- Nolukholo Madikane's boyfriend denied he was the father of her child, and it left her devastated.
- The 25-year-old single mom never thought she would find love again, but she has.
- After all the shame she felt and the depression she suffered, she is grateful for her 5-year-old, who has given her a sense of purpose.
At the age of 20, Nolukholo Madikane was heartbroken when the father of her now 5-year-old denied paternity and left her to raise the child all alone.
Nolukholo never thought she would find love again, but five years later, she has found a man who loves her and her child.
It has taken years to heal from the trauma, embarrassment and disappointment. Nolukholo now encourages other young single mothers who may think it will never get better - because it will.
"His reaction tore me apart," the young woman tells News24.
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"I couldn't believe that someone I lived with and shared intimate moments with denied that he got me pregnant. I thought he was acting the way he did because I'm ugly, and he didn't want to raise a child with someone like me."
They started being intimate when she moved in with him because she needed a place to stay. According to him, they were in a relationship. Although she didn't think it was a serious relationship, she was shocked at his response when she told him that she was pregnant.
"He told me that I couldn't be pregnant as his doctor told him he is infertile and couldn't have kids," she says.
Stranded with no place to stay and still studying, Nolukholo says, "everything was just too much".
Nolukholo got some abortion pills in Johannesburg and was about to take them when a friend called in excitement.
"She told me that she has a name for my baby and named her Gabriella, derived from Hebrew, which means 'woman of God' [in other variations, it is 'God is my strength']. I started crying, and something told me just to keep the baby, and I am glad I did."
The decision was not an easy one because she felt judged for having a child out of wedlock. She could not even imagine the disappointment her parents would feel.
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"I had postpartum depression, and no one really noticed as I used to lock myself up in my room and cry."
But once she started feeling like herself again, emotionally wounded as she was, it didn't take long for her to return to the dating scene.
"I had this constant need to be validated by men because I thought that there was something wrong with me, so I figured if I started dating again, I could find someone who would truly love me."
This didn't work for her, as she got hurt repeatedly.
"Eventually, I decided to close that door [dating] and focus on myself and my daughter."
In 2021, Nolukholo moved to Cape Town, where she met her current boyfriend, who has restored lost hope.
"Good men still exist," the 25-year-old mom tells us.
"I figured that he would just be another guy who would run off as soon as I told him I had a child. But he didn't. He loved that I was honest about having a child and told me he wanted to meet her. On our fifth date, he brought me a present, but the present wasn't actually for me, he bought a doll set for my daughter, and that's when I let my guard down."
When Nolukholo looks back at the emotions she's gone through, she is grateful for what she has been able to overcome.
Sometimes depression would creep in, but her boyfriend would drop everything to see her and make sure she was okay.
"I would push him away most of the time, but he was persistent and never gave up on me. That's when I could tell that he was different. He loved me with my scars."
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In 2018, the Human Sciences Research Council estimated that 60% of SA children have an absent father.
Stats SA released a general household survey in 2019 that revealed that about one-fifth (21,3%) of all children did not live with their parents, and only one-third (32,7%) lived with both parents. Most children, however, lived only with their mothers (42%), and a much smaller percentage (4%) of children lived only with their fathers.
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Many single mothers can relate to Nolukholo's story as they are left alone to raise kids. Nolukholo says her journey taught her that "not all men will hurt us".
"Another thing is to trust your instincts, and they are never wrong, especially when it comes to a man," she says.
"The pain I suffered has taught me that I'm stronger than I ever thought I was and capable of so much more. Yes, I felt like I was dying, but in that process, my character and faith were being built.
"I know that my past doesn't define me nor has a strong hold over me. Now, all I want to do is to live for my daughter," she says.