PARENTS

Rebecca Ferguson And Other Mums Want You To Know: There's No Shame In Being Dumped While Pregnant

24/08/2015 09:32 BST | Updated 24/08/2015 20:59 BST

If your partner leaves during pregnancy it might be a blow to your self-esteem, but one thing women shouldn't feel is shame, according to charities and mums who have been through it themselves.

Rebecca Ferguson was pregnant with her third child Arabella when her partner left her.

"I think it's a subject women don't like to talk about," Ferguson told Tess Daly as part of an exclusive interview for AOL's Being Mum.

"I think there’s like an element of shame, I felt that much pain when I was pregnant that I felt like there would be other women who are feeling that and they too don't feel like they can't talk about it."

rebecca ferfuson

The 29-year-old singer, who is mum to Lilly-Mae, 10, Carl, nine, and Arabella, six months, admitted that she found it hard when her partner left, but she decided to speak publicly about what she had been through to try and help other single mothers.

Nishma Shah from Family Lives said it's natural for women to experience extremely low self-esteem if their partner leaves them while they are pregnant.

She told HuffPost UK Parents: "The mum may start questioning everything she may have done that could have pushed her partner away, she might even start blaming being pregnant and not feeling attractive.

"She also might be feeling guilty at the thought of parenting alone when the baby comes and this is an extremely overwhelming feeling.

"But if a partner decides to leave for whatever reason, this is on him and not on the woman. Not because she is pregnant or not because she is 'to blame'."

Rachel Burrows who edits parenting site Netmums agreed.

"Splitting with your partner while pregnant is very tough," she said.

"Not only are you coping with the physical changes alone, pregnancy hormones mean your emotions are often heightened, which may well leave you feeling abandoned and even more upset than normal.

"But one emotion no single pregnant mum-to-be should feel is shame or embarrassment.

"A quarter of British children are being raised by a single parents, so you have a ready-made support group of other people who know exactly what you are going through."

For mum-of-one Carmen Scott, 42, having the courage to find and use a support group wasn't easy.

Scott, who has a two-year-old daughter Violet, had been with her partner for a couple of months before she found out she was pregnant.

Four weeks into her pregnancy, he made the decision to leave.

"In the initial stages, I felt a lot of anger," she told HuffPost UK Parents. "Angry that somebody could have the capacity to turn off their emotions and duties like a light switch.

"During my pregnancy, I felt very sad. I just felt a sense of loss for my child and I experienced a lot of anxiety about how people would view my situation, as well as worrying about whether I was going to be able to cope.

"There was an element of shame, it's psychosomatic. We all worry what people will think and there were a few people who said to me: 'What's going on? What are you doing?'"

carmen

Carmen Scott

When experiencing anxiety, Scott said she looked on the internet to find support as she was too worried to approach an organisation face-to-face for reassurance.

Although it might be difficult, Shah from Family Lives said finding support during this time is very important.

"Your emotions may be all over the place, depression could be looming, self-esteem would have taken a knock, so all these issues can take the enjoyment out of being pregnant and leave a woman feeling like a shell of her former self," she said.

"It is often the case that your feelings and emotional wellbeing ends up at the bottom of your list of priorities.

"We often hear from parents who feel guilty if they do allow themselves some time out."

When searching online, Scott came across the charity Gingerbread and approached them to ask if she could blog for them to share her story.

Gingerbread is a national charity for single parents. It has a range of free services single parents can access – including information on their website, local groups and getting involved with campaigns.

Scott said: "I realised there were other people in my situation and wanted to share my experiences. I started with blogging and as my confidence grew I spoke to other parents.

"Now I feel very positive. I look back at my pregnancy and don't feel anything at all towards my daughter's father.

"If I feel anything towards him it's a sense of loss for my daughter and guilt, but it's not at all like it used to be."

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Rose Stone, Gingerbread’s head of advice and information said: "A lot of new single parents worry that they will be judged, or that their children will lose out – the newspaper headlines about single mums that we see day in and day out certainly don’t help.

"But in fact, research shows that children from single parent families are just as happy as other children.

"The truth is that almost anyone can become a single parent and it’s likely they’ll need a bit of support along the way – whether it’s from Gingerbread or friends and family.

"We think that single parents do a remarkable job and that in 2015 they certainly shouldn’t continue to face the stigma that they do."

Scott was given an outreach worker from Gingerbread who linked her to a children's centre and provided her connections with local people who could help her with financial advice, as well as giving her moral support and keeping her mood high.

Scott added: "I now ring them about anything. I just spent so much time worrying about things, which caused me great anxiety and I wish I had got this advice sooner.

"I would tell other mums to trust their instinct. If you feel like you need support, go and seek it. It's not as scary as you imagine - imagination is always worse than reality."

Scott is now working with Gingerbread to set up a lone parents group in her area, to help meet and connect with other parents in similar situations to her.

Stone said: "We have more than 100 local groups across England and Wales where single parents can get together, just sign up to become a Gingerbread member – it’s free – and you can contact your local group.

"It’s really important that women in this position do reach out for help – getting the right advice and support can make a huge difference, financially and emotionally as well as putting you in a better place to welcome your new arrival.

"Many mums just want to know if they’re alone in this – and they’re not.

"There are other people out there in the same position as you and lots of others whose children are now a bit older and who have some sage advice to share."

If you're struggling to find the right support around you, your midwife should be able to identify other local organisations in the local community that can help and provide support.

If you want to talk things through Family Lives offers advice through the helpline on 0808 800 2222, as does Gingerbread on 0808 802 0925.

Your local Citizens Advice Bureau can also provide financial guidance.

Scott said one thing she has learned as a single parent was to "make sure you enjoy your child and keep positive".

Burrows from Netmums offered the following advice on making sure you stay positive during your pregnancy and beyond.

Give yourself time to adjust.

It can be hard to get your head around the many practical implications of your new set-up, or you may be struggling to cope with feelings of loneliness. It takes time for everyone to get used to the transition and as a parent your main concern will be how to support your new baby.

Worried about your mental health?

Coming out the other side of separation is no easy feat, but many single parents suffer feelings of failure, depression and low self-esteem in the early days. Don't bottle your feelings up. If you find it hard to open up to friends or family, you may find counselling or therapy can help - this provides a confidential, non-judgemental space where you can work through your feelings. Your GP should be able to put you in touch with services in your area.

How are your finances?

Try to come to a financial arrangement with your ex, sort out your new benefits and entitlements, and work out a revised household budget. If this leaves you little to play around with, you may be feeling anxious, remember there are lots of ways to have free fun with a baby.

Need a break?

It's important to take time out to look after yourself. Once the baby is born, don't be afraid to ask a family member or friend if they can babysit or have the baby overnight so you can have some time to yourself. Try to make the most of the times when your ex has the baby - it's tempting to devote that time to housework or other mundane tasks, but if you can reserve just a bit of me time, you'll feel much better for it.

Scared you'll never move on?

You will. Eventually your new circumstances won't feel so strange and things that felt like huge obstacles in the early days you will navigate with ease. You will gradually fall into your own routine, and with the support of those who care for you and your family single life will start to feel 'normal'. Like all stressful events in life, time can heal painful scars but do always keep in mind there are people and organisations that can help whenever you're struggling.

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