Over the past year families have found themselves cut off from support networks of friends and family to differing degrees. However, for many single parents, the experience has been especially isolating. Here, new mum, Danielle tells us her story.
I never really wanted to be a mother.
I’d gone to the doctor as I’d missed a period and they thought it was stress at first.
They told me it was normal but I took a few tests… and then I got a follow-up letter asking to see me face-to-face a few days later.
“oh, my god. I’m not ready to be a mother“
The doctor said “congratulations, you’re going to be a mum” and I thought “oh, my god. I’m not ready to be a mother”… It was actually really scary.
I called my mum over the phone crying and she was asking me “what’s the matter?”… I told her I was pregnant and that I didn’t know what to do.
At that point, she was very unwell and I was worried about her health.
I have learning difficulties and live with my mum so she supports me a lot in general, and I didn’t want to ask her for more help.
I wasn’t with the baby’s father during the journey – so I didn’t have a partner to support me through pregnancy, birth and afterwards.
It was such hard work when I went into labour… They kept telling me to “push, push” and I just thought “how can I push any more?”
I don’t know how long it was but in the end, they said they needed to take me into surgery.
It was very stressful and I was so sore afterwards but they kept telling me I had to walk so I would heal properly.
I just thought “why can’t I lie here?”
Two days later I was back at mum’s house and because she was unwell my sister would come round to help and support me with things like how to feed and change him.
Everything had changed for me but she already had kids and as she’d already been there she knew what she was doing.
But I found it hard… holding him was difficult and I was worried about supporting his head and scared that I would drop him or something.
It was also hard to bond with him at the beginning as you don’t know what all your feelings mean when it’s your first child.
Now, of course, I know how to hug and kiss him and play with him but it didn’t come naturally, although my mum coached me and helped me bond.
In my mind, however, I still had doubts about looking after him, supporting him and getting him the things he needed, which were made worse because I didn’t have a job.
These worries got worse and I soon realised I was dealing with some mental health issues.
That’s when I met Family Action.
I can’t even remember how it happened now. I just needed support and someone called them to say I needed help.
Their Early Years Worker was so nice and supportive and, with her help, I got the help I needed and started taking medication.
Things have gotten a lot better since and I’ve moved from not being able to cook without support to applying for college and looking at potential flats with Family Action’s help.
In fact, we even did a few cookery courses over video chat during lockdown – which was fun!
I might have struggled with bonding at first but now I love everything about my son, and I think that’s because we’ve been through lockdown together.
If I’m down he’ll make me laugh and cheer me up.
Despite lockdown, he’s definitely an outdoors baby and he loves playing – sometimes he’ll go into shops, pick things up and walk out and I’ll have to run back in and put it back!
But it’s still not easy.
I’ve not been able to find work because of my mental health and he’ll be two soon. We have toys and clothes… everything he needs really, but I’d like a job someday.
It’s harder for me because people who don’t have learning difficulties judge me. People take the mick out of us and think we can’t look after our children.
Sometimes I feel really down about it and it’s not always easy, but I know that I can look after him now.
Family pressures can sometimes be difficult to manage for all of us and it can be hard to know what information and support is available. Our free FamilyLine helpline is here for anyone aged 18 and over, whether you need information, support or just someone to chat to.