‘Will you be giving birth here or in the States?’ As soon as I heard that heartbeat, I knew my life was about to go down a very different path.’: Single mom travels the world with daughter

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“I used to travel the world as a scuba diving instructor. I’ve lived on islands from the Caribbean to the South Pacific and have marked just about 2,000 dives under the oceans covering our planet. Some of my favorite dives have been with whale sharks in Thailand, bull sharks in Fiji, and humpback whales and dolphins in the Virgin Islands. Everywhere I had traveled to was for work and I always settled into my new home ready for new adventures and memories that would last my lifetime.

I found out I was pregnant a month after starting a new job as yacht crew working aboard a 150-foot live-aboard scuba diving vessel that anchored throughout three different Caribbean countries in just one week. It was an amazing opportunity and I was really excited to start the new job, so finding out I had gotten pregnant my first few weeks into this new gig was really hard to comprehend at first.

Woman traveling the world
Courtesy of Cassie Botnick

Abortions are illegal in a lot of Caribbean countries. After finding a little pharmacy that sold pregnancy tests and seeing the positive lines, I went to a women’s clinic on the island my boat was docked on, St. Maarten, for an ultrasound. The doctor found a heartbeat, played it out loud, and asked if I’d be giving birth there or in the states. As I walked into that clinic, I knew I had three options: abortion, adoption, or baby. As soon as I heard that heartbeat, I knew my life was about to go down a very different path than I had anticipated. I was about to become a mom.

In my opinion, parenthood is the greatest love story a person could ever tell. The female body growing a human from scratch, birthing them, and being able to watch their growth is magical. Parenthood is also the biggest commitment and greatest achievement one might ever know. I’ve created a lifelong friend.

Single mom holding daughter
Courtesy of Cassie Botnick

My name is Cassie Botnick and my daughter is Luna Botnick. I’m a 29-year-old single mama to my 15-month-old baby. I openly share my parenting style and life with my daughter because I know our story is inspiring. I want other people to feel empowered, to know they can do anything, and to encourage others to advocate for their children.

As a single mother, so many people ask me if single parenthood is hard. For me, it’s all I know. I have no other parenthood experiences of my own to compare it with—so I don’t know if it’s harder or not to do things on my own. What I do know is the bond and love between my daughter and me is pure. I’m going to raise Luna knowing all families are unique and look different.

Baby with globe
Courtesy of Cassie Botnick

Luna will know from the start that family are the people in your life that lift you up and fill your heart with love. In 2021, I think it’s so important to teach our children that families come in all shapes and sizes. Some families have one parent and some have two, some have three, four, or five. A parent can be a mom, dad, step, grand, aunt, uncle, friend, mentor, it doesn’t matter! From single parenthood of 1 mom or one dad to families with two moms or two dads, to one mom and one dad, the combinations are endless. Luna and I are a family of two and together, we are everything.

When I found out I had gotten pregnant abroad, I decided to move back home to New Jersey to start the biggest adventure of my life. My pregnancy wasn’t easy. Luna was intrauterine growth-restricted and didn’t grow as she was supposed to be. I had weekly doctor appointments and was hospitalized a few times before giving birth. I had a scheduled c-section at 37 weeks on April 10th, 2020 and took Luna home, weighing 5 pounds, just 2 days later.

Mom holding baby for the first time
Courtesy of Cassie Botnick

I had never finished my college degree because I started traveling and never looked back. When I was home in New Jersey and pregnant, I decided to finish my degree. In May 2022, I will graduate from Rutgers University with my BA in Journalism and Media Studies. I plan to cross that stage in front of thousands of people hand in hand with my daughter. I took finals nursing her in my arms 2 years in a row, I took pandemic zoom courses from my living room floor while building blocks with my toddler, and it wouldn’t feel right to accept this accomplishment without her by my side.

Mom finishing college with baby
Courtesy of Cassie Botnick

My goal is to work remotely, homeschool Luna and raise her around the world. We want to inspire other families to get out and explore. To go beyond their comfort zone and create their own unique stories. We aspire to see the world and rewrite the stigma of single parenthood. I want Luna to grow up surrounded by different languages and we’ll embrace new cultures together. I imagine us enjoying endless sunsets together, from snowy mountain tops to floating on tubes in the ocean watching the sun fall down between that faint line where the sky meets the sea.

Mom and daughter exploring the beach
Courtesy of Cassie Botnick

Luna is Luna and that’s why we love her. Recently we learned Luna has a cognitive and communicative developmental delay and sensory processing delays, which all may lead to an autism diagnosis. She’s started developmental and occupational therapies through early intervention to help her learn. No diagnosis will change who she is. The reason we label someone like my daughter has been on the autism spectrum is to give her the resources available to her and myself that will help her thrive. To teach me how her brain functions. To understand how she sees the world.

Some people get confused when they learn about Luna’s delays and possible diagnosis. ‘Why do you still seem so happy?’ they’ll ask me, ‘do you still plan on raising her around the world?’

Mom and daughter exploring the world
Courtesy of Cassie Botnick

Why would I not be happy when it comes to my daughter? She’s the love of my life and she’s absolutely perfect. There is nothing wrong with her. She is not sick. She is brilliant and beautiful and the world will learn from her. I absolutely still plan to raise her around the world. Of course, I’ll accommodate her if needed to make sure she always feels comfortable and if she ever asks to stop traveling, we’ll immediately head home. It’s important to know Autism is not necessarily a ‘disability.’ It’s having abilities that some people can’t comprehend. Spreading awareness toward autism is important to me because there is such bad stigma behind it when in reality, the way the autistic brain works is purely magical.

My biggest word of advice when it comes to our children is to have no expectations for them. Be their role model and encourage everything but remember this is their life and we are just a part of their story. Let them decide who they are, what they want to be, and how they want to live. Encourage them, support them, and lay the path out but ultimately don’t have any expectations. I don’t know what Luna’s future will look like—but I know I’ll love it no matter how it plays out.

Mom and daughter on plane trip
Courtesy of Cassie Botnick

Raising Luna around the world will give the world perspective. I share our story because resilience is important to embrace and acceptance is important to advocate. Life will always throw giant hurdles in your way and that’s okay. It’s okay to feel scared and sad sometimes but it’s the way we move forward that really characterizes who we are. Luna and I will be moving forward hand in hand for the rest of our lives. I’ve searched the world for love and she was within me the whole time.

I’ve never wanted to spend my career behind a desk all day and unless my daughter asks, I don’t want her to spend childhood doing the same. I want her to learn with me and I want us to grow together. I want us to climb the highest mountain tops; to see the hieroglyphics, to not just learn about the wonders of the world but see them with our own eyes. We’ll cross the Great Wall and we’ll see why Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Mom and daughter
Courtesy of Cassie Botnick

I want Luna to submerge herself into new cultures, and make new friends with every new passport stamp. I want to show people in the world courage. I want to show them how we teach our kids bravery and kindness. I want to encourage others to practice empathy and to make your dreams a reality. I want to remind you that you have courage and you are brave and you are kind.

The world needs more storytellers, let your greatest love story be one of them.”

Mom and daughter on bench
Courtesy of Cassie Botnick

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Cassie Botnick. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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