May 17, 2012

How I Became a Single Mother in My Mid-30s.

This was not my plan, not my plan at all.

In fact, I’d been declaring vehemently since I was 11 years old that I was never getting married, or having children. Part of this certainty came from seeing the stress and overwhelm my mother experienced as a suddenly divorced mother in her 30s with three children to support. Not fun, not fun at all.

Nope, ending up a single mother in my mid-30s was my biggest fear in life.

Now here I am. A mother. Single. And mid-30s.

Funny how life dishes up that which we fear the most, eh?

Only life didn’t just dish this up.

I made it happen, every step of the way—every time I ignored my intuition, every time I neglected to stay present, every time I didn’t make a choice but allowed myself to be swept along in someone else’s life.

Here’s how:

I fell in love with the father of my child. (Children often start that way.) He already had a daughter from his recently ended marriage, and had a theory that all women wanted babies. I disagreed. I knew I didn’t. Therefore, all women didn’t want babies. He didn’t believe me though, and during the first year or so we were together, he often talked about women’s need for children, and how wonderful it would be to have another child, and how his daughter really needed a sibling.

Over time, like a tap slowly dripping on rock, I wore down. I began to think that maybe he was right. Maybe all women did want babies. Maybe there was something wrong with me. Maybe I was in denial about my desire to have a child. Maybe I didn’t really know what I wanted after all.


Upshot, on New Year’s Eve of 2009, after spending a heart-warming night at home watching a kid’s movie with his daughter, I finally said, “Yes. Lets do it. Lets have a child together.”

I remember the look of love in his eyes, and, I thought I’d finally figured out what would make this man happy.

Major Warning Sign: When your primary motivation for taking a particular action is to make someone else happy at the expense of yourself…Stop!

Deep down, I still knew, even though I was reframing my desire to not have children as a fear, and therefore something to be faced and overcome—that I did not want children. I delayed getting my IUD out. My partner got snippy. I finally made an appointment. He picked me up afterwards, and I knew from the look on his face I’d made a terrible mistake. This wasn’t going to make him happy at all. Nothing was going to change. Instead, I panicked.

I called the family planning clinic the next morning, walking fast-paced across the front courtyard of Parliament on my way to my job as speechwriter for the Ministry of Social Development. (Irony indeed—once I wrote speeches for the Ministry, now I’m receiving a benefit from the Ministry.) I fought back the tears when they told me they couldn’t get me in for four weeks… four weeks!

At no time during or after this phone call did it occur to me to:

A) Bring up my reluctance to have a child with my partner and discuss this monumental decision like two adults.

B) Use an alternative form of birth control until I could get another IUD.

C) Get the hell out of that relationship already.

Nope. Instead I was focused on: making that man happy.

So I sucked it up, and went ahead, and duly got pregnant within a month. The day I suspected, and made a doctors appointment to confirm, was also a day I’d broken up with my partner. I say, “a day” because there were a few of them in our three and a half year relationship. Nine of them in fact. On this particular day, I don’t remember what had triggered this break-up, I just remember being distraught, crying my eyes out. Again. And doing a Skype healing session with an old friend/ new age healer who told me that I didn’t have to play into those old childhood fears again…which was enough to play into my doubts and confusion and make me think that:

A) I was wrong.

B) I just had to face my fear.

C) It was all my fault & if I could just get it together our relationship would work.

So I saw the doctor. I asked about abortion options. My now ex-partner was waiting outside because he’d asked to come. Or, he’d shown up to pick me up. I can’t remember. What I do remember is walking out the doctors office and seeing my ex-partner and before I could even say anything my face smiled this smug, satisfied, happy smile and I realized that:

A) I truly wanted this child.

B) Abortion was not an option.

C) If I was going to have this child, I could make the relationship work. I couldn’t keep the baby without keeping the father.

I was seven weeks pregnant. By the time I was four months pregnant, the relationship had become so difficult (my ex-partner was an addict, we were co-dependent, there was emotional and verbal abuse, there was appeasement, accommodating and victimhood) that I’d moved out of our bedroom and into a room we’d dubbed The Blue Room because of its wallpaper. This was a house we were renovating. My ex-partner was doing most of the renovation himself, while I worked full-time as a speechwriter, taught five yoga classes a week, ran an online yoga website and managed all our finances and administration. I was also paying the mortgage.

It was a challenging time. I slept night after night on the fold-out couch in The Blue Room, playing mantra to my belly, practicing pranayama, and wondering what on earth I was doing wrong and how I could make it right.

With my maternity leave fast approaching and no hope of my ex-partner holding down a job, we sold the house. I was still living in the Blue Room. Seven months pregnant, I finally got up the guts to end it again. For good. Beyond the boy in my belly, there was nothing holding us together anymore. We could split our finances, and I could just split, taking my belly with me.

My ex-partner was in the South Island when he realized that I was finally doing it, I was finally leaving him—for good. He drove 12 hours and caught a 10 p.m. ferry to arrive in The Blue Room at 2 a.m., begging me to stay. I saw him cry for the first time and my heart broke. But I stood strong. With baby on the way, there was no way I was having an addict for a father. (I know, should’ve thought of that first, eh? There’d been promises, fewer since we first got together, promises stacked on top of promises on top of promises, held steady by my unending supply of hope. Hope’s a killer. Don’t ever have hope.)

In the wake of his tears, I still stood strong. I was proud of me. And the next day, when his parents came and picked him up, I cried my own tears—of relief and of grief—and played mantra to my belly.

Five days went by.

My ex-partner called me all the time. I spoke to him. I cared for this man, I loved this man. Sure, he had issues, but he was also an incredible man. Kind, caring, loving, a great cook, a talented musician, charming, charismatic, tall, dark, handsome. And he was the father of the boy in my belly.

He appeared to have a break-through. He started meditating regularly. The weed stopped. I cautiously agreed when he asked if he could come back to the house. We slept in separate rooms. I watched him. The change seemed real, and there was a sense of bliss around the way he was cooking me food and cleaning the house and looking after my needs.

It felt like we’d finally dropped into the kind of relationships I’d always known was possible. My hope had been true!

I took him back.

The bliss lasted four weeks. It was a magical time for me, him and the boy in the belly. Love infused everything, and the addiction seemed absent. We left the house we’d poured our hearts into and moved into a rental. My ex-partner made noises about finding work. We lived on the money from the house.

The addiction reared its head again and I cried and cried and cried and cried and cried.

Due in two weeks.

The baby came, and he was perfect. No sign of a job for my partner. Plenty signs of deceptive weed smoking. We moved south so my ex-partner could be close to his daughter, and his children could grow up as siblings. More promises about stopping smoking once we got to Dunedin. Everything would be okay if he was living close to his daughter.

A week into our new life, in our new rental, I discovered my ex-partner smoking.

I took our three month old baby boy and left.

I was running out of tears. I was away this time for three weeks. Again, my ex-partner wooed me back. Two months later, I left again, I went back again. All the while, raising my boy, looking after my ex-partner’s daughter as we now had shared care of her, supporting my ex-partner in his abortive attempts to start up his own company, teaching yoga, and publishing an online yoga magazine.

Finally, after doing a 10 day immersion training with Shiva Rea in Los Angeles, I woke up. I said, no more. I left my partner on New Year’s Eve 2010 (give or take a day or two).

There were no tears left to shed. Just relief. I’d finally done it. I was now a single mother in her 30s. I was my mother. I was all I’d ever dreaded being.

But I am not my mother. I have resources she never had access to, I have more family close by than she ever had, I have only one child where she had three. Being a single mother in her 30s isn’t at all what I thought it would be as an 11-year-old.

For one, I have a son. A child I never thought I’d have. No, I never wanted a child, but I want this child. He’s turned into the greatest blessing ever.

And, I have hindsight. I can see exactly how I ended up here, all those decision points where I didn’t listen to my intuition because I was holding on tight to something I wanted. I wanted that man, I wanted that love, I wanted that relationship. I didn’t want to see what was actually there, in the love, in the relating, in the man. I wanted the ideal moments, the high moments, the blissful moments.

Boy, have I learned. Single motherhood, and the journey I took to get here, has turned me into the woman I always dreamed of being. I am no longer dependent, or co-dependent. I am no longer afraid to be who I am because of how the other might react. I am no longer afraid of being alone,  or of building a life alone. I am no longer afraid of children, or afraid of being a mother. I am no longer afraid.

I am no longer afraid.


Editor: Brianna Bemel

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