Against the odds
Having her baby, Hannah, after a struggle with endometriosis was a triumph for single mom Diane Macpherson. 

Diane Macpherson from Durban yearned for a child for many years but was told her chances of ever fulfilling that dream were slim. “With stage four endometriosis hampering things on that front, it was a dream I was told I might have to give up on. I’m so glad I didn’t!” recalls Diane.

After trying to conceive for three long years, Diane fell pregnant with daughter Hannah, and so began her journey into single motherhood.

Welcome to the world

Diane had a planned Caesarean on 22 October 2011. “I didn’t write up a birth plan as it was pretty straight forward: Caesarean at 7:30am on the Saturday morning before the Rugby World Cup final. The only thing that didn’t come together as planned was a Springbok victory!” laughs Diane.

“The Caesarean was better than expected. Apart from a bit of a tugging sensation, the epidural did its thing beautifully, and before I could catch my breath, my daughter – Hannah, who was in a breech position – entered the world screaming her little lungs out. The few minutes’ wait until I got to see and touch her felt very long! My birthing partner reassured me while Hannah was being checked out and swaddled that she was ‘perfect’. And perfect she is.”

Planning ahead

As we all know, being a first-time mommy is tough, and no matter how much reading we do before baby’s arrival, the realities hit you like a freight train. Having a system in place is how Diane gets the mommy thing down. “As a single mom, it comes down to two important things for me: planning and a good support system. I did most of the planning before my daughter was born by getting everything organised right down to the freezer dinners I packed away for myself. I also read up on what to expect post-Caesarean and with baby, and the research really did help – even if I’ve since discarded all that advice, I at least feel that I have a broad spectrum of information of the various topics,” Diane says.

Not all alone 

Although she made a choice to tackle motherhood single-handedly, Diane is not alone in the task, as she has surrounded herself with a strong support system consisting of her mom, who stayed with her during the first week after birth, and a few close friends. Clinic visits were also indispensable. As she says, “Post baby, the hour-long weekly clinic visits with Jenni Johnson at Durban’s Baby Clinic became a lifeline. No question was too silly to ask. And of course, I wouldn’t have coped without the help of my nanny, who works every weekday. Without all of these elements, the rst six weeks might have been traumatic for me and for Hannah. While I’ve certainly had nightmare days and nights, where nothing I did could calm her or get her to sleep, they’ve been in the minority.” 

The realities of motherhood

Were the picket-fence dreams of motherhood we all grew up with real for Diane? “I think it’s impossible not to romanticise motherhood to some extent. While pregnant, you’re growing this human being, feeling movement and hiccups and bonding with your son- or daughter-to-be. As you count down the days, you imagine what this little person is going to look like and what it’s going to be like to hold and love and nurture him or her.

“I knew that there would be sleepless nights and crying, but it was all theoretical, kind of like thinking about driving a car – actually getting behind the wheel is a whole different ball game. So yes, some aspects of motherhood have come as a shock – the sleep deprivation and how it actually makes you feel and the helplessness of not being able to get your baby to stop crying. Others have been completely overwhelming. Nothing can actually prepare you for the amazing power of love you feel for your child. For me, sacri cing sleep, lots of time to myself and long, lazy meals seems like a fair trade for the joy of being a mom.”

Don't forget to recharge

When her daughter, Hannah, arrived, Diane Macpherson had to rethink her busy approach to life: “Remember to be kind to yourself: you cannot do it all. If you do, you will end up sacrificing your sleep and slowly feel that everything is becoming too much.

“I’ve realised that it’s absolutely vital to sleep as and when you can, so that your coping mechanisms remain intact. Even an hour’s rest in the morning or afternoon – while someone looks after Hannah – is enough to recharge my batteries and help give me a positive perspective on the day, because in the early days it really is a day-to-day thing.

“A friend of mine wisely said to me that while on maternity leave, this is my job. She was so right. After that realisation, I stopped feeling guilty about sleeping in the day and realised that by looking after myself, I was giving my daughter the best of me.”

Day-to-day living

“Every day is different because you never know what your child is going to be doing. I have been so fortunate that the baby blues never hit, but if they do I don’t think I’ll be ashamed to ask for help from family and friends. “

No regrets

Diane believes being a mom is the best decision she’s ever made, whether on her own or not: “I’d like to say to other women out there who may be considering doing this on their own that it is possible. If it’s something you truly want, and you have the means to make it happen and the support network to back you up, do it. I waited so long to try for Hannah and by the time I decided it was the ‘right’ time in my life, I woke up to the reality that my health (endometriosis) may not allow it.

“Three difficult and trying years later, Hannah was born. I know it’s going to be hard on my own, but I’m on board with that and I’ll get through somehow. My daughter truly is my miracle baby and as such is even more cherished.”

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