'I didn't intend to be a single mum at 28'
For Nessa Toale, single motherhood meant getting used to parting with her daughter when she was just six weeks old
IN THE maternity wards at Our Lady of Lourdes, pregnant women and partners came in and families went out. Nurses never asked after my baby’s dad. Looking back on it, I guess it was strange no-one asked, even once.
My baby was lying sideways. In the event of my waters breaking I would need medical assistance immediately so my doctor felt I should be in the hospital in the three weeks before my due date.
Another woman had already been there for two weeks and would be staying for longer than I was. The big difference between us was that her partner called every day and I did not have a partner. I was so self-conscious about it that I kept my curtains closed whenever I could.
But after two weeks on the ward, I relaxed about not having a partner. Getting to know the other women helped. Once I was able to explain my situation it didn’t seem like such a big deal. The 2011 Census made me feel even less alone with its figures: half a million people in Ireland live in single-parent households.
I shouldn’t have given a hoot about what anyone thought. Doing things the normal way was never exactly my style.
I knew early on in the pregnancy that I would be a single mother. But I also knew the baby would have a dad who loved her and would be there for her. Even though he and I had known each other for almost half our lives we were not suited.
On the morning of the 18th September 2009, I prepared to get my stomach sliced open after having a lovely, long needle inserted into my spine.The doctor made the first incision at 9.14am and baby Beth was born at 9.24am, crying. She was brought to my mother, all wrapped up in some kind of insulating jacket. I looked over from my disadvantaged point at her in my mother’s arms.
At 9lb 3oz, she was no lightweight and, although I was happy to see her, I didn’t have this overwhelming maternal feeling.
They had to take her away while the doctor stitched me up. I wanted my mother to go with her; she wanted to stay with me, her baby, but I insisted. I was terrified and knew I could deal with it better alone.
In recovery afterwards, I longed to get back to Beth, to hold her and kiss her, to experience the rush of being a mammy.
It didn’t happen when I got back to her. It happened six weeks later, when I was changing her and it all just flooded over me. I picked her up, bare bum and all (a definite risk), and cried with relief. Until that point I couldn’t feel anything.
I don’t know why it took so long. Maybe it was the circumstances, maybe it was the birth. I believed I was the only one who didn’t experience an instant bond. I know now that I’m not alone, and I cried the way I found that out too.