I can’t remember exactly how it was I stumbled across the beautiful Elizabeth, but I remember exactly how I felt reading her very first blog. My chest was tight and the tears were falling, while in moments I remember was in complete awe of her strength. Parenting is tough (while also incredibly rewarding) but my hat goes off to single parents. They are a very special kind of super parent! Elizabeth shares, with incredible honesty, her raw account of parenting the gorgeous Ollie while healing a broken heart. I hope you love reading this beautiful Mumma’s story as much as I did!
The phrase “this isn’t how my life was supposed to go” is one I’ve muttered far too many times in the last 18 months.
They were the first words out of my mouth when I stared, mouth agape, totally stunned at two bright pink lines on a pregnancy stick staring back at me.
I was just 25. Happily engaged. A career woman. I’d just landed my dream gig with a major metropolitan TV network after 2 years interstate. My fiancee and I were blissfully in love. But a family was supposed to come later.
As the shock subsided, we realised the little life growing inside me was exactly what we wanted. Our little family of two would soon be three. We were committed to one another, this is what couples do when they’re in love. We quickly fell head over heels for this tiny soul.
I was 7 weeks out from my due date when I started to experience strange cramps in my lower back. I called the hospital, checked in with my obstetrician, and asked my midwife, but everyone thought I was overreacting. “They’re just Braxton Hicks contractions,” I was told, “it’s totally normal.”
I wasn’t convinced, and I was right. One week later my baby boy decided it was time to meet his parents.
My waters broke when I reached the hospital. “You’re officially in labour,” the midwife told me.
Oliver was six weeks early, but the obstetrician and the midwives reassured me he would be fine. He just needed to spend a bit of time in the special care nursery. He was taken from me moments after he was born. My motherly instinct craved my child. But instead, the rotation of midwives were his mum. I would wake at 4am, waddle from my room, place my hands on his back and cry. We were supposed to be bonding, staring into each other’s eyes, learning to breastfeed. I wasn’t supposed to leave the hospital without my baby.
“This isn’t how my life was supposed to go,” I would say as I wandered back to my room, alone.
Thankfully, the greedy guts put on weight like a champion and he was out in 2.5 weeks.
I settled into mum life, or should I say a a drowsy blur of feeding, disrupted sleep, and snapping 423 photos a day of Oliver lying on his rug.
My heart would swell with love every time my fiancee returned home from work each night and held our child. This was my family. I created it. And here it was in all of its imperfect glory. Suddenly, my world made sense. I didn’t care I’d given up on my career. In those moments, I was whole.
As Oliver grew, I didn’t realise so too did the distance between my fiancee and I. Blame it on naivety, but I assumed every couple encountered a speed bump or two during the first year of their first baby’s life. We bickered, but no more than usual. We were exhausted. But yet somehow he found the energy to go out more and more. He was also travelling more. He was absent when he’d return home. I would question him, but I’d get the same answer every time.
Nothing was wrong, he would say. He loved me. What else did I need? I would blame myself. I was just being oversensitive, I would think. I’m sure that’s normal for a new mum. We were a family. We were unbreakable.
That is, until we were. Little did I know, he’d give up on us months earlier. I discovered the deceit late one night. My heart broke. I had poured my heart and soul into this family. And in an instant, the illusion was shattered. There was no way of salvaging this. I had to not only grapple with this crushing betrayal, but the fact I had lost my best friend. I knew I could never look at him the same again. In a matter of seconds, I realised, I didn’t know this man at all.
My heart broke for my son. He was just 8 months old. He had no idea the course of his life had changed forever. Suddenly, I was a single mum. How did that happen? Last night I went to sleep with a family, this morning I woke up in a broken one.
“This wasn’t how my life was supposed to go,” I whimpered as I lay in the spot he left me, unable to cry, my heart too broken. My body too fatigued. My mind too shocked. I was beyond tears.
I wish I could say the path to mending a shattered heart is a predictable one. I wish I could say after that morning, I managed to brush myself off and get on with my life. I wish I could say that I didn’t still miss him. I wish I could say four months on, I’m totally okay.
But sadly, emotional trauma doesn’t work like that. There’s moments where I can feel it swallowing me whole, crushing every last ounce of self-love. There’s times where I think “this could destroy me” as I wonder how I can possibly do this alone.
But then there’s other days, like today, where I had two choices once Oliver was down for his morning nap. I could curl into a ball on the couch and let my thoughts run rampant, consume me, and ultimately control me. But the other option is to peel myself off the couch, put on a load of washing, sit down at my laptop and start writing, reach out to other women, pitch stories to publications, start doing things that enrich my soul, rather than deplete it. So that’s what I did. And half an hour later I already feel a thousand times better than if I’d flicked on the TV, and let my heavy eyes close and drift off to sleep.
Over the last few months I’ve learnt I am stronger than I ever knew. Because you see, from the moment we become mothers, we also become fighters. How else do we survive those early, sleep-deprived nights? Hard, aching, leaking boobs? The delirious-zombie-like state that makes it difficult to decipher whether it’s Wednesday or Sunday, or whether we fed the dog 5 minutes ago or not? This survival instinct means no matter how tough times are, we’re built to withstand the storm. We are wired to – we’re the reason our baby exists and will continue to thrive. We can’t give up. And while that commitment can be exhausting, it’s also what propels us forward. Being a mum is no easy gig. Doing it alone is even harder. But we owe it to ourselves and to our babies to strive to be a better person. To push through the fog threatening to hold us back. To look up and see the rainbow on a rainy day.
Yes, “this wasn’t how my life was supposed to go.” But I wouldn’t take back a second of it for the world. Every step led to where I am today – the mother of the most amazing little boy. This is our story, and it’s exactly how it is supposed to be.