“I found myself pregnant for the first time at 23. I was admittedly quite naive. I was the ‘other woman,’ but I believed everything he said about being unloved and unappreciated and mistreated. I’d foolishly thought this baby would bring us together – and it did the opposite. He wanted me to have an abortion, and told me, ‘you’ll ruin my life if you have this baby.’ I said, ‘fine, I’ll do it alone.’ And I did. When my daughter Evie was 2, I got a job driving a school bus and it was an absolute blessing for a single mom. I was always home when she was, I never had to worry about snow days or sick days or vacations, because if she was off, I was off. And this was our life for a long time.
Eventually I started dating again, and when I was 39, I met S. He seemed like almost everything I wanted in a man. He was loyal and fun and loved his family and was eager to include me and Evie into that family. My main issue was that he was quite immature, and in no hurry to grow up. I had hopes that in our time together, he would mature and be a true partner. I came to realize that was not going to happen. He was happy living at home after a breakup and not paying rent and not contributing to his parents’ household. Around that same time, I became pregnant. This was a total surprise. Now, I know how biology works, but with being obese, having PCOS and being ‘advanced maternal age,’ I was convinced I would never have another baby, especially a spontaneous one, though I’d always wanted one. I was thrilled to be pregnant, but also scared. My job as a school bus driver doesn’t offer maternity leave, I had no savings (hello-single mom!) and I couldn’t afford to just not work. The timing was iffy. I was due at the end of summer break, three weeks before school started. I wanted to be able to recover before going back to work. But there was nothing I could do but wait.
When I was 3 months pregnant, S and I were in a situation hanging out with friends where he inadvertently made it clear that he would always choose marijuana over me or our baby. I had stayed with him longer than I intended due to the pregnancy, hoping this would be the catalyst he needed. But now I’d had my limit with his refusal to grow up, and I broke things off. He was hurt and angry. But rather than talk things out and try to come to an agreement about parenting together, he preferred to ignore me 95% of the time, and throw insults at me on social media for the duration of my pregnancy. He came to a few doctor visits, but he was either late, high, both, or just didn’t show up. I eventually told him to just stop coming.
The rest of my pregnancy passed uneventfully. Amazingly, given my age and physical condition, both baby and I were healthy. I did have excess amniotic fluid which enabled her to flip in the 39th week and become breech. I had wanted to deliver naturally as it would be an easier recovery and I was very aware of my limited time before going back to school/work, but with a breech presentation, I had to have a c-section. I was scared, as I’d delivered my first daughter vaginally and nearly 17 years earlier. I didn’t know if I could do this. I was worried about the pain and climbing bus stairs. But I forgot about all that when I heard her first sweet cries. Bellamy was delivered on her due date and I fell in love again, with my first daughter in the operating room with me. We both cried together looking at this little miracle I’d never thought I would have.
My doctor told me I could have up to four days of recovery in the hospital, but could leave earlier if I felt up to it. I wanted to just lay back and revel in being a new mom again, but in the back of my head was a constant nagging worry about money, and going back to work. I had to be healthy and recovered and back on a bus for the first day of school. Otherwise no money would be coming in. Given S’s distance during pregnancy, and leaving for a week vacation across the country when I was 38 weeks pregnant, I assumed he wasn’t as interested as he pretended to be on Facebook, and since I could only have one person in the operating room, I informed him right after I was returned to my room after delivery. He responded with a very cold message, telling me he couldn’t believe I didn’t call and let him be there, and he was as a result going to sign his rights away (which still makes no sense to me), and added, ‘you robbed me of a great moment, never contact me again.’ 2 months later he moved to the other side of the country without ever having seen her. (I’m working on pursuing child support, but that’s another story.)
So it was really official. There would be no co-parenting, I was once again truly a single mom. And though I knew I’d made the right decision in ending our relationship, I had mixed emotions. Mostly humiliation because I felt at my age, I should have better ability in seeing men for who they really are, and also feeling like I’d already failed Bellamy with a single parent household like I’d failed her older sister. I thought I was older now, smarter, more experienced. How can this be happening again almost 17 years later? I’m supposed to know better by now!
I begged my doctor to let me go home as early as I could. I needed to go home and recover ASAP. I had been able to get up and walk and move around. The pain was stronger than I’d expected, but I was pushing through it. My doctor let me go home on day 3. I experienced PPD pretty hard. I had one additional source of support at home, my second mom Darla who had come from Alabama to Connecticut to stay with me while I gave birth and recovered at home. Unfortunately she had to go back to Alabama the day after I got home from the hospital. When she left, I was a wreck. I cried constantly. And on top of that, I was trying desperately to breastfeed but was not having much success. I brought Bellamy to the pediatrician on day 5 and they practically demanded that I start supplementing as she was still losing weight. Great. Another reason to feel like a failure. This was probably my lowest point with her. I was so happy to be a new mom, yet so overwhelmed and in pain and exhausted and sore and feeling like I was failing at everything I was doing.
But little by little, the clouds lifted. I gave up trying to breastfeed and went fully to formula. I was so stressed out and feeling like a failure for not being able to feed her, and she seemed to constantly be crying for food, so I went to formula and didn’t look back. Fed is best. I tried, I truly did. But it didn’t work out. And once I’d taken that off my plate and told myself it wasn’t my fault, the pressure inside my chest eased a little.
My job told me I needed clearance from my doctor to come back earlier than six weeks. I was so nervous to ask the doctor, but he agreed to sign off on me returning to work at 3 and a half weeks. So this was also a big weight off of me: I would be on my bus for the first day of school, earning a paycheck. My older daughter Evie was starting her senior year of high school and liked to ride the bus with me, so she would be available to help Bellamy should she wake and need a bottle while I was driving. Another bright point. I was becoming more able to focus on the good things and leave the negative behind.
We all eventually settled into our routine, and life leveled out and is good now. I always say that my job is really as close as it gets to being a stay at home mom without actually being at home all the time. I work for about 2.5 hours in the morning, then I’m home for 4.5 hours, then I work again for 2.5 hours, and then I’m home for the night. I was able to bring Bellamy on the bus right from day 1. I brought her in her car seat and she rode with me every day. The younger kids loved to take turns sitting with her (after her first set of shots) and still do! Bellamy is now 14 months old and enjoys the bus. She usually snoozes through the first bus run, and wakes up when we get home for our morning break. I had to turn her forward facing early because the bus seats aren’t designed to accommodate a rear facing convertible seat. But a school bus is inherently safer than almost any other vehicle on the road anyway, so I’m not worried.
This job saved me when I had Evie and needed work, and it saved me again with Bellamy. I don’t have to pay for day care, I am always with her. I don’t have to ask family or friends to watch her. When she’s in school I won’t have to worry about snow days or sick days or vacation days. I get to drive all of her field trips. I can spend the entire summer with her. Getting her up early is definitely the worst part of the job, but I get to just turn my head and look at her sweet little face snoozing away in her car seat right behind me, and I’m at peace. Not all moms get to have their baby with them and I do, and I feel so lucky.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Stephanie Post of Connecticut. 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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