Find support, reduce anxiety, and rock your single-mom pregnancy
Pregnancy is almost always an anxiety-inducing experience, even for women in supportive partnerships. As single-mamas-to-be, it’s completely normal to have an onslaught of worries, concerns, and stressors. But for women who are parenting solo, pregnancy can be even more daunting and stressful. As a single mom, you and you alone are responsible for managing the normal physical discomforts of pregnancy, meeting your health and nutrition needs, attending prenatal checkups, communicating with your insurance company, choosing a birth plan and care provider, and gathering the necessary supplies to care for a newborn.
It’s a lot. I know. I did it, too.
The following tips to ease pregnancy anxiety are not medical tips. If you are experiencing anxiety that is affecting your physical health or your ability to perform daily tasks, please consult a doctor or a trained psychologist.
Lean on your friends and accept help. I’ve had two births, and they were incredibly different experiences. I was married and living with my then-husband during the first birth, which offered important logistical support—someone to blow up the birth pool, hold the baby while I waddled to the bathroom, drive the car while I sat in the backseat and tried to soothe the screaming, brand-new infant in the car seat. But my second child was born a few months after I separated from my ex-husband. While pregnant, I moved in with my parents and leaned heavily on them and my friends.
If “ability to accept help” is measured on a scale, I’d put myself at the “when hell freezes over” end of the spectrum. But by my second pregnancy, I knew the demands of an infant intimately, and I could only imagine how difficult it was going to be to also parent a toddler at the same. So I told my stubborn pride to take a (short, temporary) hike. I let my parents buy a crib and buy me lunch. I accepted surprise fancy coffee drinks. I let my friends throw me an embarrassing baby shower, rub my feet, paint my belly, and set up a meal train (which I cannot recommend more highly, in all seriousness).
Have your birth your way. Repeat after me: I’m the one in charge. This is your party, your birth. And you get to do it your way. If you’re drawn to hypnobirthing, go for it. Whether you’re feeling a hospital birth or want to have that baby in your bathtub, more power to you. If you want to labor while making cupcakes and watching bad stand-up comedy like I did, then we’re probably soul mates. If you want the father of your baby to attend the birth, that’s a wonderful thing. But if not, you’re the one in charge. Birth can be incredibly polarizing, and that, my friend, is not what you need right now. Find your people, those who will respect your right to choose the birth that’s right for you.
If it’s your first birth, I recommend reading, watching videos (surprisingly, there are about a zillion birth videos on YouTube!), or talking to a midwife or OB/GYN in order to understand the physicality of what’s about to happen. Knowledge is power, and this is incredibly true in the context of birth.
Consider a doula for birth and/or postpartum support. In addition to my amazing team of midwives, my best friend was my labor support. She helped gather ingredients for cupcakes (see above), read me astrology from the Internet when I stressed midlabor that I didn’t know anything about Geminis, walked around the block about 20 times with me to keep my contractions going, and assured me that I wasn’t going to die even though it felt like it.
If you don’t have a friend who can fill the role of birth support, you can outsource it. There are birth doulas in most cities who provide birth-support services both before and during birth. Doulas work as part of the birth team and help to ensure that your birth plan is followed as closely as possible (this is especially helpful in a hospital setting), as well as provide emotional support, massage, and other physical supports. Postpartum doulas specialize in supporting new mothers in the weeks after the birth. As a Solo Mom, ensuring that you have postpartum support is absolutely key.
Find a therapist or support group. I’ve written before about the importance of Solo Moms finding a support group and about the therapy that has been so important in my healing, and I will continue to shout “Therapy! Support groups!” from the mountaintops for as long as I live. Over the past three years, I’ve been seeing a therapist regularly and have also been part of several support groups (both online and in person). I owe a large piece of my sanity to these women who have stood where I stand, who have held me up and supported me—as I left my husband, as I had a baby alone, and as I navigate the many (many!) challenges and celebrations that come with being a Solo Mom.
Treat yourself. To grow a healthy baby, you have to first grow a healthy you. I don’t mean you have to do yoga three times a day and only fill yourself with organic kale, but you should be gentle with yourself. Let yourself sleep in on Saturday, if you’re able to. Go to bed early. Watch ridiculous movies on Netflix. Get yourself a fancy smoothie. Take a walk. Call a friend. And remember that you absolutely can—and will—do this.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.