Johannesburg-based counselling psychologist Dr Robyn Rosin says that family and friends can provide invaluable support to a woman experiencing pregnancy alone. “Fathers usually run because they are petrified,” she says. “If the father of the baby has left, find support from other sources who love and care about you,” she advises.
“If there’s really nobody on your side, that’s when one can expect to see a traumatic response.” In that case, seek counselling immediately – a good therapist should be able to refer you to a support group for single moms or women experiencing pregnancy alone.
And it doesn’t have to be all bad. “There’s a strong possibility that being ‘abandoned’ by the baby’s father actually enhances the mother’s connection with her unborn baby, because she knows she is now the only parent. She may feel rejection and abandonment for herself but realises the buck stops with her now as far as her baby is concerned.”
Dr Rosin cautions, though, that your response to your baby depends on how you deal with the trauma of denied expectations. If you’re depressed, she says, “bonding will be affected. Seek help immediately if this applies to you.”
Dr Rosin says it’s vital for fathers to be given an opportunity to voice their – entirely natural – fears. “Don’t shut your partner down. Remember that during pregnancy and afterwards, mothers are often foregrounded. So try to open up communication on both sides,” she advises. “And remember that women have natural maternal instincts, but fathers don’t necessarily experience this until after the child is born, when their protective urge kicks in.”
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If your relationship is taking strain because of issues such as these, Dr Rosin strongly urges you to seek counselling immediately. "Don’t wait until the birth of the baby.”
She stresses that fathers-to-be often have feelings of inadequacy, wondering how exactly they will contribute to the wellbeing of the little person they helped to make. Mothers-to-be then worry if their partner is feeling animosity towards the baby, and about whether and how he will interact with the baby.
If your partner is not sharing in your pregnancy delight, “the issue needs to be worked on together and the father’s fears need to be taken into account," she says. "Together, you can try to plan strategies of how you might cope once the baby is born.”
And once that happy day dawns, jokes Dr Rosin, “most fathers become instantly besotted with their babies. Then you struggle with parenting itself, but at least the fear of what it’s going to be like dissipates!”