Single Parenthood: Finding My Community

Parent and toddler smile at the camera. Baby is buckled into a bike safety seat and pointing at the camera. Both are wearing helmets as they prepare to go for a bike ride.

Jocelyn, Seattle, Washington

My Family

My son, Carter, was born almost three years ago at my home in Seattle, Washington. The journey of becoming a parent has been an interesting one that started even before his birth. Carter’s father and I ended our relationship when I was only 10 weeks pregnant. It has been just Carter and me for most of the pregnancy and for all of Carter’s life, with Carter’s father playing a consistent co-parent role from the beginning. We have learned to navigate the co-parenting relationship and try to keep Carter’s best interests in mind with the decisions we make. Being a single parent has created a special bond between Carter and me. We are in this life together, relying solely on one another, and we have an intuitive connection that resonates in our interactions. We enjoy lots of bike rides together, going for walks, picking flowers, and doing the laundry (his current favorite).

My Nursing Journey

Breastfeeding had always been important to me, even before I became pregnant. Aside from the benefits of breastfeeding, I didn’t know much about the physiology or logistics of breastfeeding except for what I observed one week while on vacation with my cousin, who was breastfeeding at the time. Nothing really prepared me for the challenges. I thought it would be intuitive and easy, since it was such a natural thing.

Even though Carter was born at home with no medication used during the birth, he was a very sleepy baby. In the first couple of days, I had to hand express and spoon feed him. I had to tickle his feet to keep him awake to get him to latch for 30 seconds. After he started to get the hang of it, I struggled with a forceful milk ejection that left him sputtering and choking on the milk.

Since it was primarily on me to figure out all of the issues, I spent a lot of time reading about breastfeeding and educating myself. We saw lactation consultants, a pediatrician, and other health practitioners for support. I learned to be resourceful and seek out help when needed. Eventually the difficulties diminished and we eased into a rhythm. He was such a great baby, and breastfeeding allowed us to develop a connection and understand each other better. I learned how to understand what he needed, and he learned to trust that I would respond to meet his needs. We learned together!

It Takes a Village

As a single parent, all of the decisions and resources are up to me to find. This forced me to want to learn what I needed in order to feel prepared and to find resources in case any challenges came up. Since I knew that it was all on me, I armed myself well. What I didn’t expect was how much my community would rise to support me. Friends and family reached out and brought food, offered to babysit, drove me to appointments, helped around the house, and were just there to sit with me.

I found a connection with other parents at La Leche League when my son was a little bit older, and I wish that it had been another resource in the early days when breastfeeding was tough. Maybe then I wouldn’t have felt as if it was so much on me to figure out the breastfeeding but to know it was part of the process.

I have realized that even when someone has a partner they may need the same level of support that I received; they may need to be armed with the same level of information and resources that I had. As a society, it often feels like we make an assumption that a couple having a baby has one another to rely on. While they do have each other, they still need the community to lean on. My hope is that every person having a baby will receive the highest level of community support, as well as education and resources to find the help they need for their circumstances.

LLL USA is celebrating mothers, fathers, and parents 
from May through June!

Here is a photo of my mother-in-law, Linda Thomas, and me. She has helped me learn how to be a mother-in-law to my own daughter-in-law. Linda’s love and acceptance of my mothering has been constant and loving.

My mother, Petey, taught me to respond to my baby’s cries and how to sway to calm my baby. When I nursed my baby and felt such tremendous and overwhelming love, I could imagine that my mother had the same feeling as she nursed me.

Tribute from Marianne Vakiener

This is a photo of my mother, Marianne Vakiener, and me. She’s made me know that I want to be a mother myself one day and hope to do as well as she did.

Tribute from Anne Kohlbrenner

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Send your submission, story ideas or questions to Amy at [email protected].