My name is Jaxe and I have a 9-year old daughter.
A long way from home
I was still in university at the time and I was about to leave for Europe for an exchange programme when I found out I was pregnant. The news hit me hard. Seeing the little positive sign on the pregnancy test-kit, I couldn’t quite believe it. Only after the doctor confirmed it, then did I feel reality start to sink in. I was surprised and scared, overwhelmed by the number of crucial decisions I’d have to make especially since I was due to fly overseas in a matter of weeks. But looking at the little figure on the ultrasound screen, I instantly knew that abortion was not a decision I could live with in the long run. I’m not a religious person so the decision was solely based on gut.
Thus, with a tiny human in me, I left for Europe. I hadn’t even told me parents at that point.
The image on the ultrasound made the whole thing real. In fact, even though new lives are introduced into the world each day, it really amazed me to think that I was capable of giving life as well. Seeing the life inside of me gave me an existentialist realization – that I came from my mother’s womb and she came from her mother’s womb, and that life truly is a marvelous thing.
A foreign state (of mind)
Anyway, there I was in Europe, pregnant and alone. But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Even though I was in a foreign land, I received a surprising amount of support – be it from counselors, help groups etc. The people there were a lot more open-minded about single mothers and there was an established infrastructure in place to give help and support to single, pregnant women. Speaking to the people there really gave me a long-term perspective on my situation. They made me see the potential in single motherhood.
My trip to Europe really helped to affirm the decision to keep my daughter.
But another reason why I couldn’t give her up was because I knew I loved her even before she was born. Being away on my own, my baby became my companion in many ways. There was no way I could leave her behind after that.
So, after months had passed, I finally told my parents the truth. They heard what I had to say, I delivered my daughter, then I came back home.
In the thick of it
You can make all your preparations, draw up all your plans and make arrangements for your child’s arrival but nothing can prepare you enough for motherhood. You wouldn’t be able to imagine the magnitude of child-rearing until you do it yourself. Also, not having a partner by my side added another dimension to my already over-flowing list of responsibilities. And because I didn’t have anyone to talk things over with, there were issues that I simply did not anticipate: which primary school should my daughter go to? Which insurance policy is best? What types of vaccinations should she go for? I didn’t have anyone to discuss these important issues with.
Of course, I had friends and my family to back me up. But the level of involvement, as compared to if I had a partner, is vastly different. They give you advice and support, but ultimately, the stress falls back on you to rely on your own judgment to make these crucial decisions.
Even though my mother took awhile to warm up to my newfound status, she loved my daughter and doted on her even more than I did. The problem wasn’t with my immediate family. The problem was communicating the situation to my extended family. As in typical Chinese families, we weren’t sure of how to broach the topic in an open and honest manner. It was awkward and I felt embarrassed because even though they were reserved with their comments, I knew what they must have been thinking. It was quite hurtful at first, especially when they kept their distance. But after a while, things normalised and we got used to not talking about it.
At work, people treat me as per normal. Thankfully, I didn’t experience discrimination from my colleagues or my boss. However, I did feel penalised at certain points – not because anyone inflicted the penalty upon me, but that as an unwed mother, I simply could not commit to work as much as the other employees could. While people could jump at opportunities presented at work, I always had to take a moment to consider if this would affect my daughter. While people could work late, I had to ensure that I was home by 6PM to cook for my daughter and tuck her in bed. I am not entitled to complain about my situation so I won’t. This is just a reality that all unwed mothers have to learn to accept.
I am worried for how my daughter will deal with the difficult questions as she grows up. As much as I can prepare her tor the future, people can sometimes be unknowingly insensitive.
My daughter is outgoing and cheerful. She is proud to tell others that she doesn’t have father. Perhaps it’s because I have told her that she has nothing to be ashamed of. I have always been open with her about our situation. Since she was 4-years old, I’ve been revealing more and more of the larger picture to her. But at each juncture, the information given is always appropriate for her age. She continues to be a very inquisitive child, and I gladly tell her the truth. I’d rather the information come from me than for her to read it somewhere else.
Then again, perhaps it’s also because she doesn’t fully understand why it’s a big deal to some people that her mother isn’t married. Whenever she tells people she doesn’t have a father, they don’t take her seriously. After all, she’s a child. Her friends don’t believe her because the notion of alternative family types is foreign to them. Grown-ups think she’s joking, like most children do.
Speaking from experience
If you’re still studying when you find out that you’re pregnant, many will tell you to quit school and concentrate on raising your child. My advice to you is ‘don’t’. Finish your education because your qualifications will serve you well in the long run. Yes, it’ll be difficult in the beginning but you will see the benefits when you begin working. Finish your studies, ladies.