Pregnant and Alone: Finding SupportAmy Bell
Between the morning sickness, the hormonal roller coaster, the countless doctor appointments, and the numerous preparations for the coming baby, pregnancy can be a tremendously stressful time. It can also be a beautiful and exciting experience for a husband and wife to share; yet, many women don’t have partners to hold their hands through the ups and downs of pregnancy and delivery.
Each year, more than a million women experience pregnancy alone. Some are single women who have chosen to have a child on their own through artificial insemination or another method. Countless pregnant women are geographically separated from their spouses, often because their husbands have been deployed with the military or work away from home. And some women must go through pregnancy alone as a result of death or divorce—or because the father-to-be simply does not want to be involved. Regardless of each unique situation, these women all face what may feel at times like an overwhelming task—to undergo pregnancy, labor, and parenting without a partner.
If you are one of these women, you may feel yourself dealing with uncertainties and unanswered questions. Who will help me prepare my nursery? Who will take me to the hospital when I go into labor? Who will stand at my side to savor the incredible birth of my child? Who will help me care for my newborn when I am utterly exhausted? Yet you don’t need to throw up your hands and take the entire burden upon yourself, simply accepting that you will be forced to tackle pregnancy and labor with no support. The truth is, you don’t have to do it alone—and according to Tampa-based mental health counselor, Chip Weiner (LMHC, CEAP, SAP), you shouldn’t even attempt to go through pregnancy alone. “Your attitude and mental state can have an effect on the health of your unborn baby,” Weiner explains. “If you are feeling lonely or going through an emotional time, your baby will have the same experiences.”
Building a Network
Regardless of the particular circumstances that have placed you in this situation, you can find someone to depend on throughout your pregnancy. According to Linda Peterman, a licensed mental health counselor in Tampa, Florida, pregnant women without a partner should develop a support system. “You need to ask yourself who is going to support you through this. Do you have family in close proximity who you are close to and comfortable with? Do you have good friends who you can rely on, talk to, and spend time with?”
Peterman says that if you do have reliable, compassionate family members or friends nearby, lean on them during your pregnancy. Truly good friends and loving relatives will be more than willing to offer you the support you need through this demanding time. But be sure to choose someone you completely trust—a friend or relative who makes you feel comfortable and at ease. After all, your supporter will be experiencing extremely personal, private moments with you, such as attending child birthing classes, standing at your side during doctor appointments, and holding your hand through delivery.
Unfortunately, many women do not have the luxury of living near reliable, devoted friends or relatives. In this case, Peterman suggests seeking out a midwife. Midwives are professionally trained women who care for pregnant women through all stages of pregnancy. A midwife can assist you with prenatal care, childbirth, and postpartum care.
Alternatively, a doula can also be an excellent source of support for you throughout your pregnancy and childbirth. While not medical professionals, doulas provide both emotional and physical support to pregnant women, offering everything from massages and coping techniques to aromatherapy and constant reassurance.
Knowledge can be empowering and comforting. See if your local hospital offers support groups for pregnant women. Many hospitals and healthcare facilities have not only birthing classes, but parenting classes as well. Peterman says that these classes and groups provide the perfect opportunity to meet other women who are in a situation very similar to yours. You may make some wonderful new friends for you and your baby-to-be.
Additionally, the Internet provides support right at your fingertips. You’ll find message boards and chats with due date clubs, a single parent support group, and numerous pregnancy-related features where you can connect with others. There are innumerable women out there without a husband or boyfriend to support them through pregnancy, and oftentimes the greatest encouragement will come from women who share your situation.
When He Can’t Be There
There are many pregnant women who have a supportive partner, but because the couple is geographically separated they are unable to share the pregnancy experience. Weiner says that although there is simply no replacement for a father or husband, “a supplement is better than nothing.” He explains that while it’s critical to build a support system at home, you should involve your husband or the baby’s father as much as possible throughout the pregnancy. Try giving him pregnancy updates over the phone, through mail, or email. You could even ask a friend to videotape the birth so that your partner may experience it secondhand.
Peterman points out that, “there is so much modern technology these days. You should take advantage of this technology to share the pregnancy with your partner—email pictures of yourself to him as you grow or send him sonograms. This allows you to share the joys of pregnancy with him while also making him a part of the experience.”
Additionally, pregnant spouses of servicemen can look into services such as Operation Special Delivery and Operation Doula Care. These organizations provide volunteer doulas who donate their services during wartime to women who are giving birth while their partners are on military deployment. These services are extended to all branches of the United States military including families of those in the reserves and National Guard.
Times of Trouble
If you can’t seem to develop some sort of support system, or if you begin having a particularly difficult time dealing with being pregnant and alone, you should seek out professional help. “If you are really struggling, having a hard time coping or begin to have anxiety attacks, go see a mental health professional,” Peterman stresses. “You don’t want these kind of symptoms going on for too long because it’s not good for you or the baby.”
Peterman says that you may be falling into a deep depression if you notice that you’re losing all motivation, if it becomes a struggle to simply get out of bed and take a shower, if you lose your appetite or if you can’t sleep. She urges women to seek out counseling at the onset of these signs. “When you’re pregnant, you’re already going through so many hormonal changes, but depression can make these symptoms so much worse.”
Above all, remember that you do not have to go through pregnancy by yourself. With the countless options available to pregnant women today, there is no reason for you to feel alone. And don’t forget to enjoy your pregnancy! Remember, you are bringing an innocent new life into this world—a child who will doubtlessly fill your days with delight.