by Patrice Smith
When my beautiful baby girl was born, I was the only one who welcomed her into the world. The “sperm donor” chose not to participate. As disappointing as his absence was, I was overjoyed at the life we had created. She was tiny and pink and had the softest, sweetest cry (that would get louder as she grew older!).
All new mothers are anxious and nervous about how to take care of this helpless bundle of joy, but my anxiety was magnified because I would have to do it all by myself. I remember being optimistic about the challenge, breaking it down into simple steps. First things first, the baby had to eat, so I decided to breastfeed mostly because it was free and there would be no formula to buy or bottles to wash. After that initial painful latching on, I marveled at how she literally gulped down the sustenance that I offered. I can still see her little face and those gloriously long eyelashes!
Not to Proud to Accept Help
In 1982, I was working as the afternoon news anchor on WTMA, pregnant and uninsured. Things got worse when, while on maternity leave, I got laid off (who does that?). I'll be honest, I considered it a blessing. I never wanted to put my newborn in daycare, which was a new phenomenon. My single, unemployed status, afforded me state supported assistance. I got on the WIC program which gave me milk, cereal and juice vouchers.
For eight months, I collected unemployment and was awarded food stamps and I thanked God daily that I didn’t have to work. I discovered (to my delight) that you don’t need as much money when you’re not working because you’re not spending it on gas, lunch, the cleaners, etc. My main purchase was diapers. My three older cousins, who had baby girls, gave me all the necessary baby items: car seats, changing table, stroller, a crib and so many cute clothes. I washed all those lovely hand-me-downs (some came from Paris) and my baby was decked out for years!
Through my journey as a single mother, I was able to see God’s provisions. I clung to Isaiah 61:7, ‘for your shame you shall have double,’ a
nd saw this passage come to fruition in my life. By now you can tell that I’m a praying woman! I literally ran to God for comfort and for answers because I had no idea how I was going to pull this thing off by myself. The greatest single piece of advice I can offer single mothers is to ask for help and watch how the ‘windows of heaven will open.’ You'll receive resources and help from unexpected places and your needs will be met.
Have a Little Faith
I became dependent on God to work things out for me. I didn't really stress about how I was going to support the two of us. I had already seen Him care for us in miraculous ways and I just expected it to keep on coming! And it did. Two months after I gave birth, I was contacted by Z-93 radio to cover the upcoming Operation Push convention. Tape recorder in hand, I did several reports that so impressed management they offered me the news director position. I started in January 1983.
The hardest part of going back to work was leaving my little girl, but it just so happened that a new day care opened near my home, so I paid a visit with my baby girl on my hip. The owner knew my dad (how convenient) and she was delighted to take care of Mr. Smith’s grand baby.
The first day of work, I had to get up real early to do a 7 a.m. newscast, which meant my daughter Lauren had to be up even earlier. At 8-months-old, she didn't even fuss when I had to leave her. She enjoyed her new surroundings, and it wasn't too long before I realized Lauren was a social butterfly.
This made it easy for me to focus at work and build a career in broadcast journalism. Shortly after taking the job at Z-93, I was asked by a college classmate, who worked for the local cable company, to televise my radio public affairs talk show. That was my introduction to TV. Eleven years later, I got the job as a reporter at ABC News 4, where I worked for 17 years. It's amazing to reflect on these early years and see how everything aligned. As a single mother, I learned it is imperative to learn everything you can about the industry you're in and be willing to take what you can get. You never know what it might lead to and along the way don't be afraid to ask for help.
Patrice Smith and her daughter both reside in North Charleston