“At the age of 23, I became pregnant for the first time. I was, to be honest, rather naive. Even though I was the “other woman,” I believed everything he said about being unwanted, unappreciated, and abused. I’d mistakenly assumed that having a baby would bring us closer together, but it had the opposite effect. ‘You’ll ruin my life if you have this baby,’ he said, urging me to have an abortion. ‘Fine, I’ll do it by myself,’ I said. That is exactly what I did. When my daughter Evie was two years old, I obtained a job driving a school bus, a godsend for a single mom. I was always at home when she was, and I never had to worry about snow days, sick days, or vacations since if she was off, I was off as well. For a long time, this was our way of life.
I eventually resumed dating, and at the age of 39, I met S. He appeared to be practically everything I was looking for in a man. He was devoted and amusing, and he adored his family, which eagerly welcomed Evie into me. My biggest concern was that he was immature and uninterested in maturing. I had hoped that he would mature and become a true partner during our time together. That was not going to happen, I realized. After a breakup, he was content to stay at home and not pay rent or contribute to his parent’s household. I fell pregnant around the same time. This came as a complete shock. Now, I understand biology, but I was certain that because I was obese, had PCOS, and was of ‘advanced maternal age,’ I would never have another kid, even though I’d always wanted one. I was ecstatic to be expecting a child, but I was also terrified. My job as a school bus driver didn’t provide maternity leave, and I didn’t have any cash (hi, single mom!), so I couldn’t afford to take time off. The timing was a bit shaky. I was due three weeks before school started, at the end of summer vacation. Before returning to work, I wanted to be able to rest. But I didn’t have a choice but to wait.
S and I were out with friends when I was three months pregnant, and he unwittingly made it apparent that he would always choose marijuana over me or our baby. Due to the pregnancy, I had stayed with him for longer than I had planned, believing that this would be the catalyst he needed. But I’d had enough of his inability to mature, and I called it quits. He felt both hurt and enraged. He decided to ignore me 95% of the time and attack me on social media for the entirety of my pregnancy rather than talk things out and try to agree on parenting together. He showed up for a couple of doctor appointments, but he was either late, high, or didn’t show up at all. After a while, I advised him to stop coming.
The rest of my pregnancy went without a hitch. Despite my age and physical state, both the baby and I were in good health. I did have an excess of amniotic fluid, which allowed her to turn and become breach in the 39th week. I had hoped for a natural delivery because it would be easier to recuperate, and I was mindful of my short time before returning to school/work. Still, due to a breech presentation, I had to undergo a c-section. I was terrified because I’d given birth to my first daughter vaginally nearly 17 years before. I wasn’t sure if I was up to it. I was concerned about the pain and the difficulty of climbing the bus stairs. But all of it was forgotten as I heard her first lovely screams. Bellamy was born on time, and I fell in love again, this time with my first daughter in the operating room with me. We both sobbed simultaneously as we gazed at this tiny marvel I’d never expected to see.
My doctor said I could stay in the hospital for up to four days for healing but leave sooner if I felt ready. I wanted to relax and enjoy being a new parent again, but there was a niggling worry about money and going back to work in the back of my mind. For the first day of school, I needed to be healthy and recovered, and I needed to be back on a bus. Otherwise, there would be no money flowing in. Given S’s distance during pregnancy, as well as his leaving for a week vacation across the country when I was 38 weeks pregnant, I assumed he wasn’t as interested as he pretended to be on Facebook. Because I could only have one person in the operating room, I informed him as soon as I was returned to my room after delivery. He replied with a frigid reply, saying he couldn’t believe I didn’t call and invite him, and that as a result, he was going to sign away his rights (which still makes no sense to me), and that ‘you robbed me of a fantastic time, never contact me again.’ He went to the other side of the country two months later, never seeing her again. (I’m trying to get child support, but that’s another issue.)
As a result, it was truly official. This time, there would be no co-parenting; I was back to being a single mother. I felt mixed emotions, even though I knew I’d made the correct option in ending our relationship. Mostly humiliation because I felt that, at my age, I should be able to recognize guys for who they are, and also because I felt like I’d already failed Bellamy by raising her as a single parent, just like I’d failed her older sister. I assumed I was getting older, wiser, and more experienced. How is it that this is happening almost 17 years later? I’m supposed to have learned my lesson by now!
I pleaded with my doctor to let me go home as soon as possible. I needed to get home and rest as soon as possible. I was able to stand up, walk, and move around. I was pushing through the discomfort, which was more intense than I’d anticipated. On the third day, my doctor released me to go home. PPD hit me like a tonne of bricks. At home, I had another source of support in the form of my second mother, Darla, who had traveled from Alabama to Connecticut to be with me while I gave birth and recovered. She returned to Alabama the day after I got home from the hospital, which was unfortunate. I was a wreck when she departed. I couldn’t stop crying. On top of that, I was urgently attempting to breastfeed but failing miserably. On the fifth day, I took Bellamy to the pediatrician, who virtually demanded that I begin supplementing because she was still losing weight. Great. Another cause is to feel as if you’ve failed. This was the lowest time in my relationship with her. I was thrilled to be a new mother, but I was also overwhelmed, in pain, tired, sore, and felt like I was failing at everything.
However, the clouds gradually dissipated. I stopped attempting to breastfeed and switched completely to formula. I was so stressed out and felt like a failure for not feeding her, and she seemed to be crying for food all the time, so I switched to formula and never looked back. Fed is the greatest option. I tried my hardest. However, that did not work out. And the weight inside my chest lifted a little once I’d gotten that off my plate and convinced myself it wasn’t my fault.
My employer informed me that I required permission from my doctor to return sooner than six weeks. I was apprehensive about approaching the doctor, but he agreed to sign off on my return to work after 3 1/2 weeks. So it was a great weight off my shoulders: I’d be on my bus for the first day of school, earning money. Evie, my oldest daughter, was starting her senior year of high school and enjoyed riding the bus with me, so she could assist Bellamy if she awoke and needed a bottle while I was driving. Another positive aspect. I was becoming better at focusing on the positive and ignoring the unpleasant.
We eventually got into our routines, and life returned to normal. My job, I usually say, is as close to being a stay-at-home parent as you can get without actually being at home all of the time. I work for about 2.5 hours in the morning, return home for 4.5 hours, work for 2.5 hours again, and return home for the night. I was permitted to take Bellamy on the bus from the first day. I put her in her car seat and took her everywhere with me. After her first round of injections, the younger kids enjoyed taking turns sitting with her, and they still do! Bellamy, who is 14 months old, loves riding the bus. She normally falls asleep on the first bus ride and only wakes up when we go home for our morning break. I had to flip her forward-facing early because the bus seats aren’t meant to fit a rear-facing convertible seat. I’m not concerned because a school bus is fundamentally safer than virtually any other vehicle on the road.
When I was pregnant with Evie and needed to work, this job came to my rescue, and it did so again with Bellamy. I don’t have to pay for daycare because I am with her all of the time. I don’t have to rely on family or friends to keep an eye on her. I won’t have to worry about snow days, sick days, or vacation days once she’s in school. All of her field trips are driven by me. I can stay with her for the full summer. Getting her up early is the most difficult aspect of the job, but I can relax because I can turn my head and gaze at her adorable little face napping away in her car seat right behind me. Not all mothers get to have their baby with them, and I consider myself quite fortunate.”
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