I’m pregnant and my partner and I just split up: where do I go from here?

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By: Aaron McIntyreCC BY 2.0
I’m currently in my second trimester of a pregnancy that came as a very big — and happy — surprise. When I started this journey I was going into it with a partner who was equally surprised, happy, and committed to building a cohesive family. Now, a mere nine weeks later, I’m doing this alone.

I am very, very lucky to have an extraordinary group of family and friends-made-family who are loving and supportive, but I’m struggling with feelings of profound sadness that I am now going to be a single parent. I’m hoping to reach out to people who have had similar experiences: how did you build a community while expecting, and how did/do you maintain a dialog with your partner about the pregnancy, birthing plans, and vision for the child’s future?

Bonus question: were there aspects of being partnerless that ended up surprising you by being awesome? — 2013reboot

Comments on I’m pregnant and my partner and I just split up: where do I go from here?

  1. I myself had a lot of up’s and down’s during my preganacy with my partner at the time. We were constantly on & off and I have to say it caused a lot more stress then my body and my daughter needed while I was pregnant. As a mother some how you just figure it out, I am in no way saying it is easy being a single parent, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Being a single parent as a first time parent made me grow up and learn what I needed to do and what worked best for my daughter and I. I have a much closer one-on-one bond with my daughter now then I think I would have had if her father and I were still together. Being that you have an amazing family and friend group to help support you will help out more than you will know, and don’t be afraid to take that help. My friends and my family were always there to help out if I needed extra sleep, a sitter, or even just a person to listen to my frustrations and let me cry it out. I do not know you but I feel for your situation because I have been there, if you ever need anyone to talk to please feel free to email me any time…[email protected]

  2. I would highly recommend seeking out some doula support, for labor and for the postpartum period. Depending on where you live, there are often student doulas looking to trade certification evaluations for hours. A postpartum doula will come in after you have the baby to help you learn how to take care of the baby, answer basic breastfeeding or bottle feeding questions, and help with minor household chores (laundry, cooking, errands). (If I were a single mom or otherwise anticipating a complicated postpartum period, I’d ask for postpartum doula hours instead of baby gear. You can often get baby gear cheap or free; having someone do your laundry and bring you tasty food when you’re recovering from having a baby is priceless.)

    Look around in your area for moms groups, particularly ones aimed at single mothers. There may be a variety of moms groups around, so it’s worth keeping in mind that you can try more than one if you don’t like the first one. Some prenatal clinics provide group prenatal services. You see a practitioner one-on-one for the medical parts, and then get together with a cohort of women due around the time you are for the rest of the visit. I’ve known several single moms who began building their network this way.

    Take advantage as much as possible while you’re pregnant of prenatal activities where you might make friends with other people having babies. Having like-minded “mom friends” has made parenting ten times easier for me, and I have a partner — it’s just tremendous to have someone you can text anytime to say, “AUGH MY CHILD!” and you know they completely understand. I imagine it would be that much more helpful if you’re going it alone.

    Best of luck. What a challenging adventure you’ve found yourself in! I hope everything goes as smoothly as it possibly can.

    • I second the student-doula idea! I also know a mom blogger who had a photographer who was wanting to begin doing birth photography that gave her the session for free! Score!

      Don’t pay for mom groups like PEPS if you can’t afford it. Our hospital’s lactation consultant leads free, weekly groups for moms and it was SO NICE to meet other moms with babies around the same age, and get questions from lactation to other things answered. She also had really great speakers come in and give us all sorts of good information.

      • PEPS does offer financial waivers for people who can’t afford the fee. Just want to put that out there.

  3. My mom was a single parent and I saw her go through a lot- most of the time she was strong and I was strong too. My mom and dad divorced when I was only a few weeks old. I rarely saw my dad. My mother always reassured me that no matter what pain and financial hardship we went through, it was worth it to have me in her life. Her best friend was married, but childless and they would take me from time to time when my mom needed a break. Your child birth classes should be a good place to find people who are similar or just plain awesome and would love to have you as a friend and your child as a playmate.

    It is important that you take it easy on your emotions. No matter what life throws at you, take it as calmly as you can while you are pregnant so your baby is less stressed too. My mom’s single point of advice is that as a single mother, your choices are no longer for one, but now for two- forever. You and your child are a unit. You don’t stop living, you just begin to live for someone else, someone precious, and you find the you that was always waiting for you to discover.

    I wish you the best and I am so sorry for your pain and struggle. I do not know the circumstances of the break up, but you need to determine if he wants to be a big part or would rather have it be the casual mention of ‘yeah, I got a kid’ when it comes up. This is sadly his choice. It will take strength for either option he chooses. Be strong!

  4. I would read up on your state/province’s laws regarding child support, and sitting down with your ex-partner and a lawyer if it’s in the budget. Having a plan on paper that you both agree to will make everything run a lot more smoothly, rather than one imposed by a judge in the future.

  5. I am not in your situation but I want to say that I feel for you. I am pretty sure I would feel similarly if I were in that situation as well.

    Definitely reach out to your family and friends. Find people you can talk to about the scary stuff, not just about your baby but about being single, but talk about the good stuff too. Obviously you’ve found Offbeat Families so you’ve got one heck of an awesome resource here to talk about stuff and see what position others are in.

    As for your former partner, I agree with @VIAwesome that you really need to read up and sit down together. I think it’s great that you are asking about dealing with your partner. I think the more you can talk out, the better. Even if their answer is that they don’t care, at least you tried to open the dialogue. This includes not just plans for child support and custody and such, but medical decisions, early parenting, etc. Mostly if you can just both try to be open to dialogue, that will help. Make some ground rules for how you’ll deal with one another when it comes to the kid. What do you do if you disagree? How do you want to negotiate? How do you talk, how often do you talk? What needs to be discussed?

    This is hard. Seriously, seriously hard. I can’t imagine not being able to take the space to have a clean break with an ex, regardless of whether it was an amicable break up or not. So you get serious kudos for acknowledging that it needs to be dealt with. Make sure you take some time and space to deal with the break up also because you both need to get that healing underway so that when your new tiny human arrives you can both approach that tiny human with love.

    • I’m on the other side of Little Red Lupine’s advice : for one of my friends, I try to be part of her network, be that for emergency baby-sitting, travelling as the second adult with her and her twin boys or just late night conversations in person or by phone.

      For me, it’s very rewarding, since I haven’t got children of my own and often hilarious (when others assume I’m the daddy, and then they don’t understand why they’re met with 4 li’l smirks).
      For her, I like to imagine it’s helpful.

  6. My partner and I split immediately after he found out I was pregnant. It ended up being really difficult, and I decided it was better if he wasn’t involved any further in my life, or my child’s.

    Things that help:
    – A really solid doula
    – clear communication with friends/family about needs (People love to give pity. What I needed was people to help clean house, cook food, and be supportive)
    – Forgive yourself and be patient. You don’t have to be the perfect parent, and when you aren’t it has nothing to do with the fact you are a single parent, it is because NO ONE is.
    – learning to let it roll off of me when people asked about my husband/partner/etc.
    – finding ways to take care of myself and feel good about me

    I hated going to classes and things with other parents, because it was frustrating and isolating. I did find ways to connect with awesome single parents in my community instead.

    Things that I liked:
    – I got to name the child whatever I wanted without any negotiation.
    – My birth planning completely revolved around me
    – I got to pick who would be my birth companion based on who was the most supportive for me, not who was entitled based on their relationship to me.
    – My healthcare visits became focused on me and my needs instead of a partners.

  7. It sounds like you are handling an incredible tough situation very gracefully.

    I haven’t used this service myself, but plan on doing so when my baby arrives in the next few weeks. It’s a free tool to help organize help when you need it (new baby, surgery, whatever). Food, groceries, errands, cleaning can all be scheduled and organized for you. That might help with coordinating help from your family and friends. I know there are other such services out there, this is just the one I had stumbled upon.

    http://www.mealtrain.com/

    I have also read about this service called CoAbode (Single Mothers House Sharing). It helps set you up with another single Mama is your area based on your needs, age of children, parenting styles, etc… You share housing, house-work, the occassional child-care, etc…I know if I was a single Mama, I would definitely look into it.

    Best of luck, Mama!!!

    http://www.coabode.org/

    • Woah. Both of those links look like fantastic ideas that deserve to be in main posts somewhere rather than buried in a comments thread.

      Do we have a “Useful Resources” section or tag?

  8. I didn’t leave my son’s dad until he was just over a year, but staying with him made my life harder and more stressful than it would have been if I’d been a single parent from the get-go. I was much happier as a single parent. It’s nice having control over your household, making the decisions on your own is easier than fighting over every little thing. It’s hard being responsible for everything, but not impossible, and it’s worth it. Having a good support network of friends and family make a huge difference. You’ll need a break every now and then, and it doesn’t have to be the other parent who provides that. If you do plan on sharing custody/access it can be hard at first to have time when your child isn’t there, but once you get used to it it’s fantastic.

  9. I had a supportive partner, but he worked and so I quickly learned that the nights were the hardest times for me in the first few months. I was up breastfeeding and it was tiring and I felt so alone and anxious. But I had a few friends who were also up in the middle of the night and so we’d text. I’d also look at websites like this, and cheesier (in my opinion!) ones like babycenter, where there were people posting to the forums at any time of day. The not feeling alone thing was HUGE in the early months.

    • THIS. My husband works irregular hours. It was ok to be talking care of the baby alone when it was during the day, but I found the evening/nights alone with a newborn almost unbearable. See if you can have friends visit during the evening.

  10. My now ex-husband blindsided me by announcing we were through the day before my 20 week ultrasound. One of the things that is still hard for me is that I feel like he stole from me the chance to have a happy pregnancy and be excited about my son’s arrival. I get that not all pregnancies are happy regardless of support level, but it was physically harder due to the stress level I was under and I had no mental space for excitement.

    A few things that help:
    – make sure you have help, especially overnight help lined up for those first few weeks at home.
    – tell your doctor what is going on. My doc wrote me a prescription for weekly prenatal massages. And although I ended up letting my ex be at the delivery, she was ready to have him thrown out if I just said the word.
    – it can be hard to find other single mamas with newborns and it can also be hard to be in those new mom support groups where people keep talking about getting help from your partner. That said, my moms group was worth it. If you are on a neighborhood moms list, send out an email to connect with the single moms.
    – try to figure out now before the baby is born what sort of involvement your ex intends to have. Neither of you know what it is going to be like when the baby is actually here so you may not be able to work out all the details but if you have very different ideas about how custody will be split (ie you want to nurse on demand and cosleep and he’s thinking a 1 month old can have sleepovers with him), it’s good to deal with some of the big things before baby arrives, like hiring a lawyer. It was mentally very important to me to have the divorce paperwork filed before my son was born because I didn’t want to deal with that after he was here.

    Some of the good stuff:
    – I got to choose the name. And it goes better with my last name, which he also has.
    – I may not have help around the house but at least I don’t have to deal with any other adult’s mess.
    – I hadn’t planned to cosleep but it worked out that way. My moms group had a lot of moms whose partners were pushing them to stop cosleeping. I didn’t have to deal with that.
    – I didn’t have to spend any effort on keeping a relationship alive. I could focus on my son and on me. I was so tired that this was a real relief to me.
    – vacations are up to me. Instead of visiting the in laws, we go where we want.

    In the ideal world, I wish I had a supportive partner. But my son is worth every difficult part. You and your child will both be ok, even if it doesn’t feel that way right now.

  11. Hang in there… I ended up in the same situation, only being in a different country then the father of my child when I found out. 4 years later, after having made the huge move from California to Germany, I would not have changed the course of events. It might be Hell dealing with many aspects, but if you can work to create a cohesive bond with the father, and more importantly a friendship with him that adds laughter into your childs life, your experience will be just as awesome and rewarding then any other 2 parent family. It will get better..

  12. I was single when I had my first. I left my partner a few weeks after I found out I was pregnant, a d ended up cutting him out of our lives entirely (long story). I was lucky, like you, to have a really supportive family. A lot of my friends bailed on me, so in the years after my son’s birth I spent a lot of time making new friends. I joined moms groups, mostly, and met a lot of awesome people. Meetup.com was a lifeline for me. Also, online single mom support groups really helped me out. There’s a great book called The Single Woman’s Guide to a Happy Pregnancy that I highly recommend.
    The best part of being a single mom is not having to compromise on things like names and parenting style. I’m married now, and we’ve had a second baby together, and I have to say that sometimes I miss being the sole decision maker for my children. I love my husband and all, and we mostly agree on stuff, but the single mom thing did have that perk.

  13. I would second the poster above who suggested trying to settle just how much involvement he will have and how often he will see the baby, etc, beforehand, but just keep in mind that that could totally change. I had a fairly short relationship that was already over by the time I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. I gave him the choice of staying or walking away, no questions asked. He said he wanted to be involved, but that resulted in 7 months of him standing me up, not contributing at ALL, even though he said he was going to, and revealing when I was 5 months pregnant that he had been cheating on me the entire time we were together and was still with this girl. I forgave him, time and time again, because I was trying to do “the right thing” and let him be a part of my daughter’s life.

    I think the biggest thing I learned is that you really don’t have to do what everyone tells you is “the right thing.” Hopefully he’ll be there and be supportive and actually want a relationship with the baby, and if so, then that’s awesome, but if it becomes apparent that he doesn’t, then don’t be afraid to walk away, focus on you and the baby, and let him come back if he actually, really wants to. In my case, I let him be at her birth even though I wasn’t comfortable with it, I let him have input in her name even though it wasn’t my first choice, and I went out of my way to give him access to her, which he decided to use just 4 times in a year, for less than an hour total. He ended up voluntarily signing over his rights, and my fiance (now husband) adopted her. It all worked out, but I still sometimes brood over the fact that if I had stopped taking “advice” from well-meaning but clueless outsiders and just taken care of myself and my daughter, my pregnancy and her first year would have been a hell of a lot less stressful.

  14. I was poking around on MeetUp last night and noticed that my city has a MeetUp group for single mamas. Maybe yours does, too?

    • I was going to suggest Meetup too! I’m pregnant and a member of two different pregnancy groups. Some of the other moms-to-be are single mamas, and some are not. It’s great to begin forming these bonds with women now, so that every step of the way there is someone who relates to all of my pregnancy experiences.

  15. Look up La Leche League in your area http://www.llli.org/ is helpful for breastfeeding but also for general support! They are also likely good sources of other parenting support in the area.

  16. just thought i’d share my story – ’cause it really does have a happy ending, and i hope you can see the light at the end of the challenges ahead…

    i would highly recommend just doing your best to focus on the positives, and refuse to let anyone take away the excitement, joy and beauty of the wonderful little one that you’ve been blessed with.

    i left my partner when i was 5 months pregnant, but we have managed to stay friends – this is partly because we very clearly communicated expectations (of which i had none – i’ve never expected or gotten child support or any other help financially from him) This actually worked to my daughter’s and my benefit, because without the financial obligation, he willingly gave me full custody of my darling daughter and I was able to focus fully on enjoying my new life with my little newborn (and now 4 year old daughter – who by-the-way, my wonderful husband is now adopting 🙂

    there were sad times for sure, and definitely stressful times with money, but i really loved being able to focus fully on my daughter, and having full control over parental decisions. I can’t imagine doing it any other way. My ex now plays a role similar to an uncle, and we invite him for dinner every month (he only comes every 3-6months) and my daughter loves him, but he was never going to be able to play the role of “daddy” very well, and things have really worked out for the best for us.

    in terms of the actual labour, i did invite my ex to come (because it felt like the right thing to do and things were perfectly amicable), but i also had my sister and two wonderful midwives there to support me.

    i really wish you the best of luck and all things good for you and your little one…

  17. A friend of mine just went through this; she had an ex who left her days after she announced her pregnancy, and who ultimately decided he wasn’t interested in being part of her life at all. I ended up being a pretty substantial resource by simply bringing her along to birth classes, hospital tours, meet-ups with other new parents, and even thrift store shopping; she was an amazing support for me, too! I would definitely recommend finding a “baby stuff buddy” who can be there as a sounding board, help you remember commitments, and (this would be great for anyone, really) drag you along if you’re ever feeling bleak or blue. This might be someone you already know who is pregnant, someone you meet through a class or local group, or even someone who isn’t currently pregnant who can just jump in and play along.

  18. It may be especially hard given the hormonal intensity that will be going on for the next couple years, but if there’s any way to establish friendly-but-distant-enough-to-be-tolerable relations with the father, please try. Warn him that you will probably have crazy moments during this ride, but that in the long run you want your child to have a healthy relationship with both his parents.

    If you wait until your child is born, or two, or five to start figuring this stuff out, it could get really bad. I’ve seen this happen. It’s heartbreaking. Fear and ego take over the parents. The kid’s life: it’s not about the parents, it’s about the kid.

  19. After being with my partner for only one month, we found out we were expecting (99.9% effective? Apparently we were the 0.01%…) and through a whirlwind, we now have a beautiful 8-month daughter and I have a 6 year old stepdaughter.
    I love my partner to pieces, but at times I wonder how much more sense it would make to do it on my own. My own rules, my own values, my own settings. I have a couple of friends who are single moms and there are times that I am envious of them (though, of course I know there are major downfalls to it as well).
    This is just me personally, and probably very inclusive of the situation in particular – after I had my daughter, and even now, I want to invest so much more time into her than my partner and step-daughter, and yet I know I need to balance that out. Mama Bear just wants to unabatedly give baby all her attention. For example, he’s not a fan of co-sleeping, and I am. I’d sooner grow my bond with my baby by co-sleeping but have to respect his wishes (and he is quite flexible). If I was on my own, I could’ve single-handedly picked her name. I could live where I wanted to, etc.
    But I digress. What I’m saying is, especially considering you have a support system (your village), embrace it and focus on all the benefits. If you are confident in your abilities as a mother (and at times, you’ll question yourself, we all do), know that you are doing what is right for you, and right for your little one. And that is all you can do. All the best to you in your journey, you’ll be an amazing offbeat mama. <3

  20. I was right there a few years ago. I left my ex husband when I was five months pregnant. However, for me it was a safety issue but it was still the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do (if you’ve ever had a loved one with a violent mental condition you can probably relate). Pregnancy is an emotional roller coaster even during the best of times. I cannot second enough what has been said about getting parenting plans settled before baby and a legal parenting plan in place as soon as possible after baby (most judges won’t make an official judgement until after baby is born). For me and my son it was literally a life saver and for several friends its an ongoing battle. The more the two of you are on the same page the smoother things go. As for my story when I left my ex I gave him every chance I could to allow him to be the father I knew he could be. I kept my distance but encouraged him to be involved until the risk level became to great. At that point I pursued legal action to make sure a parenting plan was in place from the day my son was born. Eventually we finally received the paperwork to terminate his parental rights. During this time I relied heavily on my family and even my in-laws. Keeping them posted on the daily events of my pregnancy and eventually new born helped me to cope and helped keep them involved. We were able to draw together for my son and for each other. I am still very close with my first mother in law and keep my son’s “father” posted through her letters to her son. These days my son knows he’s very lucky. He has a family that loves him dearly, he is Daddy’s pride and joy and he has a father that loved him enough to let him go. The first two years of my son’s life before his Daddy & my new husband showed up were hard. I worried that he would be missing so much & panicked over how I would handle boy issues as a single mama. Still me & my son have a special bond. Part of me will always treasure the memories of what we went through, just the two of us, so early on. I also got to choose his name and make choices for him without consulting someone else.

  21. Speaking as ‘the child’ in this equation what I have to say is, except in cases where safety is an issue of course, please don’t cut your child out of his or her father’s life because it’s easier for you, or because his level of parenting involvement isn’t what you think it should be. You might believe that you’re protecting your child from difficulties, but in reality you’re only setting up a different set.

  22. I haven’t been able to read everyone’s comments but I did want to share with you my experience. My daughter’s bio father and I split up when I was 8 weeks pregnant. I haven’t heard from him since I was 14 weeks pregnant and my daughter is now 17 months old. At first there was a lot of anger and resentment towards him. Here I was going through this alone, 12 hours from my family and friends and a first time parent. He already had a son and he abandoned a child?! I couldn’t fathom it. However, once I stepped back and looked at things realistically I realized the situation I was in was the best thing ever. It was ME who was going to love this child the most, it was ME who was going to be able to name her, it was ME who was going to be able to call the shots. That sense of power and fulfillment is what kept me going. The best part of the pregnancy was knowing that I was the one in control and that I was the one that was able to make the decisions. I also was able to have the people I found most supportive in the delivery room with me.

    The most surprising and amazing moment of birth for me was I cut the cord. Why shouldn’t I have?! I’m the one that carried her around for 10 months and I’m the one that was in labor for 17 hours! That is something that I will be able to hold on to forever.

    Now I am soon to be married to the man of my dreams and he is her father. Hands down. From the minute I introduced the two he had done more than her bio father ever did for her. She knows him as dad, she runs to him when she’s hurt and they laugh and giggle and play together.

    She will always know that she is not biologically my fiancees and I will tell her whatever she would like to know about her bio father but I won’t push the subject on her.

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