Many women in Australia end up going through pregnancy alone. Some by choice after turning to IVF or assisted conception with donor sperm insemination. Other women are in a long-term relationship that seems to end ‘all of a sudden’ or was on its way out when ‘surprise’ you find out you are having a baby!
Whatever your reason for having to go this alone, I want you to know that you are NOT in fact alone. I’m going to share some of my tips and tricks so you can build up your circle of support and prepare for life after birth with your newborn baby. This is the beginning of a wonderful journey … the journey of motherhood.
Whether this is your first or third baby and you are going through pregnancy alone, you can do this with confidence and belief in yourself. You have got this!
Further reading: Fertility options for single women doing motherhood alone.
START CREATING YOUR CIRCLE OF SUPPORT
Let’s identify who is currently in your circle of support, this is super important if you are going through pregnancy alone. Get a pen and paper or your phone notebook and list down all the people in your circle. Who get and you, and bring positive energy into your life. Don’t include anyone who upsets you or isn’t supportive of you.
Be Specific: How can those people on your list support you while you are going through pregnancy alone, birth and postpartum? Maybe your mum lives locally and is a great emotional support? Or your friend is an amazing cook? Maybe you have a sister who is excited to come to hospital appointments with you and listen to anything pregnancy/ baby related?
Have conversations with those people: Once you have identified the people on your list and how they can support you can start to write out some of the things you will need help with during your pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Here are some more ideas:
- Hospital appointments
- Non judgemental emotional support
- Practical support like putting together baby furniture, picking up heavy furniture, holding baby while you have a shower or rest, bringing around nourishing food for you
- Coffee dates – someone you can get out with and have a laugh or see a movie (while you are pregnant and only when you have the energy)
You may find you have a large list of people in your circle of support, or that you only have one or two people, or even no people you can rely on. If you need to build you circle of support, here are some ideas for you to starting creating that circle now:
- Positive birth meetings, homebirth meetings, antenatal birth education classes (like hypnobirthing)
- ABA Breastfeeding Education class and monthly meetings, held Australia wide
- Online supportive single mum groups are a great way to connect with like-minded mothers
- Connecting with people in your community like your neighbours (you never know when you might need that sugar!) and small businesses like the local coffee shop – they can start to become a second family.
PREPARE A POSTPARTUM PLAN
I always recommend anyone expecting a baby to create a postpartum plan, so you can set yourself up for a calm, confident and connected motherhood. This is especially helpful if you are going through pregnancy alone. You can download yours here!
It’s often hard to even try to picture how having a baby will fit into your life. Especially when you are having your first baby. But maybe this is your second baby, and first time expecting as a single mother.
Postpartum Planning will give you ability to understand some of the challenges that may lie ahead and help you to set strong foundations to support you through them. Here are some things I include in my Postpartum Plan for newborn mothers:
Visualise your postpartum
Close your eyes and imagine your postpartum with your newborn baby.
How does it feel? Who is supporting you? How do you feel?
Some words that comes to mind may be peaceful, confident, happy, content, organised, in control, supported.
If you are planning on breastfeeding is this something that you need to take a class for like with the Australian Breastfeeding Association?
While breastfeeding is natural for humans, it is a learned skill for both mother and baby and will take time, patience and support to master.
Who will be your main support circle?
It’s important that you eat nourishing foods to help your body heal from pregnancy & birth.
BE GENTLE, KIND & LOVING TO YOURSELF
Pregnancy is one of the hardest things I have had to go through in my life. Between ‘all day sickness’, being exhausted and trying to function, the last thing I needed was to say cruel things to myself. And yet from time to time stories would pop into my head and I would compare myself to other pregnant women I knew or saw walking around.
I felt pretty pathetic during pregnancy and now that I have experienced two pregnancies, I have to surrender to the process and allow it to unfold the way it needs to. This means instead of telling myself and repeating old negative stories to myself like:
‘I’m weak, I’m the worst pregnant person ever, I’m lazy, I’m not going to handle motherhood if I can’t handle pregnancy (none of those are true by the way!)’
You need to focus on all the amazing things you are doing. Even if you focus on one positive thing a day like getting enough rest, or eating a nourishing meal.
GET PREPARED PRACTICALLY FOR HAVING A BABY ON YOUR OWN
By planning ahead, you can reduce the stress of preparing for a baby on your own. You have a lot to think about during this time, but getting your finances in order should be a top priority. For short-term needs, it’s important to try to save enough to cover the costs of pregnancy, health insurance, and supplies. Then you can figure out the cost of baby gear, from nappies to car seats, and adjust your budget.
Remember that you don’t have to buy everything. You can borrow a lot of baby things from other mums, like strollers, baby books, toys, clothes and other gear that their kids have outgrown. You can add other necessities to your wish-list for the baby shower.
Don’t stress if you don’t have everything for baby right away. Other stuff like a crib can be purchased after the baby arrives.
Connect with your support group to get tips on preparing your home and nursery for baby. From choosing the best cribs to hiring a cleaner to finding someone to help paint the nursery and assemble furniture, explore your contact list to see who would be happy to help out or give you advice.
If you’re a single mum-to-be on a tight budget, don’t be shy to ask your group if they are willing to lend you or part with baby things that they no longer use.
Baby Clothes and nappies
You’re going to need newborn clothes as well as onesies, leggings/pyjamas, jumpers and other outer clothing, hats, booties, and sleepwear.
Look for clothes with the weight and height on the sizing for the best fit. Avoid clothes with too many buttons or snaps that make them hard to remove. Do choose clothes that are comfortable, soft and durable, and free from choking hazards.
For nappies, you can use disposable, cloth, or something with a reusable cover. If you’re not sure what’s the best type of nappy for your baby’s skin, get small packs from different brands to test them before buying nappies in bulk. You’ll also need wipes, rash cream, changing table, a nappy pail, and nappy bag. You can buy affordable nappies and baby supplies from big, small and local brands at online stores like Big W.
Car and Baby Seat
Similar to preparing your home and nursery, make sure to ask your mum friends and support group for recommendations. You need someone who’s been here, done that, and who knows what’s the best car seat for your baby, budget, and situation.
Make sure to put this on your wish-list as you might get a car seat as a gift during the baby shower.
Further reading: Car safety 101: 6 Tips for pregnant women
Kitchen and meals
The last thing you want is to be on your feet for hours slaving away in the kitchen. Freezer meals are your best friend when preparing for a baby on your own. There are heaps of easy and tasty recipes online for batch cooking and freezing.
There are also detailed instructions for organising your kitchen, and packing and labelling food so it’s easy to find what you need and get a healthy meal on the table in minutes.
MAKE SURE YOU ARE THE HEALTHIEST VERSION OF YOURSELF FOR BABY
After preparing the practical things for your new addition, it’s time to make sure you are the healthiest version of yourself.
From regular checkups to watching what you eat to keeping an eye on your weight, the following tips should get your body and mind in tip-top shape for baby.
Eat right to feed your body essential nutrients.
Micronutrients like iron, calcium, and folic acid are necessary to prevent birth defects, so make sure you’re taking enough. Take a daily supplement to meet the required 400 mcg of folic acid and other nutrients each day, and fill your pantry and fridge with healthy foods: fruits, veggies, nuts, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy. If you can’t throw away all the chips and junk food, try to cut back and have your family join you.
There are apps that can help you track your calories, nutrients, workouts, and more.
Getting in the best shape will make your pregnancy and delivery so much easier.
An exercise class for expecting moms is an excellent workout idea, but if you can’t swing it, there are many other exercises that you can do at home or on your own like walking, yoga, cycling, and swimming. Experts recommend 30 minutes of exercise on most days. Keeping an eye on your weight is important during this time.
If you are too thin or too heavy, talk you your doctor to create a plan to achieve your healthy weight.
Tap into your support group
Lean into your support group and share in the communal wisdom of mothers who share your experiences. It’s a stressful time when you are preparing for a baby on your own, but remember that you are never alone.
Boost your mental health by connecting with family, friends, co-workers, and loved ones and making sure to reach out when things get overwhelming.
See your doctor and dentist
See your doctor and dentist to address issues, manage health conditions and get advice on vaccines, supplements for you and baby, and medications. Before getting pregnant, you might also want to test for genetic disorders if you or your ex-partner has a family history.
Quit smoking and drinking
Smoking and alcohol consumption can cause a host of problems for your baby, from birth defects to miscarriage to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Give up your smokes and alcohol when you plan to get pregnant or as soon as you know you’re expecting.
The right mindset for going through pregnancy alone
Here are some of my favourite daily mindset practices to help you when you are going through pregnancy alone.
- Deep breathing helps me stay relaxed and calm when I’m starting to feel sad or overwhelmed I love to take a nice deep breath in and a long slow breath out through my mouth (start practicing and notice how relaxed your body feels).
- Positive affirmations are a great way to turn negative stories around. Say things like: I am enough, I am doing enough, allowing my body to rest is being kind, I am a good mother.
- Daily Gratitude journaling is a great practice that can really turn my day around. Focusing on one thing that is great in my life, like a friend, a roof over my head, a comfy bed to sleep in.
The more you practice being kind and loving to yourself, the more natural it will become and before you know it, it will feel totally normal and natural. You will notice your mood lift and shift, and things you felt were hard work previously gradually become easier and easier.
Final words: Going through pregnancy alone
If you take anything away from this article I want you to remember this – you are an amazing, strong and capable woman. While at times going through pregnancy alone may be challenging and difficult, I know you have got this!
Sending love – Ashley