This article to help you navigate a pregnancy if you're single was written by Sarah Kowalski and originally featured on YourTango.
You've got this.
Pregnancy is an exciting time to celebrate a new life growing within. But it can also produce a lot of anxiety.
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.
But many women do not have a partner to help them through pregnancy. Many women find themselves blindsided by being single and pregnant because of a recent divorce or separation, widowhood, or other unplanned circumstance.
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.
No matter what your circumstances, solo pregnancy and the prospect of single motherhood can be worrisome.
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 women 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.
Completely 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.
And, 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 to my house in time to drive me there.
What should you do if you find yourself expecting a baby alone?
Follow these 6 steps to survive a solo pregnancy:
1. Get support.
The most important thing for a single mom is the ability to ask for support. You will not be able to do this alone — so drop your hang-ups about asking and receiving help NOW.
Figure out as many aspects of support as you can 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 onto bed rest? (I recommend MealTrainPlus or other services that will allow you to schedule rides, pet or garden care, as well as 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. (P.S. I've created a planning sheet you can download to help you brainstorm and plan as much help as possible).
2. Get acquainted with service providers.
It's also important to gather a list of service providers you can call on to get the help you need. 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 the various ways I could 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 put together 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 was going to need help from my friends for years to come, and I did not want to tax them unnecessarily during what ended up being a very long and 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 a much needed continuity of support. My friends were able to be there for key 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 coworking space for mom's that provided cheap childcare and a cadre of women trying to work with little ones around. I also found that my local YMCA provided affordable childcare and amazing community.
Being able to meet other mothers who I can tap for resources, favors and friendship has been invaluable.
5. Don't dwell on the negatives.
As a single pregnant woman, you may find times that 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 could have. You may wish that more people would be willing to go out of their way for you. At times this can make you feel lonely, 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, amazing woman you are.
The flip side is that is that you will likely figure out solutions on your own too. Every day that 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 has forced me to accept how much of a badass I can be.
So, above all, remember you can do this. It's certainly not easy. You will likely be very 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 superwoman.
Sarah Kowalski, Esq., is a fertility doula, childbirth educator, postpartum doula, as well as the founder of Motherhood Reimagined, a coaching business providing individual and group coaching to single moms and single moms to be. Her memoir, Motherhood Reimagined: When Becoming A Mother Doesn't Go As Planned is available everywhere books are sold. Click here to get her preparation checklist for pregnant single moms.