When a woman finds out she's pregnant, it's not always under the best of circumstances. Babies have a way of happening when people least expect it or when they think that their lives are going in a different direction. A growing number of babies are being born to single women in this part of the world, but how society views the mothers in these situations isn't always rosy and cheerful. The expectations that people have for adults these days and what people characterize as success can also cast a certain light on single parenthood.
Single moms deal with a lot of doubt and worry that with everything on their shoulders, they'll mess up somehow. Strangers and acquaintances often feel no qualms about indulging their curiosity and will ask rude and invasive questions without batting an eyelash. In some ways, going through a pregnancy when there's no father in the picture is vastly different from the pregnancy that a woman experiences when she's in a relationship. In a few fundamental ways, however, pregnancy is fairly similar regardless of relationship status. It's a wonderful and difficult process that sends mom in a new direction and forever changes her. She might be a single mom by choice, or single despite every effort not to be, but there are unique challenges that will potentially shape this memorable experience.
20 Different: Fending Off The Nosy Parkers
Despite the fact that more than one quarter of all children are being raised without a father in the home, according to Single Mother Guide, a surprisingly large number of people feel it's well within their rights to quiz pregnant moms on everything from who the father is to how she plans to compensate for his absence, as per Madame Noire. Moms even report people asking them if it was an accident, why mom couldn't make it work with the father, and whether she's got him for child support. A woman's pregnancy isn't the public's business, but single moms deal with more than their fair share of inappropriate queries.
19 Different: Those Precious Milestones
There are so many wonderful moments and precious, once-in-a-lifetime milestones that come along during pregnancy that can feel especially bittersweet for a single mom. With no partner in crime, single moms often feel lonely and that there's no one to share important things with. She may go to her appointments alone or have no one to turn to when she feels that first kick, but she shouldn't let that define her motherhood, explains Paper And Oats. Documenting all those milestones and celebrating them allows the space for the joy and wonder of becoming a mom to a new human, whether dad is in the picture or not.
18 Different: Feeling Alone
Yes—a tiny human is growing inside her—but the single pregnant mom still often feels very alone. Sometimes women can stitch together a support network of family and friends, and sometimes they can't. Even when a single mom has loving friends and a caring family, there's still something lonely about navigating the pregnancy without a partner. If mom can't seem to overcome the loneliness, or if she can't seek out the support she needs, it's important to discuss this with a medical professional or a counselor, according to Babble. Single moms can get stressed trying to cope on their own and could become depressed if it all becomes too much.
17 Different: Decisions, Decisions
The buck stops at the parents when it comes to making decisions. The pregnant single mom often feels stressed thinking of the thousands of little and big decisions that she may have to make without ever consulting a partner. Even small decisions take on a greater gravity without Dad in the picture, according to Seleni Institute. While a single mom will certainly receive more than a fair share of advice—both solicited and even more unsolicited—the burden of the decision is ultimately on her alone. Pregnant mamas shouldn't be afraid to discuss their worries with a trusted friend or family member to help them hammer out life's big decisions.
16 Different: An Alternative Partner
While a single pregnant mother does not in any way have to go out and seek a stand-in partner in order to have a loving and successful pregnancy, many gain a lot of comfort in the support that an alternative partner can give in times of stress. A good friend might step in to make sure the pregnant mama doesn't have to go it alone. A trusted family member could encourage her during labor, or she can seek out a midwife and doula to help her through, as per Pregnancy Birth & Baby. Enrolling in classes that are geared towards single moms is another great way to make connections.
15 Different: Tougher To Trust
Lots of experts tell the single pregnant woman to reach out to people she can trust, but who does she reach out to when she feels she can't trust anyone? Perhaps mom's trust was violated, or she was left by someone she thought would be there during the pregnancy. It's vital that the people who do care about her recognize that, for her, trust has been severely damaged, and that she recognizes this inability to trust as well, explains Good Therapy. When she's become the final arbiter of all decisions, she can get stressed out by not knowing how to trust others, but seeking counselling can help to overcome this fear.
14 Different: Less Leeway At Work
Employers sometimes aren't very friendly at all to women who become pregnant despite workplace laws that are designed to protect the rights of the pregnant woman. This coldness towards pregnancy, coupled with the fact that workplaces aren't legally bound to make accommodations for the pregnant woman to make it easier to do her job, makes working while pregnant incredibly difficult for many, as per Parents. Single moms have less leeway on the job than women with partners—often, they're compelled to put up with conditions because they are the sole breadwinner and can't afford to change jobs or go on leave until the last minute.
13 Different: Financial Fears
Many couples are terrified when they find out they're pregnant and start crunching the financial numbers. Single moms who don't have a financial partner are even more likely to struggle with the stress that comes with worrying about money. Single women may feel compelled to work longer in an effort to make ends meet. Physical stress, along with the emotions and anxiety that financial worries bring, can actually affect the growth of the baby, according to Healthline. Anxiety during pregnancy has been linked to a lower birth weight. Taking advantage of the tools and resources offered by friends and social services is key to improving outcomes.
12 Different: Willing To Ask For Help
Just because help is there, it doesn't mean that the single pregnant mom will ask for it. People may already be judging her for being pregnant and single. There are a lot of potential barriers to getting the help she needs, including being unable to trust that others won't let her down and feeling that she needs to prove she can be strong and go it alone. Asking for help is actually often seen as a sign of strength, not weakness, explains Esme. Single moms can think of it as a way to make the most of their resources and avoid straining themselves past the breaking point.
11 Different: Plans And Preparation
Being organized will make a difference when going through a pregnancy as a single mom. It's all too easy to get caught up in the might-have-beens and lose sight of what's happening in the moment and in the near future, according to Parenting. Letting go of guilt and worry as much as possible allows mom to start planning for the next doctor’s visit, the next trimester, and the next phase of her and her baby's lives. Even though the best plans often get tossed at the last minute, gathering her thoughts and at least developing a framework will always help and never hurt her as she navigates the pregnancy roller coaster.
10 Different: Definitely Dial A Doula
There's so much to do as a single pregnant mom that sometimes her health takes a backseat. She may also wonder how even to begin drafting a birth plan that fits her needs and schedule. While some moms-to-be have heard of doulas, many don't know that a doula isn't just a person who coaches mom through her labor, explains For Your Birth. A doula can actually help the single mom organize and finalize in the last few weeks approaching birth. She'll bring her expertise to working on a comprehensive birth plan and can even be called on to assist in the postpartum period so that mom can focus on recovery.
9 Different: Fake It To Make It
Nosy strangers, family with opinions, and her own guilt can all coalesce to make an already tumultuous time even more chaotic and difficult. Single moms-to-be may feel additional pressure to always be okay around friends, family and especially at work, and they become adept at learning to fake it to make it. It's alright to put a brave face on things—up to a point. Single moms have to make a safe space wherein they can mourn what might have been or find an outlet for the stress of going it alone—they have to be alright with sometimes not being okay, according to Tiny Buddha.
8 Different: Sympathy Versus Empathy
A lot of friends, family and strangers will express their sympathy to a single pregnant woman, but sympathy is often the very last thing she wants or needs. Many of the people expressing sympathy with a single mom because they feel like they know how hard it must be haven't actually gone through the same experiences, so their sympathy isn't helpful, according to the Denver Post. Single moms often find that getting in touch with other single moms is the most helpful way to get through the highs and lows—because those other single moms understand that single parenthood isn't all lows.
7 Different: Judgy Janes
Some moms are single and pregnant because they don't want to wait for 'the right guy' to experience motherhood, and other moms find that the baby's father just won't be participating either because the pregnancy was unwanted or the relationship wasn't successful. For some people, it doesn't seem to matter what the reason for the single mom status is. Nearly half of single moms report feeling judged, according to Psych Central. Of those who felt judged, most stated the judgy comments were either about their financial situation or that they should have chosen a better father or made better decisions. Married mothers were far less likely to report getting criticism.
6 Different: The Time Crunch
Two parents during a pregnancy can take decisions and work and divide and conquer. Single pregnant women don't have that ability and often are stressed with all the things that have to be done while trying to deal with pregnancy symptoms at the same time. Single moms usually have to balance the pregnancy and their work life, and possibly other children and social obligations, and the time crunch is far greater than women with a partner experience, according to WebMD. All moms feel the pressure of time, but single moms are constantly working against a clock that doesn't care if they've got help or not.
5 Same: It Is Still Nerve-Wracking
Every single mom feels some anxiety during her pregnancy, and even the most perfect, uncomplicated pregnancy will generate some worrisome moments for mom whether she has a partner along for the ride or not. It is okay to worry, say experts, but all pregnant moms who find their anxiety is making it hard to focus should discuss their anxiety with the healthcare provider, as per What To Expect. Any expectant mom can develop anxiety regardless of her situation, and some of the symptoms might express themselves physically. Even the best-prepared mamas are nervous from time to time because so much is changing in such a short time.
4 Same: A Birth Plan Explains
Whether the laboring mom has an army of supporters headed by a dad-to-be well versed in all the latest breathing techniques, or she's driven herself to the hospital and won't have anyone there for the big moment, a birth plan is a useful tool that can communicate what she wants and what steps she prefers the medical staff take in case things don't go as planned or complications arise, according to the Mayo Clinic Health System. The hospital can provide a template for a birth plan, and the Internet is a great resource if mom isn't sure what to include.
3 Same: It Is Still Exhilarating
What happens after a mom-to-be takes a pregnancy test may be different, but for every woman who decides to go ahead with the pregnancy, there are at least points along the way which are exhilarating. Pregnant women with partners aren't the only ones who find themselves looking forward to the sweet moments and milestones to come. Every woman has the right to enjoy and celebrate the journey to motherhood, according to the Huffington Post. Some women choose to be single moms and love every minute. Others have single parenthood thrust upon them but find little moments of grace and excitement where they least expect.
2 Same: There Will Be Joy
A woman in one delivery room might be holding her partner's hand as she completes her final pushes, and the woman next door might be holding the hand of an on-call doula or nurse, but both women can and do experience sheer joy at the sight of their new baby as he takes his first few breaths. A joyful birthing experience isn't solely dependent on whether there is a partner there, explains Just Mommies. A solid support network and a birthing plan can go a long way towards a wonderful birth. Birth has an amazing way of showing a new mom just how strong she really can be.
1 Same: Help Comes From Surprising Places
Moms-to-be of all stripes need help sometimes and might be truly surprised when they start investigating all the resources that are available to them. There are grants, money and food programs in most states that are available to pregnant women—whether married or not—that are not necessarily limited to income, according to Growing Family Benefits. Pregnant women can even get most or all of their prenatal care covered and could even get a lot of dental care for free. Other surprising sources of help are the local churches and women's group. Many public libraries offer Internet-ready computers to help mom search for what's available in her area.
References: Single Mother Guide, Madame Noire, Paper And Oats, Babble, Seleni Institute, Pregnancy Birth & Baby, Good Therapy, Parents, Healthline, Esme, Parenting, For Your Birth, Tiny Buddha, Denver Post, Psych Central, WebMD, What To Expect, Mayo Clinic Health System, Huffington Post, Just Mommies, Just Mommies