Splitsville: Coming Home From The Hospital As A Single Mother
Welcome to Splitsville. This weekly column will focus on parenting after a divorce, break-up or one-night stand that didn’t end like a Katherine Heigl movie.
The first few weeks after childbirth are always exhausting and stressful. I mean, sure, it’s exciting to be a new mom. Babies are adorable when they aren’t screaming in your face or puking down your back. And I was lucky enough to have a lot of family support for both myself and my daughter.
To be honest, it’s difficult to talk about those first couple weeks. They were basically a blur of fifteen minute naps, dirty diapers and constant worry. I don’t remember a whole lot of specific events, besides the doctor’s appointments. My little one wasn’t gaining weight and I was pretty terrified that I was somehow harming her for the rest of her life. Then she got the flu somewhere around week five, while my family was away on spring break and I was stuck at home smelling like puke, but too terrified to put my daughter down long enough to shower. I guess I could be happy that no one was around for that week because I’m pretty sure I didn’t want to see anyone.
The good thing about coming home from the hospital with just yourself and your baby is that you never got used to any help. I had no clue what it’s like to split that workload. I never had an argument about who was going to wake up in the middle of the night. If my daughter cried, my dragging butt jumped. If her diaper was dirty, I changed it. And if she needed to be fed, I nursed her. I never glared at the other side of the bed at a sleeping dad and had vengeful thoughts of kicking him in the stomach and then pretending to be asleep, forcing him to wake up and take care of our baby.
The worst for me was that I went into the hospital expecting to have a partner. My daughter’s father and I were still together, though shaky, when I went into labor. In hindsight, breaking up at the hospital might have been a rash move, though I’m still confident that it was the right one. Technically, my daughter’s father was still trying to be involved. He showed up once or twice a week for a couple hours, held the baby and asked how things were going. I answered, glassy-eyed, wishing I trusted him enough to nap while someone else was around to watch the little one.
Given the chance to go back, I wouldn’t have changed anything. I came home with my daughter as a single mother. I stayed a single mother until the day I got married, two and a half years later. Those first few years were difficult. I was the only one to be responsible for everything. I took my little one to daycare every morning and to the doctor anytime she felt sick. I put her to bed every night and woke up every time she cried. But as the only parent there, day in and day out, I developed a bond with my daughter that I wouldn’t trade for the world. We depend on each other.
Coming home alone was overwhelming. It left me exhausted, stressed, and more than a little smelly. But I think it made me a more confident parent. After those zombie-like first weeks, I felt capable of handling things on my own. The first month was like boot camp, intense and demanding. It prepared me for the years to follow though. I hope I never lose the confidence of a single mother, who knows without a doubt that I can handle anything on my own, even if I don’t have fly solo anymore.