You Might Be a Single Mother…

I had worked for my employer since 1996 and I had accumulated a good retirement as well as a beneficial 401k which allowed me to take a year off from work in 2012. Since having my son, life has been a whirlwind.  Being a single mother, life was non-stop, always going somewhere, and doing something.  I didn’t realize how busy my life was until I took off that one year.  I began to think about what makes a single mother.

Taking into consideration for me and my single mother friends, here are some things that are common to single mothers or single parents.

If you are the only parent who has changed your child’s diaper, you might be a single mother.

If you are the only parent who taught your child how to talk, walk and ride a bike, you might be a single mother.

If you are the only parent who shows up for your child’s parent teacher conference, you might be a single mother.

If you are the only one who takes your child to the doctor, or stays home with them when they are sick, you might be a single mother.

If you’re a one income family and you’re the sole provider and protector for your household, you might be a single mother.

If your kids get new clothes (though maybe not in large quantities), while you haven’t bought anything new for yourself in many years, you might be a single mother.

If you shop at second hand stores, you might be a single mother.

If you use coupons, shop sales and sale racks, and buy marked down meats at the grocery store; you might be a single mother.

If you have ever wondered how you were going to pay the bills, you might be a single mother.

If you get paid and your paycheck is already spent on bills, daycare, groceries, lunch money, gas, and you only have $5.00 to last until your next paycheck or zero money or already have a negative balance in your account after just getting paid, you might be a single mother.

If you have ever called a utility company and asked for a payment plan, or an extension, you might be a single mother.

If your phone or your electric has ever been turned off since becoming a parent, you might be a single mother.

If your child hears the ice cream truck and ask you if she can buy an ice cream and you tell her no because you don’t even have one dollar in your purse to give, you might be a single mother.

If your child wants to rent a Redbox movie and you tell him you can’t afford it this week, you might be a single mother.

If you go to a fast food restaurant and tell your child that she can only order from the dollar menu, you might be a single mother.

If you go out with friends and you tell your child beforehand, do not order anything too expensive.  Then get to the restaurant and your child ask you if he can order a menu item that is pricier than the other menu entrees and you give him a dirty look, you might be a single mother.

If you’re going to a friend’s house for a BBQ and they ask if you can pick up some soda’s or chips or deserts and it’s during one of those times when you have spent all your money on the bills listed above but you don’t want to tell your friends that you’re broke, you might be a single mother.

If your pantry and refrigerator are bare, not because you don’t cook at home but because you don’t have enough money to buy groceries for the upcoming week, you might be a single mother.

If you have a thousand ways to use leftovers, you might be a single mother.

If your child asks you if she can eat something before getting it out, because you have told her that the food (cereal, Ramon noodles, Hot Pockets) all cheap single parent foods, needs to last until next payday, you might be a single mother.

If you drive an older car or have no car at all (use public transportation), you might be a single mother.

If you’re coworkers ask you to go out after work for happy hour and you decline because you don’t have a babysitter, nor can afford a babysitter, and you don’t have enough money to buy even one drink for happy hour, you might be a single mother.

If your child gets invited to a birthday party and you don’t have enough money to buy a birthday present, you might be a single mother.

If you have ever made a homemade Halloween costume for your child and tried to get them excited about the creative process because you couldn’t afford to buy a store bought costume, you might be a single mother.

If you’re long overdue for a haircut, not because you don’t want one, but because your child’s needs come before yours, you might be a single mother.

If you feel like you are rushing all the time; get up, get kids ready, make breakfast, drop kids off at school, drive to work, get off work, pick kids up, get home, cook dinner (some of us still do this), clean dishes, take kids to sports or other activities, help with homework, get them ready for bed, and do that for 52 weeks of the year, you might be a single mother.

If you have ever felt stressed and overwhelmed and wondered about your role as a parent, praying to God to help provide for you and your family, you might be a single mother.

If your weekends feel as stressed as your work week; catching up on cleaning, laundry, bills and paper work, and spending time with your kids, you might be a single mother.

If taking a weekend nap or getting pampered with a manicure, pedicure, or a massage is worth more than a million dollars, you might be a single mother.

When your kids go everywhere you go and there’s no such thing as, “Honey, watch the kids while I run to the store real quick,” then you most likely are a single mother.

And if your ex (husband or child’s father) has never gotten up in the middle of the night to feed, change or comfort his crying baby, nor dropped off or picked up his kid at school, nor showed up at his child’s school functions, stage performance or sports game, nor cooked his child a meal, nor helped his child with homework, nor carried his child on his insurance, nor stayed home with his sick child, nor has provided any physical or emotional support to his child or you, no Daddy weekends, monthly or bi-annual visits, and no financial child support, then you are not a single mother, you are a single parent and you ROCK!

Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Single Mother

I injured myself yesterday really bad.  We had some objects and boxes on the floor near the entry way of our apartment that my son and I had gathered the previous night to add some additional garage sale items for the next day.  Jaren’s godfather, Robert had allowed us to bring our stuff to sale in his garage sale.  Jaren had done an excellent job at cleaning out his room which is a really big deal because he likes to hold onto his things.  And I told my son that he could keep the money from my stuff that sold too.  I said, “This is your summer money so make it last.”

I got up in the morning, still sleepy with very little light in the apartment.  I had folded some blankets and walked to the coat closet to put them away.  Just before getting to the closet, I tripped over some of the garage sale items.  I went down hard along with our kitchen counter stool.  I knew I hurt something bad.  I knocked the wind out of myself and the first thing I thought was to tell my son that I was okay.  Because it was such a huge strain to be able to talk at first, it sounded as if I was crying but I wasn’t.  I almost cried though.  The pain was that bad.  I sat there on the floor for a few minutes, unable to get up at first.

When I was able to stand up, I knew I did some damage.  For one, my pinky toe that I previously broke a few years back had that same kind of pain so I was pretty sure I broke it again.  But that’s not what really concerned me.  It was my ribs on my left side that were throbbing.  I had a lot of pain.  Any movement was very difficult and painful.  At the same time, in the back of my mind, I knew my son was counting on me to help him with the garage sale.

Jaren and his godfather started selling on Friday while I was at work.  Sometime around lunch, Robert had gotten really sick.  He wasn’t sure if it was the flu, food poisoning or what.  Jaren took over selling for the rest of the day on Friday.  I picked up Jaren Friday night and helped him pack up and place all the sale items back in the garage for the next day.

With Jaren’s godfather out of commission, I knew Jaren needed my help on Saturday.  So I tried as best I could to put on my big girl face and push through the pain.   I told my son that I would help him get set up for the garage sale but that I also may need to leave at some point to go to the emergency room for x-rays.  Jaren understood.

We loaded the car and I drove us over to Robert’s house.  Robert was still very sick and bed ridden.  Luckily, Jaren’s godfather has two roommates and they were able to help Jaren carry the larger stuff (TV, etc) onto the front lawn.  I helped with the smaller boxes.  We got tables set up and organized.  I waited to see if the pain would subside or go away but it didn’t.  I was hoping it would.  We were trying to make money, not spend money.  But every time I reached down, sat down, or got up the pain would shoot into my side.  Not to mention walking around with my broken toe.

Here I had been without insurance for over a year.  During that time, I tried very hard to stay healthy and with God’s help, I was.  No illnesses, no flu, no injuries.  My insurance kicked in May 10th 2014 and a month later, bam!

I shouldn’t complain.  Thank goodness this occurred after I had insurance.

About four hours into the garage sale with my pain no less painful, I opted to go to CareNow Urgent Care.  They’re like doctors’ offices and ER’s combined.  They are open on the weekends, they have X-ray equipment, and the co-pay is much cheaper than the ER; mines was $35.00.  And the best part is you can do Web Check-ins which means you check-in online.  After you check-in, they call you to confirm your appointment and your illness/injury.  Then they ask you about how far away you are from the office.  This is so they will know when to call you to come in so that you don’t have to wait as long in the waiting room.

After reviewing the X-rays, CareNow confirmed that I had a broken toe.  They also said that I had a rib contusion.  The doctor said that a contusion is equally as painful as a fractured rib and the treatment is the same.  She gave me a wrap for my ribs and prescribed two pain meds.  The doctor said she had prescribed Ibuprofen, 800 mg and then said she also prescribed a narcotic.  I was like, “narcotic.”  I knew it was something serious for them to prescribe that kind of pain medicine.  I guess they knew something that I didn’t know at that point.  As with most injuries, breaks or bruises, if I hurt this bad on the first day, the next day would surely double my pain.  Since I was driving, I was unable to take the narcotic pain medicine so I took one Ibuprofen which did reduce some pain.  Especially, considering I had spent five to six hours moving around, lifting boxes, setting up for a garage sale, walking around, waiting on customers, any pain relief was better than no pain relief.

So I get back to the garage sale and share my diagnosis with Jaren, Robert and his roommates.  I sat down outside with Jaren as he finished up with the garage sale.  Then, just before cleaning up, we sat on the front porch for a moment, gazing at a most beautiful tree across the street. We’ve admired this tree in the past.  Jaren mentioned how healing it was to watch the tree so much so that it inspired him to write a meditation for a lesson he was doing for his Sunday school class the next day.  We both agreed that the tree seemed to be nurturing and comforting, almost mother-like.

Then it was time to close down the garage sale and we both were less than enthusiastic about packing up the remaining items and moving them into the garage.  Jaren was both hot and tired.  I was hot, tired, injured and in still in pain.  As we were packing up, I was making requests or suggestions which Jaren was not happy about.  Okay, maybe I was barking orders a little.  We both bickered at each other and I felt unappreciated.  Despite my injury, I was helping him as best I could.  Whether it was the meds, the long day, the pain, I’m not sure but I began to have an emotional  breakdown.  I reminded Jaren of my injury and that per doctors’ orders, I wasn’t supposed to be lifting anything.  Technically, I should have been sitting or laying down, healing.  I also reminded him that I was not benefitting financially from this garage sale in no way.  I was providing merchandise and free labor service.

It was not a shining moment for either of us.   In the midst of our argument, Jaren’s god father could hear us and came out to intervene.  Calmly, he mediated our conversation and diffused our anger and frustration.  Then he thanked us dearly for all we both had done.

Later that evening, Jaren humbly apologized to me.

Today, I dropped off my son to spend Father’s Day with his father.  Tomorrow is another day…

 

Mother’s Day Prayer

Written by my son…

 

PRAYER:  Father-Mother God, this Sunday may we bless all the mothers in this world; for the things they give up and give us, for everything they do to better their children no matter the circumstance.  Let mothers feel the joy that they bring to the world, and to others.  Show them the endless love that everyone feels for them and wrap them in warmth and bliss.  Let us realize there is good in every circumstance, and positivity in every cause.  It’s not the end if we don’t feel true inner happiness.  Nothing in our life happens without reason and it’s apart of divine order.  Guide us and let us be whole.  Amen

Dear Unexpected Pregnant Woman

First, let me say how sorry I am that you are going through this experience.  I truly do understand.  Having an unplanned/unexpected pregnancy can sometimes be distressing with uncertainty; and possibly even more so in your tender teenage years.

I have made three different choices.  I have chosen to abort, I have chosen to single parent, and I have chosen to relinquish my parental rights.  Speaking from my own personal experience, all of these choices come with some sort of consequence.  As for your choices, I don’t want to persuade you one way or the other but I will share some of what I have learned and give you some things to consider.

If you are considering having an abortion, I do support a woman’s choice to abort for whatever her reasons are.  Women react differently to abortions, while going through the procedure and in the days and months following the procedure so I am not sure I could give you much more information that is not already available online.  But you should do what you feel you need to do to move forward in your life.

As for the choice to parent or relinquish, there are many factors to consider.  Here is a list of questions that you may want to answer to help with your choice and plan for the future:

  • Is the father of your child supporting you?
  • Is your family supporting you?
  • Does the father want to help raise this child with you as a couple or as two single parents/co-parents?
  • Is his family being supportive?

Having some sort of support system will benefit you (and your baby) greatly especially if you are still in school.

As for the adoption choice, if you feel you are unable to parent your child and are not being pressured or coerced by loved ones to make this choice, then review the various adoption plans closely and do what you feel in your heart is best.  I do believe that some adoption choices are necessary.  However, know that a richer/wealthier life for the child does not mean a better life for the child.  This is what I hear from adult adoptees all the time.  Love and security are the most important things a child needs.  I chose an open adoption.  For me, that has helped in many ways.  Know that the emotional pain from relinquishing your parental rights can be overwhelming at times.  It’s not impossible to heal but healing after your child leaves your womb and your arms can take a long time, sometimes a lifetime.

If you decide to parent your child, please honor that choice.  Make your child your priority.  A child should never feel like you gave up your life because you got pregnant.  What I am trying to say is, don’t place shame or guilt on your child for showing up unexpectedly or that you had to give up your dreams so you could parent him/her.  Nor should a child need to be unnaturally grateful that you decided to keep him and parent him.  As I said previously, having a good support system is beneficial but many of us have done the single parenting thing alone without our partner or family.  Nothing is impossible if you believe in what you are doing.  Also, don’t be afraid to ask for public/government assistance.

I truly hope that your loved ones are supporting you during this time.  But more importantly, I hope you understand that this is your decision about your body, your baby, and your life.  Do not allow anyone to tell you what is best for you.

I know you have a lot to consider.  And I trust that you will make the best choice for you.  Sending you much needed blessings and prayers, asking God to guide you in this choice, and wishing you all the best as you move forward in your life.

The Birthday/Anniversary Blues, Life After Relinquishment

At my last Birthmother’s Support group meeting, one of the birthmoms was discussing how she handles the anniversary of her relinquishment, AKA her child’s birthday.  The counselor, after listening to some of the other women confess their emotional trauma, looks over to me, curls her mouth slightly, and says, “How about you, Karen?  How do you handle the anniversary of your son’s birthday?”

I didn’t have a birthmother’s support group to attend fouteen years ago and the adoption agency never offered me counseling or seemed to care how I handled my parental relinquishment or the loss of my son.  I remember calling “my” adoption agency shortly after my mother left for home.  I spoke with my counselor and told her I thought I needed to set up a meeting to talk about my feelings.  Her response, “You think you need counseling (in a very surprised tone)?  I told her no, maybe not.  I never felt so used in my life.  It was like having sex with a man and then calling him the next day only to hear him make comments that sound like, “What are you calling me for.  I already got what I needed from you.  Now go on about your merry way and don’t bother me (us) again.”

Truth is, I assumed that I handled my relinquishment anniversary very well.  With Noah’s birthday being so close to Christmas, it seemed to me that I was more fortunate because people are generally friendlier, more giving, and more loving all of which somehow helped me to stay focused on the happy rather than the sad.  It’s also a busy time with shopping, decorating, and celebrating.  Staying busy can keep a person’s mind preoccupied.  It’s when our brain idles that our thoughts can invade our mind and linger on until we are left with hopeless despair and shameful guilt.

On the other hand, I knew that something happened to me during this time but I couldn’t really put my finger on it.  It wasn’t until years later that I realized what was happening.  I was reliving the experience, unconsciously, over in my mind.  I would learn later that it’s a real trauma symptom that many birthmothers experience.  And for me, it seemed to get stronger a week or so after Noah’s birthday.  Maybe that’s because I was Noah’s mom for the first week of his life and for his very first Christmas.  Noah didn’t leave me until a few days after Christmas.

For some reason, this year seemed to be much harder for me to maintain my emotional balance than previous years.  I would tear up at work, in the car, and at home for no apparent reason.  It seemed like every minute of every day I had to fight back my tears.  And it was a battle that I was seriously loosing.  I didn’t understand why I was so emotional.  And then it dawned on me.

The previous two years, Jaren and I drove up to stay with Noah and his family during the Christmas holiday.  Both times, we visited a couple days after Christmas (during my trauma period).  Jaren and I always enjoyed this trip.  Our families joined together and the missing pieces of the puzzle were all together again.  And just maybe this togetherness helped me by reconnecting with Noah again.

Seeing both of my sons together, face to face, playing, laughing and talking is the best medicine any mother could have.

The Best Date of My Life

At fifty years of age, you might say I’ve been on a few dates in my life.  Some were good dates, and some….well let’s just say I wasn’t eagerly waiting by the phone.  I can’t say that I remember having a really bad date; or for that matter, a really great date.  In fact, most of them escape my memory.  That is, until the day my five year old son, Jaren, asked me if he and I could go on a date together.

I wish I could remember how exactly Jaren asked me.

At first, I didn’t take Jaren seriously.  I thought the idea would fade but surprisingly, it didn’t.  It seemed like this was very important to him.  How could I refuse such a lovely offer to go on a special date with my son?  I couldn’t. So Jaren and I began to discuss how and where we could have our special date.  Jaren has always had a strong personality and likes to be in charge.  I put on my thinking cap.  I mean, he was only five.  We decided to have our date at our condo later in the week.  I allowed Jaren to plan most of the evening.

The morning of our “special date night”, we got ready for school and work.  Jaren reminded me, “Don’t forget about our date tonight, Momma?”  I assured him that I wouldn’t.

Later that evening, I helped Jaren get dinner ready and set the table.  We got out the good dishes, along with wine glasses and my cloth embroidered napkins, all at the request of my son.  We also set a candle on the table.  On the menu was Tyson chicken nuggets and french fries.  Since Jaren insisted on preparing our meal, I needed to make it as safe and easy as possible, with my supervision, of course.

Jaren also insisted on picking out my outfit for our date.  He had a dress code in mind.  It had to be fancy!   I waited downstairs while Jaren picked out my clothes and then laid them on my bed.  As Jaren strolled down to his bedroom to get ready, I put on my long silver shimmery skirt, an elegant blouse and high heel shoes.  I fixed my hair and make-up and waited at my bedroom door.   Jaren arrived a few moments later wearing his black dress slacks, a white long sleeve collar shirt and a red clip-on tie.  I told him how handsome he looked.  He smiled, returned a compliment, took my hand and escorted me downstairs to the dining room.

We gathered our food and the Kool-Aid (we’ll just pretend it is wine for now), and sat down.  I lit the candle.  Jaren turned on some soft music and then…we prayed.  For the first time, my son was not a five year old boy.  He was a mature, engaging young man.  He ate his food with such grace and etiquette.  I thought, “This is not my child.”

After we finished our meal, Jaren asked me to dance.  We slowed danced and he carefully dipped me at the end.  Afterwards, Jaren escorted me to my room and I thanked him for a lovely evening as I kissed him on his cheek.

My son is fifteen years old now and we have not gone on any dates since then.  But I will always remember our special date.  That night, my son showed me how a woman should be treated on a date, the kind of respect a woman deserves and the kind of love a woman deserves.   I felt beholden to Jaren.  That truly was the best date of my life.

Mary, The Unexpected Mother

The Madonna in Sorrow

The Madonna in Sorrow (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I often think about Mary, mother of Jesus, and how she might have felt when she learned of her pregnancy. It was a little different back then. In modern times, we have a blood test or a pregnancy kit to help us decide the fate of our future. Mary had an angel. However, even with that, hearing it and knowing it are two very different things.

When God chose Mary, she was a single woman. I find this to be interesting. Why did God choose an unmarried woman? Some may say that God needed a virgin. Well, if this is true, God could have chosen any virgin bride to conceive the prince of peace, right? Nothing is impossible for God. He is the great creator. If God needed Mary specifically, why not wait until Mary’s wedding night? Mary was already promised to Joseph. So I still ask myself, why God chose Mary, an unmarried virgin.

Did you know that Mary is considered to be one of the most righteous women in the Islamic tradition? And she is mentioned more in the Quran than in the New Testament? This historical fact is also very interesting to me. She must have been an amazing woman. God thought so; Joseph thought so, and her family must have thought so. Furthermore, I believe that Jesus thought so. And when the writers were keeping their records for the Bible and the Quran, they apparently thought so as well.

I have come to the conclusion that Mary must have been very special. I sometimes wonder what it was about her that God loved so much. What did Mary possess within her that the other virgins or women did not? Of all the women in the world at that time, God chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus. What made Mary different? She must have had some unique inner quality that God saw, right? Maybe it was her faith or maybe it was her inner strength? God knew the task He was placing on Mary was going to be one of her most important and challenging roles as a human being and as a mother. God knew that Mary would be faced with opposition and disbelieving antagonists. Can you even imagine?

I wonder how I would react if God sent an angel to descend upon me. How would I feel knowing I was carrying a child that would be known as the Son of God? How do you parent this child? How do you explain to your child his conception? How do you prepare this child for what is ahead or expected? How do you encourage him to make a new path, to see a new vision, to listen to a higher voice and to teach a new lesson? And upon doing that, your child leaves home to become the master teacher, sharing God’s message, leading by example and you breathe a sigh of relief only to witness your child’s fate, his prosecution and his sacrifice.

Yes, Mary had a great task placed upon her. But God must have known she was up for the challenge.

As mothers, we have all been given a gift. No, they may not have been conceived through an immaculate conception but they are still one of God’s creations, a gift of the most high, a spiritual being with unlimited possibilities. As mother’s we have been called to grow and nurture mystical souls that came through us or came to us.

Don’t be afraid of what lies ahead of you. Be strong and courageous but most of all, be faithful. Know that God has a purpose for you and your child. Whether you’re a married mother, single mother, birth mother, adoptive mother, step mother, foster mother or a widowed mother, God chose you, of all the women in the world, to be the mother of one of His tender souls. You must be very special!

Happy Mother’s Day!

TO MY BIRTH MOTHERS

Last month, I went to my very first birth mother’s support group meeting.  It’s hard to believe it’s been thirteen years since I placed my son, Noah, for adoption.  My life was much different back then than it is today.  Not in ways one might imagine.  I mean, I’m still single, I still live in an apartment and I drive a ten year old Toyota.  But emotionally, I’m a different person today than I was thirteen years ago.

When I discovered I was expecting Noah, I was already a working single parent of my twelve month old son, Jaren.  This new pregnancy was unsettling to say the least.  I was very aware of the backlash I would get from my son’s father (who by the way was Jaren’s father), and my family, and friends, and co-workers.  To my despair, my greatest fear was realized when I confronted my son’s father and confessed to my family.

My first instinct was to hide this pregnancy from the general population and have an abortion.  I had had an abortion previously and I knew what to expect.  And my son’s father requested for me to have an abortion and even provided the funds to help guarantee his request.  But for some reason, when the day came for the abortion, I couldn’t go through with it.  I don’t know why.  Maybe because I had gone through the experience of growing a child inside me and giving birth to a heavenly human being, it somehow changed me.  For whatever reason, I decided to carry this new baby inside me and place him for adoption.  However, I would not be emotionally prepared for what was about to occur next in my life.

Any woman who has ever been pregnant knows our emotions are in a bi-polar stage as our body and hormones go through a variety of changes.  Add the fact that I was a single mom, no supportive partner or family, and then having to face the facts that I may need to let go of my baby boy once he is no longer attached to me would discharge any human’s beings emotional state off the charts.  Luckily, I was drug free because if not, it would have been very easy to escape into some kind of comatose reality.

After Noah was adopted, I went into a deep depression.  My eyes fought back tears daily, my face lay heavily on my skull and the mere sound of laughter sounded like hyena’s cackling.  Subliminally, I was thinking, “How can they laugh when I am hurting so much inside?

It seemed everyone around me was enjoying life but I was stuck; stuck in a world that no longer existed.

Now, thirteen years later, sitting in that meeting room, I realized I am in a much better place today, at least emotionally.  You see, I recognized the sadness that penetrated these birth mother’s eyes, I felt the sorrow they were trying to hide and I understood the heartache that drenched their body.  All those emotions lay heavily on the birth mother and we want so much to ring it all out of our body like a wet rag but we can’t.  We’re trapped in this state of helplessness.  We’ve been stripped to our core and our weakness is exposed and we become vulnerable to any attack that is thrown at us.  We are at the mercy of our choice and sometimes, our regret.

No, I didn’t know these birth mothers personally, but I already knew their emotions and their heart.  I know who they are.  They are amazing women who were forced to make decisions under turbulent conditions.  They are women who were willing to risk their reputation and public judgment for their sacrifice.  They are women who helped other women become mothers so they could experience motherhood through the generosity of a birth mother.

I wish I had a magic wand to erase all the birth mother’s sorrow but I don’t and I can’t.  And even though we share this experience, I know that each birth mother needs to grieve the loss of her child under her terms and in her own special way.  In the end, I hope my support and seeing me at thirteen years out, that these birth mothers could see that I am still standing and I continue to heal every day, and my quality of life continues to increase.

Life after adoption is not the end of a birth mother’s story.  But rather, a new life emerges, new chapters begin and our stories continue.  It’s a story of love, strength, perseverance and faith.  And hopefully, one day when her child is fully grown into adulthood, it will be a story of thanksgiving.  Thanks be to God.