"I'm due with my first at the end of Dec. I have a decent support system of family and friends, but of course it isn't the same as having a partner here with me through all of this. The father decided to go on his own way when I was about 3 months along...sooooo...I was hoping you'd ask your readers for some reading suggestions for a single mom-to-be. I'm happy with my current 'understanding your pregnancy' type books, but I'd love to hear recommendations for books geared toward single moms about everything after the birth..."
One of my good friends from my older son's playgroup is a single mom (adopted her daughter as a baby and was single from the beginning). Her summary of what she perceived the differences between being on her own and what she saw in two-parent household was that that she had all the help she needed for the daily stuff, but didn't have anyone to defer to or fight with about the important stuff. She saw it as a tough ramp-up to realize that she was the only person ultimately responsible for this other person. But once she'd gotten into that mode she was happy not to have to compromise with anyone else. (We used to talk about whether she thought she'd meet someone someday, and her joke was that it would have to be someone with his own kid to make decisions about, since she wouldn't be good at compromising with someone else when it came to her daughter. BTW, if any NYC-area single dads looking for a hot, funny, smart, independent secular Jewish mom in her mid 40s with a brilliant and funny 6-year-old daughter are out there, email me and I can set you up.)
Your support system of family and friends is going to be crucial. But I wonder if sometimes women with partners actually get less care and help after the baby comes because the partner is assumed to be filling that role? So you may actually end up with more help for the first month or so than you would have had if you'd had a partner.
I assume you've read Operating Instructions, one of my favorite "parenting" books of all time, which is Anne Lamott's memoir of the first year of her son's life. The father denied the baby was his while Lamott was pregnant, so she had and raised Sam "on her own" with her motley and loyal cadre of friends and family to help her. It's the most real, honest portrayal of motherhood I've read, and I think a lot of that is because Lamott could focus so much on her relationship with Sam and not have to worry about a relationship with a partner at the same time. (Full review here.) It's not going to give any practical instructions for being a single mom, but it will help you keep things in perspective about parenting in general.
But that's the limit of my knowledge of being a single mom to a baby. So please, readers, jump in. What can you recommend for Rachel, in terms of resources for single moms and arranging help?