My daughter, Toni, was born on a Thursday night, 16 March 1995 at 22:50pm. It was the scariest time in my life. I was about to bring a life into the world and Lord knows I was far from ready. My pregnancy was horrendous from beginning to end and the status of my relationship with her father was as volatile as the Rand. Most women suffer from morning sickness in their first trimester. I had morning, noon and night sickness for nine months. Add to that my chronic anaemia, which had me feeling weak and passing out a dozen times a day.
Even as I writhed with contractions, swearing in my mind to never partake in coitus again, I was retching and puking into a bucket next to my bed. The Sister on duty happened to be my neighbour and as much as I appreciated the familiar face in the midst of the screams (both babies and moms-to-be), my embarrassment was at an all-time high. She’d seen my nether regions and everything I’d eaten in the last 24 hours. I was ready to throw myself into the Bermuda Triangle.
Fast forward to today: that gangly, pink new-born who was placed in my arms is an adult. On the cusp of 21, beautiful, mature, a self-loving, responsible young lady with the world at her feet and a few semesters shy of her Degree. Has the journey been smooth? NO!! Has it been rewarding? Absolutely!!
I’ve been told that I behave as though I pioneered this mother thing and that I overdo loving my child. Huh? Pregnant people eat for two, so why can’t I love this cherub for two? If anyone died from being loved too much, please direct me to their grave. She is my heart’s delight. We joke about her being the best mistake I ever made and laugh at my cowardice for being a one hit wonder. I don’t know if my heart is big enough for another, but my pocket surely isn’t. I’m also prone to stretch marks, so…
A girl deserves a father to be the knight in shining armour that she measures men against later in life. A father should be the first man who takes his daughter on a date; teaches her about boys and their shenanigans (because it’s good to be one up on them) and plays the overall role of protector to his Princess even if the parents become residents of Splitsville. I’ve played a dual role from day one and even though I’ve thrown myself the odd pity party, I learnt to embrace my lot and just morph into MomPop.
So, I attended both Mother’s and Father’s Day services at school, because at these larney establishments, kids have two parents and even if one lives in a different province, they are front and centre at school events. My biggest stress was Dads and Daughters Campout in Primary School because I would have zilch to contribute to a conversation over beer around a fire, so she was either adopted by a friend’s dad for the night or just didn’t go because darkies don’t camp anyway. Parent/Teacher meetings, fun days, cake sales and sports events became a juggling act between school and the office, and weekend games meant being baked or roasted by the Durban sun while I cheered my baby on.
Dating was a schlep when she was younger. I turned down many a suitor because bedtime stories and night time cuddles with my One were a ritual I had no intention of breaking. I also don’t know too many guys who are keen on a lady who slots them in between hockey games and guitar lessons. One who is always on the run because her kid’s schedule is timed with military precision.
Raising a child on one salary is nearly impossible. Factor in extra Maths, swimming, guitar and a myriad of other extra-murals which cost an arm and leg and you’re basically living on a diet of Jungle Oats and Milo (and a packet of Oreos on a good month). Through it all, we both survived. I’ve attempted to make her life as pleasurable as possible, never wanting her to feel disadvantaged by my financial situation and the lack of a father figure. I’m proud of the person she has become and the gratitude she displays. I don’t feel that I have sacrificed anything because my child is an extension of me. So, what makes me a proud single parent? The joy in my child’s eyes and the knowledge that my struggles were not in vain.