always involved both of us. Silly things but things you just want to get over with without them becoming huge chores. I certainly lose my sense of humour when I am just on my own with my daughter but if another adult is around, I can pull back from a stressful situation. Plus, he just supports me, tells me I'm a good mother when I feel I've been rotten. At the moment (still earlyish days for me) but, for me, being with a *good* partner seems infinitely easier than being alone. However, I'm very pleased that I have been (still am realy) a single parent at some stage, makes me far more confident that I can manage.

jo82 Wed 02-Jul-03 15:31:10

hi, i found out that i was pregnant at 5 months and after telling daddy was quickly presented with "well the only option is to have it adopted". hasten to sa, i did the pregnancy thing on my own.

my parents were great as i stayed with them through the whole thing and were both very supportive but not in a way i felt the dad could have been. i would have loved to have somebody to share all the newness with and ask advice who was new to the the experience as well. although mum was always there to chat to, it was difficult as she always had "the voice of experience".

the hospital staff were very condescending to begin with. i live in a very small community so was quickly the subject of gossip, even within the hospital. i even heard that there was great speculation in the hosp staff room about who the father was (although he is'nt known to anyone here!!). the obstatrician was perhaps the worst. when my dad came with me for the first scan, he assumed he was ds' father, then went on to ask many questions, knowing that i couldn't answer them making me feel like crap.

this is not the case with everybody though. there was one fantastic midwife who was a shoulder to cry on, a friend, a proffessional and really encouraged me to feel good about doing it alone. like wise, the health visitor is also great, even helping me to arrange returning to university!!!!

i found the actual birth really strange. it was a bit of an ordeal (nearly 3 days labour then an emergency cesaerian), but i felt overwhelmed with emotion that i wanted to share with ds dad. although i'm almost glad that he wasn't there, it sounds selfish but it was nice to have the experience of our child all to myself!!

things now (ds is 5 months) are great, am returning to uni, daddy is starting to come round (we are even thinking of moving in together as friends) and i love being a mum.

hope this is useful!!

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