Some moms are single when they find out their babies have Down syndrome/Trisomy 21. A few part ways with their partners after finding out about the pregnancy or after a diagnosis. While this may not happen often, those moms often benefit from hearing the stories of others who have travelled a similar path.
See Also: Adjusting to a Down Syndrome Diagnosis chapter in our book, "Diagnosis to Delivery: A Pregnant Mother's Guide to Down Syndrome."
Every Little Thing
by Alison Piepmeier offers a single parenting perspective from a university professor in Charleston and her daughter with Down syndrome.
by Kate Abianac
Going Solo: While Raising Children with Disabilities
by Laura Marshak
Reflections from moms who were single during their pregnancy or after their baby with Down syndrome was born:
From Agnes, describing how she's raising her daughter with Down syndrome as a younger single mom:
I am a 20-year-old single mom of a 19-month-old daughter with Down syndrome. A lot of people will think that my mom or dad help me because of my age but, nope, I do it all alone. Every doctor appointment, every therapy, I go with her alone. It is hard but so worth it. I wouldn’t change anything about her. I love the fact that she has Down syndrome. I was 18 when I got pregnant with her. I’ve been doing this alone since day one. Yes, a lot of times it stinks and its hard, but it’s something all mommies can handle. Good luck to you and your little ones.
From Judith, talking about how she keeps her children occupied even though her husband is out of the picture:
I should start by saying that I am techincially married. Technically because we have not divorced but are living seperately and have been for over 1 1/2 years. He lives overseas, and I have no family and very few friends in our current place. I have had to use state support like respite quite often. I have 3 young children, the youngest who is 4 yrs old happens to have Down syndrome. I make sure all my kids participate in activities (sports, girl scouts, camps, etc) and stay busy. I also travel with them and try to get out and experience life as much as possible. I am currently planning a camping trip. I am also a full time college student. It’s definitely busy and stressful at times, and can be lonely, but I have 3 awesome kids who keep me going. I can’t imagine life without any one of them. And all the laughs and love make everything worth it.
From Kathleen, discussing the unbreakable connection between herself and her daughter and the support she received from the Down syndrome community:
Single but far from Alone
I am the luckiest mom in the world. I am a single mom with a child with Down syndrome and life is pretty wonderful. I get to have this beautiful angel all to myself, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Yes, raising a child by yourself can be challenging, and raising a child with different needs can have its own unique set of obstacles, but you get through these obstacles and keep going. Not just because you have to, but because you want to. That is what happens when you fall in love. Your own problems become miniscule and you find a way to make things work. Being a single parent gives you the freedom to come up with own solutions, and do you what feel is right for your child.
My daughter has never met her father. He left me when I was 2 months pregnant. When I called him after Kathryn was born, he simply said, “congratulations” as if I had conceived her by myself. I took him to court for child support, and he actually offered not to see her if we decreased the amount of child support rewarded to me! So really, why would I even want this person near my daughter much less let him help me raise her?
Being a single parent does not mean you are alone. The friends that I have made through the Down syndrome support groups are the most amazing, understanding people I have ever met. This “underground society” is like a second family. And they are everywhere! You will be in a store and someone will approach you that “belongs.” I urge a single parent to utilize these people for support and understanding, as well as using them to help with babysitting, transporting or for just an hour or two of respite. I promise, they won’t mind!
Ok, I admit….
Sure, there are things that are challenging about being a single parent; having only one income, finding sitters, arranging work schedules, never going to the bathroom again without the door open … but these things are managable. And there are some pretty major things that single parents with typical children don’t need to worry. Who is going to care for my care for my child if/when something happens to me? What if I can’t make a therapy appointment because of work? Who else can provide the special care I give to my child when I am unavailable? Scary stuff, I know. But you are not alone in these fears. Talk to someone about these worries: a parent, a best friend, a sibling, a therapist, or anyone you trust. Chances are most people that have met your child would do anything for him/her.
There are times that I am angry, and sad, and frustrated. As we all know, being a parent is the most difficult job in he world. But when she looks at me and smiles, I melt. She doesn’t feel cheated by not having two parents, so why should I feel cheated? After all, she doesn’t see a single mom when she looks at me, she sees her family. So you just do it. You be the best parent possible, and it pays off again and again.
The greatest thing about being a single parent is the bond that grows between you and your child. There is an unbreakable connection that forms when you are both parents to your child. Don’t get me wrong, there are times I would love to have a partner to share my joy, but for right now, I am going to be a little bit selfish and keep her all to myself.
From Shannon, talking about how she has raised her daughter as a single mom with support from friends and family after the father left immediately after she learned she was pregnant:
I am a single parent to a beautiful little girl who just turned 1 last week. She has never met her father. When he found out I was pregnant, he told me that if I went through with it, he would never speak to me again. So I told him to take care and moved on with my life.
His family does not know that he has a daughter, so she has never met them either.
I was 37 when I had Ashlyn, and she is my only child. So, we are a small family, but I think that only makes us closer.
It can be challenging being a single parent, but since her father has never been involved, I don’t know any other way. I suspect it is probably harder if you got used to counting on someone and then had to get used to doing things on your own. My family does not live in the same city as me, but they help out whenever possible. My friends have also been amazing – They have been a constant source of support and love for both Ashlyn and myself. And we have a nanny who loves Ashlyn as if she were her own. I do not feel that Ashlyn lacks for anything in her life – she is surrounded by love.
I think one of the bonuses of being a single parent is that people are more willing to offer to help. I think when you have a spouse, people assume that you get your support from him. I have learned to be a lot better about asking for help and accepting it when it is offered.
Oh, about the Down syndrome – I almost forgot. I had no idea Ashlyn had Down syndrome until after she was born. There were no indicators on any of her ultrasounds. So it was a shock, and the news was not delivered well, and I went through a pretty emotional time for a few months. Now that a year has passed, I cannot imagine my life without her, and would not change one single chromosome.
I think the best advice I can give you is to remember that you can do it. You are strong enough, and your love is all that baby really needs.