There is a common assumption that every pregnant woman or person will have a significant other – husband, wife, partner – who will be with them on their pregnancy and birth journey. But that’s just not the case for everyone. Some people choose to be a single parent without having another person involved (e.g. use of donor sperm), some people become single parents or are widowed during pregnancy and others are in a relationship where the non-pregnant partner is effectively absent.
What options are there if you are on your own while pregnant?
A doula is a non-medical person who is trained to support women and people through pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period. They don’t offer clinical or midwifery advice, but they’re there to help you to make decisions which are right for you, and to be your cheerleader and a person to rely on who is on your side.
Doulas can offer practical support in pregnancy, such as helping you to navigate the maternity services to access the care that you want. During the birth they can be a calm, reassuring presence, your advocate if you want that and, also, helpful with pain relieving techniques such as massage. After birth, they may be skilled at breastfeeding support, and some offer services such as home cooking and cleaning.
Find a great antenatal class
Many women find that they make life-long friends in their antenatal classes. Yet, sometimes, these can feel a little intimidating - Will everyone be there with someone? Will you be the only person going alone? Online classes and/or antenatal classes that only serve lone parents may be a more comfortable option for some.
Alternatively, you might decide to attend them with a friend or family member, perhaps someone you may be considering asking to be at your birth.
It’s ok to accept help!
You already are Superwoman, and accepting help doesn’t make you any less awesome. If you have offers of help, it’s ok to take them. If no one offers but you have people to ask, do it! Try to be specific about your needs. It may be nice to receive some lovely bath foam but, if what you really need is a cooked meal, consider asking for that instead.
Supporting yourself through appointments
It’s often hard to remember what is said in appointments with the midwife or doctor, and it can be really helpful to take someone along with you. They may be able to remind you of questions you wanted to ask, or to provide support as you advocate for yourself.
If there isn’t anyone to go with you, do write everything down that you want to know in advance – and also write down what you discuss in the meeting so you don’t forget key points. You also have the right to record any consultation so that you can listen to it again afterwards.
Join friendly online groups
We all know that social media can be a fantastic lifeline, but some groups can be mean, unsupportive and deeply unpleasant. Pick your online groups with care, and have zero tolerance for any shenanigans. There’s no shortage at all of social media groups which are filled with people who want to raise you up, creating a strong, joyful village of likeminded folks. If the groups you’re in don’t serve you, leave!
One step at a time
For many women and people who are pregnant and alone, or effectively alone, being single isn’t a hardship, but their normal way of living. Even then, pregnancy can sometimes suddenly change things and you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed. For those who are unexpectedly single and pregnant, this is even more likely.
Try to take each day at a time, and one step at a time. It’s easy to become swamped by what you need to get for your baby but, in fact, babies just need a few sets of clothes, some nappies, a pram or sling, boobs or bottles and loving arms. If you choose to not bed-share when your baby is born, they’ll also need a safe sleep surface such as a cot and cot bedding. Everything else is a delight, but not a necessity.
Do what’s right for you
For some reason, when we go through pregnancy and birth without a partner, lots of other people think that they have a say in your decisions.
This is your life, your pregnancy, your birth, your baby and you are the one that gets to make the decisions. Dig deep to find your own wishes. What does your instinct tell you? What feels right for you? Imagine you’re on a desert island. No one is watching you or influencing you. What decision would you make then?
Single parenting can be planned or unexpected, and can happen even if there is a partner who is physically present but who is not an active parent. Going it alone can feel like many things, from scary to exciting. You may not feel it all the time but honestly – you’ve got this!