5 Things | Exiting Single Motherhood

From the very day my pregnancy test came up positive, I resigned myself to a lifetime of single-motherhood. I was never with Ivy's dad and was never going to be but having been raised by the world's best single mother I felt quietly confident about bringing up my daughter 'alone'. For a start, we have always been far from alone with the most incredible network of friends and family (most notiably my mama) and secondly, I'd never loved a man enough to ever want to share my biggest dream coming true with.

When I had Ivy, all this became more apparent when I just wanted to spend every single second and ounce of my being loving her and caring for her. I questioned how people did this and kept the spark in a previously child-less relationship alive, especially throughout the sleepless nights and constant boob. I didn't have to answer to anyone else's wants or feelings other than Ivy's. Our journey started perfectly, just the two of us. The bond we have is immeasurable and I wouldn't have changed being a single mama for anything

But then I met Michael.

Here's what I've learnt about Exiting Single Motherhood:

1. Being Ready

Back last Autumn (around the time Ivy's op was confirmed for summer '16 and very shortly after our breastfeeding journey came to an end) I thought I should maybe think about going on a date of some sort. I hadn't 'dated' since I was 19(!) and that in itself sounded pretty scary but with the operation looming, I didnt want an excuse to put it off for another few years. Nothing major though - all I wanted was to prove to myself I could go out for a drink with someone new and it all be ok, that the guilt of leaving Ivy for more than an hour didn't consume me, that I could hold a conversation that didn't revolve around Peppa Pig or Heterotaxy and that I could feel like Amy, the woman, and not Ivy's mum.

I naturally confided these thoughts with one of my closest friends, Frankie, but even with the slither of confidence I had to even mention the fact I was ready to 'think' about dating again, I still knew it was highly unlikely to happen - I didn't have hours to spend traipsing the internet for someone I clicked with (and even if I did have the time, I probably wouldn't have done it anyway!) But if, miraculously, something did happen, I finally felt I was ready for it and that to me was crucial.

2.  Trusting Your Instinct

Less than a week later, I was having endless conversations with Michael. A man from a place I'd barely heard of, a man I knew practically nothing about and a man who's only photo I'd seen was of him trying to selfie with a rabbit. But so it turned out, my very own best friend had known the male equivalent of me for years.

I began to fall dangerously in love with Michael before I'd even met him and although my feelings felt wildly out of control (with a slight err on the side of caution) everything felt so normal so I just went with it. Lots of dating doubts had been eradicated by the set-up (personal information verified etc) but what about the bigger picture? No one could foresee how he would react around Ivy, or promise he'd want to face the worst moments of my life by my side just months after finding out I even existed. What made it so easy was I just didn't have to try with anything. We couldn't have been more open and honest about our personal situations right from the off and it took so little time to realise we both loved Brand new and Neyo that regardless of what our futures held, I felt like I'd met a real friend. Bingo.

However, I knew from the second I laid eyes on this supposed stranger - who I felt like I'd known a lifetime - it was painfully obvious that this was far more than just friendship. Every fear I'd ever had of letting someone in felt so irrelevant when I was around him and if there is anything I have learnt from caring for a seriously ill child is that life isn't long enough to wait around for the 'right time'. This was our right time.

3. Introducing Your Child and Significant Other

There is no right or wrong answer to when this should be. I didn't know anywho who I could ask for advice from experience so I naturally saught opinions on Google and the answers were so few and so varied I felt I should just go with whatever I felt comfortable with, and how Michael did too. Ivy's age was on our side - at 2 she was old enough to interact with Michael but not old enough to understand that he may possibly be anyone other than a friend. As long as she was in a safe and calm environment, if it all went tits up she wouldn't have to know. Ivy's feelings will always be paramount to my own and I knew she needed to be happy before I could allow myself to be happy.

We decided for all 3 of us that it was a necessity for the meet to happen sooner rather than later. I had established that I reallyyy liked this guy but he'd met such a small fraction of me. I had discovered that the woman I was looking for was still within me but also, that she is such a tiny part of the better woman I now am since becoming a mother. Ivy isn't just a big part of my life, she is my whole life so how would 'this' go any further without him seeing me and Ivy together as the dream team we are.

We invited ourselves to Frankie and Simon's for New Year (familiar ground for Ivy too) where all 4 of us spent a couple of hours with Ivy before she went to bed. It couldn't have gone better

4. Dating With Kids In Tow

From then on, our dates instantly became a 3-person affair. When we could have been going to the cinema and falling in and out of bars til the early hours, we were exploring parks and zoos and having pub lunches and all our future plans were suited to Ivy, not just ourselves. Michael took to this like a duck to water and I am extremely lucky that I don't feel pressured to split my time away from Ivy - one of my biggest worries about having someone else I wanted to spend my time with. The time we spend together allows our relationship to blossom but alongside the realistic expectations of what our lives would be like together.

On the other side of the coin, Michael has also given me the confidence to leave Ivy, something I have been very reluctant to do - maybe because of her health concerns but also because I just didn't want to. I had chosen to have her and she was my responsibility so I felt guilty asking people to have her but also, there was just no one else in the world that I'd rather of been spending time with. I think we, Myself and Ivy, were both suffering from a little separation anxiety but purely because we didn't know any different. Michael and I have since had a 'proper' dinner date on my birthday and just this month I've left her over night for the first time so we could see Muse. I feel like the balance has been restored, and I feel a better mother, girlfriend and woman for it.

5. Love

Until I met Ivy, I didn't truly know what it was to love. Not just her, having a baby really does shift those perspectives and you realise just how much you love your parents and appreciate your closest friends. I also discovered that many people I had thought I'd once loved, I really hadn't. This is how I knew things were so different with Michael.

The thing I have felt most difficult is allowing myself to believe I'm this happy. I never in a million years thought I would meet someone so loving and understanding but it was so apparent from the off that we were made for each other. I didn't want to drag someone through the horrors of what 2016 has to offer but letting go of all those worries has turned this into the most exciting, life-changing and love-filled year yet and I am the happiest I have ever, ever been.