Growing up, I was always aware that my grandmother and my mum both married at 19 and gave birth to their eldest children at the age of 20. I expected my life would take the same path. When, at the age of 19, I was still single I began panicking.
Mum told me not to be silly, that love would find me when the time was right. I didn’t believe this, and when my younger sister got married and I was still very single, I really thought something was wrong with me.
I was 23 when I gave birth to my first child. My relationship had ended not long after I found out I was pregnant, so right from the start I was a single mum.
Comparing my life to my mum’s, I felt like a failure. She and Dad have always been so madly in love, and in my eyes their relationship was perfect. It was the type of love I wanted for myself – the type of situation I wanted to raise my child in.
At 26 I gave birth to my second child, but again it was as a single parent. My sister was in the room with me when I had my caesarean, and she was the first person to have a cuddle with my baby girl. When my parents – and the new big sister – visited us everyone doted over the newest addition to our family, but there was still that element of missing out for me. I didn’t have the new dad who was over the moon with his baby girl, ringing all of his friends and family to share the news.
I knew that, unlike my mum and her mum, I was destined to life as a single parent.
This life wasn’t terrible. I loved having my kids to myself, being the one who got all the hugs first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I was the one who was there for the first words, the first time crawling, the first steps, the first everything.
But there were times when I felt incredibly alone and as if I was the only one who really cared about my girls. When they were sick, teething, tired, grumpy or just being two-year-olds I noticed the lack of support. Worst was when I was sick – because no matter how horrid I felt, I had to get up and go about life as usual. There was no one to take the slack, to tell me to go back to bed and sleep, and when I needed to cry it was into my pillow.
One day in August 2010 I joined an online forum for single parents. There were a few members on the forum and it was lovely to know I wasn’t alone in my loneliness, or in the gripes that are part and parcel of single parenthood.
There was one woman I became especially close with. Her name was Lauriel. We sent private messages to each other, and then added one another on MSN messenger and Skype. I lived in Christchurch, and after the February 2011 earthquake hit, when I was finally able to get back online, I had a message from her with her cell phone number, telling me to text her if I wanted to talk. We kept talking online and sent text messages during the day.
In June there was another sizeable quake and I decided I’d had enough, so packed up myself and my girls and we went down to Wanaka to stay with my grandma for a week. During that time Lauriel and I texted a lot, to the point where we both ran out of texts on our text plans.
In December 2011 Lauriel came to stay with me and my girls while her kids were with their father. She arrived, and it was like we’d known each other forever. There was none of the awkwardness I expected, and I found myself feeling sad that she’d be leaving so soon.
After she’d been staying for a week something magical happened. Just like mum had told me would happen, love found me.
I can’t explain how it happened, or why, but Lauriel and I suddenly found ourselves madly in love.
The idea of a relationship hadn’t crossed my mind because I knew Lauriel was straight, and I was … well, I wasn’t sure how to define myself, but regardless, our friendship blossomed into something much more than we could have ever anticipated.
When she left Christchurch and went back to Whanganui we were both devastated, but we also knew we wanted to be together, and that if we wanted it enough nothing would stop us.
After almost a year of Lauriel and me being in a long-distance relationship, my girls and I said goodbye to Christchurch and made the 500km move to Whanganui, to begin a new life with Lauriel and her two children.
It’s been seven years now and I still pinch myself and wonder how I got so lucky.
I like to think we serve as proof that, when you least expect it, love really does have a way of finding you.