It’s a gloomy Texas day in October. One of those days where it looks like it could pour down rain any minute, but never does. I’m sitting on the couch directly across from the father of my unborn child in his apartment. He won't look me in the eyes when I tell him I found a place for the three of us. It is very small, I tell him, but just right to bring a newborn home to. 'We would have plenty of time to settle in.'
I had promised myself I wouldn’t live with him unless we were married, but I was petrified to do parenthood alone. I was sure he would come around eventually. I wasn’t just a one-night fling, we had been dating on and off for over five years, we had even taken a pre-marriage class.
I don’t love you anymore, he says, still not looking at me. His words hit me like the rain that's supposed to fall; that's supposed to erase the gloom of the day so the sun can shine as the storm passes. Instead, the storm stays hovering over my head unchangeable and dreary.
My eyes begin to water up and I too look away. He doesn’t need to say anything else, I know his intent. Trying not to faint, I drink a glass of water, grab my keys, and rush out the front door. I’m blind to everything around me and I can’t find where I parked. I fall to the ground sobbing. I have never felt more alone.
I roll my 37-week belly off the side of the massage table. Short of breath and waddling over to my clothes crumpled in a pile, I see my reflection in the mirror. Who is that? Even with the familiarness there, I am not positive I know her. Along with the physical changes—a big, round stomach and swollen ankles, there is a change of heart. A small glimpse of acceptance. Woven in with the grief and anger of my circumstance, a teeny tiny flame of acknowledgement begins to shine through.
It wasn’t my first glimpse of acceptance. Later in that same week, I tackled putting together her crib. I pictured this scene many times before I was pregnant: me sitting on the floor folding tiny baby clothes, watching my husband assemble a crib for our soon-to-be child. Instead it was me and my huge belly, with only my two hands and a good amount of resolve. As I stood in that room wrestling with the conflicting feelings of anger that I had to do this alone and gratitude that I was being trusted to do it at all, I felt one emotion more than all the others: I felt so proud to be her mother. The tiny flame of acknowledgement began to spread into flames. Flames of hope amongst despair. The eight months prior had been full of denial; “single mother” was not a word I used to describe myself.
A week later I call my friend in tears.
“I’ve tried literally EVERYTHING!” I tell her.
I have laid at an incline upside down, ate spicy foods, gone swimming, done yoga, acupuncture, moxibustion, seen a chiropractor and I’ve even played music to my uterus. I also attempted two ECV’s (external cephalic versions), which is when the doctor uses his hands externally to try and turn baby. Both were extremely painful, and both were unsuccessful.
“This is the only thing I have a say in,” I tell her in between the breaks of tears. Like the breaks in sunshine on a cloudy day, I knew in reality I didn’t have a say in when or how my daughter would come.
The next day, a Friday, my last day of work before maternity leave, my friend calls to schedule me in with a new doctor who specializes in delivering breech babies. I have an appointment for the following Monday. I should feel relief, but instead I am dwelling on not having a C-section, on sticking to the birth plan I had envisioned all along. Saturday night rolls around and I am up with insomnia again. An hour into a movie and my water breaks. I recognize she is head up and knowing the importance of her not dropping into the birth canal, I immediately call the on-call doctor. My doctor, the one I had been seeing throughout my whole pregnancy, is not the one to call back. My heart sinks. My daughter makes her grand entrance bottom first, legs wide open via C-section at 8:21 the next morning.
It was a sunny day as I clung to her tiny hands, I look out the window and see not only a ray of sunshine, but rain drops. Rain amongst the sun. Beauty amongst the pain. I didn’t get the birth story I had planned, but as I held her for the first time, I started to believe we could do this, even when I didn’t get “my say” in the matter. The grace of her birth outweighing the agony of our circumstance, just as the sun shined through the rain.
I see the traffic backed up for miles before I even hit the light. My heart sinks. I have two choices: 1. To sit in highway traffic for over an hour and be late to work or 2. Take the back way and be on time. I choose the latter. Before I even get to the dreaded street, my heart begins to pound and my hands sweat.
The big issue with taking the alternative route is I drive by his house.
“Mommy, I see Daddy’s house! Are we going?” my daughter yells with excitement.
“You have school today baby and daddy is at work already.” I lie. His car is in the driveway.
And so is hers.
The rejection is the heaviest part of single motherhood. While not having someone to tag team with and not getting to sleep in is rough at times, those are challenges I know I can overcome. It’s the crumbled family that never was and isn’t mendable, it’s losing your other family (his) in the process, it’s not knowing how to respond to your three-year-old when she asks “Mommy, why are you crying?” or “Why doesn’t Daddy live with us?”. When a stranger asks why you don’t have another kid (if they only knew) or when you call your daughter’s doctor and they assume she has your last name and you wish on all the stars in the sky that she did. It’s the constant wondering of what did I do wrong in this? Am I even lovable? Will my daughter be okay? The rejection is what kills. Like lightning in a thunderstorm, I never know when it will hit me.
Four years into motherhood and I continue to struggle with denial, anger, depression and acceptance of our broken family. I’m sitting on a couch again, but this time with my counselor. It is one of our bi-monthly chats.
“What is your true desire?” she asks as we discuss the struggles of co-parenting.
“I want my daughter to grow up under the same roof as her mother and father,” I tell her. “I want something that isn’t possible.”
My counselor is a safe place to share my heart. To cry out when life is unkind and deceitful. She doesn’t have the answers. Instead, she validates my feelings of loneliness and deep heartbreak. She gives me the permission to sit in the discomfort of my lost expectations. As I rest in these emotions, my deep wound begins to heal one stitch at a time. I am learning that acceptance is not giving up. It is not justifying someone else’s choices. Instead, it is an act of bravery and grace. It is choosing to take one step at a time. Minute by minute, day by day, I choose to keep going. The anguish is there, but relief comes in waves and I can see the gap between the waves beginning to close in. As I leave my therapist’s office it begins to rain. This time, I don’t even care. My day may look gloomy, but my heart is hopeful.
Guest post written by Stephanie Woody. Stephanie is a graphic designer and Barre instructor by day, but the job dearest to her heart is being a momma. She has lived all over in Africa, Asia, Haiti and Spain, but currently calls Texas home. She is grateful to be walking this journey of motherhood along countless other woman in the same boat as her. You can follow her most recent life stories on Instagram.
Photo by Lottie Caiella.