Becoming a single parent is rarely something that people choose, and I don’t think many will mind when I make the assumption that it makes pregnancy a lot harder, especially for the first time. And when I say single, I don’t necessarily mean just without a partner, I mean without at least one or two people close by that you can truly rely on when you need help, support, advice or a shoulder to cry on.
I have a few friends who are no longer with their partners but raising children and I admire them all so much. Having never really thought about it before, since becoming pregnant I have so heavily leant on my husband and we have gone through it all so much as a twosome, that the idea of going through it all by myself is frightening. This week, he is away working, with limited ability to chat because of our opposing work schedules, which has given me a really brief glance into what this journey would be like without him. I don’t drive so had to get myself places, he wasn’t here to do the big food shops so I did it day by day walking to and from the shop, I went to the Dr’s and hospital appointments alone and generally just didn’t have anyone to lean on to help with the stupid things like taking the bin out on the right day. All very small things that in reality, are not problems. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not crying into my Starbucks Chai Latte claiming life is too hard because I had to empty the bins myself and as I’m pregnant they feel slightly heavier and expecting anyone to do a fundraiser for me (although if anyone would like to send me a freshly baked lemon cake I’m not going to say no..!) HOWEVER, to take my mind off feeling soppy and sad at not having him at home for the week, I decided to turn it into a mini experiment on how different being 6 months pregnant would be doing it on my own.
For the purposes of this ‘highly scientific’ experiment, I kept a daily ‘Without Daddy diary,’ which is shown below. When I finished it and read it back, I was very tempted to re-write bits of it to sound less whiny but I haven’t, these are my thoughts and feelings, quite often last thing at night each day.
Day 1 – Watched Woman in Black on Channel Four, stopping after 20 minutes because there was no big brave man next to me. A week without him and I definitely won’t be watching any horrors. I used to love horrors, but now mixed in with pregnancy hormones, stepping off the bus is considered a potential terrifying situation. Without my protector at home (yes I should have been born in the 1920’s) living ‘safely’ already goes to ridiculous extremes.
Day 2 – A quick appointment with a consultant this morning, as I’m epileptic, the pregnancy has a few extra challenges to be monitored, and as not enough sleep can be a bit more of a danger, these appointments are always nerve wracking. I pretend its no big deal but my biggest fear in reality is disappearing on my child. I never remember having a fit and the idea that I wouldn’t be completely in control of mine and therefore my babies safety keeps me awake at night. I have never had to express this to Tom, he knows, he understands, and he has been so supportive. He can’t make a few appointments because of work but usually I know I don’t need to be strong because when I get home, I can have a little cry over burning a piece of toast and he will make it all ok again. Today was different. Today I was glad to have a rehearsal as it meant being surrounded by people, and I really enjoyed myself but I didn’t get home till 10.30pm so by the time I’d then made dinner, I was exhausted and just flopped into bed and left the washing up for tomorrow…which I bet I’ll regret! Appointment went fine but it all swirls round my mind so hopefully I’m tired enough just to sleep. However, saying all that, I also got a lot of writing done and during the afternoon before rehearsal had a very productive day, lots of work done AND two blog posts, so I’m extremely tired but the creative juices were definitely still flowing!
Day 3 – A busy day today although socially rather than professionally. Caught up with a very old friend and her three little girls. A Starbucks lunch followed by an afternoon at the play farm. And although it was so much fun spending some time with the three little ones, it really tired me out. Having got up at 5.30am after a really restless night of barely any sleep. Not being able to drive meant I also had to get the bus to and from town, plus the walk between home and the bus stop. And then there was the washing up from getting in so late from last night, and cooking and hanging up the washing. Not even particularly stressful as schedules go but really made me realise just how much my husband is my lifeline. If he was here, he’d have sorted the washing up for me whilst I did dinner, given me a massage to ease my aching back and shoulders from playing with the girls and cuddled me to tell me that it was ok that I had struggled today. Instead, I was really cheered up to see my brother and his girlfriend (although I was slightly quiet and rubbish company I expect!) as by the time the evening came along, I felt very teary. I could not do this alone. My husband is my rock and my world and I really couldn’t do any of it without him. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a really lovely day but the strain of doing it all on my own has definitely started to sink in.
Day 4 – Very tired this morning because of another night with no sleep, stomach pains, itchiness and a general random sense of anxiety to blame. But a lot of work to get done this morning. Luckily, I am able to do it from home, in my pyjama’s with a cup of tea so I can’t really feel too sorry for myself! Another Dr’s appointment this afternoon but just a general check up and although the weather was muggy, it was nice to go for a bit of a refreshing walk after a tired morning. Also walked to the shops to get some bits in and suddenly realised how heavy just a few cans make shopping bags when you have to walk to and from the supermarket so got quite a sweat on by the time I got back in. Then had a few friends round in the evening and it was so much fun to see them, but cooking dinner for them and tidying the house afterwards I noticed how much more of a strain it was to do by myself and not with my husband helping whilst we chat about the day. Otherwise though I was feeling ok and although it still seems very quiet at home, I definitely wasn’t feeling quite as in despair as yesterday had found me!
Day 5 – A busy day working today and another appointment, this time with the epilepsy nurse, normally, my weeks aren’t so medically filled up but having just changed surgeries, I’ve had a fair few extra, meeting my new GP and checking in with the new people in charge of me and baby. Then an evening rehearsal of singing and (very minimal for me) dancing, which was a lot of fun and just what I needed because I spent most of the day inexplicably weepy and feeling down. Missing my husband, the only chance we get to chat throughout this week is at bedtime when he needs to be quiet so as not to wake his hosts and I am at my most tired and restless. Thought a lot today about people whose partners are often away for longer amounts of time, people who are doing it without partners and without close family near by. I absolutely could not do it on my own. I always prided myself on enjoying time alone and one thing I have done this week is had some real times of absolute calm and serenity and enjoyed time by myself, a familiar feeling from being a small child. But the rest of it, nope, couldn’t do it alone. By now I would have moved down to Brighton and moved myself into my retired Dad’s flat making it quite clear that I wasn’t leaving! Still, had a blast with my fellow thespians and then by the time I got home at 10.30 I enjoyed a quick episode of Grey’s Anatomy and then fell asleep before even touching my cup of tea or running the bath I had been planning.
Day 6 – Woke up feeling much more refreshed after an interrupted but overall much better night of sleep and my God does it make a difference to how you feel, suddenly I feel like I can take on the day! Of course this may have a lot to do with the fact that I know I only have to take on the day, the evening sees the return of my husband! It’s only been 6 days without him but it has seemed like ages. And from reading back my diary posts, my God isn’t my inner monologue whiny!! Looking back it really hasn’t been that bad and I’ve got everything done that I needed to get done but it’s those low moments that I would usually share and therefore not deal with on my own that really impact at the end of the day. I’ve got another couple of articles to get on with writing, a lovely weekend planned and tonight in bed I’ll be snuggling down next to my best friend and husband (that’s the same person of course, I’m not giving some glimpse into a secret exciting double life…!)
So as you can see, the superhero picture I brazenly put as my picture to accompany this blog is ever so slightly unjustified! Next week he is away again, although only for four days this time and in some ways I feel more prepared. Food shopping needs to be done daily and I need to avoid picking up lots of cans! The bin is quite heavy, so I need to empty it before it becomes quite as full. If I leave the washing up, no-one else will do it. Just a few really simple things that you really would hope I wouldn’t need a little homemade experiment to find out!
But it’s not so much the practical things. It’s the emotional side. It’s the moments that I probably wouldn’t have burst into tears if I was able to talk through them a bit. At rehearsal I was cheered up by friends without asking for it or even having made it known that I was upset (except one particular moment during singing where a few escapee tears gave the game away and my director gave me a hug and told me it was all going to be fine. I of course didn’t have time to explain that in fact the tears were traitors and I was in fact totally fine and didn’t need a hug, but..actually don’t let go just yet, ok then Sheila if YOU need a hug I’ll let you make me a part of it and just because I obviously have some allergic reaction going on right now and a big hug seems to have cleared it up a bit does not mean I’m struggling and actually really needed that…)
ANYWAY! I can’t wait to see my husband later today and we have a very busy evening of absolutely nothing but chilling out together to get done tonight. I’m so grateful to have such a bond with my partner and I have learnt this week that ultimately, yes it is harder but you do find ways of dealing with it, thats that crazy game of life (the actual game of life, not a board game reference!) you absolutely find ways round and find ways of making the best of things regardless and it’s human nature to be able to get past some indescribable difficulties with a smile. And I’m not just talking about my pathetic week of what can barely be called solitude and emotional incapability, you only have to watch 15 minutes of Sports Relief on a couple of weeks ago to see that the human race is capable of real suffering and real guts to fight through it all and still raise a smile. But we all know that, we all know we’re incredibly lucky really with our lives and our circumstances and that there will always be someone much worse off than ourselves. But it’s all relative.
I COULD be a single parent, I COULD manage without my husband, but I am so incredibly lucky not to have to. I’m so incredibly lucky to be able to have a little ridiculous experiment knowing full well that in a few days I’ll be back in my family cocoon. I admire any of you doing it on your own, Mothers or Fathers. I absolutely salute you, especially those whose partners are away for long periods of time without necessarily the guarantee that they’ll be safely back. I am lucky enough not to have to be strong enough to deal with that eventuality in my life as it is. And yet this week I proved I was still selfish enough to dwell on the fact that as an epileptic there were all these potential extra dangers of having a baby, in reality, a very minor issue. We all have the little bits in our life that makes things easier or harder, the important thing is to remember what we have, remember to always at least try and cherish everything we have. So keep smiling comrades!