Whether you intended to have a baby on your own, got pregnant by accident, or lost your partner to illness or injury, being a single mom can be tough. Being pregnant and single is a time with special blessings and special challenges.
Pregnant and Single
Years ago, being pregnant and single was taboo. People weren't supposed to be having sex if they weren't married. Many women hid their pregnancies or went away from home until the baby was born, then gave the child up for adoption. These days, with society much more open about sex and divorce so common, being a single mom isn't unusual. And, being single and pregnant isn't anything to be ashamed of.
Still, it can be tough. If you're in a committed relationship, you'll have the support of a partner. But, what if you don't have a boyfriend (or girlfriend) to be there as the pregnancy develops? Even if you've never asked your friends or family for anything, now is the time to gather your social network and see who's willing to help. If someone offers a ride, company at the obstetrician's office, or just an ear to listen, take them up on it. You'll soon see who was serious about lending a hand.
Dealing with Questions
Even though being a single mom is not unusual, some people aren't comfortable with the idea. Be prepared for people to assume you have a husband. You might hear "Your husband must be so excited," or even "I didn't know you were married!" Remember, most of the people who make such comments mean well. Try simple responses like "Oh, I'm not married, but thank you for the good wishes."
People will naturally be curious about your pregnancy. It's up to you whether you want to answer questions. You don't need to share why you decided to have a baby on your own, who or where the father is, or how you feel about the challenges of single motherhood. "Who's the father?" can be answered with a smile and "Oh, I'll be raising the baby on my own."
What about people who won't give up, or who are just being mean? Pick one inoffensive answer and keep repeating it. "Thank you for your concern, but we'll be fine."
Naming the Baby
Traditionally, a baby's last name is that of the father. But, if you're not married, what then? Many women choose to name the baby after the father anyway, perhaps to keep some connection with him or to encourage him to take responsibility. If you're considering this, take a moment to think about the long term. If the father isn't around ten years from now, will you still want your child to have a different last name from yours? What if you choose to marry someone else? There could be two or even three last names in your new family.
Managing Older Siblings
If you have other children, start preparing them for the new baby while you're still pregnant. If you're a single mom without a partner, remember that you may not be able to give attention to the older children while you're caring for the baby. Jealous siblings may misbehave or even revert to behavior you thought they'd outgrown. If your children are old enough, explain what they should expect. Work together to think of ways they can help with the new baby or keep themselves entertained. If your children are very small, now is the time to look for a friend, family member, or babysitter who can sometimes lend a hand.
Getting a Health History
While you're pregnant, your doctor will ask you about your own health and that of the father, to make sure there aren't any special risks to the baby. For example, if certain diseases run in your or the father's family, your baby could be at increased risk. But, when you're becoming a single mom, the father won't always be around to tell about his family. You'll face the same issue once the baby is born: inherited problems can develop in childhood or even adulthood. While you're still pregnant, get a full health history from the baby's dad or from someone in his family. If you chose a sperm donor, find out what information is available and keep it in your files.
Help for Single Moms
Not everyone is lucky enough to have supportive friends and family. If you're pregnant, single, and on your own, there is help for you. The federal government has a hotline just for pregnant women and new moms. Operators can direct you to free or low-cost services in your area. Depending on your needs and income, you might be able to get free health insurance, food for you and the baby, advice on child care, and more. They can also direct you to a shelter if you have no place to live or if you're a victim of domestic violence. Call 1-800-311-BABY (1-800-311-2229).