Today I introduce you to our second Supermommy. If you haven’t heard about the Surrounded by Supermommies series, you should probably pop over here quickly, before grabbing your coffee and settling in for a read.
There are so many women out there in abusive, destructive relationships. Women who stay out of fear – fear of being alone, fear of letting people down, fear of not being able to provide for themselves, and fear that somehow this is all that they deserve.
When there are children involved it becomes even more complicated; because every single mother out there wants the very best for their children. And so many believe that it is always best for their children to be together. And the fear that comes with having children, as all of us mommies know, can be all-consuming – fear for their safety, fear of losing them, fear of messing them up, fear that we can’t protect them.
Abuse is not only physical violence – it can be verbal and emotional too. If your partner is yelling and screaming at you, insulting you, belittling you, humiliating you, threatening you or those you love, monitoring every move you make, telling you who you can and can’t see, telling you what you can and can’t wear, blaming you for their own behaviour, or threatening self harm to keep you “in line” – you are in an abusive relationship. They need help and you need to get out until they do.
The world is full of single moms; and there are a hundred different ways they get to be single parent. Being a single parent, raising your babies without a partner to share in all the challenges and joys, has to be one of the most difficult things in the world. I cannot begin to wrap my head around it. I can barely manage with my husband there for me. And yet so many moms out there are doing it and raising the most amazing, self-assured, happy, healthy, balanced kids. They are the strongest of the strong to my mind.
Today’s story belongs to Lindsay, a single mommy, who overcame her fear and chose to get out of a destructive relationship to protect her unborn child. She accepted the helping hands offered to her and stepped into the unknown; she dealt with overwhelming heartbreak, anger, and loss; she re-evaluated her whole life; she found herself and her trust and has even found love again. Lindsay is proof that you can do it; you can escape, you can recover, you can start over.
I met Lindsay through a mutual friend, who has since passed, when we were both pregnant. We have stayed in touch ever since and I have watched her blossom and come into her own while raising the most adorable and sweet-natured little girl.
This is her story.
Lindsay met her baby’s father when she was 23 years old. He had a long history of drug abuse that often recurred during their 3 year relationship, which was volatile and filled with fights, insecurities and breakups.
At the beginning of 2013, Lindsay had managed to break free from him, she felt sure, for the last time. She had just moved into a gorgeous new home with a close friend; and after two years of slogging it out in jewelery retail she was offered a promotion that would have been a serious career move. She had just turned 26 and she had a fresh start ahead of her.
In April 2013, Lindsay realised she was pregnant. Her family rallied around her and they decided that the first step was to get some legal advice on where she stood as a single mom, unattached to the father.
In her own words
I was scared and unsure how to move forward; so I did what anyone would, I went to see my my mom. She hugged me as I broke down and told me that WE were going to have this baby and WE were going to raise it; and my stepfather confirmed this as well on being told.
There is nothing cut and dry or straight forward about South African Law. It soon became clear, that there was no circumstance where the father could be excluded from the baby’s life. The lawyer’s exact words were, ‘I dealt with a convicted paedophile behind bars who still had access and visiting rights to his children.
I realised I had to tell the father. After endless arguing, screaming and crying, we decided that we had loved each other at some stage and we were going to commit to getting back to that point for the sake of the baby. We went to therapy and went about trying to heal our relationship issues and preparing our lives for the baby.
Lindsay enjoyed the pregnancy itself. Very early pregnancy brought fatigue and ‘morning’ sickness and at the end she struggled with sleeping and lower back pain; but overall she loved the feeling of being pregnant.
In her own words
I went into it not knowing what to expect; I found the bodily changes difficult to adjust to – not fitting into clothing, constant discomfort towards the end, not being able to sleep on my back or tummy.
But knowing I was growing a human inside of me… There are no words to describe your own child’s heartbeat, or watching them move on the screen. Looking back, those were my most precious times; all the issues were shut out of that doctors office and it was just me and my baby. I clearly remember finding out I was carrying a girl and this overwhelming feeling of instinctive love for her.
Pregnancy is a beautiful journey; it doesn’t stop your life from continuing.
And life continued
After having to turn down her big promotion and telling them she was pregnant, she was told she wouldn’t be paid during her maternity leave. Panicked and afraid, Lindsay went into planning mode. She opened an account in the baby’s name and started saving every penny she earned. With her brother’s help, she created a budget of what everything would cost and started aiming for that goal. She also sat with the father and went through it all, agreeing they would both save and split the costs equally.
Counselling was not going well, with a lot of blame and very little resolution; but Lindsay kept hoping that they would find a way to be a family. When her parents tried to get an answer as to their future plans, he “joked” with her mother that he would marry her after she lost the baby weight.
At 32 weeks pregnant, things got worse. What began as a screaming match, escalated into physical shoving with Lindsay lying on the paving outside the house, alone, with intense pain and cramping. Although he quickly returned apologising and begging forgiveness, she finally realised the abusive state of their relationship. The next morning she called her parents and moved home.
She had not completely cut him off though; they continued talking and he kept expressing his love and hope for their future. At 37 weeks pregnant, she agreed to meet him at his home to talk. And she came face to face with the reality that things were not going to change. She met his girlfriend of four months.
In her own words
The poor girl had no idea what she had stumbled into, having been told that a crazy ex was claiming falsely to be pregnant with his child and had been stalking him for months. The night that our fight had turned physical had been the other girl’s birthday, and he told her that I had faked labour.
I finally told him it was over and knew in my bones it was. I told him to never contact me again and he told me he didn’t want anything to do with me or Olivia. I left, and within minutes I had messages saying he was going to commit suicide. I drove far, far away from him. I didn’t tell anybody.
I knew if I told people, it would turn into a nightmare. My daughter was due soon and I didn’t want her being born into such a toxic space. The only person I told was my gynae. I cried in his arms in his office; he had to test me for STD’s and I had to have an HIV test because of what me and our unborn child had been exposed to. I never imagined that my first child would be born under these circumstances.
He had been so intimately familiar with each of my insecurities and knew exactly how to tap into them and then make me feel like he was the only one who could make me feel better. Years of this cycle had left me completely emotionally dependent on him.
I tried everything to make it work; I gave him every chance. I thought being a family was what was best for my baby; as soon as I accepted that being free of him was what was really best for her, the decision became easy.
Against her family’s wishes, Lindsay agreed that the father could be in the room when their daughter was born. She was booked in for a C-section on 25 November 2013.
In her own words
That was the day that I learnt what true love was. Olivia was born at 8:55am. She was perfect and it was the best day of my life. Nothing that I had been put through could take away the love, happiness and joy I experienced in receiving Olivia into my life. Everything that had happened was distant and unimportant.
Having him there made no difference to me at that point. I was completely focused on welcoming this new life into my world. He cried when she was born. He held her for a while after she had her first cuddles with me, and then he just sat quietly in the maternity ward while people visited.
Olivia was so loved by everybody from the day she was born, she had this shock of black hair and these bright blue eyes. The nurses at the hospital called me the independent mom; I’m not really sure why, but I assume it’s because I was up and about the day after my caesar and I insisted they showed me how to bathe and care for her from day one.
When it came time to leave and bills needed to be paid, I discovered the father had saved nothing and had nothing to contribute. It barely surprised me.
Into the unknown
She went home with her family and the reality of a newborn baby began to set in. Olivia left the hospital slightly jaundiced, she woke every hour and a half to feed and she wasn’t a big sleeper. She was a mommy’s girl and would cry unless it was Lindsay holding her.
In her own words
The nights were long on my own and I began to realise how sleep deprivation can be used as torture. After five days of barely any sleep, my mom stepped in and would take Olivia for a few hours in the morning so I could crash.
My parents helped me every day. The bond that my mom and I have formed over raising Olivia together is undeniable; between the feeding, the bathing, the putting down for naps, the tea making, the entire ordeal – it has been one of the most precious times in our relationship. My father has given me an abundance of love, support and advice, and he and Olivia share the most special bond.
2014 was a very positive year for Lindsay. She reconnected on a much deeper level with her parents, siblings and friends. She learnt a lot about herself and grew into motherhood. She went for counselling, which she credits with turning her life around.
Olivia’s father on the other hand was evicted from his home, went back onto drugs, was accused of destruction of property and theft, and then his job was threatened unless he went into Narcotics Anonymous. He moved in with his parents and his life improved; he made a general apology on Facebook for his bad decisions and tagged her in it. Sadly, it didn’t last and he soon moved out of his parents home. Even so, he requested and was granted 2 hours of supervised access to Olivia per week.
In her own words
Although there were some painfully hard moments of single parenting, it has been the most special time of my life. I have the most incredible parents who have been endlessly loving and supportive. My counsellor was my rock; I learnt so much about who I was, what I wanted in life and where I wanted to be. My relationship with myself improved. I look back and feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude and what a true blessing life is.
I find Olivia’s father’s visits to be annoying and frustrating. There were times he showed up smelling of alcohol, he called Olivia by the wrong name, he constantly made verbal jabs at me, and he would leave when she became niggly or cried. He stopped the NA meetings, and lost his job due to three positive drug tests. He has no job, no car and feels like the world owes him something.
I have really struggled with South African law over issues such as parental rights and responsibilities. Surely, with having the right to seeing your child follows the responsibility of paying maintenance? That is not the case here, he has made small gestures here and there but nothing formal. I finally approached the maintenance court in February for a maintenance agreement to be drawn up; we are now in July and I am still awaiting for our next court date in August. In the end, I begin to wonder if it’s worth the effort and fight, as the maintenance court doesn’t seem fazed about his lack of financial responsibility for 18 months. It appalls me that this man is happy to demand visitation rights but finds it unfair that he is expected to contribute towards his child.
Being a single parent
Every single parent faces different challenges in doing things alone. For some it’s the day to day routine; for others it’s the stress of making ends meet or the responsibility of making all the decisions for their children, and there can be a lot of loneliness, with too little time to have a social life, never mind a love life.
In her own words
I choose to be around the people that treat me with respect and no differently to any other mom. I have chosen to be a single mom; I don’t like being treated with pity and I feel single moms should be treated with more respect, not less, because of their status. I am the head of my family, I am the decision maker and as long as those decisions are good choices for my child, your opinions will get a ‘smile and wave’ attitude from me.
Being a single mom gives you something too. There is a huge sense of achievement and pride in knowing you can do it ALL! Knowing you have got through a day, let alone a year, of breastfeeding, burping, vomiting, bathing, nappy changes, temperatures, doctors visits, vaccinations, medicines, bum rashes, tantrums, Barney, Teletubbies, food throwing, hair washing… Those moments where you look at life and just know everything will work out perfectly.
Taking responsibility for my decisions in life and owning and understanding my part in everything was my first step to happiness. I make a point of practising a ritual of gratitude everyday; the human condition is to focus on what we don’t have and what we are missing in our lives. The practise of gratitude teaches us to see everything we have in life and embrace it all. It gives one a positive outlook in life. Even on the really low days where I have struggled to be grateful, I have found things.
I have taken a strong view on all friendships and relationships. If you do not add value to my life, I do not have time to invest. Being a single mom is tough enough and when I need time out, it needs to be with people that nourish my soul. The relationships with the people who are there for you, when things are at their worst, are rock solid for life. I don’t have a host of friends, I have a handful that are amazing and there for me. I have made friends with some other moms, and they are the best support because they know exactly what you are going through!
Every decision Lindsay has made since the day she discovered she was pregnant has been made for her gorgeous baby girl; and she has every reason to be incredibly proud of her little human.
In her on words
She is a confident little girl in her own environment, she loves dancing and singing – at the moment we are perfecting Happy Birthday and the “I love you” song from Barney. I love my cuddle time with her and we often co-sleep, especially in Winter. She has a great sense of fun and is extremely sensitive to people’s emotions. My best friend passed away this year in February from breast cancer, and I cried for days, Olivia would just quietly sit on my lap and cuddle. She is incredibly adaptable and loves going to her day mom; she plays alongside her friends and is slowly learning to share. My heart melts when I hear the words “Mummy” out of her mouth and she has just taken to giving good night kisses to everybody! Being her mom makes every day better and every challenge worth it.
In July 2014, Lindsay met somebody special at a kiddies birthday party. In the beginning their relationship was tentative, as she was understandably gun-shy. She was also afraid of being judged for being a single mom by his family and friends. When things started to get serious in early 2015, Lindsay panicked and stepped back from the relationship for a month. She felt that things had perhaps happened too quickly between them.
She spent that time alone, focusing on Olivia and contemplating life, marriage, relationships and where she saw herself fitting. And then she knew.
In her own words
There were two main realisations I came to, I wanted to share my life with somebody and I wanted it to be with Donovan. We have been together ever since. I am grateful that I never lost him, I am grateful that we are able to work through issues together, I am grateful to be sharing my life with him.
He is so good with Olivia; he brings a sense of love and fun into her life. He teaches her to play the bongo drums and strum on his bass guitar. She dances to his music and she trusts him. If we are out somewhere, he makes sure that there are times where he takes her so I can have a conversation or eat my meal while it’s still warm; I had never experienced that before.
He spoils her and always makes sure wherever we go is suitable for her. When he first met her, she made this noise “duk, duk, duk, duk”, so he calls her little “Duk-Duk”. She in turn loves her “Doh”, as she calls him. She is very happy to stay with him if I need to go somewhere. They have their little games, which she is familiar with every time she sees him. Lately, he has even been putting her to sleep which has been a success!
He has never judged me for exclusively breastfeeding and never makes a big thing when Olivia has a bad night and he gets kicked to the spare room. There is nothing laid back about having a relationship with a child involved, it takes a lot of patience, good communication and a sense of humour.
Looking into the future
I am unsure what Olivia’s father’s future is, but until he takes ownership of his past and issues, there is very little anybody can do to help him. I will never stop him from seeing Olivia, as long as he respects me, Donovan and my family.
I am grateful to be able to share Olivia and all of her antics of growing up with Donovan. He is the best partner and father figure to Olivia.
I am back working a regular job that doesn’t require too much after hours work. I needed something that pays my bills and doesn’t take me away from Olivia, and for now that is enough. I’m considering taking a teaching course as well. Long term, my goal is to open a centre for single mothers, where they can find guidance and support over all these issues we face alone. I have an incredible support system, but I know there are far too many mommies out there that don’t.
Being a single mommy is hard. Walking, or running, away from an abusive relationship can seem impossible. But it can be done. Finding your way back to yourself, putting your child’s needs above your own, fighting the system to protect your child – these are incredible feats that not just everybody has the strength and determination to do. Lindsay has fought to reclaim her life, to reclaim her sense of self, to be the very best version of herself for her beautiful Olivia.
She is a Supermommy.
If you find yourself in a relationship that is making you question yourself; making you feel “less than” or afraid; you can leave. If you have friends or family, go to them. If you don’t have a support system, there are still so many places out there that will help you find your feet while you find yourself again. You will be a better mommy to your children if you are happy and confident, than if you stay and are constantly on eggshells and afraid. They learn from your example. Be strong, be proud, and do what you need to for yourself and your babies.
If you are a single mommy, and you are alone and feeling overwhelmed and frustrated and like you will never be happy again; stay strong. You are not alone; you are brave and amazing and inspirational and your children see that every day. Own your role, own your life. Even if your heart is broken now; in time, you will find your happiness again.
Lindsay, you are so brave. Your attitude towards life; your willingness to reach out and take the help and support offered to you, shows such strength and hope. Finding your way back to yourself and choosing your own path, is inspiring, to me and others and one day without doubt to your gorgeous Olivia. You are a Supermommy. Thank you for sharing your story.
Now, it’s back to all of you mommies reading. Do you know someone who is in a bad relationship? Do you know somebody who doesn’t believe it is possible to free themselves? So you know a single mommy who is feeling alone and lonely? These mommies have shared their stories, opened their hearts and their wounds, to reach out and let others know they are not alone. Please show your support and share the love by sharing Lindsay’s story as far as you can; you just need to hit one of the easy share buttons below.
Sending all the love xx
A few things more…
If you are in an abusive relationship, you can reach out here:
People Against Woman Abuse (POWA)
Call: 011-642-4345 / 6
Call: Kath on 08-487-11324
If you are a single mommy, or any mommy at all, and you are feeling alone and looking for someone to talk to, go find your Mamahood Village:
*I also want to make it clear that this is Lindsay’s story. I do not know Olivia’s father, and although I am sure he has a story to tell too, I am not his storyteller. What I have shared is only what has been shared with me. I have faith in Lindsay’s good heart and her word.