“You’re not going to like it”, he said. I’ll always remember those words because they changed my life…for the better.
I've been a single mama since two weeks before my daughter was born. What started out as the scariest time in my life ended up being such a blessing. I didn't know much about single parenting and as a child of divorce, I knew I never wanted my own children to have that experience. I was determined to have a strong, loving family and it certainly started off great. I was engaged to my best friend whom I’ve now known for 23 years. He had a daughter from a previous relationship and I saw that as proof he was already a family man. Ten years later I was pregnant for the fourth time and this time we made in into the relative safety of the second trimester. I was already in love with this little baby and I felt my fiancé and I were getting closer than we’d been in years. From the second trimester on, I felt so happy and calm; a seeming bottomless pit of joy. I had everything I thought I wanted; a great job, a wonderful partner, a beautiful new home and a finally a baby on the way! Then it all changed.
My fiancé and I were driving home from our second-to-last birthing class and I had the feeling that something was wrong. I pressed (probably pestered) him for answers, reassuring him that he could tell me anything, as I began to feel nervous about his silence. When we were finally home he then confessed that he didn't love me anymore and was not interested in starting a family with me. I hugged my belly, struggling to understand what he was saying. It didn’t make sense. This was my guy, my best friend, the father of my child. In the space of one conversation my whole world changed; my relationship was over, my best friend became a stranger, and I would very likely need to find a new home. To top it all off, two weeks prior, one day before starting maternity leave, I was laid off from my job. I was currently on bed rest and now I was suddenly single. I was absolutely terrified! Everything was now up to me and I felt completely incapable. I had been counting on my fiancé to help since he had a child from a previous relationship and had at least been through the first year. I don’t know anything about babies!
My actual list from those days, entitled “What I am worried about”:
- Finding a new apartment- how will I afford it?
- Packing- Where will I find time? How do I pack with an infant?
- New medical insurance
- How will I work with a baby?
- Being alone with a baby all day and night with no help
- No one will ever love me again
- What if he never bonds with her and resents all the time he’s with her?
- Going broke
- I love him and I’ll never get over him
I cried a LOT during those two weeks before my daughter was born. I am grateful that because I was already a high-risk pregnancy, I was very motivated to stay positive and keep the stress down. I am amazed at how positive I was able to keep myself. I’ve read that the end of a relationship is similar to the the death of a loved one. I have no experience with the latter, but for me the process of grieving over my old life was extremely frustrating and confusing.
I began by denying that it was happening or that it would continue to happen. I tried to fix it so that he would stay; I internalized how he felt about me and believed his assertion that I was so mean that he had no choice but to leave; I believed that everyone we knew secretly thought I was so horrible that they accepted that he was justified in leaving his fiancé and newborn; I believed that he was a victim of me.
Then I looked for evidence to support these beliefs; I’m loud and emotional, I yell and say what I think at inappropriate times, I’m confrontational, I’m lazy, I had anxiety attacks around sex (so of course any man would leave me), I got fat, I didn’t go to enough of his band’s gigs, I’m boring. The list went on. It was easy to find all the ways I had failed as a girlfriend and person. I tried to bargain with him. I apologized, I begged for another chance, for forgiveness. I said, “I’ll be good. I promise!”. I kept thinking that it was a giant mistake, an alternate universe had swallowed me up. I thought of excuses for him; he’s just scared of being a dad again, he just needs to give it time, a childhood trauma has probably triggered something. If we go to counselling, we can fix everything and be even stronger than ever!
Over the next two years, I would (and still do) get jolted over and over again back into reality as I struggle to let go of my fantasy of becoming that ‘picket fence’ family again. I have slowly realized that while I idealize the concept of that family, I don’t actually want it now. He’s moved on. I’ve moved on. My family of two is the best family; full of love, joy and so much laughter! I’m forever in awe of this beautiful child! This boisterous, independent, full-volume, intelligent and capable girl! She reminds me of me sometimes, but fully unfiltered! We’ve gone through the sleepless nights, the sleep training, the screaming (about everything). Happiness is not the absence of struggle or frustration. I am happy because I know how to be happy, how to switch that on even when it’s been nothing but tantrums all day and you’ve been sick all week. This is what my experience of becoming a single mother has helped me to learn. I love that little bundle of energy no matter what. I can handle anything that comes up, and that doesn’t mean doing it all by myself, but understanding when to ask for help as well. I was always strong, capable and full of joy, but the difference is, now I know it.