Through the years, I became a master at bottling things, trying my best to avoid confrontation. I became good at taking every ear beating on the chin, smiling to keep from crying. But the way my ex made me feel, I’d need something sturdier with more depth to contain my emotions. Maybe if I had a bigger “bottle,” I could continue to store up all the harsh words and all the shaming.

I remember it was a Tuesday, about a week after our baby shower. I was seven months pregnant, mentally beaten down, and defeated by verbal abuse. I picked up the phone to text my son’s father, heart racing and tears running down my face. I wrote, “I’m done. I can’t be in a relationship with you anymore.” It took me weeks, months, to get up the courage to even text those few words. As I typed, I could feel the weight lifted from my shoulders and the pressure getting lighter on my heart. His response was simple: “Cool,” but the following eight years of my life have been anything but cool.

Through The Years, Tuwanna Samuel's personal essay on single motherhood, finding confidence and more.

Through The Years

Year One

I gave birth to my son prematurely. Whenever I talked to his father, I’d tell him I thought something wasn’t right. He’d say to me I was dramatic and a hypochondriac. Even when my mom called to tell him I was at the hospital in premature labor, he responded, “Well, this is what she wanted.” I delivered my son five weeks early. Shockingly, he arrived without any health complications. During my pregnancy, my mother told me, “These fathers get to pick and choose when they want to be dads, but when you walk out of that hospital, you better know what you are: a full-time mother!” So naturally, that was the mentality I carried out those hospital doors along with my brand new 4lb 7oz son, Jourden. Throughout that year, my son’s dad and I consistently argued about the inconsistencies in his life.

Year Two

I was ready to return to work and school. I resigned from my previous position due to pregnancy complications and spent the entire first year tending to my son. I asked my son’s father if he could financially assist me while I was in school. I didn’t want to apply for public assistance if I didn’t have to, and I was sure I’d be able to take care of my needs. His exact words were, “Well, you’re going to have to do what you have to do!” So that’s what I did.

Years Three and Four

We spent the following two years in and out of court. The welfare department made me seek child support because I had to “do what I had to do” and apply for assistance. It made my son’s father so bitter, and in turn, he made me miserable. The court only ordered him to pay $75 a month, but he refused to do even that. Shortly after his first payment, we went to custody court. We ended up with shared partial and legal custody of a kid he’d only see for a few hours a month.

Our son was uneasy about spending lengthy time with his dad because he wasn’t consistent enough. Every other weekend, my son and I cried when forced to spend time with his father. Then, the court-ordered custody ended abruptly. I had to pick Jourden up one night after having an anxiety attack because he was left in a dark room with his younger brother and woke up to that alone. When I arrived, his father wasn’t there, and at that moment, he knew there was no way I’d send my son with him from then on.

Years Five through Eight

The next three years were a whirlwind of good experiences. My son has been an amazing child, perfect perhaps. He is an honor Roll student. We both enjoy superheroes and music and art, and we spend so much time having fun together. He has such a big, beautiful heart and soul. He has taught me so much about myself. How to be strong, stay focused, and be motivated. He has also taught me forgiveness. Forgiving someone is hard when you have given them so much energy. There were times that I’d be so uncontrollably upset in the face of my child that he would grab me by the face and give me kisses or lay his head on my shoulder and tell me he loved me.

That feeling created power. I never WANTED to expose him to that sadness, to those reactions. I knew that for him, I had to let go of my anger and forgive his father. I had to let go of that anger with myself for getting involved with a man who had no care or respect for me and that regret of ever meeting him because, through it all, something so beautiful had come from it, something that meant more to me than my own life. I never wanted my son to hold my face and feel me hurt that way again.

Tuwanna's son says "my mom is fun."

Taking The Top Off

I  decided the only images of me he’d see from that point on were positive ones. I was done bottling up my pain, thoughts, and feelings for a person who had no love for me. I took the top off and experienced emotion–the good and the bad.

Through the years, I managed to have a few lengthy emotional conversations with my son’s dad to get him to understand that time with his child is the most important thing and that it’s bigger than he and I. We don’t have to be friends, buddies, or pals, but he should do right by OUR son. He isn’t around a ton but manages to come again every other weekend. My son is now older and mature enough to let him know his feelings, interests, etc. He now enjoys his time with his dad, and I enjoy the break as a full-time parent. It has also given me time to dive into my creativity and continue working toward a second and third string of income and, hopefully, a full-time career change.

Finding Confidence and My First Business

While I have been full-time in the construction industry for about six years, I have always been into arts and crafts in my free time. While off work during my pregnancy, I began making things and becoming more confident in my talent. Three years ago, I started building my first business, CraZzy CrafTee. My best friend and I work together on cool handmade items, but our focus is anything event and party-related—centerpieces, favor bags, backdrops, etc. Creating things is hugely therapeutic, and the extra income is awesome. I am also starting a second business, selling my handmade accessory line. My confidence in myself from my growth and experiences has put me in a beautiful place. My support system has been amazing, and I couldn’t be happier.

What I’d Tell Other Single Mothers

If I had to advise a single mother with a story like mine, it would be never to let someone get inside her head so bad that she starts to become hard on herself. I’d tell her: “You are strong. You are supported. There are many others like you, struggling and fighting a similar battle. Do NOT give up! Because that child or those children looking up to you believe you are their superhero. You are flawless, and they love you more than anything on this planet, and for that, you must fight for them, your sanity, and your strength. It’s not always easy, but it’s ALWAYS worth it as you grow, believe, and make it through the years.”