Next year my exceptional daughter celebrates her 21st birthday, a coming of age celebration. This upcoming milestone has prompted me to document the highly rewarding roller coaster ride that is the fate of a Single Mother.
I remember as clear as daylight the day that my child was born. My marriage had disintegrated prior to the birth of my sweet girl, for reasons to painful to talk about. Anyway, there I was with this magnificent, perfect creation in my arms. The overwhelming love I felt for my child cannot be contained in words or even epic novels.
This gorgeous gift from heaven with huge almond eyes and tufts of feathery hair and I would now be partners in this journey called life.
At that very moment I knew that I would fight with every fibre of my being to ensure that Stephanie Rose, my garland or roses, my crown would have the best possible. I made up my mind right there and then that I would not be a sad, desperate single, mother. We would be a team that would walk together, cry together, laugh together, conquer together and love together.
And so it was that on this momentous occasion when all the other mothers sent their babies to the nursery to allow them to recoup and rest, I insisted on my angel remaining with me permanently. I somehow lost track of anything else or anyone else in the maternity ward, spending the better part of the day talking and singing to my sweet child. I now shudder to think what the other parents thought of me. I suspect that the nurses were also concerned for my mental well-being as they kept asking whether I was ok. I was more than ok, I was a mother. I was connected to the most amazing being in the universe. I was the luckiest, happiest person in the world!
Stephanie made her appearance at exactly 8am and from that moment onwards were simply engrossed in each other. So much so that when my parents came to visit me that evening and asked how the first diaper change had gone, I realised to my own horror that I had been so preoccupied with loving my child that I hadn’t even thought of changing diapers. All I had thought about was ‘the pair of us’. So began an unconventional life ;- a life filled with joy, love, togetherness and a huge helping of craziness, juggling of balls, raucous laughter and a wild spinning merry-go-round!
It should be said at this point that I had never exactly been the mothering type. I wasn’t maternal by nature, I was fiercely loyal, resolute, resourceful, a little daft and a whole lot eccentric. I was not maternal.
I was now faced with daunting challenge of blending my personality traits with the overwhelming love I felt for my child. A rather unremarkable career, empty bank account, pending divorce, medical bills and no home to call my own were also part of this reality. I also knew that I had to make a life for my little princess.
I must mention that the amazing love and support I received was extraordinary, a debt I could never ever repay. That’s what love is and love what love does ;- it carries people through the bad times, it gives hope and it becomes the wind beneath our wings.
God also blessed me with a miraculously good child. I was spared colic, sleepless nights, crying, niggling and the general difficulties that face new parents. This enabled me to set about getting our life on track. I tackled the mountain of challenges I faced with the only way I knew how ;- crazy determination and frantic negotiation. Somehow I made it through the financial challenges (heaven alone only knows how). I made it through the three months of unpaid maternity leave and I was then able to get back to work and get ‘our’ career on track. During this desperately stressful time, the thing that kept me going was he love I felt from those special people around me and of course the indescribable love I felt my Stephanie Rose.
Once back at work I confronted the challenge of having just been an average worker. I realised that in order to uphold the promise of facing life head-on with purpose, I needed to get my proverbial ‘ass into gear’ and do remarkable things. Having just a job was longer enough, I needed a career. I set about this with crazy determination, see-sawing emotions and raw passion. I am sure those around me questioned my sanity, they probably still do.
I have to say that when you hit rock bottom as I had done, you are stripped of all your dignity. When your perfect little life has come tumbling down, you cease to be concerned about what people think of you. This is what survival does this to you. You focus on what matters and you incinerate the rest. It is a kind of liberating place to be.
And so the adventure began. I came to terms with the fact that I would never be a conventional parent if I was to do what needed to be done. I had to break rules and flout the norms. With this came criticism, gossip, pity and sniggering behind my back. I can honestly say that at times this hurt me immensely, but every time I looked into my daughter’s eyes I was inspired to continue and keep moving forward.
Fortunately I was employed in the advertising industry and craziness is not frowned upon as much in a creative environment. I had no idea what I was doing, but I was doing it anyway.
It was then that I decided to do away my serious dark hair and become a blonde. Somehow being a blonde made people more forgiving when I messed up and did stupid things.
A few years into the maelstrom of my new life I became really ill. I suspect that I was teetering on the brink of burn-out. It took a while (in which I was diagnosed with various illnesses, including a heart disorder, depression and glandular fever), for the doctors to realise that my thyroid gland had burned itself out. To quote the doctor who finally made the discovery: “Your thyroid is in its boot!”
I remember feeling so tired, a tiredness I can’t explain. My muscles had frozen up and I was battling to move. My heart was beating so slowly that I was afraid to fall asleep in case I didn’t wake up. My eyes were swollen and resembled two golf balls above my cheek bones. My feet were so swollen that I couldn’t bend my toes or fit into my shoes. I was a wreck. My hair was falling out, I had great big scaly patches of skin all over my body and I felt cold all the time.
Well, I got over that and then the panic attacks set in. I haven’t quite gotten over these yet, but for anyone who has had panic attacks, you will know the sheer terror that accompanies this. I spent hours in doctors’ consulting rooms thinking that I was about to die. I was overcome with the fear that I would not be there for my child and she would not have anyone to care for her. Luckily a sympathetic doctor helped me get over the worst of it, but as I know now, this wasn’t simple anxiety, it was way more than that.
Through all of this, I managed to remain focussed on my life’s purpose ;- being a mother to Stephanie Rose. I remained committed to ensuring that she had the life she deserved, albeit it a decidedly unconventional life. I tried to spare her the chaos that was raging in my own personal space.
It’s now 21 years into this life and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I have worked incredibly hard and my career has positively responded to my effort. My child has sacrificed much and in the process she’s learned valuable life lessons. We have laughed and cried together. We have been crazy and daft together. We’ve learned to ‘wing it’ on many occasions. We’ve held each other up and we’ve supported each other. Most importantly have been together, we’ve embraced life and each challenge as a fabulous team.
We keep moving forward, although I do admit we still don’t always know what we’re doing, but we keep doing it anyway!
A 1500 word blog post is nowhere near adequate enough to document our almost 21 years together. I do hope that by reading this post you will at least feel inspired by the power of love and the prospect of life, even when there are challenges to face and mountains to climb.
I would never exchange a minute of the past 21 years, they are the best years of my life. Stephanie Rose you are indeed my GARLAND OF ROSES, MY CROWN, my Angel of Music, my joy and I love you!