Pregnant & alone.

Sometimes, I really miss my bump. I'm sure that anyone who has had a baby has been there; Occasionally I reminisce on the magical experience of having a baby growing and developing inside my body; the sheer excitement and the waiting in anticipation to finally, at the end of those 40 weeks, meet the person I would love most in the world.

But then, reality comes knocking on my door and I remember the pregnancy which turned out to be the hardest nine months of my life; the pregnancy during which I couldn't wait to reach the finish line.

There's no denying it; pregnancy is hard work.

But what's it like to face nine months of pregnancy without a partner by your side?

Well, I've been there, done it and got the baby to show for it! So, here's a list of the things I found particularly testing whilst being single and pregnant :

1) Announcing the news!
I waited a while before I told anyone about the pregnancy. A few close friends and family members knew from the start but my colleagues and other friends hadn't a clue. So, when I reached 12 weeks of pregnancy, I felt it was time to share the news. After all, I couldn't hide it for too much longer- I was unwell and people from work were starting to wonder what all of those doctors appointments were about. Due to the circumstances and the fact that it was an unplanned pregnancy, I hadn't spent weeks on Pinterest scrolling through "cute ways to announce a pregnancy on social media." Instead, to a certain degree, I dreaded sharing my news. By the time I did share it, my baby's father had already upped and left so, I was already a single parent before people even knew I was pregnant. How was I supposed to announce this one? I knew, before I had even told anyone, what their first thought was going to be. "Where's the dad?" 
I went with the standard routine of uploading my scan photo to social media and awaited a reaction. The notifications rolled in; the likes; the comments; followed by one comment which read "Who's the dad then?"
This was so disheartening and such an awkward comment to have to reply to; so I simply ignored it and focused on the many "congratulations!" messages I had also received. I wish I could've tagged the father of my child in my "I'm expecting" post on social media, but unfortunately, he'd already blocked me and moved away.

2) Sickness
My son's father left almost overnight upon receiving the news that I was pregnant. So, it was just me and bump from roughly 6 weeks into my pregnancy. Coincidentally, this was the point at which the sickness kicked in for me. Up until that point I'd been much like my normal self- albeit a little more tired than I'd normally be, but I was coping.
I can remember sitting in my lounge one afternoon and suddenly feeling really queasy..and before I knew it, I'd been sick. Totally normal and very common in early pregnancy, but little did I know- I was about to become a statistic. I was a part of that 1% of women who suffer from Hyperemesis Gravidarum.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum in simple terms is : severe, persistent vomiting during pregnancy. Sounds horrible, doesn't it? Just a bad case of morning sickness, right? Wrong. From the very first time I was sick, I never stopped being sick. Some days, I vomited all day long. Some days a tiny sip of water would bring it on and I'd be sick 8 times just from that one sip of water. At times, I couldn't keep anything down, and I mean anything. But one of the biggest triggers of pregnancy sickness is having an empty stomach- so it was a vicious cycle as the more I was sick, the less I had in my stomach which would then make me sick again. I found myself lying on the bathroom floor crying because I was so tired of being sick and feeling so unwell. In fact, on bad days, I was scared to leave the house because I couldn't be sure when it might flare up; it would come on so suddenly that I never had much warning or much of a chance to find a restroom.
Somehow (and I really don't know how) I managed to carry on working for a while. It seemed to help being with customers every day; it was a distraction. But I'll never forget the embarrassment of having to stop a customer half way through their query and run through the staff room to go and be sick. This happened more than a few times and I hated feeling so out of control. The sickness pretty much ruled my life throughout pregnancy and it lasted right up until the day my baby was born.
Sometimes, I just wanted someone to look after me; to bring me drinks and snacks in bed and do the household chores for me. On several occasions, simply opening the fridge door would make me sick. The thought of cooking turned my stomach but I knew I had to eat in order to keep the baby safe and healthy. Facing HG is hard enough as it is, but without consistent support it can be incredibly testing. To the point where you have to remind yourself why you're putting yourself through all of this illness and you have to convince yourself that the prize at the end of it is worth it. (And of course, it is!)

3) The scans
The 12 week scan: the first time you get to experience the funny cold jelly being moved around on your tummy like you'd seen in the films, and in exchange receiving a clear image of your baby on a screen in front of you. The first time you ever "see" your baby. A fascinating and surreal experience, one which should fill you with love and excitement. Of course, it did- but sadly, it was tainted. It was tainted by the fact that I was the only woman in that hospital waiting room without a partner sat next to me. I took my sister with me, but of course- it wasn't the same. My excitement was toned down by the fact that I wasn't sharing the breath taking, exciting moment of watching my baby wriggle around in front of my eyes for the first time, with the only other person who this baby belonged to.
"How many sets of photos would you like?" Well, there wasn't a need for a second set of scan photographs since I knew my baby's father wouldn't want to see them, so I settled for one.
This was the day it all became real, my baby was right there in front of me and although I couldn't touch him or see what he looked like, his little silhouette made it all that much more real. There was a baby inside me and he was healthy and I couldn't wait to tell everyone! Except, the only person I really wanted to speak to was the one person who didn't want to know. He was the only person who didn't text me that day to say that he was thinking of me or to wish me luck.
Then there was the 20 week scan; the big day! The day I got to find out whether I was having a boy or a girl. For whatever reason, and I can't explain it, I knew from the start that I was having a boy. I just felt it. I had pictured him long before my first scan, even. I had pictured him as a miniature version of his father; blonde curly hair and blue eyes. This day, my premonition was confirmed. "It's a little boy!" The four words which changed my life.
I was going to be a mother to a little boy and I couldn't have been happier but...all I could think about was this little boy who might resemble the man who left us. What if he looked exactly like him? What if all I could see was his dad when I looked at him for the first time? And of course, my mind questioned: Wouldn't this little boy need his dad?

4) Getting prepared
One of my clearest memories of my pregnancy was the day the cot arrived. In about 5,000 pieces. Shit...well how am I supposed to build this thing? This is a "man's job" surely?
I was heavily pregnant, hot, flustered and nauseous but I hadn't much choice; I either put this thing together or I left it to sit in the box for months on end. So, I built it alone. It even said on the instructions that it was a two-man job but, miraculously, I did it. And I almost killed myself in the process, but I was a woman on a mission! I have to say, I was pretty proud of myself, until my son reached 6 months of age and I realised I'd actually built it wrong and hadn't yet noticed in all that time. Oh well.
Like most mums-to-be, I had a clear image in my mind of how I wanted my son's nursery to look; the style of furniture, the toys, the bedding, the colour I would paint the walls....wait....painting walls?! 
Again, this was where I missed having a boyfriend who could take on the 'manly' tasks of decorating and DIY. The things I would've struggled with at the best of times, and even more so whilst I was growing a human.
It was hard doing everything myself (though my family were super helpful) and it wasn't as fun as it might've been with someone by my side; someone to argue with about the colour schemes and go shopping with for cute nursery accessories.
In fact, not just nursery accessories, but everything. Baby clothes shopping had to be the most exciting part of my pregnancy; I'm a sucker for cute fabrics and miniature hats. 
Although I spent many a Saturday browsing Baby Gap with my lovely friends, I definitely missed the special shopping trips with "dad-to-be." Of course, my friends were over the moon with excitement and, the fact that I was one of the first of my friends to expect a baby, meant that they were all for giving up their weekends to shop around for cute baby accessories. But it wasn't the same.

5) The 'firsts'
At first, you feel a flutter in your tummy- much like the feeling of "butterflies" you get when you're nervous-excited, and then you feel it...KICK! 
The baby is kicking!! Oh my god! What an exciting moment. If seeing a grainy image of your baby on an ultrasound screen doesn't make it real enough, then this sure will!
The feeling of another human being moving around inside you. The repetitive kicks, the hiccups, and as the baby gets bigger; actually being able to see a limb or two as you watch your belly shifting. Normally, the minute you feel your baby's movements, you call for your significant other to come and rest his hand on your belly and you insist he stays completely still and doesn't move until he's felt it. You see his face drop and you know he felt it. Hes freaked out but he's amazed and he's excited. 
Well, actually..the first person to ever feel my baby kick was one of my oldest friends from school. He placed his hand on my tummy and although he found it fascinating and exciting, he wasn't connected to the baby. For some crazy reason, I even felt guilty that the first man to feel my baby's kicks was not the father of my baby. Though he is a dear friend of mine, nobody could have replaced the father of my baby at this moment.
"The sound of galloping horses"...this is the only way I am able to describe the sound of my baby's heartbeat on the monitor. Hearing it for the first time was amazing; It was so much faster than the beating of an adult heart. It was a unique sound; a sound I will always be able to recall in my mind.
It was such a relief to hear my baby's heart beating for the first time- especially since I'd suffered from all of the sickness, at times I worried my baby might not be ok in there. So, it was a reassurance and it was a special moment which sadly, once again, I experienced alone.

6) Adapting to a new life
That one word was to change my life forever. Upon finding out I was expecting, I saw my body change quickly and I witnessed my hormones fly all over the shop, but when did my life really change? When did I become a different version of myself? 
I remember it clearly. I was out for drinks (juice, for me- obviously), for a colleagues leaving do and, in previous times, I would've relished the idea of a night out with my work buddies; I would've drank my body weight in alcohol and partied on through the night without a care in the world. This time, it was of course very different. I arrived at the pub with my big round belly and for the first time ever, I felt out of place. I felt like everybody was staring at me; judging me for even stepping foot in a pub. I was convinced that every single person in that place was thinking: "What's a pregnant girl doing here? Go home!"
I was so self conscious and I was afraid; afraid that some drunk person might knock into me or fall onto me and harm my baby. I held onto my bump all evening for fear that an intoxicated stranger might touch it. I cringed at the loud music, worried that the high volume might damage my baby's tiny, undeveloped ears.
So, I left early and I walked myself home. Six months pregnant and walking home alone in the dark; quite possibly the moment in which I felt the most alone. As I waddled past groups of wasted teens and women falling around in their high heels, I suddenly felt like an outsider to the life I had always known. I had always adored the nightlife within my vibrant city. I came home and I went straight into my baby's unfinished nursery, and I cried. I cried because I felt like a different person to who I'd always been. I felt vulnerable and I felt the weight of the responsibility I was about to experience. I wanted to protect this little baby from everything bad in the world and I was afraid I couldn't do it alone. Up until this point, I hadn't felt bonded to my baby since it was hard to register that this bump would soon become a baby, but in this moment I knew I couldn't live without him and I hadn't even met him yet. I felt my whole mind change; my priorities had shifted, my life was taking a complete turn and it was changing before my eyes, but I was having to adapt alone.
I often wonder what it would've been like to prepare for such a massive, life altering experience with someone else. Two first- time parents facing the changes together.

7) The build up to the due date
As I neared the end of my pregnancy, I became increasingly impatient and unbelievably excited about meeting my little bundle. I couldn't wait to see what he looked like, I couldn't wait to stop being sick and I couldn't wait to start being a mum! But, with the excitement came the anxiety. As the days crept by and December 5th was well in sight, I panicked. December 5th was the baby's due date and I wondered whether his father might show his face around this time. What if he turned up? What if he contacted me? I was heavily pregnant and massively hormonal; I wasn't sure I could deal with the emotional stress of him making a sudden, unexpected appearance but the other part of me hoped and prayed that he would be there after all.
I carried on and my excitement grew and grew as my due date passed and my baby still hadn't arrived. "Any day now!" I kept hearing. "You might have a baby by tomorrow!" they said. What an incredibly exciting thought. I kept looking at the empty buggy and I wanted so desperately to take it out for a spin, but I knew that without a baby in it, I'd just look like a total nutter! Sadly, my excitement was accompanied by the looming sadness and frustration I felt due to the choice my baby's father had made. I even felt guilty, to some extent. I felt like I shouldn't have been excited about something which he was so far from excited about. I questioned whether it was wrong or selfish of me to be happy when the circumstances were so far from perfect.

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