‘No one hugged me and said, ‘Congratulations!’ I celebrated silently. I felt like I’d messed up the timeline.’: Single mom navigates motherhood, ‘Unplanned doesn’t mean unwanted’

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“I will never forget the moment I found out I was pregnant. I can’t really describe how I felt because when you are feeling so many emotions at one time, there is no way to put that into words. I was confused, excited, nervous, scared, and happy all at once. My brain didn’t know how to make sense of it all. This was something I wanted my whole life, the gift of having a child and becoming a mother. I always envisioned tears of happiness at that moment with a loving partner by my side, but that wasn’t the case.

I sat on my bathroom floor alone in my apartment in NYC at 3:00 a.m. just staring at the pregnancy test thinking, there is no way this could be true! I put on my coat and walked down the street to CVS on 7th Avenue and picked up three more boxes of pregnancy tests. I spent the next 2 hours chugging water and taking eight pregnancy tests in all. Sounds crazy, right? I guess in my state of shock and confusion, I just kept thinking one of them would come out negative, but that did not happen. All eight lit up immediately with a positive result. October 24, 2019: The day I found out I was pregnant.

Courtesy of Emily Hilton

I didn’t sleep at all that night. I spent the next few hours googling advice on unexpected pregnancies. ‘How do you tell your partner about an unexpected pregnancy?’ ‘How do you tell your family you are pregnant?’ ‘Advice for mothers having an unexpected child.’ ‘Quotes about an unexpected pregnancy.’ I just needed to read something to let me know everything was going to be fine and I was allowed to be happy and excited, even if this wasn’t planned.

I wanted to smile, I wanted to touch my belly, I wanted to be excited, but I was overwhelmed and scared. I was worried about people judging my choices. I was worried about people finding out and trying to give me their advice on my situation, and I was worried about disappointing my family. I spent the entire first trimester of my pregnancy worried about what everyone else thought about me and my situation. I cried almost every day because I felt like a disappointment. I felt like I had messed up the proper life timeline that society outlines for all of us. I told a handful of friends and family members about the pregnancy, and everyone told me any decisions about my baby are up to me, but of course, everyone wanted to give me their two cents worth on what I should do. No one hugged me and said ‘Congratulations! I am so happy for you!’ or ‘This is so exciting. ‘ The response was more along the lines of ‘How did this happen?’ or ‘What are you going to do?’ At that time, my partner was extremely caring towards me and supportive of us having the baby and being a family. That was the only reassurance I had so I silently celebrated my happiness and excitement with him.

Daryl A. Getman

I did not tell the majority of people I was pregnant until months later in March of 2020. I kept waiting for the perfect moment to announce it and the perfect way to explain the situation. I wanted to have all of my answers prepared when people started asking me questions. By this time, my child’s father had a change of heart and decided not to be involved with me or our baby. Talk about a whirlwind of emotions in a few short weeks on top of a bunch of pregnancy hormones. It was a lot to process, but I kept telling myself to try and stay calm, focus on my baby, focus on having a healthy pregnancy, and enjoy the wonderful journey into motherhood.

On March 6, 2020, my 28th birthday, I woke up and decided this is the day! The day I announce to the world I am pregnant. For some reason, it felt like that was the right day, and to my pleasant surprise, I received nothing but positive and supportive reactions. I was almost 6 months pregnant at the time, and for the first time, it finally all felt real. I finally felt like I was able to be publicly excited and happy about my unexpected little miracle. I finally let go of all my worries. I let go of feeling like I might disappoint someone, I let go of worrying about what other people thought about my situation, and I let go of the view of what others see as a perfect family. I was free and more elated than ever to be welcoming a baby boy into this world. In my eyes, I could finally embrace my journey and embrace being a single mother and create what I felt was a perfect life for me and my baby.

Then, just a week later, the pandemic hit hard in New York and everything was shut down. The world shut down and everything changed. I was quarantined alone for months in my apartment in Manhattan. The first few weeks I felt a lot of uncertainty and a little lonely,  but with each passing week, I could feel my baby kick more and more. I was always comforted by his tiny movements. I knew I wasn’t alone. I knew he was always there with me and I spent many moments up late at night just talking and bonding with my boy.

Daryl A. Getman

I was furloughed from my full-time job, and this made me worried about being able to financially support a baby on my own without having a secure income. The majority of my doctor’s appointments became virtual visits, which are practically pointless when you are pregnant. It was all so terrifying! There was so much unknown about the virus and unknown how it could affect pregnancy and affect a growing fetus. I went into extreme protection mode. I wanted to make sure I took every precaution to protect the little life inside me. During the few doctor’s visits I did have, I always walked to the office. I would be exhausted and out of breath from the pregnancy and from wearing two masks at all times, but I didn’t want to take a chance of riding the subway or getting in a taxi where I had a higher chance of contracting Covid-19.

My doctor’s visits felt incomplete. They felt short and rushed, like the doctor wanted to be in and out of the room as quickly as possible and stay as far away from me as possible. I just kept thinking, ‘What if they aren’t checking me properly? What if something is wrong and they miss it because they want to get out of the exam room quickly? What if I don’t have time to ask all of my questions because I feel rushed and under pressure?’ It felt like I was speed dating, but with my doctor! It was not a very reassuring feeling when you are pregnant and alone during a global pandemic. I was nervous every time I went to an appointment. I felt the closer I was to a hospital, the higher chance I had of getting Covid.

My wonderful sister, Amanda, also lives in NYC. She is an ER nurse and has been working on the front lines since the pandemic started. She was working 7 days a week at two different hospitals during the first few months of the pandemic. Even with being exhausted and busy with work, she wanted to make sure I didn’t miss out on any of the important pregnancy stepping stones, even if we had to do it all with extreme social distancing. We had our own little gender reveal party that included confetti cannons I set off by the Brooklyn Bridge. We did our own maternity photoshoot on the streets of the West Village in NYC. She planned a virtual baby shower along with my amazing mother. She knew I always wanted children and that I was so happy to be having a baby. She was not going to let my personal situation or a pandemic stop me from experiencing every cliche moment that comes along with pregnancy. It turns out, not only is she an amazing nurse but she’s a pretty decent photographer too!

Courtesy of Emily Hilton

My due date was June 27, 2020. My mother made plans to fly from Florida to New York on June 17, 2020. We wanted to have a week to do any last-minute preparations for the baby. She was my chosen birthing partner, and looking back I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Mothers are very useful when it comes to helping change your postpartum diaper, helping your baby latch on to nurse, and helping you do your own newborn photoshoot in the hospital. After all, they have been through it before. When my mom was getting ready for bed on the night of June 17, she had a little talk with my baby boy. She told him he was allowed to come out now since his Nana was there to welcome him into the world! On June 18, 2020, at 4 a.m., the contractions began. I guess he was ready to meet his Nana.

We headed to the hospital at 10 a.m. when the contractions became less than 5 minutes apart and the pain was causing tears to run down my cheeks. Our visit to the hospital didn’t start out great. They made my mom stand outside in the middle of summer, while they did my Covid-19 testing and admission paperwork. This took over 2 and a half hours! I kept telling everyone, ‘Please go get my mom! I need my mom!’ Finally, around 12 p.m., my Covid-19 test came back negative. I was given an epidural at 12:30 p.m., and they let my mom into the hospital. After that, my experience was absolutely wonderful. Nothing felt rushed or incomplete like my prior doctor’s visits. I felt the opposite. I felt extremely taken care of by the wonderful team of doctors and nurses at the New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital.

My baby boy was welcomed into the world at 10:07 p.m. on June 18, 2020, after 40 minutes of pushing. Wesley James Hilton, weighing in at 6 pounds, 14 ounces. The tears of happiness I always associated with being pregnant finally happened. When the doctor placed my baby on my chest, the tears just flowed and not a single thing in the world could take the smile off of my face. It was truly the best day of my entire life. I felt like my whole life was just starting.

Courtesy of Emily Hilton

The beginning of motherhood had a lot of highs and lows, but even the lows were filled with happiness and joy. Some days I felt like superwoman, like I knew exactly what I was doing and everything was so easy. Other days, I could barely keep my eyes open because I was so tired and worried if I was producing enough milk for my baby. I worried if he was breathing properly in his sleep, I worried about my mom leaving in a few weeks and how I was going to take care of a baby on my own. However, I learned through motherhood, and especially being a single mother, the saying ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ is absolutely true. Motherhood is a rollercoaster and having a baby during a global pandemic brings on a whole new set of challenges, but stressing and worrying about everything doesn’t change anything.

Courtesy of Emily Hilton

The worrying doesn’t make Covid-19 go away. It doesn’t make my son’s father want to be involved in his life, it doesn’t put money into my bank account, it doesn’t bring me my dream in-person baby shower, and it doesn’t make my baby happy. I have learned to let go of my worries and let go of doing things the way other people think I should do them. I do everything in a way that works best for me and my baby, and that has brought me extreme success and confidence. I am confident in being a single mother and raising an amazing little boy all on my own. I am a firm believer in the saying, ‘happy parent, happy baby.’ I wake up every day and I don’t take a single moment with Wesley for granted. I focus on how I can improve our lives and how I can create stability in all areas of life. I never put too much pressure on myself, and I remind myself to go with the flow and enjoy every minute because time sure does go by quickly with a baby.

Courtesy of Emily Hilton

My son has changed my life in the best possible ways, and he truly brings so much joy to my family and friends. Wesley is the apple of his nana’s eye, and he is his grandpa’s little buddy. He is my sister’s obsession, and as she likes to say, ‘Who needs a dad when you have an Aunt Mandy!’ Wesley has brought smiles to all of my friends’ faces and love to their hearts. My family and friends have been extremely supportive and helpful since little Wesley was born. I am thankful every day my son has been a bright and shining light in all of our living during a year surrounded with uncertainty and negativity. I was told my whole life, ‘Marry someone who brings out the best in you.’ Well, it turns out my son brings out the best in me. He is my best friend, my adventure buddy, and the reason why I wake up every day with a smile on my face and with gratitude in my heart. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, I am in a better place in my life than I have been in the past 5 years. I knew an unexpected baby would be life-changing, but I never imagined all of those changes being positive.

Courtesy of Emily Hilton

When my pregnancy journey began, I had some of the hardest few weeks of my life and when my partner left me, I felt like I constantly had a dark cloud over my head when all I wanted was to be happy and enjoy my pregnancy. I look back now, and I wish I could have told myself everything was going to be fine and this baby was going to be the best thing that ever happened to me. I wish I could have told myself I was going to be a wonderful mother, and my baby boy would heal my broken heart his father caused. I wish I could have enjoyed every day of being pregnant, instead of being stressed and scared for the first half. I loved waking up every day and looking at my little belly in the mirror. I wish I didn’t have to celebrate that joy alone and in silence because I was too scared to announce my pregnancy. I wish from the beginning I could have let go of worrying about what others thought about my situation.

My advice for mothers who are experiencing an unexpected pregnancy is to embrace it from the start and don’t worry about what other people think about you or your pregnancy. Those 40 weeks of growing that little human fly by and they shouldn’t be taken for granted. Every new phase brings new memories and new obstacles, cherishing them all. Cherish the good moments and the difficult moments, and know the moment your little one takes their first breath, a breath of fresh air will also activate a whole new life for you.

Courtesy of Emily Hilton

For all of my fellow single mothers, don’t be hard on yourself and don’t ever doubt yourself. You are doing this alone and that right there shows what an amazing and confident woman you are. Motherhood is a journey of uphill battles, whether you are doing it alone or with a partner. When you look in the mirror and you haven’t brushed your hair in 2 days and you have spit-up stains on your shirt, don’t shame yourself, just laugh and know that every other parent has been there, even the ones who seem like their life is perfect. Don’t be afraid to accept help or ashamed to ask for help when you’re in need. Don’t compare your life to others. Everyone’s journey is different. Just because your life doesn’t look like your neighbor who is married to a supportive partner, doesn’t mean you are doing anything wrong or you are less deserving of happiness. You don’t have to follow any molds that society has created. Take pride in what you have and take pride in being an individual with a unique path. And always remember, unplanned does not mean unwanted. After all, the best surprises in life are unexpected!”

Courtesy of Emily Hilton

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Emily Hilton from NYC. You can follow her on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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