Pregnancy is an exciting time to celebrate a new life growing within. But it can also produce a lot of anxiety.
What should you do if you find yourself expecting a baby alone?
How to enjoy your pregnancy when you’re going through pregnancy alone
1. Get support.
The most important thing for a single mom is the ability to ask for support. You won’t be able to do this alone, so drop your hang-ups about asking for and receiving help.
Figure out as many aspects of support ahead of time. Do you need to move in with family, allow others to stay with you, cook food for you, or set up a Mealtrain for you after you give birth or if you get put on bed rest? (I recommend MealTrainPlus or other services that allow you to schedule rides, pet or garden care, and meals.)
Ask friends to come to doctor’s appointments with you. Figure out who can be present at your birth, with you when you first go into labor at home, and drive you to and from the hospital.
Imagine you suffer from morning sickness or get put on bed rest — how do you get groceries, prepare food, take out the trash, and complete other day-to-day chores? Add another child to the mix, and many mothers find themselves completely overwhelmed.
I’m a planner and usually very prepared. When I was pregnant alone, I had a long list of friends I could call upon. But I learned quickly that there is no way you can plan for every contingency.
Unforeseen emergencies arose that I could not have anticipated, which required me to be flexible, resourceful, and downright courageous. For example, when I was six months pregnant, I found myself lifting my very sick 70-pound dog down a flight of stairs and into the car to rush her to the hospital.
When at 37 weeks pregnant, I suddenly experienced symptoms of high blood pressure and needed to be admitted to the hospital immediately for fear of pre-eclampsia. I drove myself to the hospital in the early dawn when none of the people I had lined up to accompany me at my birth were awake or could arrive at my house in time to drive me there.
2. Get acquainted with service providers.
It’s also vital to gather a list of service providers you can call for help. When I was pregnant alone, my parents were far away and too old to provide any help with much of what I needed.
I got familiar with various ways to hire trustworthy people to help me using Nextdoor to ask neighbors for recommendations or other services like TaskRabbit or Thumbtack. I discovered all the ways I could order groceries and food easily. I knew who I could call to help me assemble a crib and install shelves.
3. Hire a doula.
Although I had an elaborate birth plan and a team of friends to help, I hired a birth doula to be present at my birth so that I was not dependent on favors from friends. I knew I would need help from my friends for years to come, and I did not want to tax them unnecessarily during what ended up being a protracted process.
Unlike a partner, who would likely have the dedication and stamina to be by my side for all of labor, birth, and delivery, my friends had commitments of their own they needed to attend to. Having a doula present at all times relieved the pressure on my friends and provided me with a much-needed continuity of support.
My friends were able to be there for crucial moments but didn’t feel the pressure of needing to stay continuously for hours and hours.
4. Find support networks.
I also tapped into the network of fellow solo moms by choice in my area to get info about resources and support while I was pregnant.
Since my son’s birth, I have befriended other moms in my son’s preschool who are willing to lend me a hand. Early on, I joined a co-working space for moms that provided cheap childcare and a cadre of mothers trying to work with little ones around. I also found my local YMCA provided affordable childcare and an amazing community.
Meeting other mothers whom I can tap for resources, favors, and friendship has been invaluable.
5. Don’t dwell on the negatives.
As a single pregnant mom, you may find times when you want help and can’t find friends or family to help. You may feel a gap between the amount of help offered and what you wish you had. You may wish more people would be willing to go out of their way for you.
This can make you feel lonely and isolated — even a little bit sorry for yourself –and that’s OK, as long as you don’t dwell on the lack. Focus on the people who can help you and the resources you can find.
6. Recognize what a strong and amazing person you are.
The flip side is you will figure out solutions on your own. Every time you feel overwhelmed will be balanced by days when you feel invigorated by your self-sufficiency and problem-solving. I know solo pregnancy and motherhood have forced me to accept how much of a badass I can be.
It’s daunting to manage the normal physical discomforts of pregnancy, get proper nutrition, attend prenatal checkups, communicate with the insurance company, choose a birth plan and care provider, and prepare for the arrival of a newborn. Even with a partner to help share the tasks, the list of things to attend to is vast and overwhelming.
However, many mothers do not have a partner to help them through pregnancy. Many moms find themselves caught off guard by being single and pregnant because of a recent divorce separation, widowhood, or other unplanned situations.
For others who consciously decided to have a baby on their own — usually because of waning fertility in the face of no partner — it can be a relief to be pregnant after putting so much effort and money into trying to conceive. But that doesn’t make solo pregnancy any easier.
Photo via Getty
No matter what your situation, solo pregnancy and the prospect of single motherhood can be worrisome.
So, above all, remember you can do this. It’s certainly not easy. You will likely be tired and, at times, frustrated and overwhelmed by pregnancy and beyond. But in my experience, you will find strength and resourcefulness beyond what you thought possible and uncover your inner superpower.
Sarah Kowalski is the founder of Motherhood Reimagined, a life coach and fertility doula.