‘Oh my god, I’m pregnant,’ I whispered. The first time it occurred to me I was a mom, he was two weeks old.’: Single mom struggles to connect with baby born during Covid, ‘I wasn’t just me anymore’

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“In December of 2018, I dreamt I had a baby. That sort of dream wasn’t unusual, but this one was different. I could feel the baby long after I woke up. I distinctly remembered the imprint of their body against mine. In the following weeks, I had several more dreams just like that one. It finally occurred to me: ‘I think I’m supposed to have a baby. Now.’

This wasn’t a new concept for me. For years, I had said that I wanted to have a baby by age 30, and if I wasn’t in a relationship I’d do it solo. At the time of the dreams, I was 27. Knowing it can take years to conceive, the timing seemed just right. So, I scheduled an appointment with a fertility midwife. From that time on, I never had another baby dream.

There are three common ways to conceive solo. Invitro Fertilization (IVF), which is the most invasive and expensive but also the most accurate. Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), which involves a quick procedure at a clinic or with a midwife. Intracervical Insemination (ICI), which can be done in a clinic or at home. This is the least accurate of the three.

I decided that IVF was my last resort, so when I met with the fertility midwife we discussed insemination. The first step was to track my cycle and determine when I ovulated. I needed to be able to pinpoint my ovulation within a six-hour window every month. At the time, I couldn’t even predict anything about my cycle.

I spent the next six months tuning in to my body. I wrote down every symptom, no matter how small. It was exhausting, but also exhilarating. Being so familiar with my body and my cycle made me feel empowered. I started doing acupuncture and running, which heightened my connection with my body.

I told very few people what I was doing. My sister and a handful of close friends were the only ones who knew. If my attempts failed, I only wanted to have a few people to tell. My biggest support came through online groups of fellow triers and parents. They mourned my lows, celebrated my highs, and gave advice when I needed it. I’m so fortunate to have made some real-life friends through those groups too.

The road to parenthood was already hard. I had intended to have my first attempt in April of 2019, but my cycle was still too long and unpredictable. Shortly after I learned I would have to wait, two friends announced their pregnancies. I was devastated. Of course, I was happy for my friends, but I hurt for me. The unknown was the hardest part. I didn’t know when I could try. I didn’t know if the try would work. I didn’t know how many tries I would need. I didn’t know if insemination would work for me at all. I just didn’t know.

When June rolled around, I was ready, and so was my cycle. I ordered the sperm and set it in the baby bassinet to wait for my ovulation. On the right day, I called my midwife who came out to my house to perform the IUI. It was quick and only mildly painful.

Then began the two-week wait, between ovulation and pregnancy test. Those two weeks were awful. This was the ultimate unknown. Was I pregnant right now? Was I not? Schroedinger’s Baby: both existing and not existing. At the end of the two weeks, I took a pregnancy test. Negative. I took another and another and another. All negative. My heart sank. I felt like a failure. I doubted my ability to get pregnant. In my head, I knew the process is often long and that one failed attempt was completely normal. In my heart, I hurt.

I looked ahead to the next try. I had met another single parent by choice who had extra vials of sperm. We spent hours on the phone working out how I could use that sperm. That process brought its own level of stress. The world of sperm banks is convoluted, and I struggled to navigate through it. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be, I thought. Just in time, we figured it out, and I ordered the sperm. The vials were for ICI, which meant that I could do the insemination myself.

The day came. I lit candles, meditated, and began. This time the procedure wasn’t painful at all. It seemed so strange that something so simple could work. For the next two weeks, I was pretty certain I wasn’t pregnant. I was so exhausted from the months of the unknown and the waiting, I decided I needed to take a break. I was just starting nursing school, so, I decided I’d wait until winter break for my next try.

My birthday fell at the end of that two-week wait. It was a little too early to test, but I decided to do it anyway. It was 6 a.m. and I was getting ready for work. I took the test, set a timer, and continued getting ready. When the timer went off I glanced at the test on my bedside table.

‘Yep. Negative,’ I said to myself. Something made me turn back to look again. I held the test up close and could see the faintest line. Pregnancy tests identify the presence of hCG, which is only present in humans when they’re pregnant. That means any amount of hCG, no matter how little, indicates a pregnancy. My faint line was a positive.

‘Oh my god, I’m pregnant,’ I whispered, sinking onto my bed. I stared at the test, my heart pounding. This was it. This was what I’d been working towards. I was pregnant. There was a real-life human growing inside me. There was no better birthday present than that positive test. I was overwhelmed with joy, relief, anticipation, and also fear.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Eirwood
Courtesy of Elizabeth Eirwood

The next eight weeks were wrought with fear. Every moment, I was afraid I would miscarry. With no visible bump, I only knew I was pregnant because of my morning sickness. It was almost enough to make me thankful for being sick.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Eirwood

I told my siblings about my pregnancy the week after I found out. My sister was excited she didn’t have to keep it a secret any longer. My oldest brother said, ‘It’s about time! I’ve been wanting to be an uncle for so long!’

Over the next few weeks, I told more and more family and friends. Some family members were immediately thrilled. A few even guessed I was a solo mom before I told them. Those were my favorite responses. Others were not so supportive. One family member told me he was so sad for my baby. Others refused to acknowledge my pregnancy at all. It was hard to field those responses. I was fortunate to have a solid support system that held me up.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Eirwood

When I was 35 weeks pregnant, Covid-19 arrived. Suddenly, my prenatals were with masked midwives and my birthing classes were virtual. My sister’s school shut down, so she came to quarantine with me until the baby arrived.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Eirwood

Labor began around week 38 but stopped repeatedly. At 40 weeks and 3 days, after two weeks of prodromal labor, my body was ready, and ready now. Baby came fast and was unexpectedly born on my bathroom floor, into my sister’s hands. She passed him to me, through my legs. I looked at his squawling, red face and whispered, ‘You’re really here. You made it, baby.’

Courtesy of Elizabeth Eirwood
Courtesy of Elizabeth Eirwood

Those first precious moments weren’t peaceful and serene, as I had imagined they’d be. When we realized the baby was coming fast, my sister called 911. When the baby was born, dispatch was on speakerphone yelling unnecessary instructions. My sister was running around trying to find things. Moments later paramedics arrived and, while kind, were barking orders. Firemen were wandering through my house. All I wanted was for everyone to stop moving and take a deep breath together. ‘My baby is here, and he’s okay. Stop. Come look at him. Isn’t he perfect?’ I wanted to say. But they kept on rushing around me.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Eirwood
Courtesy of Elizabeth Eirwood

He didn’t have a name for several hours. Possibly because of the chaos of our first moments, I struggled to connect with him. I had been so in love with the baby in my belly, but this seemed like a different baby. This little human was a stranger to me. Finally, I gave him the name that had felt right in pregnancy: Romi, meaning ‘dew of the sea.’

Courtesy of Elizabeth Eirwood
Courtesy of Elizabeth Eirwood

It took weeks, maybe even months for me to feel connected to Romi. The first time it truly occurred to me I was a mom, he was two weeks old. My sister held him while I showered, and when I came back he was crying. I talked to him, and even though he couldn’t see me, he was immediately calmed by the sound of my voice. My eyes filled with tears as I realized of course he was the same baby that had been in my belly listening to my voice for all those months.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Eirwood

After his birth, my sister was able to stay around for another four weeks. It would not have been possible if we weren’t under a stay-at-home order. There weren’t many benefits to Covid-19, but that was one of them. The hard parts of the pandemic were missing out on the joy of introducing my son to friends and family. He wasn’t able to meet his grandparents until he was four months old, and we still don’t know when he’ll get to meet one of his uncles.

When my sister left, it felt like my life with my son truly began. I finally had the silence and calm I had craved after his birth. I could sit and look at my perfect baby. I felt myself growing into who I am as a mom. I wasn’t just me anymore. My identity now included my relationship to this tiny human. In getting to know him, I also came to know myself.

In doing parenthood solo, I was counting on my village, but COVID has taken that away. I am fortunate to have amazing support, in spite of everything. I have connected virtually with fellow single parents and summertime has let us meet a few friends and family outdoors.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Eirwood

Most days, it’s still just me and Romi. We have soaked up this time of isolation. We’ve gone to state parks, lakes, and camping. We have grown to know each other, and bonded in our togetherness. His smiles light up my world. He is my baby, and I’m his mama. That’s all we need.”

Courtesy of Elizabeth Eirwood

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Elizabeth Eirwood. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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