It’s the Little Things

In my previous post I shared that I haven’t found the single part of single parenting as trying as I (and others) might have expected. I was used to doing all the chores, paying all the bills, and asking for help when I hit upon something I couldn’t figure out myself. Okay, that part about asking for help was a lie, but I got much better about it during my pregnancy and the first few weeks after my c-section. The rest, though, was true. Most days I’m perfectly content washing all the bottles and dishes, so long as I also get the majority of the snuggles.

That doesn’t mean that it isn’t nice to have help, though. Some help—the trip to get medicine for the baby in the middle of a snow storm when you’re sick yourself type of help—is certainly nice. It’s amazing actually, and it’s also necessary at times. But what about the kind of help you’d never ask for, the unnecessary help, help with the things you can do yourself, but every now and then just want to pawn off on someone else?

My parents moved closer when I made my decision to become a single mom. In fact, they now live a half mile up the street from me—most of the year. Like a lot of women, I relied heavily on them for the necessary help new moms, single or not, need those first few weeks and months. But even after that I took advantage of their eagerness to spend time with my guy so I could not only run errands solo or complete a project around the house (like showering), but also so I could occasionally get a pedicure with a friend or attend book club without the baby in tow.

I appreciated their help tremendously, and I knew I’d miss it when they returned to being snowbirds in sunny Florida. I even worried about whether I could really handle things without help, both the necessary and the nice, literally just around the corner. Both little man and I getting the flu a week after they left was definitely my first real test, but we survived with help from friends and family members and just by doing our best. Once we were both healthy, our days fell into a routine, and I discovered the things that needed to get done got done just fine.

Over February break I was lucky enough to travel with little man to visit my parents in Florida. I expected it to be fun—experiencing so many firsts with my son would be amazing (it was!). But I also knew relaxing vacations of baking in the sun and staying up to read until 2am (by choice) were likely over for a couple decades. I was okay with that (and my dermatologist was thrilled). Instead of loading my kindle and packing my aloe, I packed baby sunscreen and bubbles.

I wasn’t in the sunshine state 24 hours, though, when I realized I was more relaxed, and it wasn’t just the weather and lack of work. It was the little things. While my parents spoiled little man, I luxuriated in a long, hot shower (and even shaved my legs!) and didn’t worry about whether the baby would wake up or if he was safe while he played unsupervised as I tried to speed soap the necessary places. And after meals I didn’t have to make the decision between putting away food and doing the dishes or spending a few last minutes playing with him before bed. With three of us, there were plenty of volunteers to play, and enough of us left to make quick work of the cleaning. We even tag-teamed sleeping so that my mom and I got some after bedtime shopping in, and I got an hour of nap time tanning one day.

Except maybe the mother-daughter shopping spree (we had expiring coupons!), none of these little luxuries lasted long, but they still felt rejuvenating. It reminded me once again how fantastically supportive my parents are, but it also reminded me that treating myself to a little nice, but not necessary help, time, or support every now and then is good for the soul. And a happy momma = a happy home!

 

The Hardest Part of Being a Single Mom

When I first reached out to friends and family to tell them of my decision to become a single mother by choice, I expected people to tell me it would be hard, harder than I could imagine, maybe too hard to really want to do it on my own. And while I was lucky to receive tremendous support of my decision, a few friends and family members were honest enough to tell me this, not to scare me off, but to make sure I knew what I was getting into.

I appreciated the honesty, but I knew what I was getting into. (Go ahead, you can laugh at me now.)

I’d heard the stories of rough labors, seen my friends and family members’ struggles with nursing, tried to offer help and comfort when exhaustion, or illness, or the newest tough stage of development had worn them thin. I knew it was different standing on the outside, but I also felt their experiences had to have taught me something. Knowing there would be tough days, expecting them, had to be better than going into this single motherhood thing blind, right?

I won’t lie; I worried about those days before I got pregnant. I worried about them more once I was expecting and there was no turning back. I had moments of panic when I thought to myself, ‘What have I done?’ But then I’d feel a flutter or a kick, or hear the sweet sound of my baby’s heartbeat on a monitor, and I would remind myself there would be amazing moments, too. I reminded myself I wasn’t the first single parent. I had spoken with single moms I knew and others I met through my journey, and they all said the same thing: it’s worth it. And I felt that in my heart. I was meant to do this; that had to count for something. So I took a few deep breaths and went back to happily (and naively) waddling through my nine months.

When little man finally arrived on the scene, I realized…I had had no idea what I was getting into.

I didn’t know how hard it was to hear your baby cry and not know how to help. I didn’t know I could be so tired it hurt. I didn’t know how scared I could feel hearing doctors say something wasn’t quite right. I didn’t know how impossible it would be some days to juggle work and home.

Basically, I never loved someone so much that I wanted the world for him and would do anything, give anything to assure his safety and happiness. I had never been a mother.

There have been days in the last ten months that have been hard, harder than I imagined even after seeing others’ struggles, hard enough to bring me to tears. But I honestly don’t think those days would have been easier if I had a partner. I wouldn’t have worried less, slept sounder, or likely received any more support than I’ve gotten from my amazing network of family and friends. And I wouldn’t give them up for the world, because those hard moments make the amazing ones all that much more special.

So is being a single mother hard? Hell, yes! Because being a mother is hard. The single part isn’t too tricky. (I could give you pointers, but that’s another post.) I’ve been single all of my adult life. That’s about the only thing that didn’t change when I had a baby.

That’s not to say that being single won’t pose additional challenges as I parent in the future, but each type of family structure comes with its own challenges—and its own perks. For instance, I’d certainly love to have someone else to do bedtime or wash bottles occasionally, but, on the plus side, I’ll never feel resentful or argue with myself for leaving dishes in the sink or laundry on the floor. And luckily, I’ve got at least a couple years before I’ll be arguing with little man about those things!

 

Photo credit: Christine Passler

Twisting the Tale

An alternative to the old (and outdated) ‘Once upon a time…’

I never had much interest in princesses, preferring jeans and sneakers to ball gowns and glass slippers even as a young girl. But that’s not to say that I didn’t grow up thinking someday I’d experience my own fairytale romance. When I reached 35 and was still single, though, I started to think that fantasy would never morph into my reality.

In the two years since, my ‘Once upon a time’ has taken some drastic turns. Tired of waiting for my prince to arrive and fed up with unsuccessfully scouring the suburban realms for him, I decided to skip the being-swept-off-my-feet stage, at least for now. Instead I chose to jump right to the chapter of the story entitled Motherhood. As any writer does, I made a few edits and a few errors. And life threw in some plot twists of its own to spice things up. The result, after a couple months of researching, half a year of fertility treatments, and a wonderful (but at times trying) pregnancy, is a beautiful baby boy.

I know I’m just beginning my adventures in motherhood, but I can’t help look in my son’s face every morning and feel like I’ve been given my happily ever after—minus Prince Charming.

While I don’t miss my prince (you can’t miss what you never had), it’s not always easy being a single mom by choice. Yes, I’m queen of my own castle, ruler of my own kingdom, and my own knight in shining armor all in one. But I’m also responsible for paying all the bills, changing all the diapers, and assuring my own little prince grows up to be the kind of man who both holds the door and appreciates a princess who can hold her own.

But hey, no one ever said happily ever after wasn’t a lot of work. It is worth it, though. So worth it.

The Name Game: When to Choose and Share Baby’s Name

Originally posted January 24, 2016 on Merely Mothers (now Evie & Sarah)

Like many women, I had a list of possible baby names picked out long before I ever stepped foot in a fertility clinic. In fact, by high school I had the names of my three future children all picked out. I also was certain I’d meet their father before graduating college. That was my first swing and a miss, but who’s keeping score?

Even as my name choices expanded and changed over the years, though, I always thought naming a baby would be one of the enjoyable and controversy-free parts of getting pregnant. After all, no one would mess with me once I was pregnant by making fun of my top choices. Even my older brother would grow out of the need to mock his little sister. Yup, that was strike two in the predicting-my-future game. Guess I should have had a better poker face when he shared some of his top choices before my nephew was born, because revenge isn’t so sweet on the receiving end.

But as I near my final trimester, I’m pretty happy with the name I’ve tentatively chosen, and I’m thankful I did ask for some feedback, as it forced me to really explore what was important to me in the name I chose for my little guy. So now the stress is over, and I can sit back and . . . do what? Share? Not share? Make it final? Keep my options open? Call the baby by the chosen name? Stick with the silly nickname he’s had since my first ultrasound?

Turns out people have as many opinions about when to chose and share a name as they do about the names themselves.

When to Decide

Some religions and cultures are adamant that babies not be named until after birth, due to a fear that it increases the chance of something going wrong. Other people just feel you can’t choose a name until you know the baby some.

Being both a little superstitious and a believer in the importance of carefully chosen names, when I first got pregnant I thought I’d go into the delivery room with a handful of names I equally liked. I’d wait until meeting my little one and then pick the name that fit him or her best. Part of me still leans this way. What if I hold my little guy in my arms and the name I’ve been calling him for months feels wrong?

Then again, part of me is starting to understand the perks of choosing a name earlier. Lately, when I’ve been talking to the baby, which I do quite frequently now that I feel him squirming around in there, I occasionally call him by the name I’m leaning towards. It’s been nice to try it out, to get used to the sound of it, to feel it on my lips and in my heart. And it makes me wonder, will I really know him any better in those first few hours after birth than I do now feeling him grow inside me every day?

When to Share

While some parents-to-be happily share with the world the name they’ve chosen for their yet-to-be-born baby, most who decide on a name early fall into the category of waiters. Reasons to keep baby’s name a secret include not wanting to hear negative comments, not wanting the name to be ‘stolen’, superstitions/beliefs that it could increase the risk of something going wrong, fear that it would make it harder to cope if something did go wrong, or just for the excitement of getting to share it for the first time once the baby has arrived.

Despite other bloggers or parents online who feel very strongly about not sharing, I feel like this one’s just a matter of personal preference. Maybe this is because I’m still in denial about the fact I’ve pretty much already chosen a name and have therefore convinced myself there’s no risk in sharing, or maybe it’s because I’ve never been able to keep a secret anyway. I feel if you want to keep it a secret, great. But if you want to tell the world, that’s great, too. I fall somewhere in the middle; if you ask, I’ll tell you, but I’m not ready to embroider his pjs quite yet.

I have to laugh at how many people have asked me if I’ve thought of a name yet, then look shocked or horrified when I’m willing to share with them the name I’m considering, as if I’m breaking some unwritten code of secrecy. Then again, I’m pretty sure my family is laughing behind my back at my insistence that the name I’ve chosen is still just a potential, despite the fact I haven’t changed my mind about it or even really considered another name in over two months. Hopefully they’re right and I’ve already hit my name game home run. But that little stubborn streak is keeping me from making an online announcement quite yet!

So how did you play the name game? Did you swing early and miss? Keep your eye on the ball until just the right moment? Or have some other batter’s box ritual that helped you choose just the right name?

 

 

Photo credit: Realinemedia

The Best and Worst Things About Being Pregnant and Single

Originally posted January 10, 2016 on Merely Mothers (now Evie & Sarah)

When I embarked on my journey to single motherhood, I knew there would be some serious downfalls to doing this alone, but I also knew, like with being single, that it might have some perks. More than halfway through my pregnancy I’ve certainly had this confirmed. Here’s what I’ve discovered so far about the perks and pitfalls of being single and pregnant.

On the Downside:

There’s no one to share the bed with.

In the past week or two I’ve begun to feel my little man moving inside me with more regularity. Often he’s most active just as I’m lying down to sleep or as I wake up in the morning. This feeling is so new to me, and so amazing, it’s only natural to want to share it. And while I have a terrific group of close family and friends to talk to, I can only imagine based on how awesome it is for me alone, that this must be a special experience for a couple to share together. Telling the cat doesn’t feel the same.

Also, after one of those lovely, vivid pregnancy dreams, it’d be great to have someone nearby to wake up who could assure me that there aren’t really snakes in the bed. Seriously, if I wrote horror novels, this pregnancy would be making me a best-selling author for sure.

No one’s around to help me laugh at the strange parts of pregnancy.

Pregnancy makes you strange. Or in my case, stranger. Between hormones, exhaustion, and the odd little alien growing inside me, I now do things that the best comedy writers only wish they had thought up. From strange food combinations and the after effects on my digestive system, to the crazy dreams that wake me in a cold sweat, to forgetting to put up the garage door before backing out, sometimes I need a little help to remember that in hindsight these are not big deals—actually, they make for a good laugh. Luckily, my family, friends, and coworkers have done a great job helping me to see the sunny side of pregnancy.

I have to make all the big decisions—alone.

The baby isn’t even born and I’m responsible for some pretty major choices. When it comes down to it, I am it. The bottom line. The big kahuna. I’m responsible for every major pre-birth decision from what to name the baby, to whether to circumcise him, to what insurance he’ll need, to what car seat to buy him. Some decisions have been easy, requiring little time or research to decide on. Others have kept me up at night reading reviews, Pinterest articles, and medical jargon until my eyeballs bled. If it hadn’t hit me before now, I’ve finally realized I’m in for some serious adult-ing in the upcoming months and years.

I need to ask for help.

By the time most single women decide to take on the challenge of having a child on their own, they’ve most likely been single for awhile. I’d lived alone for over a decade before I got pregnant. I’d learned to take care of pretty much everything on my own (with the exception of a few jobs I never liked, such as getting an oil change or taking my car through the carwash, which somehow freaks me out). I’m not sure if I became proud and independent because of living alone or if perhaps I always had those qualities in me, but I can tell you, breaking the mold isn’t easy. When it was only my back I was risking, I had no problem finding creative means of dragging heavy items up and down stairs. Now that there’s a baby involved, I’ve realized I need to ask for help, even if it means I do feel a little weaker and more dependent.

On the other hand, being single and pregnant has some perks:

I don’t have to share the bed with anyone.

There’s no one to crawl over during the multiple midnight potty trips, no one to wake me from an already fragile sleep with his own snoring, and no one to protest to the pregnancy pillow that now takes up half my queen size bed and still doesn’t keep me from rolling on my back. And those nightmares and strange dreams? Well, there are quite a few I wouldn’t want explain to anyone anyways.

No one’s around to notice the strange parts of pregnancy.

If I decide that extra spicy dill pickles with a cheese stick and orange juice constitutes dinner some night, who’s going to complain? If I choose not to tell anyone I forgot to put the cap on the milk and then shook it all over the kitchen the next morning, who will know? If I decide yoga pants and leopard print slippers are absolutely fine to go to dinner at my parents’ house, who’s to contradict me and suggest I change? While pregnancy has made me weird(er), sometimes, for my own sanity, I just need to go with it. Some days, having to face another person’s questioning looks would likely push me, with my already swinging moods, right over the edge. Best I’m left to my own hormone-induced devices.

I get to make all the big decisions—alone.

I learned a lesson after reaching out for help on names—only to find that no one in my inner circle could agree on anything except that for various reasons they all hated at least one name I liked—sometimes it’s best just to make your own decisions. Most people, especially those who’ll love me and the baby no matter what, can live with just about anything I decide. And if I make a blunder on my own, those same people will be there to help me fix it. But asking everyone I know and reading every article ever written on these major decisions sometimes leaves me more confused. From now on, I will ask a few, read a little, then trust my gut.

I learned to ask for help.

The limitations of pregnancy and my own knowledge have forced me to ask for help from all sorts of people, some I always knew I could turn to, and others I might not have thought of asking before. But learning to ask for help has only been part of the benefit of being single and pregnant. The other, bigger, positive I’ve taken away is learning that most people want to help, not judge. I know longer need to worry about being a burden or looking weak. No parent can raise a child on his or her own, so nearly every one of them has received help themselves along the way, and they are more than happy to pay it forward. The only thing I’m admitting by reaching out for help and advice is that I want to be the best mom possible. And no one can or will fault me for that.

I’m looking forward to the joys and challenges of the second half of this pregnancy and all they will teach me about myself, life, and the tremendous support system around me!

 

 

Photo credit: Creatista

Overcoming Baby Store Syndrome

Originally posted December 29, 2015 on Merely Mothers (now Evie & Sarah)

I didn’t get to register for a wedding, but, as a girl who loves to shop, I always imagined getting that little scanner gun and zapping my way through a store would be wonderful. So when I first found out I was pregnant, the idea of finally going into a baby store to choose things for my own child seemed like a dream come true.

Mid-way through my first trimester, I walked into one of the larger baby chain stores. Outside the store, I trilled with excitement. Inside, I instantly felt nauseous. Maybe it was my usual bout of afternoon ‘morning’ sickness or the fact I’d come from work and was tired and hungry, but after just one aisle, all I wanted to do was run out of there screaming. And I did, well, minus the screaming; I kept that in my head. Maybe it was a little too early to think about baby gear.

By trimester two, though, I was ready to try again. After all, eventually I would want to register for and/or buy at least the basics before baby was born. So on a bleak, foggy day in early December that reminded me eerily of the opening scene in A Christmas Carol just before four creepy specters arrive to terrify Scrooge, I entered the overwhelming world of baby gear once again. And once again I wanted to cry, or vomit, or both. What was it about the sight of onesies that induced such a gut-wrenching reaction? It’s a humbug I tell you!

Seeing aisles of products I couldn’t name, never mind know what to do with had made me panic—twice. How much of this crap did I need? Who’s going to show me how to use it? What if I pick something unsafe? How much is this all going to cost? All these thoughts raced through my already exhausted pregnant mind, leaving me with one conclusion: I haven’t a clue what I’m doing, and therefore both the baby and I were obviously as doomed as Scrooge’s unredeemable soul.

After a snack, a nap, and a chat with a pregnant co-worker nearing the end of her pregnancy, I realized this reaction was relatively normal, although perhaps a bit exaggerated by hormones, hunger, and the fact I’d been teaching A Christmas Carol long enough that I was beginning to have it memorized. Logic returned, somewhat, and I turned to my third favorite resource—after food and friends and family—books, but no more Dickens.

With a hand-me-down copy of Baby Bargains by Denise and Alan Fields, I set out to conquer the challenge of choosing baby gear from the safety and security of my own home. For a couple weeks I spent my evenings reading through one section of the book at a time while constantly checking online for prices, pictures, and further reviews. In my pajamas, without the bright fluorescent lights and towering aisles of gadgets and gear, I was actually having fun thinking about using these things with my little one.

While it was still super early, I even began adding things to a registry online. There was no way I was going to remember all the information later, and since I wouldn’t likely be sharing my choices for months, there was no stress; I could change mind at any time. By the final chapter I felt like I had a handle on the most important things I’d actually need, all things I had heard of and do know what to do with (in theory). Turns out a lot of the other stuff flooding the store shelves are niceties that most babies and parents don’t actually need. And while the logical part of my mind knew this, seeing it on paper was a major relief.

The Ghost of Baby-Yet-to-Come was far less scary with his hood off and realities exposed. I was not doomed to fail at motherhood because I had never seen an apparatus to suck snot with my mouth out of an infant’s nose. (Yeah, I know moms love these things, and I’ll probably be one of them some day, but really?) And for now it is enough to know I’ll need some bottles, and that there are many kinds out there if my little man turns out to be fussy about his favorite. I don’t need to stress before ever meeting him what kind that is.

So later this week I will once again venture into the baby super store. This time I’ll be ready and armed with a mostly completed registry, a dash of knowledge, some much needed perspective, and, most importantly, an experienced best friend or two. Bring it, Babies R Us!

If you have your own registering advice or stories, please share!

 

Photo credit: Kalinovsky

Honesty Over Ease: Why I Won’t Avoid the Daddy Question

Originally posted December 13, 2015 on Merely Mothers (now Evie & Sarah)

As a single mother by choice I expected the “Who’s the daddy?” question to come up. I’ve actually been surprised at the restraint people have shown when I’ve told them I’m expecting while not wearing a ring and still going by Miss. Sure, in some ways it’s none of people’s business, but as someone who is at times overly inquisitive herself, I understand it’s also natural to wonder.

Since I’ve been so open throughout my journey to single motherhood, I didn’t mind the not-so-subtle fishing of some acquaintances. (Saying, “Oh, you and your husband must be so happy!” or “Are you Miss or Mrs.?” when these topics have never previously come up, is not exactly subtle, but I appreciate the attempt at politeness.) And while some single mothers by choice are sensitive to it, I’d never be upset or angry with a stranger for assuming there’s a daddy in the picture. My getting pregnant did require some male assistance, after all.

That said, if someone brings up the topic, I’m not comfortable pretending there is a dad.

I won’t smile and nod and let people think their assumption that all families include a mom and a dad is correct, because it’s not, and people need to be exposed to all kinds of families in order to understand and accept them.

Yes, it would be easier not to explain that I’ve chosen to become a single mother to complete strangers at the doctors’ office or the maternity store, and it might be more comfortable for them, too. But then I wouldn’t be comfortable. I’m not ashamed of the way I’m starting my family and not speaking up would feel like I had something to hide.

More important than my feelings though, are those of my son. There will be a day when a stranger says in front of him, “Oh, he must look like his daddy.” Again, it might be easier for me just to agree. After all, my son may look like his donor, and to a stranger what’s the difference? Nothing. But to my son, there will be a difference. I want him to know that while he doesn’t have a dad, his family structure is just as legitimate, and special, and loving as any other. If he thinks I’m not comfortable talking about it, how can he ever be comfortable with it?

I also want others to understand that while they mean no harm in their assumptions, times have changed, and the language we use to talk about families needs to change with it. According to some statistics, ‘non-traditional’ families now outnumber ‘traditional’ families. That doesn’t mean we need to stop talking about families with moms and dads, but it does mean we need to start talking more about other kinds of families. And that starts with those of us willing to be forthright gently reminding those who ask, hint, or assume that we exist and are not ashamed or uncomfortable with whatever make-up our families consists of.

So, no, I won’t lie or even smile and nod to make others feel more comfortable. Because while they may be mere acquaintances or even complete strangers to whom the truth means little, my child needs me to tell the truth, not only to him, but to the world. Because the truth will help shape the world he grows up in—and I want that world to be educated and accepting of all the types of families that exist. Ours included.

Photo credit:  enterlinedesign