Whether you are a single mother by choice or by chance, there is no reason why having a baby should be any less fulfilling, although it is important that you have some support. Everyone needs someone to talk to at certain times in their lives, and becoming a parent is one of them. Such a change in your life will provoke questions or doubts, and it is helpful to have someone with whom to share your feelings.
Other women with children can be a wonderful source of support. Pregnancy is the ideal time to start building up a network for after the baby is born. By going to aqua-natal or antenatal classes, you will meet other pregnant women with whom you can keep in contact. Getting together with other single women can be helpful, and many areas have a network of groups aimed at single parents.
Reactions to your pregnancy
If you are not in a permanent relationship, you may worry about announcing your pregnancy to your family. Although being a single parent is by no means unusual, there are still many people who find it unacceptable. Some women are rejected by their parents, although this often blows over once they realize that nothing they can say or do will change your decision to have the baby. They might not'approve' but many proud grandparents, who cannot imagine being without their grandchildren, started off as disapproving parents.
Give people time to accept your decision. Often parents are disapproving only because they are concerned about you and how you will cope, and they express their concerns as anger. If your family or friends are not prepared to support you, it may be time to move on and find someone who is happy to do so. As a parent you will probably find that your new responsibilities make you more assertive. Your new baby is a part of your family now and will become your priority.
Choosing a birth partner
You do not have to be on your own in labour just because you do not have a partner. You are just as entitled to have a birth partner -perhaps your mother, a friend or a family member (see page 120). Choose someone you can rely on and with whom you feel comfortable. This person could also attend antenatal classes with you, although there may be classes aimed specifically for single women in your area - ask your midwife.
After the birth
Nobody knows for certain how they will cope after the arrival of a new baby, whether they are a single parent or one member of a couple. However, looking after a baby can be lonely, particularly when you feel tired and your baby is crying.
If you are lucky enough to have family or friends who offer help, do not be too proud to accept it. This does not mean that you are not coping. In fact, new mothers often cope so well as they do precisely because they do have help and support.
If you have no one to support you, tell your doctor or midwife who can recommend sources of additional support. In this way, you should be able to find out if you are entitled to any benefits or if you can get any help with housing. Help is often available but it is also a question of knowing where it is and how to find it.
Family and friends
Family and friends tend to offer well-meaning but sometimes unwanted advice. You may feel that they are trying to take over and make decisions for you, when all you need is someone to bounce ideas off. It is important to establish clear boundaries from the beginning. If you are on your own, they may assume either that you will not be able to cope, that you will be staying with them or that they can move in with you for the first few weeks. This is fine if it is what you want. However, if you are at all worried about offending people or about their reactions to you having the baby, it makes sense to let them know your plans well in advance in order to avoid any misunderstandings.