Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Single motherhood

This is a dedication and validation to all single mothers out there

Yes, single mothers, young, old, white, black, asian, latino, thin, round, tall or small, we come in a variety or shapes and sizes, nationalities and ethnicity. We come from different educational and socio-economic backgrounds and ages. Our common ground is our love for our babies and children. And even so, we are judged. We are judged by our current circumstance and are measured with the same stick - that we are all irresponsible women. I resent that. I myself had this "grudge" against single mothers (before I became one myself). I thought scornfully and pittifully of them. But why? No compassion, that's why. No insight or understanding. Not taking the time to look at what a big effort that young single mother is making to raise her child(ren) on her own, and that the fact of the matter is, I do not know and it's not my place to know exactly why she's in that situation.

When a woman becomes a single mother, be it because of whatever reason, she assumes a big responsibility of parenthood x2. She must assume the mother and father role. If parenthood came in the form of sexual assault that resulted in pregnancy, this mom must struggle against a crime and the myriad of anxieties and stresses that follows, to say the least. When such a mom decides to have her baby, despite the manner of conception, she is displaying an act of complete and utter self-sacrifice, long suffering, and selflessness. I will openly praise such women, for their bravery, courageousness, and love. Do you see why we shouldn't be quick to jump to any conclusions about single moms? That is just one reason.

Single women have to struggle a great deal and learn patience and self-esteem in many instances from before their baby is born. They thread through a pregnancy without the support, be it financial or emotional, of a partner and depending on how the end of the relationship came about, the mom must also come to terms with the demise of a bond, that will never be completely severed because of the baby on the way. She may struggle to love a growing baby inside her only to be set back because of the reminder that it was not her alone in the very beginning. Some women cut themselves off emotionally from the pregnancy and simply carry it to term. And yet some women live in a relationship or even a marriage as a facade to outsiders, while being single moms at the end of the day behind closed doors. These are stresses and burdens that we carry with us that should be obvious to the outside world but are oblivious to our pains. Sometimes a relationship comes to and end at the mother's decision. It may be a physically or emotionally abusive relationship that is devoid of all love and security. The mother may struggle with herself to leave the relationship lest her partner may have a change of heart and actually make the changes that were so abundantly promised. All this mixed in with the intrinsic fear and hope of being a good mom, can drive any sane, level headed woman off the edge.

When a single mother gives birth

Labor and delivery will freak any woman out, especially if it is her first time. Fear of the unknown can overwhelm her. As prepared as she may be, at the back of her mind she just wants everything to work out well and have a normal and 'uneventful' birth to a healthy baby. Coupled with the stress and resentment she may feel of having to 'do it all herself' and go through the pain by herself can make anger and tension slow labor down drastically. If the pregnancy came about by sexual assault, during the labor, she may have flash backs, and if she is suffering from PTSD, it may be even harder to be touched by anyone, maybe even the baby, during the process. If a mom doesn't relent and take control of her birth, her past may well take over and exercise a bad influence on the laboring process and subsequent birth. She must put forth every ounce of energy to focus on her baby and do it for herself and the baby. If a mom has problems with self-confidence and trust in herself and her body's innate ability, her labor supporter must fill that void, that role, as much as appropriately possible, always taking the mother into account and recognizing when to step in and when to step back.

When the baby is finally born, sometimes the rush, the pleasure and sheer ecstacy of finally meeting the baby, isn't there. Especially if the labor was long and drawn out with many interventions, this may happen. It should not be a cause for concern, seeing how many healthy non-single women give birth and never experience that 'rush of love' feeling. Bonding is something that sometimes takes many weeks to many months to happen, and no one should judge or assume that the mother will ill-treat the baby because of not falling in love with it that very moment.

A single mother's postpartum period
The postpartum period for any woman is a time of rejoicing, a time of severe sleep deprivation, a mix of happiness and sadness and anxiety of precisely how to care properly for their newborn. If the mom is breastfeeding and experiencing issues with it, this may take greater patience and perseverance on her part. I think a lot of people expect way too much from women in their postpartum period. To make things worse, stars like Heidi Klum and Jennifer Lopez impress on the media and society that right after birth, a woman should be in tip top shape, not carrying any baby weight and sleeping 6-10 hours a night and not strutting the raccoon-eye look. Listen no, get this ficticious  idea out of your head. Real moms struggle to find time even to bathe. This is normal. Double this for every older child the mother may have.

Take all of this and throw in singleness. Throw in the fact that the other person who also made this human being is out somewhere livin' it up, while you pace the halls at night with (cracked nipples that feels like shards of glass and) a crying baby who won't sleep. I'll tell you from experience, that such times will make your blood boil and send any already lingering feelings of anger, resentment or even hatred, soar through the roof. You are justified. You have all the right. If you want to cry, don't hold back. Let it all out. It's easy for people on the outside, especially non-single ones, who have a third-party view of the situation, to tell you, you have to let go, you have to forget about it. Easier said than done. Do you really think I want to hear that? Do you honestly think that by chastising me and lecturing me about wallowing in self-pitty will not get me any further, will help me? I KNOW all of this. I don't need a shrink, I need a hand. If you're a single mother, don't be embarrassed or afraid to ask or accept help of any kind. Is a friend volunteering to watch the baby while you shower or cook? Take it. Accept help in any form and if there is none, try and look for it. Don't be afraid to say, 'it's too much to handle on my own, I need your help'. You'd be surprised who'll show up at your door ready and willing to give you even a temporary break. I recommend for all moms, first time around, or fourth time around, single or not, try a sling. Really. It can save your life (and your sanity) when you have to cook or clean and you have a crying baby who needs to be held. The sling will allow you and your baby, maximum contact with each other, will soothe your baby, and you can get something done at least. If you're a breastfeeding mom, force yourself to accept that the home will have to be somewhat 'dirty' in the first weeks. Remind yourself, that major cleaning can wait a few weeks, but your ever growing baby won't.

Loving your baby
Some mothers may hesistate to love the baby, some may even feel angry at it, to a certain extent, these feelings are normal. During the direct postpartum period your hormones will be 'out-of-control' and one moment you may feel sad, the next angry, and the next completely overjoyed. And yet, some other women look at their babies, really wanting to love them, trying their best to love this tiny human being, but constantly being reminded by the painful past of what is no more. This is a cold hard truth that is inevitable. The only thing that a single mom would do well to remember is that, the baby is in no way is cuplable and cannot be the object of any blame. On the contrast, the baby should be the recipient of whole hearted, unselfish love. It's sometimes hard to love a baby who cries and whimpers and screams constantly, but it's not the baby's fault. Never express any anger either physically or emotionally towards the baby. I always reminded myself that, partners may come and go, parents may choose not to support us, but our babies will always love and depend on us for warmth and security.

Healing on your own time and at your own term
Healing comes in many forms, and is not always noticeable. Some single women experience healing from before birth, and for some it may take years after. Some women experience an abrupt turning point and others discern that gradually things look brighter and better.  However it may have come or may yet have to come to you, don't fight it. Don't force it because others said so. I had a turning point in my life, and I told myself and my former partner  "I am going to walk out that door with my daughter in my arms and no wedding band on my finger and hold my head up high because I know I made the right decision to leave a horrible relationship". I was freed. I said it out loud. There was no more shame of being a single mom after that.I took my unfortunate situation and I let it mold me into a strong woman who loved her daughter and put her daughter's welfare above her own. I was a young mom, just 19 and single, I stood on my own two feet as such, and I said 'no more, it has reached far enough'. I hope all you single mothers also experience sooner or later, a time when you won't let yourself be victimized any longer, and you experience true healing from the heart..

Recognizing when to get professional help
"There is a time to weep and a time to laugh" states Ecclesiastes 3:4. With that same principle, there is a time that should you recognize certain signals or red flags that is telling you something is terribly wrong, you need help quickly. It's called PPD. Postpartum Depressions is real and affects 15-20% of new moms. It is a very common disease but is also commonly understated and undermined. Left untreated, PPD can affect your life and your baby's in a disastruous manner. Taken from Postpartum Progress, here are the signs you would do well to watch out for.

·        Sadness
·        Mood swings
·        Difficulty concentrating
·        Irritation or anger (with yourself and/or those around you)
·        Lack of interest in things you used to enjoy
·        Sleep and appetite changes
·        Panic attacks
·        Excessive worry about your baby
·        Disturbing thoughts about harming yourself or your baby
·        Mania
·        Racing thoughts
·        Panic attacks
·        Headaches and stomach problems
·        Guilt
·        Feeling like you should never have become a mother or that you won’t be able to do it
·        Delusions or hallucinations

If you ever have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, get help immediately. Don't let it linger or dismiss it as 'just the baby blues'. If it is persistent and doesn't let up, see your doctor immediately and express yourself openly and honestly. Sometimes it may be necessary to be put on anti-depressants and there are available that are safe for breastfeeding mothers to take. Always consult your doctor,psychiatrist or pharmacist about any medications if you're breastfeeding. If it turns out you are suffering from PPD, don't dismay. It is fairly common and doesn't automatically make you an unfit mother. PPD is out of your control, but what you can control, is the help you seek out in order to receive treatment. Look at what your options are, be it a psychiatrist or a psychologist, or simply a therapist. Don't underestimate the power of 'talk-therapy'. And lastly, never downplay what you feel. Allow and justify your hurt or angry feelings and take care of yourself. After all, a happy mom means a happy baby...

This is my own dedication to the hard work and tireless effort all you single mothers or used-to-be single mothers put into raising happy healthy children. I openly praise you as strong independent women who took on the role of both mother and father, and do it amazingly! I commend you, I commend you, I commend you....!

All Images Courtesy : Google Images

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