I Was A Single Mom, But I Couldn't Utter The Words

As I sat in the hospital bed with a fresh two-day-old in my arms, I re-read the birth certificate form.

Mother’s name: _________   Father’s name: _________   Child’s name: _________

Tears saturated my eyes.

Do I put his name?
What happens if I don’t?
What happens if I do?
But her last name won’t match mine.

Now that she was in my arms, I wanted to take back our decision. It felt like a part of her was being taken away from me.

I already can’t protect her.
How did we get here?

He was no longer the man I had fallen in love with. He had changed, which gave me hope he could change back. I had changed too, but in a different direction.

While I sat in a hospital bed with my new daughter, my biggest fear in all of this beautiful mess was coming true—I felt completely alone.  

I was a single mom, but I couldn’t utter the words. Not yet.


It was 3 a.m., and after changing her, feeding her, and rocking her, the baby finally fell back to sleep. It was time to pump and get any sleep that I could; 6 a.m. would be here before I knew it. My daughter was only three months old, but I was already back to work. Crippling exhaustion had set in; he was gone. Although he had previously been helping with the overnight shift, now that the baby was sleeping in four-hour increments, the overnight help had stopped.

I remained in survival mode: breastfeeding and pumping around the clock so she’d have enough milk when I left. Co-sleeping got us through the night. I felt guilty all the time; guilty for leaving her all day, guilty for not being an ideal mother, and, above all else, guilty for not being able to mend our broken family. I wanted to be enough. I wanted to be the mother I had always dreamed I would be. My current life looked like a complete contrast to the one I thought I’d be living.

He wasn’t there. It hung over my head and followed me everywhere.

I was a single mom, but I couldn’t utter the words. Not yet.


I pulled up to the daycare. Terrified. Worried. Guilty. She had just turned one, and still preferred my breast to a bottle. They didn’t even allow bottles at that age. She took two naps a day; the school only took one. She was mostly only eating pureed foods; they served harder solids for lunch. Everything was changing for us. She was my rock and I was hers. I had to be strong

We had been fortunate enough to not need daycare for a whole year. But then my grandmother passed away unexpectedly. She was my rock, too. I could call her any time of the day to check up on my baby and now I had to trust people I didn’t know.

As we walked in, my daughter giggled, oblivious. Until we got to the room, that is, when she became an octopus. I left her screaming and kicking with tears streaming down her face, heartbroken and in tears myself.

I couldn’t call him.

He wouldn’t have understood. He made the choice for it to be this way. Other moms said it would get easier, but three months in, drop-off had not improved. Five days a week we worked through the same routine—the teacher peeled her off my body and I cried.

He wasn’t there.

I was a single mom, but I couldn’t utter the words. Not yet.


I sat across the couch from her, Kleenex in my hand with tears running down my face.

“I can’t live like this anymore. The pain is too real. It takes everything in me just to make it through the next hour. I feel so alone.”

I poured my heart out and she listened. I had paid for those listening ears. But she ended up being so much more than that. She validated my feelings, and told me I was not crazy. She told me my fears, worries, and hurts were okay. And most importantly, she gave me permission to sit with my anger and grief.  

I felt heard for the first time in two years, ironically by a total stranger who happened to have a degree in counseling. Hidden deep within the pain and loneliness of my motherhood journey, I could see a glimpse of myself again. Yes, I was crushed, but I was still breathing.

I was a single mom, and I was learning how to accept that fact.


We sat at the kitchen table. He wanted more time with her. I didn’t feel I had enough quality time with her as it was. We didn’t agree on discipline. We didn’t agree on what was best for our situation. We didn’t agree on much. The only thing we could agree on was that we didn’t want to go to court. We didn’t want someone else to decide what was best for our little girl. But my heart deeply hurt.

How do I share my two year old?
I’ve only spent two nights away from her.
I don’t trust you.
She needs me.
I need her.
This was your choice, not mine.

“You’ll finally have some time to yourself, a break,” he said.

But I thought, How do I even sleep with my heart somewhere else? Not only somewhere else, but with someone whom I don’t trust? How can I let her spend the night with the person who broke my heart?

I had never been given the chance to be a family. His mind had been made up before she was born. Our daughter would never have memories of the three of us living under the same roof. The pain was unbearable, but I knew I had to be strong for my girl. I didn’t have much of a relationship with my father when I was young and now he was gone. I didn’t want the same for her.  

I was a single mom, and I was growing into the role.


Back on the couch at our bi-monthly meeting, I couldn’t believe what had just come out of my mouth.

I don’t want to be a single mom.

I had said the words. It had taken me more than two years to acknowledge the real life circumstances unfolding all around me. This was a stretch for me. I didn’t feel delight in saying it. The reality still blew. I still felt alone. I still longed for a complete family and more children. But I felt relieved. I was 30 and single and up until that day, I hadn’t felt  like I was blooming.

But I was. I had said the words. I was beginning to learn to not let my situation define me, but rather motive me.

I was a single mom, and I had said it out loud.


I still dread Wednesday nights when she goes to her dad’s house. I am usually full of anxiety until she is back in my arms. Him and I often disagree and my heart aches just the same. But now I can say “I am a single mom.” After speaking those words, instead of instant agony, I can breathe. My daughter and I will both always be learning how to adapt to our situation. But I now see our situation for what it is: single motherhood is all about being brave, adjusting to the life you never thought you’d have, and offering yourself a lot of grace along the way. Because no matter how you became a mother, we are all damn good ones.

Guest post written by Stephanie Woody. Many have known her as "Woody" since before Toy Story even existed (basically she is the O.G.). She is a graphic designer for the I Am Second campaign by day, but the job dearest to her heart is being a momma. She is a lover of adventure and a world traveler. She has lived in Africa, Asia, Haiti and Spain, but currently calls Texas home. You can most likely find her outside in the sunshine drinking her third cup of coffee for the day while chasing her toddler and their two cats around as if it were an Olympic sport! She is grateful to be walking this journey of motherhood along countless other woman in the same boat as her. You can read about her past traveling adventures at www.stephaniewoody.com or follow her more recent life stories on Instagram.