I am a first time mom of a 7 month-old boy named Harley. And not only am I a first-time mom, I’m also a single mother. As many know, being a single mother comes with its share of obstacles and hurdles; but not many realize that even married mothers with tons of support are still faced with some of the same issues that us single mothers face on a daily basis.

Becoming a mother and not just a person who physically carried and delivered a child, but a real mother in every sense of the word was one of the greatest and hardest things I have ever done in my life. All of the degrees, the education, the travel and countless experiences I have had in my life can’t compare to what I am doing now as a mommy to my baby. And I mean the nurturing and patience we sometimes even force ourselves to have can be overwhelming in itself.

Now, when I think back to when I was pregnant, I believed in my mind that I had it all planned out. I was going to have a natural delivery, take my 6 week maternity leave, designate a caregiver and continue breastfeeding my bundle of joy until his first birthday. All I can say was wishful thinking Jihan, very wishful.

I not only had to have an emergency caesarian delivery, but now that meant that my recovery time and maternity leave would have to be extended as well. As my maternity leave drew closer to an end, the thought of returning to work seemed so unrealistic for me and nerve wrecking. How was I as a single mom who was in so much physical pain going to return to work? I felt like not only was I not ready to go back to work, but I couldn’t imagine who I was going to trust with the single most important thing in my life?

As a breast-feeding mom, it also scared me that I wasn’t going to get the hang of pumping enough to build up a sufficient milk supply to feed my son. I became nervous and edgy and instead of enjoying motherhood and embracing the beautiful moments with my son, I became an overcalculated and rigid mom who almost forgot how to just breathe. Eventually, like all moms, you figure out ways to make things work and you find energy and you figure out your God-given super powers to make things that once seemed difficult look effortless to someone else. You make it work because you have no other choice but to make it work.

I was forced to slowly but surely supplement my breast milk with formula which is something that was like a nightmare to me at first, but as a mom you don’t allow your child to starve so again you do what you got to do! Most breast-feeding moms know that the best way to keep your milk supply up is to have your child on your breast rather than a pump. And every breast –feeding mom who works knows how stressful it is to safely pump and store your breast milk while at work (Like work isn’t stressful enough) this alone makes your milk supply drop.

Now imagine the comfort in knowing that you are able to stay home a little longer with your child. Knowing that your child is going to be in the safest hands (your own), knowing that you give yourself time to heal properly and knowing that you can build a strong bond with your child by being able to feed and nourish him when you need to. Knowing that your job is there when you return and knowing that you have a little financial support to help you along the way. I believe that I would have still been breast-feeding had it been for a longer paid maternity leave, but the reality of life is that as a single mom, you have to work to support your family. If Connecticut creates a system of paid family leave, I think that it is going to be beneficial on so many different levels. It would change the way a lot of women view motherhood.

Jihan Carswell, CT