I miss the little guy.
October 14, 2009 6:25 PM   Subscribe

Help. Help help help. My (ex?) girlfriend has taken our six day old child to her parents house and is barricading herself there.

Long story... we're both teachers. Unplanned pregnancy, in a foreign country. 9 months ago, I tell her that I want to be a part of this, despite her giving me an open door to leave. She decides to leave back to her hometown, roughly seven hundred miles from my family, to have the child, and I move there with her. I'm trying to adjust to a new city, a difficult job search, distance from my family, and coming to terms with impending fatherhood (*way* sooner than I ever saw it happening), which has certainly made me less stable than I would be otherwise. Hence, I more than contributed to the bumps in the road through the pregnancy, and I have needed to ask for forgiveness and rely on her and her family's graciousness more than once.

Yet we were together leading up to the birth. I was there with her at delivery, stayed in the hospital with her and brought home takeout, and spent the first day and a half with her at home waking at all hours to tend to the little guy, and offering to get whatever at the store to save her the 3 flight walk-up. She even commented (paraphrasing), "You really help to calm me through those 3am diaper changes."

This weekend, mom and dad visited to see their first grandchild... and to meet her for the first time. Smiles all around, a very good vibe shared among all and she even commented on her looking forward to seeing my hometown over Christmas (the plan being to take junior out there to celebrate). Me and my folks seemed to be warmly received by her parents.

Sunday nite, after returning from dropping my parents off at their hotel, she and I hugged on the couch, she saying, "I want to reconnect." I agreed, since the weekend was zany, parents and sisters everywhere, and she and I without a moment to look at each other and say... "We're caring for a little miracle, and you helped create it..." (or things to that effect, you know what I mean) We agreed to try for the 'reconnect' after his 11 o'clock feeding. Before then, I noticed a mess in the kitchen -- you know, baby bottles everywhere plus detritus from a weekend of entertaining -- and I got a bit anxious and all, "We need to clean this place up." She didn't take to that too well.

Okay, so I go into the bedroom, "Sorry for getting wound up about the kitchen." She pushes away the apology, and immediately sets up an, "I've done all this, you've only done that" view of things. Not even daring to go into 'competition' mode, I back out of the bedroom. 15 minutes later, she comes out, "What's your problem?" Again, I remind her about the whole 'we are a team' thing. Icy silence prevails through the nite-time changings/feedings. 8am or so, trying to get the clean slate for the day, I'm told, "Leave me the fuck alone." Okay. I do need to drive her to the doctor's, though -- an hour away. After the appointment, in which the little guy isn't gaining the weight he ought to, she says, "I need to stay at my parents' house a few days." "Okay, but why?" "Because I don't feel like I'm supported by you." "Remember, you told me to leave you the fuck alone last nite." "FUCK YOU."

And after dropping her and her car off at her parents' house, I've been on my own. I've not been told if we're still together (I'd like to be -- she's never been this pointedly vehement), when I'll be allowed to see/parent my little son, and whether I need to deal with this apt/lease on my own (the place is almost totally furnished by her).

So -- what's my next move? Lawyer? Wait and try for a rational conversation? Something different? What are my rights? Can I see the child every day? Mothers, could this just be driven by post-birth hormones? Do I dare to trust her? I'm in Chicagoland, should anyone know of specifics that might pertain around that vicinity. I desperately want to be proud about being a father. And now I feel like the rug's out form under my feet. I'm ashamed to tell anyone I know. Help help help -- imissthelittleguy at gmail. Thanks.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (42 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
That's a rough situation to be in. IANYL, but you need to see both a lawyer and a counselor/therapist - get both; one does not substitute for other, seeing one will help the other do his/her job better. If you are looking for a good family law attorney in the Chicago area, go to aaml.org as the starting point. Do not use lawyers.com or martindale for a whole host of reasons. Can't help with therapist referral sources. Good luck.
posted by webhund at 6:39 PM on October 14, 2009

Chill out man, it's okay. Recovering from birth & newborn care are the two of the hardest things I've ever done. And they happen at the same time! And No-one tells you how hard it will be! No new Mom can (or should) handle a "weekend of entertaining" as well as hearing "we need to clean this place up" in the face of post-birth exhaustion & constant baby-care.

I recommend just letting her feel however she feels. Even if you are totally right and she's completely overreacting, this is not the time. If you can go see her, bring her food, diapers etc. Bring her her favorite socks but don't expect her to have the energy to really respond.

The first two weeks are impossible. The first few months are hard. When baby hits 14 lbs/12 weeks you can leave him/her alone for 10 hours a night. ONLY after you've both been sleeping 8 hours a night for two weeks could rational conversation take place.
posted by debbie_ann at 6:40 PM on October 14, 2009 [22 favorites]

I'm going to tell you to relax. It is a difficult time. I suggest a sweet letter. No accusations, no defending yourself, just let her know you love her and that you know there are going to be rocky parts but that you are here for her.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:49 PM on October 14, 2009 [3 favorites]

Don't over-react to this... there is a lot of emotion simmering here...

even my mid-wife wife said that this is a hormonal/emotional/post-birth thing going on...

be compassionate, give her some space, don't provoke the situation with lawyers and threats..

take a deep breath....
posted by HuronBob at 6:53 PM on October 14, 2009 [5 favorites]

If my own experience and that of friends is anything to go by, then the first month or so after having a child is an extremely vulnerable time for the new mother. You're sleepless, hormonal, stressed out, overwhelmed by new feelings of responsibility and protectiveness, and what you need from everyone around you (and particularly from your partner) is to feel absolutely sure of their unconditional support.

Regardless of whether your actions were justifiable or not, it doesn't sound like you've made your girlfriend feel secure in this way; the situation wasn't 100% stable to begin with, and the criticism/conflict over the past few days may have been the icing on the cake. So your girlfriend has retreated to a place where she does feel emotionally safe and secure enough to parent your new baby. Frankly, in her situation, I'd probably have done the same thing.

We have no way of knowing what her flight means for the ultimate survival of the relationship (I'd guess: not much either way), but in the short term, I'd recommend that you man up, grovel, and offer to do anything it takes to calm her down and get things back on an even footing between you two. Your final paragraph is very me-me-me-- what are my rights, how can I feel proud of myself as a father, when can I see my baby, etc., but at this very early point in his life, you'll love your little boy best by ensuring that he has a happy, healthy mom and a stable living situation. Maybe this will ultimately end in tears and custody battling, but it really doesn't seem like now's the optimal time.
posted by Bardolph at 6:54 PM on October 14, 2009 [24 favorites]

This sounds very painful. I'm sorry you're going through this, along with the birth of your first child, which is itself a bit of a roller coaster.

My thoughts: her behavior could be influenced by post-birth hormones, certainly, only six days after delivery. I remember taking everything personally. And baby not gaining weight -- is she breastfeeding? I remember that being a huge stress as well, and a potential source of a deep sense of failure, if the baby didn't seem to be getting enough. I hope there hasn't been any pressure on this front.

But ... really, if she's six days post-partum, why are you mentioning cleaning up to her at all? That's really outside her purview right now -- she needs to rest, heal (wounds surgical or due to tears), eat and drink so she can feed the baby. That's it; everyone else needs to fill in the rest. And maybe that's why she went to Mom's, so she can feel taken care of, and no one is expecting more from her than just caring for the baby. Lots of women have their moms with them post-birth.

As for legal rights: even a joint-custodial parent does not generally have a right to see a child every day, and if your son is a breastfeeding newborn, custody arrangements tend to be heavily weighted toward the mother, for obvious reasons.

Given your description of your relationship, you may well need a lawyer at some point, to work out visitation. But I wouldn't do that right now. Send a nice note, nothing accusatory, just that you miss them both and want to see them. Give it a couple of weeks.
posted by palliser at 6:55 PM on October 14, 2009 [3 favorites]

I don't want to go ahead and pick apart everything, but this:

"Remember, you told me to leave you the fuck alone last nite."

Was the wrong thing to say.

No matter what the situation, it's apparent that there is something terribly and desperately wrong here. Your girlfriend is desperately in need and the only thing you can and should do is be supportive. Firing back with her own vehemence will do nothing but fuel whatever is going on here.

There needs to be immediate psychiatric support involved. Recognize that, chance are that IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU. Be sweet with her. Be kind to her. Talk with her parents. Do not harp. Do not push. Do not get the law involved yet.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 7:02 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Could the folks who are recommending a lawyer now now now elaborate their thoughts on that? My sense is that there isn't a danger of someone draining bank accounts, that no one's suggesting the OP isn't the father -- what would change if he gave his girlfriend, whom he wants to be with, a little time to heal, to gather herself from childbirth, to stay with her mom while she adjusts to life with a newborn?
posted by palliser at 7:03 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry, wait, this was TWO DAYS AGO, right? Just let her chill for a bit, give her a call, tell her you're sorry, don't try to have a State-of-the-Union kind of conversation and just let her know that you're there for her when she needs anything.
posted by greta simone at 7:08 PM on October 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

My advice is not to lawyer up yet. And don't let this sit for more than a few hours. Call a friend or your parents for comfort, but again, I think it would be a BIG MISTAKE to escalate hostilities here. Don't let anyone intervene on your behalf. You've got to continue to man up, as you've been doing. Here's what might work.

1. Clean the apartment from top to bottom. Even if you're broke, you've got elbow grease. Make it shine. Wash everything.
2. Take pictures. Print them.
3. Bake or buy her cookies. Bring diapers from the apartment or other needed items. Call and say you are stopping by and ask her if there's anything you can bring (esp for her).
4. Go to her parents' house. Present pictures and cookies and toy. Tell her (or her parents, if she won't talk to you) that you want her and the baby to come home. Tell them that you are sorry you hurt her feelings, and you're going to try to do better, but you want to do it as a team, not on the outside of a wall that she's building between you and her and the baby. Ask if her mom can come help you guys at the apartment you share.

It sounds like despite the recent fight you guys are making the best of a difficult situation.

I suggest if you can afford it or find it for free, that you should seek out counseling. If you are religious, perhaps talking to a clergy person would help. You are acknowledging that you have been not the best partner, which is very mature of you to notice, but you should have a plan for working on that.

Good luck. And I know you must ache for your son, but realize that babies are totally out of it for the first few weeks, and the separation hurts you a lot more than it hurts him.
posted by tk at 7:11 PM on October 14, 2009 [15 favorites]

I remember feeling that I was in way over my head after my daughter was born. This helpless little baby was suddenly my responsibility and it took a little time for me to relax and settle in to motherhood. It's not surprising that she went home to her mother when she was feeling tired and stressed and maybe a little unsure about your support. She could have handled this better, but I think she's definitely dealing with hormonal changes and is also a little scared.

Please don't lawyer up yet. That's only going to create more tension between the two of you and isn't going to help you get to see your son. You said you'd like to be with her. Can you get a message to her, just a card or some flowers, through her mother? Let her know that you miss her and that you miss the baby and that you'd like her to come home. If you give her some sense that you'll be there to help her provide a stable environment for the baby, she'd be more likely to return.

To be fair, I'm sure you're experiencing some emotional upheaval too, and you also deserve to be supported through these major life changes. I think for the short term, you may have to be her rock until she gets past some of this. Make time with your friends or family so that you can blow off a little steam, too. Down the road, you may want to look into couples therapy. For now, I think your first course of action is to assure her that you're on her side.

Best to you.
posted by contrariwise at 7:27 PM on October 14, 2009

With a new mother who's just had a baby, NEVER mention anything that might need to be done. Just do it. She's done an awful lot for the past nine months and will continue to, and there's nothing you can do to make up for it besides shut up and work harder than you ever believed you could, without complaining. This is not SO hard when you've been together for years and love and trust each other a lot (but even then there's screaming and crying, not just from the baby). You need someone you can talk to/vent to, because you need to build up that love and trust and right now that means NOT SHARING a lot of your feelings with her. But DON'T bottle them up. That will just make it worse down the road. Find someone else to talk to, but mainly DO THE WORK (as well stated by tk above). Doing everything you possibly can is how you can show your love as a father and a partner.
posted by rikschell at 7:31 PM on October 14, 2009 [5 favorites]

1) You were way out of line asking her to help you clean up. Way, way out of line.

2) Is she actually with her parents right now? Are she and the baby safe and with a support system? I have to confess that I a little worried about her having serious postpartum depression. The days after giving birth are a hormonal, emotional roller-coaster, and PPD happens to even the most stable and well supported of us. Rage is a classic sign of PPD. (Not, I might add, that she doesn't have a good reason to be mad at you, but this sounds a little out of proportion).

3) By "reconnect" did you mean sex? 'cause, just a few days postpartum that's not a reasonable expectation.

4) You do need to get a lawyer to advise you of your rights. At least in my state, my son's father and I had to jump through some additional legal hoops to make sure he was correctly and legally listed as the baby's father because we weren't married. But my advice to you is to call and ask to talk to her mother or father "just to check and make sure she's ok". Start there. You do have legal rights, but if you want to preserve a relationship with this girl (more than just as the other parent) you need to tread more carefully here.
posted by anastasiav at 7:46 PM on October 14, 2009 [4 favorites]

"Could the folks who are recommending a lawyer now now now elaborate their thoughts on that? My sense is that there isn't a danger of someone draining bank accounts, that no one's suggesting the OP isn't the father -- what would change if he gave his girlfriend, whom he wants to be with, a little time to heal, to gather herself from childbirth, to stay with her mom while she adjusts to life with a newborn?"

1. Because each parent is entitled to the same time with the little one, whether they're married or not.
2. Because they're not married and (although depending upon Illinois law - assuming they're in Chicago still), therefore he probably has no legal rights to/with the child until he's legally established as same. Unfortunately, most U.S. state legal systems still treat unmarried parents differently than married but separated parents;
3. Because information never hurts (knowing where you stand legally, what you can do to help your position if a court filing is necessary, what not to do, and all kinds of other things that people in crisis don't think about until they talk to an expert (i.e., lawyer in this case) on the subject. There are, as my original comment pointed out, other types of experts that the OP needs to meet with.
4. Because, if the OP does ultimately need to file some type of legal proceeding (whether by agreement or otherwise - it doesn't have to be adversarial), it is sometimes better to get the clock ticking sooner rather than later. A lawyer can answer that question before that time is lost forever.
5. All kinds other reasons that an experienced paternity/family law attorney in Illinois will tell the OP, including, ironically, local non-legal service organizations that might be able to give some parenting/coping assistance to new parents.

This is obviously an emotionally charged thread (and rightly so given the circumstances). But it's a complex problem that needs to be addressed from a number of different perspectives. One of those happens to be legal. That doesn't mean it's the only approach (it's not), but it is one that needs to be considered.
posted by webhund at 8:00 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

I just want to put it out there that she's probably TERRIFIED right now, scared of her ability to take care of this new person, afraid you are going to make things harder for her new life, not easier. She might be irrationally trying to push you away out of fear of the unknown-- she doesn't really know if she can count on you, so right now any little thing you do that broadcasts you're primarily looking out for yourself, is going to reinforce the idea that you can't be counted on.

This is a really critical time for you to prove yourself to her, even if you feel you don't have to prove anything to anyone. You need to be a superhero right now, the best damn partner you can possibly be. Because on some level she is going to be judging your fitness as a father in these days, more than in any days previous, because now that there's an actual BABY this must all seem so real and irreversible to her. If you screw up in these first few months, you could be potentially jeopardizing your access to this new family you and she have created. Keep that in mind. You actually have a lot more power to swing things in the direction you want than your lawyer does, just by being really amazing to her in these hardest days.

She went to her parents because they love her unconditionally. Maybe you two aren't at that place in your relationship yet, but if you are going to be a real father to this kid, you need to show her that you are ready to love HIM unconditionally. And the way to do that is to take care of them both, the absolute best way you know how. That means no sniping at her, you doing double duty chores, her getting to be a wreck and say things she doesn't mean. You don't get to be the post-partum Mom with mood swings. You get to be the patient, loving guy who doesn't let himself get offended, and just shows her that he's willing to stay by her side, no matter how pissy and emotional she gets.
posted by np312 at 8:07 PM on October 14, 2009 [6 favorites]

Okay, entertaining for the weekend less than six days after birth is WAAAAAY too much pressure, especially when family is meeting for the first time. And then to do the "we need to clean up?" no. And by reconnect after 11 feeding, what was that? SEX? Dude, after the 11 o'clock feeding is time for sleeping. She may have meant reconnect in a general sense, not specifically tonight right now (even if you didn't mean sex, you still need to let a new mom take every moment she can to sleep.)

I think you are trying and you mean well, but you have no idea what it is like for her to be recovering from this birth, getting used to a newborn, and having to depend on you for so much when the situation was a bit unstable to begin with.

Lawyering up now would be a mistake if you really love her and want to work things out with her. Give her time to rest and recoup. Find some way to let her know that you are here for her whenever and for whatever she needs but will also give her the space she needs to work things out for herself. She is in survival mode. If you put a bunch of lawyer shit on top of that pressure right now, you will send her right over the edge. Be patient. Wait till she has a grip and has gotten some help and sleep and has had time to think things through.

By the way, I'm in a similar situation. I'm pregnant with a surprise. I have an amicable working relationship with the father and will have to depend on him around the time of the birth, but we are not in a stable relationship right now. I told him that I accept no visitors from his side of the family (whom I have never met) until the baby is three months old, nor will I travel with the baby to see them. I will also not make decisions about our relationship (he wants one) until the kid is at least sleeping through the night and we have gotten over the new baby hump (I"m thinking five or six months old). This is not my first child so I know the drill and have experience as I know that you don't, so take it from me. You are putting WAY too much pressure on her and do need to back off from all these expectations. She is just trying to survive day to day.
posted by Bueller at 8:19 PM on October 14, 2009 [7 favorites]

Lawyer? Where I come from, that's sort of a declaration of if not WAR, certainly MISTRUST.

Relax? Easy to say, but if this was democracy, that's how I'd vote.

I recommend you pay attention to the voices in this thread advocating empathy on your part, particularly as this is a very recent "situation". That is, it's not as if she's about to leave the country or anything.
posted by philip-random at 8:19 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

See a lawyer. Seek a mediary. Be conciliatory. You broke the rules.

The father's job right after birth is to provide support. You didn't do that (the dirty dish thing), and that precipitated this whole thing.

Mothers are exhausted after giving birth - it's a brutal process. They also have to adjust to caring for a new baby. That's exhausting. Thankfully, part of this process is assisted by biology - hormonal changes make it easier for the new Mom to focus exclusively on the child.

Unfortunately, new Moms often have little left over for anyone else, including the father.

The first 24 is a tough time to adjust. The first week is even tougher. The first year after giving birth stresses even the closest families with the best communications skills.

So you have to deal with all of this.

Anyway, you need to lawyer up to ensure that in the worst case you can secure visitation rights to your child.

However, a more proactive strategy would be to also find a friend or relative who can act as a go-between, to initiate contact.

Ask this person to discuss "rules of engagement" with both of you. This person should ask your mother what she wants.

You should listen.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:44 PM on October 14, 2009

6 day old baby? She needs unconditional support. During pregnancy, birth and nursing, women's hormones swing wildly. Most women cope well, but not all. Give her the benefit of the doubt. Go over with flowers, a card saying that you miss her and little Babby Anonymous. Ask to visit the baby, who you love and miss. If things don't get more clear after a week, then think about getting legal advice regarding visitation.
posted by theora55 at 9:10 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Go talk to your mom. Talk to her about what it was like for her when you were born, what she wanted and needed and did or did not get. Don't give her all the details like you gave us, just tell your mom that you want to be as supportive as your girlfriend will allow you to be, and you need her guidance.

Also, clean the damn house yourself, and bring prepared food by (call her folks first, and drop it off after making it clear to her parents that you're not there to see her or the baby because you know she doesn't have the energy or desire to see you right now, and by the way, you'd love to see pictures of your child if they find the time to send some.)
posted by davejay at 9:40 PM on October 14, 2009 [3 favorites]

Definitely too soon for a lawyer, unless there is more to the story.

Goal #1- make sure the baby is well cared for. Goal #2- make sure mom isn't suffering from PPD.

You can work out the rest. I echo, cautiously, the sentiments that this is a stressful time for a new mother, and I suspect that there are instinctual urges to try and push the father away, just to make sure he is going to stick around. On the other hand, I would caution you not to let a bad relationship pattern set up. It is a delicate balance, but one you must try to negotiate, since you (both) are in the process of recreating your relationship.

(Aside- don't babies lose weight for a little while after birth? How long does that last? Maybe the doctor is being overly cautious and stressing mom out. Or mom is overreacting.)
posted by gjc at 10:32 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

When my daughter was six days old, I broke down in a sobbing weeping mess because I was so hormonal and exhausted and stressed out, and that was WITH my many-years-married, incredibly-supportive husband by my side, and with my mother (who is also a lactation specialist, we nursed) staying with us and doing all the cooking and cleaning.

I hate to say it, but you need to step up and realize that you were in the wrong here, I think. I know you have it hard, but frankly, she has it harder. She's healing from the birth -- did you see the placenta after the birth? She had a wound that size on the inside of her body, not to mention the soft tissue trauma from a first time delivery -- plus she's swimming in a hormonal soup that is sharpening every emotion and word. There is no way she should be doing any cooking, cleaning, or hostessing at a week postpartum, much less any kind of "reconnecting" that involves any closer contact than a shared milkshake.

You have rights as the father of that baby, and they will be protected, particularly if your name is on the birth certificate. But the best way for you to preserve a loving, open relationship with your son is to work towards a supportive and happy relationship with his mother, and I think you need to start towards that by owning your mistakes, offering her a sincere apology, and asking for forgiveness.
posted by KathrynT at 10:39 PM on October 14, 2009 [19 favorites]

Strongly endorsing tk's advice - follow all of it, including finding someone that you can talk to about all of this (best if it is not someone who will throw in your face (or her face) later). That is what is great about a counselor or clergy.
posted by metahawk at 10:44 PM on October 14, 2009

I would suggest groveling. I'm talking flowers, gifts, long heart felt letters, etc etc. Really get down on those knees and kiss some ass. Every other word coming out of your mouth should be about how much you love her and the baby.

Now is not the time to be right. Your girlfriend is freaking out and panicking. She may be suffering from post partum depression. She's ran to a safe place to figure everything out and to get some help with the baby. Now you need to prove that despite this baby being a surprise, despite the baby coming way sooner than you ever expect, and despite all the huge changes in your life you are there for her and in this as a complete partner for the long term. This is the point where a lot of guys in your situation bail, you need to demonstrate that you are not that guy.

And I can't believe I'm saying this, but I wouldn't lawyer up yet (assuming you have no substantial joint assets or accounts she has access to). She's gone away for a few days, that doesn't mean she's left you. Treat it as such. Don't escalate or dramatize the situation. She's just gone to her parents for 2 days. Tell her you want her to come home whenever she is ready to and you would like to visit her and your son if she isn't ready to come home yet. I don't know the situation, but maybe you can even move in with her parents for a little bit and live as one big family. Get some extra help while you two adjust to being the parents of a newborn. Don't get angry, don't make demands, like I said grovel and prove to her you are ready to be a father.
posted by whoaali at 11:31 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Anonymous unmasked, here.

Thanks for the sober outside perspectives offered up, the healthy heaping of "dude you're *way* in the wrong" and "it's about her and the baby, stupid, not you" and all. I really needed to hear that -- needless to say, emotions are out of hand for all involved, defenses are up, and a few impartial voices is like ice water to the face for me. I needed that.

That said, I'm proud enough to defend myself on one point:

Reconnect <> Sex. I'm not sure how that got read into the whole narrative. Reconnect = holding hands, figuring out what the plan for the next day is, me asking what is needed from the store. Like I said, the weekend was a blur of me with my visitors, she with hers, and so we were together for only a couple hours each day other than the overnite feeding/changing shift.

And, if my choice of action determines the victor in the Lawyers vs. 'Give her time and space with the parents and offer gentle support' battle, it'll definitely be the latter. A care package with diapers, wipes, etc for junior, flowers, a letter of contrition. Yes, the youngster is in good hands with mom and her parents, so there is no immediate concern for his safety or well-being -- and I'm confident that her folks will be more than vigilant in monitoring for PPD. I'll make sure I know my rights, but I will not initiate any sort of legal action.

And I did get a follow up from moms saying that junior put on some weight in his checkup today -- I suppose I didn't get all nervous at the previous check-up since I had known that newborns routinely lose weight through their first week of life. I did my homework... except I guess I skipped the chapter that said "Unconditional supporting of moms".

Big ups, to one and all, for your thoughts.
posted by hot pants at 11:46 PM on October 14, 2009 [3 favorites]

palliser writes "Could the folks who are recommending a lawyer now now now elaborate their thoughts on that? My sense is that there isn't a danger of someone draining bank accounts, that no one's suggesting the OP isn't the father -- what would change if he gave his girlfriend, whom he wants to be with, a little time to heal, to gather herself from childbirth, to stay with her mom while she adjusts to life with a newborn?"

The OP's girlfriend can mess with him 16 ways from Sunday for the next 18 years. The two of them should already have or been working towards a formal visitation and support agreement. It's entirely possible that these situations work out fine for everyone in the vast majority of cases (though that hasn't been the cases in my undoubtedly biased sample experience). However when things fall apart it's a world of hurt for everyone one involved including all to often the innocent party. If the OP hasn't retained a lawyer to deal with visitation and support already then he very much needs one. After things get to the going to court stage is the wrong time to initiate contacting a lawyer.
posted by Mitheral at 2:12 AM on October 15, 2009

From your post and followup I am getting the feeling you put a lot of pressure on your girlfriend (after the 11 pm feeding is NOT the time for holding hands and making plans, and you shouldn't be asking her what is needed from the store - you should know exactly what is needed AND be getting her surprise presents/luxuries she wouldn't think to ask for). As others have said, her ONLY job is to hold the baby, you need to do all cleaning, diaper changing, laundry, cooking, shopping and acting as a bouncer to all guests, including your family. You HAVE broken her trust in you and the only way to earn it back is through concrete actions - words and promises are meaningless at this point. I'd drop the whole "rights" speech as that just escalates the situation. It is good that she is speaking to you, now show by your actions that you can be a father and partner with her.
posted by saucysault at 2:13 AM on October 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

Mitheral - if I can respectfully disagree, if his goal is to be with his girlfriend and son, expecting the mother of a six day old baby to attend meetings with lawyers "working towards a formal visitation and support agreement" is putting a ridiculous amount of pressure on her and, if it were me in the girlfriend's shoes, demonstrates again that the father is selfish and unsupportive; exactly not the kind of man I would want to partner with. Even the language of labelling the OP as the "innocent party" is very confrontational (so the girlfriend is "guilty" of looking for support that her boyfriend was not able to provide?)
posted by saucysault at 2:21 AM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Clearly - she is feeling that you're only there to TAKE and she has been there - through hell and back - GIVING. Lots of resentment on her part and she's viewing you as a jerk. Some women don't give in to jerks no matter what the sentiments behind the scenario. It seems she can see through your facade and she doesn't want it. So - this is one of those instances where you have to make some major self adjustments in your own life to measure up to her standards on a very part-time (if that) basis. Give her major space - tread extremely lightly and if your kid matters that much to you - be prepared only to GIVE and expect from the mother of the child zero in return.
posted by watercarrier at 3:14 AM on October 15, 2009

saucysault writes "if his goal is to be with his girlfriend and son, expecting the mother of a six day old baby to attend meetings with lawyers 'working towards a formal visitation and support agreement' is putting a ridiculous amount of pressure on her and, if it were me in the girlfriend's shoes, demonstrates again that the father is selfish and unsupportive;"

Totally agree. My advice is strictly to the OP and that he should be consulting a lawyer independently if he hasn't already done so. IMO the OP's girlfriend should too but they aren't reading this thread.

saucysault writes ". Even the language of labelling the OP as the 'innocent party' is very confrontational (so the girlfriend is 'guilty' of looking for support that her boyfriend was not able to provide?)"

The innocent party is the child, sorry that wasn't clear.
posted by Mitheral at 5:19 AM on October 15, 2009

Put in perspective; she just had a baby, you just had a big fight. Why are you waiting around waiting for her to call. Show up. With flowers and unconditional support.
posted by bunny hugger at 6:24 AM on October 15, 2009

Hey, hot pants--

It's cool that you realize you fucked up. Because (and I know it's been said, but you need to really grasp the enormity of what you did to this girl) right after having a baby, your body is a wreck. You are sore in places you didn't know existed. I would equate it to being hit by a truck. You can't sit right, every trip to the bathroom is a new adventure in fear and pain, you have no idea what you're doing, and your hormones are making you so crazy that it is possible to hear the words, "I love you!" as an insult.

If you want a relationship with this woman, you are going to do much more than flowers and a note. You're going to go over there and grovel like you've never groveled before. You're going to wear out the knees on every pair of pants you own. You're going to tell her that you were a fool, a jerk, a cad, an insensitive moron, a clueless first-time father who has no idea what he's doing but wants to learn. You're going to treat her like a princess, and surprise her with treats and gifts you know she likes. At least one of those gifts should be a piece of jewelry, however small. (A pendant or ring in the child's birthstone is always a thoughtful and timeless gift for a new mother.) You're going to show her that you have the character to admit when you are wrong and the strength and integrity to want to change for the better. You're going to show her that you will be a strong partner and, more importantly, a good father.

If you don't want a relationship with her, you're still going to go over there and grovel. Because you were wrong, and she deserves an enormous, heartfelt apology. And then, once her hormones have settled down a little bit, a few months from now, then you can start talking custody and lawyers and whatever else. But I would be very, very careful here. Have you ever seen footage of a mama bear protecting her cubs? Telling a woman who has just given birth that you're planning to try to get partial custody of her child could be...unwise.

I would have cheerfully murdered anyone who threatened my baby, and afterward, bathed in their blood. Now that he's a year old, I'd still kill them but maybe not so gleefully.

Tread lightly and keep in mind that no judge worthy of the title is going to force a young mother to give her newborn nursling to the unmarried father, even if it's just for a few hours a week. You will need to wait. And certainly it would be the most loving and considerate thing to do.
posted by balls at 6:30 AM on October 15, 2009 [4 favorites]

you shouldn't be asking her what is needed from the store - you should know exactly what is needed AND be getting her surprise presents/luxuries she wouldn't think to ask for)

This. She needs to be able to rely on you. You need to take control here rather than having her make these kinds of decisions. The conversation as you are going out the door should be, "honey, I'm running to the grocery store to pick up diapers, baby wipes, and some more of that tasty grape juice. Is there anything special you want for yourself?". Even if she says no, pick her up something that she likes.

And again, after a weekend! of entertaining! six days after giving birth! becoming anxious and yammering about the mess in the kitchen and telling her that WE need to clean up, that is crazy talk. I would have freaked out. I probably would have started in on the whole, "this is what I've done, you need to do this" as well. And that's when you apologize like a fool and tell her how much you love her and tell her you'll clean it in the morning, top to bottom, but that you're going to spend time with her now and relax.

Now is not the time to be right. Now is not the time to remind your girlfriend and mother of your child that she is not behaving rationally. It's not the time to get her in a custodial debate. If you have not already, you need to go to her parents house and grovel and bring pretty gifts for her and the baby and admit how big of a jerk you were. She needs you to man up, so to speak, and let her know that you are capable of being an excellent father to her child. She should not have to retreat to her parents house to get the support that she needs. Please listen to everyone above, they have better advice then I could possibly offer.

I have never had children, and I am still terrified only imagining what it must be like a week after bringing home a newborn and feeling like I cannot rely on the father for emotional and physical support. I would be so upset and stressed that I could not reason or think straight. I would probably be way more furious than she seems to be, and my parents would probably not be treating you well. If you are serious about staying with her and being a father, you need to show her this, unconditionally. No more arguments.

In regarding the lawyer, it is probably a good idea to see one on a consultation basis. Personally, I would not mention it to the mom because I wouldn't want to give her anything else to worry about. Ask what you should be doing right now to ensure that you will have the fullest rights possible in the future. Realize that your relationship with the mom will do more for your happiness and contact with the child then a lawyer ever could.
posted by amicamentis at 7:14 AM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Lot of good advice here. I think you both need to consider couples counseling IN THE FUTURE. In the present, do what everyone has suggested and grovel. You screwed up and, just for the record, when you have a newborn baby, and by that I mean for the first six weeks, not six days, people get to visit for 15 minutes. No more. Not one minute more unless it is one of your mothers and she is fully prepared to work her ass off while the new mom sleeps. Nobody is physically or emotionally ready to deal with visitors, let alone houseguests, no matter how beloved, right after a baby.

Also, I would forget all these lawyer recommendations quickly if you want the relationship to work out. If I had fled with my baby to my parents' home and my partner had even murmured the word lawyer, he would no longer have been my partner and that would have been an absolute and final decision. Quite frankly, if that had been me, not only would I have wanted to kill you, I think my parents probably would have hired a hit man. I know that if it happened to my daughter my instinct would be to go all Tony Soprano on his ass. The word lawyer is a dark and irrevocable one and bringing one in now is premature at best.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:22 AM on October 15, 2009

Also, I would forget all these lawyer recommendations quickly if you want the relationship to work out.

I just want to point out, having had a baby in an unwed but committed relationship, that even if both parties agree that he is legally recognized as the father, in many states that process is different for unwed couples than for married couples, and it behooves everyone -- father, child, mother -- to make sure that all the legal i's are dotted and t's are crossed. Here in Maine, we had to register my partner as the baby's father within 7 days of the birth.
posted by anastasiav at 8:55 AM on October 15, 2009

I don't think there's anything to say here that hasn't already been said, but I am amazed at the civilized tone of the responses here, unless a bunch have been deleted. I've never had kids, and don't plan on it, and I still wanted to choke the ever-loving shit out of you. I'm glad to see from your followup that you recognize the error of your ways, and I hope the flood of answers motivates you to grovel, grovel, and grovel some more. Like right now. I hope you're not reading this, I hope you're on your way to her parents with flowers and cookies and a big freaking apology.
posted by desjardins at 9:12 AM on October 15, 2009

I agree with desjardins. I do have a couple of thoughts to add, though.

One thing in your follow up concerned me, and that was that you felt the need to defend yourself to the crowd re sex. Do not give into your desire to defend yourself to her or her parents until you've all gotten a proper 8 hours of sleep for two weeks (and hopefully by then you'll lose the desire to do so!).

When you present the photos of the clean apartment, gifts, and as you grovel, your apologies may be met with "and you did ___ wrong and ___ wrong, too, and don't you understand how you were so wrong" plus possible crying and extreme emotion all around. It's going to make you feel defensive, but don't give in. Accept it the statements. Do not give explanations, as they will be seen as excuses. Let it wash over you. Don't ask what you can do to make it better, as that's passing the buck to them and forcing mom and mom's family to make more decisions. (remember the statements above that you shouldn't be asking what to get at the store, you should plan and KNOW what's needed? Similar idea here.) Instead, offer to do whatever you think would be practically helpful, and follow through.

I think saying "I miss baby when can I expect him back" is the wrong thing, too. Instead, you can say you want to make sure mom and baby are taken care of, and you know the family is doing that, and you want to offer to help them with any chores around their house that aren't getting done because they're taking good care of baby and mom. Offer to get groceries. Offer to get their dry cleaning, or to get them dinner from a take-out place. Basically, you need to show that you're going to do WHATEVER makes baby and mom feel better, even if it means you're not directly interacting with them. Thus, it's not about YOU and your desire to see baby and mom, it's about them and how you can be helpful. And it should be about them, and not about you. The more you can make it about them and not you, the more you will deserve to be proud of what a good dad you are.
posted by lorrer at 9:39 AM on October 15, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure you need a lawyer yet, but surely the two of you should be seeing a counselor to talk through your issues and try to see things from eachother's perspective. You shouldn't grovel, or buy her jewelry (WTF?), but you should be genuinely apologetic and conciliatory. Acknowledge that you've made mistakes and that you would like a fresh start going forward. Be clear that you want what's best for the baby and that means the both of you being involved in his care and upbringing.

It is imperative that you find an impartial and independent counselor to discuss things with the two of you. It must be someone that you both agree upon. If she refuses to do this with you proceed directly to a lawyer, things will never get better since she is only listening to people who are heavily biased towards her position and you, and your paternal rights, will never be respected.

State law in Illinois is very clear about giving no custodial preference based on gender, that said, there is still a strongly clung to societal belief the mother is always the best caretaker for children. A lot of the answers above should give you a pretty good idea about this, people will take her side no matter what. "Hormones" are real and they are definitely affecting her behavior right now, but they don't forgive her for making decisions which will harm the child. Arbitrarily and permanently alienating the father will almost definitely harm the child.

If you're going to continue as a couple raising this child then you both need to put eachother first, before the baby, or parents, in terms of loyalty, love, care, and respect. If this isn't the case, your relationship will be irreparably subverted and will definitely fail. Putting her first will be easy for you since it sounds like you're isolated from friends and family in Chicagoland. For her this will be very difficult since she is surrounding herself with people who will probably cater to, and agree with, her every whim.

Sadly, the other side of the "deadbeat dad" coin is the "batshit insane mom," and things may very well never get better between the two of you. If she is unwilling to make even tiny steps toward conciliation then you're best off seeking shared custody. Custody agreements can be reached without involving the law, but it's almost always best to get a judgment in writing. The best thing you can do for yourself and your son in this scenario is to start making lots of $$$. Teaching in -greater- Chicagoland can be a very good job, the teachers unions are strong and the jobs pay well. These jobs do attract the best and brightest teachers though and you may need to work up to one of the better positions. Anyhow good luck to you.
posted by Locobot at 1:57 PM on October 15, 2009

About the groveling suggestions

When I was a new mom the smell of flowers made me dizzy and nauseous. I was also too tired to care. Luxuries are a joke right now because she is on survival mode. The best thing my partner did was grocery shop without being asked. And when I was passing out on the floor (true story) from the exhaustion of breastfeeding he cooked for me and spoonfed me during nursing sessions so I could sleep when the baby slept. He did the eight million loads of baby-puke laundry.

Don't wear yourself out on love letters and extraneous gestures.
Take CARE of her needs. Baby her physical needs because she can't right now.
Food. Laundry. Cleaning. Back rubs. Diaper & formula runs, are the sweetest love song you can sing.
posted by debbie_ann at 5:46 PM on October 15, 2009

Before then, I noticed a mess in the kitchen -- you know, baby bottles everywhere plus detritus from a weekend of entertaining -- and I got a bit anxious and all, "We need to clean this place up." She didn't take to that too well.

Your statement sounded like an accusation to her that she was not keeping up with the housework, and that was not what she needed. She hasn't had time or energy to clean up the mess in the kitchen. Instead of saying "we" need to clean it up you should have just put your head down and cleaned it up. Remember that however tired you are, she is four or five times as tired because she is watching the baby ALL THE TIME. You can leave and run errands and have hours at a time when you do not have responsibility for keeping an infant alive. She isn't getting to do that, and I don't think you're understanding how hard that is.

If you can empathize with her and keep remembering that however tough you have it she probably has it much, much worse, she will see you are on her side and will feel less alone and angry. Good luck to you!
posted by onlyconnect at 7:51 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Hey hot pants, how are things going? Post-partum days are really hard, even in the most stable of relationships with totally planned pregnancies, so it's not hard to see how everything got blown out of the water. I just hope you're doing OK and have been able to see your son (congratulations!) and make some progress with your girlfriend.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:13 AM on October 19, 2009

How are things going now?
posted by debbie_ann at 4:15 PM on January 4, 2010

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