Pregnant and Single
A plus sign on a home pregnancy test is exciting -- but it can also be scary when you're doing it all on your own. The thing to realize is that you're not really alone! With the support of friends and family and the great advice of women who have done it, you'll have all the tools you need to succeed.
Breaking the New
Whether your pregnancy was a planned and hoped for event or something of a surprise, being single and pregnant doesn't have the stigma it once did. That said, it's not necessarily the norm, and it still can be a bit daunting to tell family and friends you're going to have a child on your own.
Issa Mas, the blogger behind Single Mama NYC, admits she was scared to break the news. “My issue was telling people that I had broken up with my son's dad,” she says. “I was terrified of telling my Dad; it took me a month to do it.”
Mari Gallion, author of The Single Woman's Guide to a Happy Pregnancy, recommends doing research and having your decisions (like whether or not dad will be involved) finalized first. “Everyone will have an opinion. But if your decisions are already made, you can choose to block out anything that's negative and take in anything positive.”
Dealing with Reactions
It's hard to gauge how loved ones will react to your pregnancy. The people you expect to be judgmental might come at you with hugs of happiness and those you expect to be supportive might be most unhappy. Give everyone time to adjust to the news, and keep in mind those who are negative at first might come around if you educate them. “The myths of being single and pregnant are everywhere,” says Gallion. Loved ones may think you'll never get married, finish your education, get a good job or have any freedom -- none of which are true.
Building Your Support Group
Whether single or not, pregnant women need a strong support group -- people to share in your joys, celebrate with you and help you through difficult spots. “Identify your friends and family members who are positive and supportive,” says Gallion. “Let them know how much you appreciate them, that this time when you need them is temporary and that you look forward to the day you can repay them.”
The Internal Roller Coaster
Don't freak out if fear, guilt or regret outweigh any excitement and happiness you feel about your pregnancy just now -- these are all common emotions for women who are single and pregnant. (Heck, they can be common emotions for anyone who's pregnant.) “Allow yourself the feelings as they arise,” recommends Mas, who experienced some topsy-turvy emotions of her own when she was expecting her son. “Sit with them, be present with them and then let them go on their own. What we resist, persists; don't fight the fear, insecurity or regret. Acknowledge that all of these feelings are perfectly natural and will come and go on their own.”
The "Can I" Questions
“Can I afford this?” “Can I handle the stress?” “Can I still work?” Do these questions sound familiar? You're completely normal! You can answer all of your “can I” questions by being proactive. Now is the time to plan for day care, interview/line up affordable babysitters, get your home baby-ready and prepare yourself for your future as a mom.
Single, But Not Alone
Being pregnant while you're single might feel isolating -- but remember, you're hardly alone. According to the National Center for Policy Analysis, more than 1.7 million babies (that's 40 percent of all babies born in the U.S.) were born to single moms in 2007. Ask your OB/GYN if there are any local support groups for women who are single and pregnant -- it could be a great way to make new friends. If there's nothing in your area, find an online forum for women who are single and pregnant.
Is Dad Involved?
If you're still connected with your baby's father, you need to consider his level of involvement and whether to put his name on the birth certificate. If Dad is part of the picture, together you can work out a mutually acceptable plan for visitation and support. But if he's not into his role as a dad, don't push it. “If the dad wants to walk away, let him,” says Gallion. “Do not chase him down the street.”
Picking out your baby's name is an undeniably fun part of pregnancy. And just think -- there's no one to veto your favorites! This is one happy decision that's all yours. If you're considering using family names, don't discount names from the father's side. After all, even if the father isn't actively involved, his family is part of your baby's history.
Giving the baby your last name or the father's can be a bit trickier, but in Gallion's opinion, if you're single the baby should have your last name. There are practical reasons -- such as passports/travel and school -- that make it easier for you and your child to have the same name.
Crunching the Numbers
Make sure you have a complete understanding of your budget and all the upcoming pregnancy and baby costs. No surprises = happy mama. Talk to your new mom friends about what to expect, and remember to consider childcare if you're going back to work once baby is here.
The Single's Silver Lining
Being single has its challenges, but it also has its perks. Just think about it: All of the decisions are yours -- and while that responsibility can be weighty at times, it's also fun! From decorating the nursery in your color palette of choice to registering for baby gear to picking childcare providers, you get the final say. And as your child gets older, you may find that communication between parent and child is very open, thanks to that one-on-one family dynamic.
Making Your Birth Plan
When it comes to labor and delivery, think about who can be there to support you if the baby's father isn't part of the equation. Hire a doula or ask one or two trusted friends or family members to help you when you go into labor; and consider having one or two people responsible for calling or emailing everyone you want to notify after your baby is born. Think over the tasks you'll need to accomplish, and don't be shy about reaching out for help.
Every new mom faces sleepless nights with a newborn. As a single parent, you'll need to make sure you have help and support in place for those first few weeks. Can a family member come stay with you? Can you hire a baby nurse? Remember, taking time for yourself is really important. “If that means you're breastfeeding and you have to feed your baby formula now and then -- do it," says Gallion. "If that means you have to put your baby in childcare while you take a day off -- do it. And don't feel guilty.”