Hi, I’m Courtney, and I was a single parent. A decade ago, I felt so much shame about being a single parent and felt so much societal pressure to act like I never was after I met my husband later on. I raised my daughter, Adilyn, by myself the first 3 1/2 years with no financial support, without any help from her biological father whatsoever, and without any immediate family near me. Looking back all these years later, I know there was no need for me to feel that single parent shame.
I’ve always struggled with the idea of perfection my whole life. Naturally, when I had my daughter, I struggled with the unattainable idea of motherhood perfection. I had grown up in church. It had been ingrained in me that you get married, then have babies. My daughter was NOT planned; she was a completely unexpected birthday surprise. I made the mistake of it being with a friend of mine that ended up showing his true colors as soon as life got real. He wanted me to have an abortion. He said God would forgive him. It just didn’t feel right to me. I felt like this little baby growing inside of me was going to be the greatest gift and greatest responsibility of my life. I was terrified and didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I knew I was going to.
He completely disappeared after I told him I was pregnant. I finally tracked him down and convinced him to come to one ultrasound when I was seven-and-a-half months pregnant. He didn’t show up to the hospital when I had her. My best friend had to threaten him basically to have him show up later that week while I was fighting for my life and our daughter was up in the NICU. He didn’t show up for her first Christmas or even see her again after the hospital until she was four months old. Then, it was sporadic and never reliable after that. My family all moved away when she was seven months old. I didn’t even have them to help me or be there for me.
Countless times, I BEGGED him to even help out with $20, and he wouldn’t. I did surveys and product testing. I couponed my tail off. I served part-time at a restaurant and traded watching other people’s kids. I somehow managed to get her special formula for her lactose issues and the limited breast milk supply I had from all the delivery complications, clothe her, pay for her diapers and wipes (SO MANY DIAPERS AND WIPES!!!!!), and not lose my car or apartment in the process. I figured out how to survive on only $40 worth of groceries for myself per month – A MONTH! $10 worth of groceries and all the free soup and bread I could eat during my shifts at the restaurant.
He didn’t even tell his mother she was a grandmother and that he had a child until she was over TWO YEARS OLD! I had to look up her information in the white pages and threaten to go over there and let her know about her granddaughter before she lost even more precious early moments than she already had because of his cowardice and fear. He finally let his mother meet her. I started going to church with them. I though it was my punishment for having her out of wedlock that I needed to do everything I could to get him to want to be with me, to give her a traditional and cohesive family.
A mentor of mine at the church that was a little older than I and much wiser told me that God wouldn’t punish me for the rest of my life just because I had a daughter without being married. She told me that we’re not always supposed to be with the people we have children with. I respected her, trusted her, and looked up to her. Her words took such a weight off my shoulders I’d been carrying those first couple years as a mother. I allowed myself to forgive myself. I chose to dedicate my life to giving her the best life I could, regardless of what man was in her life – biological or not.
I was free finally. Then, unexpectedly, I met my other half and partner in this life through my father in another state when Ady was three. We didn’t waste time with any of the usual games or nonsense we’d experienced in the past. He loved me, and he loved my daughter. We moved, and I got a fresh start with people that didn’t know me and didn’t know my past. Adilyn looks nothing like her biological father (even though the DNA test says he is!), but she looks completely like she could be my hubby’s for real. Everyone thought she was, and I just let everyone believe it. I didn’t correct them. Even with other moms who were single or divorced, I just felt too much shame to admit I had made terrible choices in life and in men and had raised her by myself for the first three years.
I embraced having a family unit and her having a REAL father finally. She had a real man to look up to and to model what she would one day look for in a partner herself when she grew up. She didn’t even see her biological father again until she was about five after we took him to court and there was court-ordered visitation once a month. Even then, he would drop her at his mom’s and not spend his weekends with her most of the time. It broke my heart for her and only increased the shame I felt at having a baby with that man.
Even after I worked through all of that, the years went by, and she started to grow up, I didn’t realize that I still had friends that didn’t know she had any other father than my husband! How many other moms feel shame over being a single parent or whom they made a baby with? I needed to be brave and bold enough to tell my story – to tell other moms that you are not defined by how you brought your child into this world, whom your partner was, or if you did it with no partner at all. You don’t deserve to live life being punished. You deserve to live life truly LIVING! Your kid(s) deserve to see a mom that embraces life, gives herself grace, and has a lightness about her. You deserve everything good, and so do I. I wish it didn’t take me half my daughter’s childhood to realize this, but I hope my words let you realize it much sooner than I did. Sending lots of love to you, fellow mamas!