My Single Mother story
Like most Mothers, the memory of finding out you are pregnant is one that never leaves you. It was not just the greatest ‘life changing’ moment of my life to date but more than that, it was ‘life saving’.
It was at 7 weeks pregnant when the reality of my chance at motherhood was tested and our combined future was challenged.
As it stood, my circumstances were not as straight forward as it appeared on the outside. The facts were that I had an extremely fragile mental state, having only been discharged from a Psychiatric Day hospital 4 months previously following my latest mental breakdown. I suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder to sit alongside my Bipolar, PTSD and Severe Anxiety and Depression.
Following a long term abusive relationship, I had found solace in a short term relationship with a man I had known for 10 yrs, however the night before my 6 week scan he dropped the bombshell that he didn’t want a child and was insisting I have an abortion.
To add to this instability, I had been left no option to leave my successful job in the Financial District of London when my mental health deteriorated past the point of which I could hide it to my employers. I was living in a council flat that I’d been given when I was homeless 10 years previously and was in financial debt and living on state benefits.
To add to the emotional side of my situation, I was the main provider of care for my disabled Father, who was left paralysed and brain damaged 9 years previously, together with my fragile Mother, both of whom relied solely on me for everything.
Given my unpredictable life, I detached myself regularly from friends and only reached out when I was well enough or would not feel like an emotional burden.
As you can see, bringing a child into the circumstances as I’ve described them may seem selfish and unwise.
However, whether it was the excellent therapy I’d received in hospital, the overwhelming elation I felt from the minute I looked at a positive pregnancy test or the mixture of both, I didn’t see this as a negative. I saw this as a positive life changing new start, full of hope, love and happiness.
I had gone from not having a reason to live whilst drowning in past trauma and numerous suicide attempts due to the unbreakable life of mental health, to now seeing a glimmer of hope. I was lucky to have a roof over my head, food in my cupboards and the brains, experience and tenacity to turn my hand to any job, scenario or challenge I was faced with. If I was to commit myself to this turning point I would need to do absolutely everything in my power to protect my baby and ensure he/she was brought into a safe, happy and healthy world surrounded by unconditional love and support.
That is exactly what I did.
I attempted to focus everything on the well being of myself and my unborn baby. Of course, I had to stop taking all of my medication which was quite scary given I’d been on them consistently for 13 years. I cut out any negative people and situations from my life as much as I could. I got myself into a routine that included regular exercise and meeting up with friends I could trust. I also started having weekly sessions at the Anna Freud Centre, alongside regular check-ins with the mental health team to prepare me as much as I could emotionally.
The reality was that although I was the healthiest and happiest I’d been in my life to that point, nothing could prepare me for the rollercoaster of emotions that were to come.
I went into labour and had a relatively straight forward water birth as planned, however things took a turn for the worse when the placenta became stuck.
To skip the scary birthing story, it was a moment I will never forget but the overwhelming fight to stay alive for my baby definitely played a part for the first time in those hours that followed.
On my discharge from hospital reality hit home pretty quickly, for starters I had left without knowing how to breastfeed properly so with no family members around me to help and only people contacting me to take a look at my baby, I was left wondering what to do next.
Days later with no health visitor making contact, a screaming hungry baby and only the internet to turn to for help, I called the hospital in tears begging for assistance.
I felt like I was in a dream, I couldn’t believe I was finally a Mother, I was feeling love like I’d never known and emotions off the charts, even for someone with BPD and bipolar.
However, as the months went on both mine and sons health issues became more overwhelming, without enough support, guidance not to mention the lack of sleep and nutrients I needed, I totally overlooked my own health needs.
I was trying to come across as super mum and like I had it under control for fear of judgement or confirmation that I couldn’t handle motherhood alone.
At 6 months old after only 2 nights of sleep I finally had a breakdown, it was at that point when I told myself that I was a total failure and although I’d tried my best it just wasn’t good enough. My son was the victim of a selfish decision and deserved more than I could give.
The problem is that when you don’t have a partner or family to step in, you have no choice but to dig even deeper and pull yourself out of the hole, no one else is going to do it for you. I luckily had a friend stay with me for about a week after I reached out and said how scared I was but she had a life to lead and I had to regain control somehow.
I think the first year of my son’s life was definitely the year that tested me the most, yet it was the following year that defined the resilience that I had built up by that point.
My already terminally ill father was paralysed and unable to speak, and apart from my son, he was my world.
I had put him and his care above everything in my own life for 10 years but when he had yet another stroke on New Years day 2013 my world came crashing down from the fragile stilts that had been holding it up.
In a critical state I had to be by his side each day to communicate with doctors and facilitate every tiny detail. My life went from feeding, nappies and medication for my toddler to replicating all of that for my Dad too. I was dealing with an inability to communication with angry and frustrated pleas for help from both of them.
For the next 14 months I was torn constantly between caring for them both, we practically lived in the hospital. At times I was going between floors to be with them on separate wards, it was a living nightmare.
After my Dad passed away, I filled the gaping hole in my heart with anything to keep busy.
My son and I began exploring and experiencing everything, we were always on a different adventure to find new places.
The waves of grief that I was riding were compensated by the utter joy and pleasure I experienced just by looking at my son’s beautiful happy face.
If my son was at nursery instead of chilling out I’d be at therapy or volunteering with my church or my local carer charity, anything not to be alone and have time to think.
I had always set my parenting standards and expectations of myself so high that every ounce of my attention went on my son and ensuring that he was thriving and living the most fulfilled life he possibly could.
With the help of the incredible Camden Mental Health Team I was receiving treatments like MBT and EMDR to combat my daily struggles.
It took total dedication from my part but I committed to each session in order to become a better and healthier Mummy for my son.
I had needlessly judged myself day in day out but through compassionate mind training and other techniques I learnt to look at wonderful life I had created for my son and not be so hard on myself if I wanted to have the odd pyjama day.
Each and every day I grow stronger and now I have a new found respect for life.
I’ve come from believing I was not worthy of being a mother to now seeing that I am a great Mum who has brought up an incredibly loving, kind and intelligent boy whose empathy for others has no limit.
The time and dedication I put into harnessing his growing little mind each day has totally paid off.
He tells me every day that I am the best mum ever and how much he loves me, and I in turn shower him with praise and affection.
We have built an unbreakable bond built on honesty, trust and respect for one another. I honestly wouldn’t change being a Single Mother for anything as I selfishly get my beautiful son all to myself all of the time without restrictions.
We live our life on our terms, we could sit and draw together for hours yet other days we’ll team up shamelessly in Lego games on the Xbox. Together we’ve travelled the globe from Hawaii to Thailand and we’ve got a heap more destinations to covers with many already booked.
This new appreciation for life has changed me so much. Money has no value when you have the one thing you can’t buy, unconditional love.
Of course times are tough and being a single parent comes with a heap of struggles when you’re effectively taking on two roles, but luckily the pros outweigh the cons every time.
There’s so many things I would have done differently with the impossible gift of hindsight, but a few of them I can start from now.
Firstly, I’m not so hard on myself, I’ve lowered my expectations not only of myself but others too.
Secondly what has been invaluable to my progression over the last year is the community of other Single Mothers I have connected with on Instagram. Social media was something I turned my back on and demonised for its fake perceptions of reality, I was exposed to an unrealistic happy existence of 2.4 families that had a negative effect on me.
When I re-joined Instagram I started a new account with a new following. This growing tribe of women are incredible. They are supportive, caring, understanding and above all they get it.
I feel honoured that my mini blog style posts have helped so many women around the world feel understood and I plan to extend that in many different ways.
Firstly, in response to requests, I have written a children’s book which tells the story I told my son in answer to his important question “Why don’t I have a Dad?”.
Secondly I have set up an event in London that will host single mother bloggers, speakers, and businesses while connecting a powerful community of like-minded supportive mothers.
I hope that the events will grow in numbers and help to empower Single Mothers, or as I refer to the stigmatised label as Independent Mothers.
If you want to find out any information or ask me any questions my Instagram handle is not.just.a.single.mother and the events page is independentmother_events on Instagram.
Tickets can be brought using the links on this website.
If you want to host an Independent Mother Event please get in touch using the form in the menu.