My life is now very like the movie "knocked up". Help!
September 23, 2010 1:07 PM   Subscribe

My ex, 30+ years of age, contacted me a few days ago to tell me I'd gotten her knocked up. Yesterday she said she wanted to keep it. She lives in NYC, where I lived until three days ago. I'm now in the UK. I can afford to jump on a plane back to NYC. So, who do I need to contact to get legal advice? How do I find out what my rights and responsibilities are? Two less delicate questions inside...

Please excuse the following backstory:

I don't want a kid, at all. Many reasons, but also that I'm irresponsible, and young (27). Bad genes: I've got epilepsy, as do members on both sides of my family, and we also have parkinson's and autism in the mix.

The girl is just not a good person, in many, many ways. This is not sour grapes. It was very clear that this was a sex-only relationship, with no prospects. There is no way that I will be able to stand being around her for an extended amount of time (this is not a love story). There is a good chance that it will upset me to see someone like her bringing up my kid.

I don't know her parents' details and she doesn't have any good friends. She doesn't need my money (not that that would be a problem for me). She also gets very riled by any form of disagreement (she's so pretty that few people say "no" to her). So I have to be careful. She thinks it has been (at most) 6 weeks since I got her pregnant, but probably under 4.

Finally, I can't imagine bringing up a kid in the USA, and do not want to live there forever, or even for years. I am a dual UK/USA citizen, and fall on the side of healthcare, education and a slightly smaller culture of consumerism.

So here're the less delicate questions:

How do I go about trying to convince her not to go through with it?
How would you play this, if you were me?
Hypothetically speaking, if she's lying about this (there are a couple of reasons to believe this), how do I make her give me her doctor's info so I can be convinced of this blood test?
posted by omnigut to Human Relations (86 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
OK well, she contacted you. What does she want? What did she ask you for? That may be the best place to start.

It *is* her choice. If I wanted to encourage someone to have an abortion, I'd act as if it didn't matter one way or another to me. Don't feed the drama.

>There is a good chance that it will upset me to see someone like her bringing up my kid.

The time to think of that was before you had sex with her.

IANAD (daddy) but I'd want proof of pregnancy before I did anything and then proof of paternity. And I'd talk to a U.S. lawyer stat. Good luck.
posted by cyndigo at 1:15 PM on September 23, 2010 [11 favorites]

probably under 4
It does seem unlikely that she would have a positive test if it were fewer than 4 weeks.

How would you play this, if you were me?
Carefully and ethically. Make sure you are the father, and if you are, step up right quick. I know someone who has been in this position, and he did the right thing, and yeah, it changed his life forever. For the better, actually, although probably not for the easier.

The question of whether she's pregnant, whether you're the father, etc. is not one you will necessarily be able to solve quickly.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 1:17 PM on September 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Are you pro-choice? Then it's her choice. The End.

That's colossally unhelpful.

You should consult a lawyer in the relevant jurisdiction just to be clear what your responsibilities are. Someone with an immigration law background would probably be best. This person should also be able to advise you about how best to establish your paternity.

The question of how best to make clear your sense that the two of you would not make good parents is, as you note, quite complicated. Could you cite your own genetic predispositions and maladies and invite (not compel) her to consider the advisability of carrying this child to term? Alternatively, could you ask her to speak with a genetic counselor to have clarity about the risks your potential child might face? A sober conversation like that might do far more to dissuade her than any argument you might present on your own.

Finally, do you have any friends in common who might make your case for you? They don't have to be her "good friends." Just people who know you both and who might present a bit of objectivity in the midst of a painfully subjective disagreement.

I wish you the best of luck.
posted by felix betachat at 1:17 PM on September 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

How would you play this, if you were me?

Suck up whatever else I felt and do whats right for YOUR kid. If the mom is how you describe, that little one will need all the help and stability it can get.
posted by anti social order at 1:18 PM on September 23, 2010 [9 favorites]

You probably can't do much about it until the baby is born, and you can get a paternity test. Unfortunately for you, you can't tell this girl what to do with her body.

posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:18 PM on September 23, 2010 [11 favorites]

I know a guy who was in your situation. You should talk to a lawyer about what your rights and obligations are if she has the baby and it is yours. The sooner you do it, the better.
posted by vincele at 1:19 PM on September 23, 2010

OP: I would have another pregnancy test done where you are present for the results. Or there has to be some kind of service available where you can also get the results. I would not trust her statement of results if you do not trust her.

Also, not to be indelicate, but how do you know that you are the father? I don't mean to imply anything, but if this wasn't a committed relationship, it may not be yours.

I would offer her the following information:
--Family health history
--Your unwillingness to relocate to the US, so you wouldn't be available to assist with parenting. If she doesn't have any good friends, it's tough to raise a kid on your own.
--You're not interested in a relationship with her

Ultimately, however, it's her body, and her pregnancy. As noted below:

Are you pro-choice? Then it's her choice. The End.

It's something that will affect the OP for the rest of his life. I don't think it's quite that simple.

Actually, it is. You know what his choices were?

--Use contraception
--Use extra contraception
--Don't have penetrative sex

You don't get to now come in and tell a woman that she has to abort a child because you don't want to raise it with her. You also can't tell her that she has to keep it, either. That's what 'pro-choice' means.
posted by micawber at 1:19 PM on September 23, 2010 [56 favorites]

She thinks it has been (at most) 6 weeks since I got her pregnant, but probably under 4. do I make her give me her doctor's info so I can be convinced of this blood test?

So she's apparently only just pregnant, has already had a blood test in the three days since you've been gone and yet can't be more accurate than a 50% margin on when she conceived? I think you are right to be suspicious and this sounds a little like a guilt-boomerang to try and get you to come back. Unless she actually felt the pregnancy happen with a pop, what made her suddenly suspect she may be pregnant so quickly all within three days (or, alternatively, why would she not mention her suspicions before you left).

I don't think you need to worry too much about the greater implications until you get some concrete proof of the pregnancy, personally.
posted by Brockles at 1:21 PM on September 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

For figuring out what kind of lawyer you need, and how to find one, read the MeFi wiki article.
posted by rtha at 1:21 PM on September 23, 2010

It was very clear that this was a sex-only relationship, with no prospects.

That's never a guarantee. As I tell my teenage boys, there ain't no free.

I would talk to her about your concerns about chronic disease and autism, and be absolutely clear that although you will meet whatever legal responsibilities you need to meet, you absolutely do not want to have/raise a child now. Be very clear about that with her and with yourself. If a child is eventually born in this scenario, it deserves to grow up with parents who want to be there, and are there, etc., and not by people who come and go and come back again as they grow up. (No judgment there at all.) If you are afraid of her response, or of not being able to get your point across, then write her a letter detailing your concerns. As of right now, there's still plenty of time.
posted by headnsouth at 1:22 PM on September 23, 2010

I guess you need to establish some baselines... what her plans are and how firm they are and how much they involve you. If you are to have any responsibility for the child a paternity test sounds like a reasonable precondition to involvement. If it is your child and the mother decides she wishes to carry it to term you are going to have to man up in some fashion. You don't necessarily have to remain in the US, but you will need to provide child support and realize that 15- 18 years down the road you are likely going to have a kid that wants to know about you and meet you.

27 is "young", but not really young.

FWIW there are an awful lot of kids brought up very well in the US, it's not quite a cesspool of humanity.
posted by edgeways at 1:23 PM on September 23, 2010 [4 favorites]

[few comments being removed - this is absolutely not okay. Go to metatalk if you can't be polite and decent in this thread. Very very seriously do not comment here again unless you can answer the question being asked.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:23 PM on September 23, 2010 [8 favorites]

Here's what my plan of action would be:

(1) Figure out what I want, given that I can not ethically convince someone to get an abortion or give a child up for adoption (to be part of this kid's life? To not be part of this kid's life?)

(2) Figure out what my ex wants (child support? To give the child up for adoption)

(3) Figure out both my legal rights and my legal responsibilities. I believe you're going to want a lawyer who is familiar with NYC laws, if that is where your ex is planning to live.

(4) Insist on a paternity test as soon as safely possible.
posted by muddgirl at 1:24 PM on September 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Her story seems fishy. I would wait for a) an actual baby, and b) a positive paternity test before you start to freak out.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:24 PM on September 23, 2010

I don't want a kid, at all. . . It was very clear that this was a sex-only relationship

It was of course, clear to you that having sex with a person could cause pregnancy, right?

I don't mean to be rude, but you need to adjust your attitude. I know you just wanted to have sex with this person, but when you have sex with someone, you are held responsible for the consequences by the law. Not just morally--legally.

In short, it is time for you to become responsible, because if you do not, the law will make you responsible.

The first thing you should do is take a deep breath and call her up. Ask her if she is OK. Ask her how she is doing. Be honest, say you had not expected this. Ask her if you are sure that it is yours.

As for asking her to abort a child she's carrying? I would not do this. Your responsiblity started the first time you had sex with her.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:24 PM on September 23, 2010 [18 favorites]

I don't want a kid, at all.

I hear sex is the #1 cause of kids.

You didn't mention at all what, if any, contraception measures you, yourself, took to prevent this from happening since you are so staunchly and adamantly opposed to having children. You have very valid, real and sensible reasons for not wanting to have children, by the way.

Boy, is this delicate. The only real thing I can say to you is... if she's indeed pregnant, it's yours and she wants to keep it, you're having a kid. If you can prove she's an unfit mother after the child is born, you might be able to wrangle custody away from her, but most likely you won't be able to leave the US with this kid. The courts will certainly give her visitation unless she's an absolute horror show to be around the kid.

You can ask to see doctor's results/test paperwork, however I am fairly certain paternity cannot be tested at this point. On several levels, it's very very early in the pregnancy.

How do you play it? I guess you want to see first and foremost, test results. Then when the child is born, you'll want a paternity test. All along, you'll be making decisions and formulating plans based on whether you simply want to financially support this child or be active in his/her life as a father and all that entails. If it's the latter, you're likely moving to the US.
posted by jerseygirl at 1:25 PM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Assuming that abortion is off the table (which is fairly safe since she has said she wants to keep the child) you need to first consider what it is YOU want to have happen? It sounds to me like you do care about the best interest of the child because otherwise you would have not posted the question.

Do you want full or partial custody? Is she really that bad a person* or are you two just bad together? Would she ever consider adoption?

Frankly, no need to rush right back right now. Wait until she is visibly pregnant. Till then let her know you will wish to have a paternity test made "for legal reasons." In the meantime, consult lawyers as to your rights and responsibilities, and decide what YOU would think to be the best case scenario as far as the child is concerned.

* It very well could be that becoming a mother may change her life in positive ways so unless there are real and concrete concerns about her maternal fitness, you may be worrying a bit too much.

If this is your child, then I hope you will reconsider your selfgiven label as "irresponsible." You may be amazed to discover that taking responsibility in this case might have some silver lining to it. Wishing you the best.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:28 PM on September 23, 2010

It does seem unlikely that she would have a positive test if it were fewer than 4 weeks.

This is completely wrong.
posted by amro at 1:29 PM on September 23, 2010 [13 favorites]

How do I go about trying to convince her not to go through with it?

That's going to mostly depend on her. You can have a heart-to-heart with her, but understand that, ultimately, you already decided to have a child with her. This is now out of your hands.

How would you play this, if you were me?

When my GF became pregnant, and yeah, it was sort of a similar thing as yours, I had to straighten up, stop screwing around, and start being and doing the right thing.

I'm not gonna lie. You've likely got a very tough road ahead of you.

Hypothetically speaking, if she's lying about this (there are a couple of reasons to believe this), how do I make her give me her doctor's info so I can be convinced of this blood test?

You can't. Until the child is born, it's pretty much all her. You can be on the hook for expenses related to the care, however. Speak to a lawyer.

More generally, you're REALLY going to want to talk to a lawyer. In fact, speak to several. Do it now, and start figuring out what your rights and obligations are.

Memail me if you want to discuss more.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:29 PM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I say this with the best of intentions, but I find that most of your concerns seem to relate to how this affects you and your feelings or lifestyle, not those of the potential human being you theoretically have co-created, however accidentally. So, first off, I would try to set my own strong feelings aside just for a moment, however difficult this may be, and think about my responsibilities to the other people affected here, especially the potential small one depending on parents for its well-being.

It sounds like you are concerned specifically about how to spin the unwanted outcome of your sex-only relationship to your own benefit and convince your ex-partner (nemesis?) to abort the baby, perhaps despite her own wishes how about thinking about how this situation affects her and/or your hypothetical child? That's right--your child. She may decide not to have an abortion, because that is her choice and her right. Not just because it's her body, but also because you are effectively washing your hands of the situation by deciding straight off that you do not want to be involved, for your own respectable and valid reasons. That places the ball and also the pregnancy, finances, major lifestyle changes, 18+ years of parental responsibility, shifted priorities, and the burden of single parenthood squarely in her court. That means she gets to call the shots and she gets to make this decision. Checking out recuses you from the decision-making process. You can't have it both ways.

This is a good time to put on your grown-up pants and make some hard decisions. Aside from that, lawyer, paternity test, vasectomy.
posted by anonnymoose at 1:30 PM on September 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm sorry. Tht should have read "perhaps despite her own wishes, period". Punctuation and readability fail!
posted by anonnymoose at 1:32 PM on September 23, 2010

Her story seems fishy. I would wait for a) an actual baby, and b) a positive paternity test before you start to freak out.

I think so, too. I've been thinking through the math using an average menstrual cycle, which is 28 days, and it doesn't seem to add up. Remain calm, OP (I know, easier said than done). Give her a few weeks to determine/prove she is really pregnant.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:35 PM on September 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

One more thing: I don't know what kind of test it was, but my friend who had feelings quite like yours had one done long before the baby was born that put all doubts to rest that he was the father.
posted by vincele at 1:36 PM on September 23, 2010

I'm not a lawyer, but I am a parent. What to do?

Legally, get a lawyer. If you can afford a plane ticket to NY you can afford legal counsel and you really should do that.

Ethically, if it turns out to be your kid, you step up in every way that you can. It doesn't matter if you want to be a dad or not. If the kid is yours then the kid is yours. You don't get to shrug it off (unless she opts for adoption or you want to be a deadbeat).

Practically speaking, *nobody* wants to be a parent. They want to have children but they don't want to be parents. Because parenting sucks. It's hard, tiring, scary, confusing, and a major time-suck. But having children is amazing. It changes your life for the better, and it is worth all the sucky, scary face-punching work of being a parent.

Get a lawyer, know your rights, and if the situation presents itself, DO RIGHT BY YOUR KID.

On preview: it's early enough that this could be a false-positive, not to mention possible early miscarriage. Some studies theorize that 70% of all conceptions end in early miscarriage (link),so you've got some time to figure this one out.
posted by jnrussell at 1:38 PM on September 23, 2010 [9 favorites]

OP: DO NOT under any circumstances agree to anything until an actual baby is born and you have seen the results of a legitimate paternity test. If your characterization of the situation is accurate this is absolutely the only course of action you should consider.

You do have to formulate contingency plans in the meantime. If it is a realistic possibility that you did knock up your ex during the timeframe in question you need to decide how involved you want to be, whether you want full custody, shared custody, or no custody. Your question is a little ambivalent here. On the one hand you don't want a kid. On the other hand you don't want your ex raising your kid. Those are not compatible goals so you need to decide what you want and what is best for a theoretical kid and for you.

But for god's sake don't agree to anything until there is a baby and a paternity test.
posted by Justinian at 1:38 PM on September 23, 2010 [6 favorites]

I don't have all or any of the answers to the questions you are posing, but I am writing to encrouage/beg you to be kind to this woman in all of your interactions with her. Regardless of what happens or doesn't happen, please be compassionate and kind. You can still be clear and straightforward, but please be nice. Cruelty in this circumstance is devestating.

How do I go about trying to convince her not to go through with it?

I would aim not so much to convince her of anything as to make sure that she understands your preferences. That's as much as you can do.
posted by analog at 1:39 PM on September 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Don't try to convince her to have an abortion. If you do that and she refuses, it will be very hard to live that down. First, if she is as "off" as you describe, it's not something you want her having over your head. Second, it's also not something you want to recall when your beautiful daughter who you love to death turns 5 or something. You also don't want that wonderful son who means the world to you finding out that you lobbied to have him aborted. Some thing you can't unsay.
posted by milarepa at 1:39 PM on September 23, 2010 [8 favorites]

if she really is as bad as you describe, telling her you want her to abort is a sure fire way to make sure she keeps it, goes for the maximum in support, and uses it as a knife against you for the next 18+ years. your time for choice was somewhere between 4 and 6 weeks ago. now you need to lawyer up and deal with the situation that is here.

her math could work out, this could be your baby. do you know when her last period was? with the timeline, it seems like you would have been around for it. knowing that, the dates you guys had sex, and her reported time line can help you decide how trustworthy her telling of the events are.

all the same, lawyer.
posted by nadawi at 1:41 PM on September 23, 2010 [6 favorites]

Some things.
posted by milarepa at 1:42 PM on September 23, 2010

How do I go about trying to convince her not to go through with it?

Inform her of your genetic predisposition. Tell her you will not be able to be there physically for the child and ask her if she wants to take the risk of raising an autistic child without you (and I assume your parents.) This is not a guilt trip because ...

How would you play this, if you were me?

That is exactly how I would play it. If I did not think that I could be the best possible father to a child, then the child does not need to have a father who is not there for him 100% I'm no lawyer, but in my book, you should support the child financially as best you can and leave fatherhood to a man who is compatible with the woman bearing your child. I know plenty of immigrant fathers who come to America just to send money back home to their wife and kids and visit once in a while. There's no reason you can't take that role.
posted by griphus at 1:44 PM on September 23, 2010 [10 favorites]

Also: for the love of god have a confirmed pregnancy and paternity test done before you do anything or make any sorts of promises.
posted by griphus at 1:45 PM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wow. OP, you are not a bad or terrible person because you don't want to be a parent and find yourself in a crappy situation.

My strategic approach would be to make sure she's making a fully informed choice and is perfectly clear that you will not be a source of emotional support during pregnancy, that you are not interested in parenting, and that you will not be having discussions about child support or parental rights until the child is born and paternity is verified. (I'm assuming she'll opt not to do a prenatal paternity test here.)

Basically, if you think any aspect of this is emotional manipulation on her part, do not engage with her emotionally. In fact, I would give serious thought to not engaging with her at all and ask that she contact you through your attorney. Which, by the way, you need - a NY state family attorney.

There is a chance she is not pregnant and this pregnancy will magically disappear, but there is also a chance that she is pregnant and will have an actual baby next year. The above strategy is slightly risky because at that point, you may feel differently about things and have set this up to be a legal battle ground over access rights. It is also risky because despite the fact she "doesn't need it" she's fully entitled to go after you on the child's behalf for full child support. This is a hefty tab in NYS and you should know that.

But if you are absolutely sure that under any circumstances, all you want is to pay your legal obligations and have no more involvement than that, then that is your legal right and she should know that when she's making decisions because that will have a very concrete impact on what her future looks like in terms of solo parenting.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:16 PM on September 23, 2010 [16 favorites]

Regarding the timeline: you can get a positive pregnancy test as early as two weeks (sometimes even earlier, but that's dodgy) after the conceptive sex occurred, at which point she is four weeks pregnant. I think the weird extra-two-week math that comes from dating from LMP (last menstrual period) and not DOC (date of conception) throws some things off. But yes, if it's been a month to six weeks since you had sex, she can know for sure that she is pregnant.

You, however, can't know for sure that you are the baby's father unless a paternity test is run. The earliest one of those could conceivably be done is at 11 weeks or so, via a CVS test, which 1) is invasive 2) carries a risk of miscarriage 3) she can't be compelled to do. Later in the pregnancy, she can have an amniocentesis done, which is less risky, but still involves a giant needle and you still can't compel her to have it done. The first time you can force a paternity test is after the kid is born. At that point, if paternity is confirmed, you will likely be on the hook for half of all her prenatal and L&D costs, as well as child support from that point forward.

It's important to note that child support is given for the child, not for the mother. She can't waive it, and even if she tries, the state may come after you for support on the child's behalf. You aren't required by law to have any contact with the child, or to support him or her in any fashion other than financial.

Your best bet is probably to call a lawyer familiar with US paternity law. As for how I'd play it? I'd offer to pay my half of her care costs into an escrow account, to be paid out after paternity is confirmed. To know how to talk her into terminating the pregnancy would require knowing her much, much better than any of us here do.
posted by KathrynT at 2:17 PM on September 23, 2010 [6 favorites]

You probably can't do much about it until the baby is born, and you can get a paternity test. Unfortunately for you, you can't tell this girl what to do with her body.

Paternity testing can be done as early as 10-12 weeks of gestation, more commonly it is done around week 15-16. The earlier testing carries more risks for the fetus. Genetic counseling for both is essential: both of you need to hear from a professional what the chances of inheriting your genetic profile are, and the counseling can be scheduled in conjunction with CVS (chorionic villi sampling) or amniocentesis.

The decision ultimately belong to the mother, but try to be the best parent that you can be if she decides to keep the only innocent party in this situation.
posted by francesca too at 2:23 PM on September 23, 2010

How do I go about trying to convince her not to go through with it?

Tell her what you told us. Your family medical history, the fact that you are not willing to be a father in anything more than a financial way, that you don't think she would be a good mother. There is nothing wrong (and probably, everything right) about being 100% honest about this.

Hypothetically speaking, if she's lying about this (there are a couple of reasons to believe this), how do I make her give me her doctor's info so I can be convinced of this blood test?

This is where the lawyer part comes in, I'd imagine. Get one, tell him/her the situation, and especially the part about how you aren't positive the kid is yours. They'll know what to do.
posted by coupdefoudre at 2:41 PM on September 23, 2010 [4 favorites]

Her story seems fishy. I would wait for a) an actual baby, and b) a positive paternity test before you start to freak out.

I think so, too. I've been thinking through the math using an average menstrual cycle, which is 28 days, and it doesn't seem to add up.

Sure it does. A typical cycle goes from the first day of her period to the first day of the next one and lasts ~28 days. OP has sex with her on first or second day after her period ends. So lets say it was day 5 or so. They then have sex several more times during the month. Her next period doesn't come on time, 23 days after that first encounter. She waits an extra week, now we are at 30 days, still no period. But people can be late. She doesn't go to the doctor until she is two weeks late. Day 37. If it is a blood test, and not a urine test, maybe she has to wait to get the results. Or maybe she tries to contact OP, but he in England. She gets hold of him right around day 42. If she got pregnant that very first day after her last period, she is "at most six weeks" but if it happened the week before her missed period was due, she would be under four weeks. Confusing, but the math is fine. And that assumes her cycle is regular, while many women are not like clockwork.

OP, I know you are freaking out, with good reason. Take a deep breath. Decide whether you want to call her or fly back and see her in person. I'd recommend in person, as his is delicate AND you may want to hire a U.S. attorney. Explain the genetic issues, then ask what she plans to do. I would word it that way; "Okay, what are you going to do about the baby?"

If she wants to keep the baby, you cannot coerce her and argue with her. Be very clear with your response that you are prepared to meet your financial obligations once you have both confirmed with the doctor that you are the father. This is less confrontational than a blunt, "Are you sure it's mine?!" This is another reason to fly back-- you can go to the doctor with her for the next appointment. At least this way you will know that she is really pregnant. Then, speak with her and the doctor about amniocentesis, given the hereditary risks, and if her doctor counsels her that it is a good idea, you can get the paternity test done when the amniotic is done. And then you can fly back home after the doctor's appt knowing you have done as much as you can, and you will have a few months to adjust to the notion that you are going to be a father.
posted by misha at 3:08 PM on September 23, 2010

She thinks it has been (at most) 6 weeks since I got her pregnant, but probably under 4.

FWIW, as a pregnant lady, you can't get a positive test result reliably until about 5 weeks gestation (which would be about 3 weeks post conception). If she took a super accurate early response test, it's possible, but her math is a bit hazy. I would be cautious until she's seen an OB and gotten a firm due date. If you absolutely need to be sure of this, the only way to do it is to hop on a plane and go with her. I'm not saying she's not pregnant - I'm saying that her knowledge of the details leaves something to be desired and it's best to have actual information before trying to develop a plan. If she's not pregnant, she can't fake that in a doctor's office and saying "I'd like to go to the OB with you to confirm the pregnancy and check the due date" pretty well calls her bluff.

Whether or not she decides to terminate the pregnancy is up to her: all you can do is decide if you want to be in the child's life or not. If you do, you have to accept having her in your life as well. If not, that's your call. Either way, decide now and make your decision clear to her. If you decide not to be involved, stay out. Don't be that guy who didn't want to be involved and then tries to get visitation rights later.

FWIW, I'm 16 weeks pregnant and I have epilepsy. I've seen a genetic counselor and if my baby has epilepsy, I'll deal with that when the time comes, but it can't be tested for in pregnancy (or even in childhood). By all means, if she decides to continue with the pregnancy, please provide this woman with your full medical history (you & your immediate family) so that she can make informed decisions about any testing options she may have.
posted by sonika at 3:09 PM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Between the earliness of the test, the timing, and the possible third party involvement, it sounds like the actual chances of a proven-yours baby next year are pretty low. Seconding griphus's advice about how to talk to her. And OP, you are not a bad person for wanting to ask her not to keep it. If she is as oppositional as you say, don't ask her directly, though.
posted by amber_dale at 3:14 PM on September 23, 2010

How do I go about trying to convince her not to go through with it? How would you play this, if you were me.

You can't, but you can lay out the facts.

Nthing letting her know your personal medical history, your family's medical history, including any conditions or genetic defects that don't just affect the mind but everything else as well (heart, liver, "tendency to get fat", dental, eyes, cancer, any blood problems going back a generation or two, etc.) For example from what medical problems I've had, if I ever have kids, known issues would be eyes and teeth, and that can be expensive without any addition of Parkinson's or some such.

Lay this out as factually based as possible (aka, don't get over passionate and don't beg). Ask her if she's prepared to suffer through the financial difficulties, even with your possible help. Ask her if she's prepared to possibly devote more than the average time given for child rearing in order to care for someone with issues affecting the mind. And, without being truly cruel about it, although sometimes an honest question needs to be, ask her if her possible selfishness in wanting the child will be a comfort later if she finds herself suffering more than the average mother, and finds her child suffering far more than a child she could have had with another man. A kid being a supposed "gift" seems null and void to me when his/her life could be, by many standards, a living hell.

And on that note, I say -don't- feel bad about not planning on physically being there. You were realistic with her about your expectations for the relationship (next time, have a legal document ready? *amused*). You're also being very realistic about not wanting the kid or being willing to raise it, and about the likelihood that the child won't turn out well. Forcing yourself to care now, for a woman you don't love and a child you don't want, would ruin all of your lives.

Hypothetically speaking, if she's lying about this (there are a couple of reasons to believe this), how do I make her give me her doctor's info so I can be convinced of this blood test?

Of course, before you do all of this, get a paternity test. Hell, get two.

(And btw, I'm a female who went into two relationships with the agreed upon expectation that it would never go too much beyond physical, in one case not at all. If I had ever gotten pregnant during either of these, neither partner would ever have been informed, but that's me, I guess.)
posted by DisreputableDog at 3:23 PM on September 23, 2010

I would not AT ALL persuade her to abort. Just don't do it. You may be feeling desperate, but you can't because that kid will find out and hate you forever (and rightly so). It is her body and her choice and you're well educated enough to know that sex without condoms can lead to pregnancy. She wants to keep it and she will. It will be born and she will tell it eventually how you tried to get her to abort the kid and the kid will hate you. And you will be sorry.

Own up to your mistake and make the best of it, and above all, treat her decently.

27 is not at all young to have a kid. You'll just have to mature faster than you would have. Have penetrative sex with a(n unstable) woman without a condom and these are the breaks. It's unfortunate that you don't really like her, but that's why from now on you'll have sex with women you like.
posted by anniecat at 3:29 PM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wanted to echo milarepa. Please be compassionate towards her, because there is nothing stopping her from bad mouthing you to the child when he/she is older. Who knows? Maybe you will come around in the future, and it would really suck to have a child who is against you in principle because of the resentment the mother has towards you for handling the situation poorly.

I don't think requesting proof of paternity is poor handling. I also don't think compassion means going to the US to make her an honest woman. Just think about how you would want your potential child to hear about your early stage involvement. My brother was in a similar situation and it breaks my heart to see my niece treat her father poorly because the mom (who shares the same characteristics as the girl in question) misrepresented/overplayed his level of commitment, or lack thereof.

posted by alice ayres at 3:36 PM on September 23, 2010

And why do people keep assuming that he didn't use a condom? Or that she didn't use birth control of some type? He only said he was irresponsible, which could mean he partially abuses his finances, or likes to drink more than usual, or that he runs barefoot over broken glass while juggling rabid raccoons. He never said, "I went bareback the entire time" and so I wouldn't assume this at all. It's very very possible for women to still get pregnant even with precautions. And without having attempted to completely derail the thread - forgive me, for that just annoyed me to no end - thank you. That is all.
posted by DisreputableDog at 3:39 PM on September 23, 2010 [8 favorites]

I agree that you shouldn't ask her to have an abortion. Not because I think you are a bad person (and I think people have given you a really hard time in this thread), but because I think it's not going to make things any better for either of you, whether she decides to have an abortion or not. I agree with DisreputableDog that you should lay out the facts, and let her take her own decision (since it's her right anyway, even if she's not a nice person).

I wouldn't fly to the States yet - i'd find a lawyer first, find out how to get a paternity test arranged whenever it is safest, and take a week or so to stop panicking and listen to some reasoned advice from your laywer. In the meantime, let her know that you need some time and will be in touch shortly. Once you have all your duckies in a row, come back to her requesting the paternity test and outlining your family history, what you're willing to do, etc. Then the ball is in her court.

As others have said, please be compassionate until you have reason to be otherwise. She's not very nice and the kid might not even be yours, but if she is the mother of your child, it will pay dividends now to handle this gracefully and with compassion, while still protecting yourself with a lawyer.
posted by ukdanae at 3:43 PM on September 23, 2010

[comments removed - stop the birth control derail now please. meta is your option.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:16 PM on September 23, 2010

I don't want a kid, at all.

Then why are you having sex without a vasectomy? You do that, you have equal responsibility for any pregnancy that ensues .

Get a paternity test, when you can. Meanwhile, tell the unfortunate woman about your concerns re genetics and all the other stuff. Tell her how you feel. And then recognise that she has the kid inside her and that gives her the final say on what happens. And then let her decide. And then decide whether or not you want to support her decision. As for worrying about where you want to live or not wanting to stay in the USA... come on. This is bigger than that stuff. Prioritise your responsibilities. And dreaming about where you ultimately want to live isn't anywhere near the top of the list right now.
posted by Decani at 4:19 PM on September 23, 2010

This is not about assigning blame. What's done is done. Now this is about a real, potential child, not about whether or not you should have used a condom.

The best thing is for her to have an abortion, I think, and so do you. How to convince her? Use logic and tell her the truth. There's nothing "anti-choice" about it. You're not the government, so pro-choice has nothing to do with it.

Your other option is to manipulate her.

Figure out what she wants, and offer to give it to her if she has an abortion. Or do something that she doesn't like, and continue to do it until she has an abortion. Or find out what she wants to achieve by having the baby, and make it clear that she absolutely will not get it, but might get it if she has an abortion.

I have seen this happen, in a really, really sad way with a friend's brother. He was told by a casual sexual partner that she had had cancer and was unable to get pregnant. After that encounter, it slowly became obvious that she was severely unstable and mentally ill. (No outside indicators, had a good job, had some mutual acquaintances.) He was in a similar situation where he left the country and she then told him she was pregnant. He eventually promised to begin dating her, invite her to Thanksgiving, etc. if she would have an abortion. Then, once she had the abortion, he cut off contact completely. As you can tell, this worked, but it was brutal and unpleasant and very ethically questionable.

So yes, keep in mind what your personal values are when you decide what to do. Is it worth doing something shady if it means that a child won't be born to an unstable mother and absent father? Maybe. That's up to you. Be the kind of person you want to be.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:19 PM on September 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

Can you talk to her reasonably and calmly? Do you intend to be an active parent? Only the woman can decide about continuing the pregnancy. But once it's a child, you will have rights and responsibilities. Not just child support, but also the right to seek custody. This is, at minimum, an 18 year commitment.

Ex, Let's talk about why you want to continue this pregnancy. Tell me what you're thinking. Ex, I'm concerned that having a child whose father is in another country will be very difficult. Not the money part, the parenting part. Babies are really difficult to care for. Adolescents tend to break your heart. Ex, I respect that this is something that happens to your body, and this is a choice that is ultimately yours. But I feel that it's fair for me to voice my concerns, and to be part of the plan.

good luck.
posted by theora55 at 4:26 PM on September 23, 2010

Congratulations. If I were you, I would examine myself, my desires, the things I want to say, and the motives behind all of that. I would keep the parts of myself that were earnest and thinking of her and the child's best interest, and try to leave behind any line of reasoning or statement based on a sense of entitlement. If she's lying, if she keeps the child, or if she does not, an earnest approach will be the best and will help you live with yourself, as well as defend yourself, if necessary.

In line with this, I would ask her to let me know all possible information, especially the doctor's contact information, so that you can speak with him or her about what is coming and how to be supportive.

Have you thought about asking that the child, if she carries it to term, be raised in the UK? By you? It sounds like that would solve some of the problems you mention, although it would introduce other complicated, potentially painful issues.
posted by ramenopres at 4:59 PM on September 23, 2010

I really don't think you should take this very seriously at present. If she really is pregnant and it really is yours, that's another story. But the chances of that sound slim to me, so if you're pretty sure she is being a manipulative drama queen, just don't feed into it. Wait until there's actually anything you can do. Keep conversation light and effortless. Don't sound scared, angry, or hurt.

She: I'm determined to keep and have this baby!

You: Well that's certainly your call. Hope you enjoy your pregnancy -- my mom was pregnant with me for ten and a half months, and I weighed 21 pounds at birth.

She: No really, I'm really going to have it, and it's going to be yours, and you're going to be responsible!

You: Do whatever you like. My lawyer will be in touch in a few months. Have a nice day!
posted by hermitosis at 5:08 PM on September 23, 2010 [4 favorites]

1. You can get DNA test done when the child is in utero. If I were you, I would. If she doesn't agree, wait until the baby's born, and you can get a court order for a cheek swab.

2. I know I'm swimming against the grain here, (not to mention mixing my metaphors), but I would not utter either of the "A" words. Abortion/Adoption. The chances of a 30+ year old woman giving a child up for adoption are pretty remote. Besides that, she's already said that she wants to keep the child. If you bring up what she should do with her body, you will offend her. If you say you want to relinquish a child for adoption using the rationale of "It's my baby, too", expect her to laugh you off. And, believe me when I say that a man who tries to talk a woman into either of the A words will never be forgiven. You might not care about this now, but if she has a baby, and if it's yours, that resentment is the difference between a workable situation and a woman who makes your life hell. If you, somehow (because this is unlikely) talk her into an abortion she doesn't want, well... expect some seriously bad karma, because there will be a river of hate flowing your way, pretty much forever.

3. It may be possible to sign away your parental rights. This sometimes includes abdicating financial responsibility, sometimes not. Nthing the lawyer suggestion.
posted by Leta at 5:10 PM on September 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

Oh, and I got multiple positive pregnancy tests literally 10 days after the sex that knocked me up, both times. So some women can know very early. I did.
posted by Leta at 5:14 PM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would do two things. I would contact an attorney about your rights and obligations. I would also ask him what the legal implications are of simply asking this woman if she would consider an abortion.

Then I would suggest to her that you understand your legal obligations, you plan on being in England, you will be expecting paternity tests and although it is her choice to make, if she wants your opinion, you would terminate the pregnancy. (I would not put that part in writing. You do not want her being able to show that to the child one day.)

Then I would give her your lawyers contact information in the event she wants to discuss this further.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:33 PM on September 23, 2010

There is nothing wrong (and probably, everything right) about being 100% honest about this.

This, again. Your key responsibility at this point is complete honesty, to her and to yourself.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:36 PM on September 23, 2010

100 times yes to what Leta said. This woman needs kindness now, not manipulation, or god forbid, what the young rope rider was potentially suggesting which is beyond reprehensible. Data point: I have a friend, who in his younger years had a 2 month casual relationship with a young woman that ended. A short while later, she told him she was pregnant and it was his. He told her he has no desire to have a child, told her to get an abortion and that she was on her own should she choose to go through with it. Well, she did. She went through the pregnancy and the delivery with no support or help from him. He wasn't there before or after.

She started dating another man, they're in a defacto relationship and he has acted as the child's father since birth as far as I know. My friend provides child support (there's no doubt it's his) and has since decided that he actually did want to be in his son's life. The mother now resents the hell out of him. When she needed him the most, he wasn't there. As far as she's concerned, the kid has a father and it's not him. She needed to provide him with a dad, and when out and found a man who would actually step up.

So now my friend gets very infrequent visits with his son, supervised because the mother doesn't really trust him. My friend doesn't want to push it because he doesn't want to upset the mum even further. The child calls another man 'Dad'. My friend never expected to want anything to do with his son, much less fall in love with him and now his lack of relationship with the child is the biggest regret of his life and one he is continaully trying to improve. My advice; Don't be that guy. A few poorly chosen words can have massive repercussions.
posted by Jubey at 6:03 PM on September 23, 2010 [7 favorites]

Lawyer up. Get medical records showing your negative medical history. Be completely honest with her about why you don't want this. Realize there is no full proof way to convince her.

Lawyer up. Look into giving up all parental rights. Realize that may not be legally possible even she is secure financially.

Consider getting yourself made sterile to avoid this situation in the future.
posted by nomadicink at 6:06 PM on September 23, 2010

He was in a similar situation where he left the country and she then told him she was pregnant. He eventually promised to begin dating her, invite her to Thanksgiving, etc. if she would have an abortion. Then, once she had the abortion, he cut off contact completely. As you can tell, this worked, but it was brutal and unpleasant and very ethically questionable.

So yes, keep in mind what your personal values are when you decide what to do. Is it worth doing something shady if it means that a child won't be born to an unstable mother and absent father? Maybe. That's up to you. Be the kind of person you want to be.

This goes way beyond shady. It would be cruel, terrible, and very unethical to emotionally manipulate a pregnant woman in a vulnerable, lonely position. Whether you like this poor woman or not, please Do Not Do This. Not if you want to be able to face yourself in the mirror for the rest of your life, anyway.
posted by anonnymoose at 6:23 PM on September 23, 2010 [6 favorites]

Thank you everyone. I'll just start by saying that none of you have offended me in any way, although I do enjoy being protected by someone called "disreputabledog" (how low must I have sunk?!). Here are some decisions I've made, and thoughts on what you all have written:

• Everyone is in agreement about the lawyer thing. I will be looking into that ASAP.
• Paternity test doesn't quite seem relevant here – I've gotta act as if I assume she's not lying and that it's mine...preparing for the *worst*, as it were. I am waiting to freak out until I've spoken to her doctor.
• We have no friends in common, mainly because she doesn't have many friends, and mine have requested I don't invite her along to social things.
• "Cesspool of humanity"
• "I hear sex is the #1 cause of kids" - made me laugh, thanks for that.
• "Is she a bad person, or is it a bad relationship?". She is a bad person. However, is she too bad a person to look after a child? Well, I feel I would have higher standards, given the choice, but I can't decidedly answer this question.
• Genetic counseling – any thoughts on this would be appreciated. (Has anyone had this? How did you find a counselor? Is this something she can refuse?)
• I could get on a plane to NYC next week. I will be making sure I know exactly what I want to say before I go there.

Here's the story behind why I think she's lying:
She had her last period 3 1/2 weeks before telling me about the kid. I've heard that you can be pregnant and still have periods, which is why I said it could be up to 6 weeks. This is also the information that makes me disbelieve her most. She said she'd felt queazy, so had gotten a pregnancy test – came out negative. Then she said she felt faint while teaching, and so had gone to the doctor, who took a blood test, and it came out positive. All sounds fishy to me. However, three days before I left for the UK (now over a week ago) she said her breasts were sore. If she's lying, she must have been lying for days, or else capitalizing on what she had previously thought was a pregnancy.

And a thought about how I want to play this:
• Wanting an abortion and wanting to protect the kid come from exactly the same place: I would want the best I can give for my kids, and despite assurances that I will be able to "man-up", I think neither my current (unemployed) state or her current (crazy) state would be "best"
• I'm completely at ease with lobbying for an abortion, and if she decides not to get one, then looking into the eyes of a daughter in ten years to tell her her mum saved her. This happened to my best friend. She loves her parents (and understands their wants/decisions). Is it unrealistic for me to think my child won't hate me once they find this information out?

And finally:
I have talked to her for a few hours. Same old stuff as any other day of the relationship – she barely listens to my views or thoughts, and when I ask for a response she says she has nothing to say. This is the same format as conversations we had when my grandmother died, or when we had to sell her house, or when I got fired: barely any interest from her. Before I didn't mind that. However, she doesn't seem resolute, just she feels very strongly that keeping it would be the right thing to do. She hasn't produced any reasons for that to be so, just the feeling. I keep telling her I completely understand why she's having that feeling, and respect it, and that it's her choice. Now I'm leaving it for a couple of days to clear my head and get everything in order. Then I will talk to her, and probably go to New York.

Thanks for everything, people, and if I do have a child, boy or girl, I will give it the middle name, "mefi"

posted by omnigut at 7:24 PM on September 23, 2010 [5 favorites]

I was conceived under similar circumstances. My parents were not compatible as a couple and both saw the other as an unfit parent. They dealt with it by making it as hard as possible for the other party to co-parent, my mother by deliberately obfuscating paternity and my father by freaking out and making legal threats. As the child of this brief union I have a few take aways:

Nobody should be punished with a child for having sex, but please don't combine your bits without considering the parenting capacity of the other party. That being said, since the open stable door long since saw the horse pass the horizon...

If anything really pisses me off, it's my dad's immaturity. I don't really blame him for wanting the male equivalent of an abortion, and I'm glad I tracked him down but being an abandoned bastard carries a fuck-load of baggage. I deeply resent that my half sisters got his parenting, and an indulged life, while I lived below the poverty line for most of my childhood. I don't like that I didn't have another parental perspective when I had to deal with a molest-y, insane addict grandmother my mother wasn't equip to protect me from. I also feel sad that I didn't get a consistent father.

The point I'm leading towards, as a contraceptive failure:

1) Be the best father you're able to be. If all you're really capable of is signing the cheques, do that. But even if you're long distance, presents, support and best of all, demonstrated love.

2) Your kid will care about its genetic background, as it gets older. I did. When I tracked my father down as an adult, I was grateful to learn about what the strange lumps were on my head finally (genetic cysts) and that my male line has highly inflated prostate cancer risks. It was good to know my great grandmother is still chugging along in her mid eighties, a bit blind and deaf, but still sharp.

3) Your gift to your child is the extra tribe members who form part of your social network. Missing out on my father also meant missing my paternal grandparents, who are awesome. When baby and paternity are confirmed, do share the sane member of your circle with the wee one.

4) It's okay not to want a kid. It's okay to tell your partner "I'd prefer you didn't". It is not okay to run away screaming, waving your arms over your head. It is NOT okay to do what my dad did, which was to try to pressure my mother to do what he wanted. At the time, 23 years ago, fleeing and lawyering at her dealt with the problem, but two decades later when I tracked him down, he still had guilt baggage.

5) For Christ's sake, if you give a child an obvious facial feature (ie my large/long nose), do not render an apology.
posted by Phalene at 7:33 PM on September 23, 2010 [6 favorites]

The earlier you take a pee test, the more likely you are to get a false negative. If you read the instructions to a OTC prego test, it tells you to take one every week until you get your period. Or not.

False negatives on pregnancy tests are pretty common, especially early.

Again, this varies by the woman. One of my bridesmaids KNEW, just KNEW she was pregnant. Test after test, only one line. She went to the doctor. Negative.

"But I can feel the baby kick when I take a bath!" she said.

"You have gas," the doctor said.

Finally, she begged a tech that she knew personally to give her an ultrasound.

Her daughter was born four months later.

omnigut, you sound like a very decent person. Slack jawed yokels have kids that turn out alright. I think you'll do just fine.
posted by Leta at 7:40 PM on September 23, 2010

Thank you!

I'm going to sleep - UK time, 3:40 a.m. – but will be back on this thread tomorrow.
posted by omnigut at 7:42 PM on September 23, 2010

There's no point freaking out. Either she's pregnant or not. If not you're home free after the drama is done. If she is , it's either your kid or not, which only a paternity test can resolve. You want to spend 9 months freaking out?

Do you have idea if she was having sex with other partners when y'all hooked up?

I frankly don't think all your "she's a bad person" stuff adds up, either. How would you even really know? She teaches, you suggest. So she's organized enough to have a professional career. Sure, that doesn't mean she's not the immature narcissist you describe, but dude, you're giving off a bit of a "I was slumming" vibe, and that's not a helpful way to describe the mother of your child, if that's what she is. Doesn't mean you have to marry her, but it would be helpful not to approach her with utter contempt.

As you will someday learn, everyone is a little selfish. You're rationalizing your own a little here.

Anyway if it's your baby give it a chance to change you. No matter what the circumstances, you get profound responsibility, but with it can come life's most profound joy.

And I never thought I'd say this, but I agree with St. Alia's wise words above.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:55 PM on September 23, 2010

Just two thoughts:
1. Miscarriage is more common than many people realize, until they've seen a number of friends go through pregnancies. Do not commit to anything irrevocable based on the idea that pregnancies all go to term - eg do not marry her (not that you're planning to) or make immigration decisions etc, until later.

2. If you have a significant family history of autism, that is something to emphasize, and if she has never seen autistic children, it should be a priority to find a way she can get a sense of what low or medium functioning autistic children are like, and how demanding it can be to parent them. (eg videos online might help with this) It is a whole other ballgame from "neurotypical" children, who are demanding in their own right. If she is thinking of accepting a single-parenting role, it's something she should think hard about and be fully aware of what she might be taking on. If I were in her shoes, thinking about raising a child alone, the possibility of autism would be much more salient to my decision than the possibility of epilepsy or Parkinson's.

Her OB should be able to point you to a genetic counselor. (Or you could contact your former doctor in New York and see if they have anyone they could refer you to.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:20 PM on September 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

If it was sex-only, why were you helping her sell her house? Can you explain a bit more about your relationship with her? You keep saying she's a bad person, but don't really give any insight as to why (and why you were having sex with such a bad person).
posted by alternateuniverse at 8:34 PM on September 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

If it was sex-only, why were you helping her sell her house?

I'm pretty sure that by "her" he meant his grandmother.

I am waiting to freak out until I've spoken to her doctor.

You're not going to be able to do this unless the alleged mom-to-be permits it.

I could get on a plane to NYC next week. I will be making sure I know exactly what I want to say before I go there.

Seriously, there's no reason to spend the money at this point. Even if she's pregnant, and even if it's yours, it's just still too early to be a "for sure" thing.
posted by amro at 8:44 PM on September 23, 2010

If she wants to go through with it, convincing her to terminate is a bad (as in, bad person) thing to do.

Assuming she goes through - then you should put aside YOU and HER for a minute and think about THE BABY/YOUR BABY.

This baby will be a person, and YOU ARE THE FATHER. Stop for a second and think about what is good for your baby, and how you can be an awesome father - even if you don't want anything to do with the mother.

You had sex and had a baby. If that wasn't your plan it sucks, but it happens and you have to take your responsibility. The baby will be a real person and will need the presence/love of her father, especially if you think the mother is "crazy".

If i were you, I'd move to NY and try work out something (you don't need to live with the girl). Be there for that baby.

And if it's not yours... you are always in time to move on with your life. you're 27.
posted by madeinitaly at 12:52 AM on September 24, 2010

The baby is nothing yet but a bundle of potential. You are not beholden to it in the same way as you would be beholden to an infant.

Consider the opportunity cost. As harsh as that sounds, if you honestly believe that she is not a fit parent, that she is not in a good state right now to have a baby, that is something that you may want to give ethical weight.

I would not take the perspective of 'any conception must not be aborted'. There are four conflicting perspectives here: yours; the mother's; the potential real father's; and the baby's. Give them whatever weight you believe is appropriate and ethical.
posted by kid A at 3:53 AM on September 24, 2010

Can I just say that while I understand you are scrambling for a plan, and it's probably a big relief to have one, this is maybe not such a practical one?

My initial reply was based on your first post which you have now clarified. If your position is that you don't really want to be a parent and would prefer she terminate but if she doesn't, you want to be involved, that's a different kettle of fish.

The chances of you convincing a woman who wants to have a baby to terminate are low. You can make it clear you will not play happy families and you can give her your family history and you can point out how hard this is going to be for her but the statistics overwhelmingly tell you that people choose to have children in craptacular circumstances every single day. It's a really strong drive. The women I know who have had terminations (including myself) do it because having a baby will throw off their education or careers; because they know there is no circumstance in which they can afford a child; because they are unahppily choosing between a child and a partner (which this woman is not); because they are self-aware enough to realise they'll make awful mothers (which this woman appears to not be); or because screening verifies a genetic or other defect they can't face or that is incompatible with life. Little else moves a pregnant woman to not be pregnant, including uncooperative fathers.

You're unemployed and paying money for short-notice airfare now isn't going to buy you much. She very likely doesn't have an OB right now - early miscarriage is so common and so un-treatable for lack of a better word that we basically give pregnant women pre-natal vitamins and tell them to come back later. You cannot make her GP talk to you, nor can you make her accompany you to a doctor's appointment she probably doesn't have for weeks and weeks, nor can you make her submit to additional blood tests.

You best bet may be to sit tight and arrange to go for her first scheduled scan. This will actually do what you want to do: confirm pregnancy in a way that is supportive and not hostile towards the woman you are now going to need to build some kind of parenting relationship with. In the interim, provide her with all of your relevant medical records and know that insurance (if either of you have any) will cover inheritable genetic testing only. In general, family history counselling is done around the time of this first trimester scan because that's when nuchal translucency screening is done. She can schedule that ahead of time so you're not camped out in NYC for weeks but you're going to need her cooperation there.

In terms of what happens when a live birth occurs I'm not sure this works the way you think it does. No court in the universe is going to take a newborn infant from a mother and hand sole custody to a father unless the mother is already in jail or is a verified junkie or possibly has smothered previous children and even that doesn't always happen. Being a poor candidate for motherhood doesn't, for better or worse, preclude you from being one. And hey, some women pull their shit together when they become mothers in surprising ways and you just don't know what is going to happen here.

But what I really want to say is that if you are turning your life and plans and finances upside down for this pregnancy and you do not have a paternity test done when this baby is born, you're making a mistake. Between 5 and 15% of men are not the fathers of the children they think are theirs, and we're talking about this happening in rock solid long term happy families marriages - let alone a situation as dodgy as this one.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:08 AM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Has anyone had this? How did you find a counselor? Is this something she can refuse?

As I've mentioned, I've had this. My OB recommended the counselor - it should be easy to find via any doctor's office in the US - call and mention your medical history and the pregnancy and ask for a referral. And yes, she can absolutely refuse.
posted by sonika at 6:44 AM on September 24, 2010

She had her last period 3 1/2 weeks before telling me about the kid. I've heard that you can be pregnant and still have periods, which is why I said it could be up to 6 weeks. This is also the information that makes me disbelieve her most. She said she'd felt queazy, so had gotten a pregnancy test – came out negative. Then she said she felt faint while teaching, and so had gone to the doctor, who took a blood test, and it came out positive. All sounds fishy to me.

Actually, this is all totally plausible. An early pregnancy test can give you a false negative whereas a blood test is much more sensitive. Being queasy that early on (it usually starts around week 6) is uncommon but not at all unheard of. This may be an outlier situation, but it is within the realm of possibility.
posted by sonika at 6:47 AM on September 24, 2010

Did her last period *start* or *end* 3.5 weeks before she gave you the news? If that's when it ended, then unfortunately, that's an absolutely plausible timeline, yeah. Me, I was queasy by the time I missed my period.
posted by KathrynT at 7:52 AM on September 24, 2010

Long story short: DO NOT think you know what's going on based on this woman's period. Their individual bodies and cycles can do things you never dreamed possible. Get a paternity test at some point.
posted by nomadicink at 8:12 AM on September 24, 2010

Yeah, I asked my dad--thereby freaking him the hell out, so taking one for the team here--about testing hCG levels in early pregnancy. Especially with a combination of sore breasts, dizziness, and feeling 'off.'

If she's legitimately had a blood test, there's certainly always the possibility that she isn't pregnant. By the same token, I could also win the lottery tonight, even though I haven't bought a ticket.

So--all other variables and uncertainties aside--I would halt all 'maybe it's false' lines of supposition right now. Nothing good comes from that, even if she's lying and isn't pregnant. All speculation along that route is just going to make a bigger, more dramatic mess of this situation, and there is plenty of mess here already.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 8:12 AM on September 24, 2010

I don't think trying to influence her decision is a bad thing to do. If you are, as many commenters here have suggested, responsible for the conception of the embryo and its eventual care should it become a child, weighing in on the decision to give birth is not a "bad" thing to do.

To the contrary--your opinion and your planned involvement (or lack thereof) in a potential child's life is enormously important information.

I have known at least two people who were leaning towards keeping a pregnancy until they realized that the potential father would never be involved in the child's life. Yes, it is possible for a woman to raise a child with no paternal involvement. That doesn't mean paternal involvement is unimportant or inconsequential to the decision to have that child in the first place.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:37 AM on September 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

She isn't pregnant. Or, more precisely, she can't know that she's pregnant.

She may well be trolling your for a commitment, financial or otherwise. Demand medical proof before anything else proceeds. It can start with something as easy as her taking an EPT (Early Pregnancy Test) while you're present* - if she won't agree to that, then she's almost certainly bluffing.

That test, even if positive, won't prove anything. It might be wrong. If right, it might not be yours. But without that first, tiny demonstration of honesty, she's conning.

*It doesn't have to be a creepy "while I watch you pee" scenario, of course. But you can't settle for her handing you a stained test strip at the door, either.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:29 PM on September 24, 2010

Or, more precisely, she can't know that she's pregnant.

Seriously, why do people keep saying this? She certainly could have had an accurate blood test by now.
posted by amro at 3:47 PM on September 24, 2010


I say this for 100 million reasons. Mostly, because I don't buy her story. But also, because being practical is practical...

1. You'll be sending the message you can (still?) be manipulated.

You can only confirm pregnancy if she consents to have her doctor share that info. You can not perform a paternity test yet because it is too early. It might be worth it if you had an appointment with a genetic counselor and she agreed to go to the appointment, but I fear she wouldn't.

2. You'll be sending the message you will drop your life and be with her. Or her and a baby.

You'd prefer she terminate the pregnancy (if there is one) and that won't happen if she's getting an immediate payoff like a transatlantic visits at the drop of a hat. Make her sit with reality (single motherhood) if she really is pregnant. If she is not pregnant, then the reality she needs to grok is that you've moved on and she isn't a priority in your life. Either way, you win.


I like the lawyer idea immensely. It sends the message you're not taking this lightly and it will be ALL business (which is OK at this point with so many unknowns.) I could also see a scenario where she's not pregnant but does her damnedest to get pregnant while you are in the UK.

Be open to her choices for now (like you are already doing) and super stress the genetic counseling in phone call conversation. Her reaction to this very serious concern about genetics on your part will tell you and your lawyer A LOT about where she is coming from. I think this genetic thing really is the first step.

Don't hop a plane for her, hop a on a plane (eventually) to meet with your lawyer in person and see a genetic counselor with her.

My filter is I'm 40 and my husband and I are recently pregnant with our first child. I was single until 2 years ago. If I had been in her shoes pre-Wonderful Husband... let's just say she's either not thinking this through rationally -or- there is no pregnancy and she's thought it through from an exceptionally devious angle.

You know this person better than I do and my take could be entirely worthless. That said, I also know some very manipulative folks ... above is how I would handle it if I were in your shoes right now.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 3:49 PM on September 24, 2010 [8 favorites]

I completely agree with jbenben. Jumping on a plane seems pointless and possibly counter-productive if she is interested in manipulating you for your attention, resources, and/or time. Save the money for legal fees.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:18 PM on September 24, 2010 [4 favorites]

This is an awful situation, for both of you. :(

Please don't fly back to the US. This won't achieve anything except incurring travel costs and possibly creating drama.

I am a woman, I have had an unwanted, accidental pregnancy (and chose to terminate it), and I strongly disagree with the comments that you would be a bad person for encouraging her to have an abortion.

It is her choice what to do with her body, and she will get to make the decision in the end, but that does not mean that you should not strongly put forward your views/opinions/feelings.

Her decision about this pregnancy affects you too, for the next 18 years, financially, emotionally, and may impact on your future romantic relationships/future children.

Please see a lawyer, and with their help draft a letter to her saying:

a) You should be aware of the family history of autism, epilepsy and Parkinson's;

b) I strongly encourage you to terminate this pregnancy; and

c) If you go through with this pregnancy, I will not be providing any emotional support, parenting or childcare. I will not be in any romantic or sexual relationship with you. You will be a single parent.

If this woman is pregnant (which may not be the case), it may be worth (through a lawyer) offering her a lump-sum payment of $5000 or $7000 or $10,000 for proof that she has terminated the pregnancy and is no longer pregnant?

She can always become pregnant again with another man, one who

a) actually wants to be a father and parent and provide childcare;
b) doesn't have a family history of autism, epilepsy, and Parkinson's.
posted by Hot buttered sockpuppets at 7:41 PM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

I absolutely understand the reasoning that it would be better if she decided not to carry the pregnancy to term. And I don't think it's wrong to lay out some facts for her (eg you will not be co-parenting, you have a family history of eg autism which could make single-parenting harder than even regular single-parenting). Still, offering her a cash bounty to terminate the pregnancy strikes me as capital-R Revolting.

On a more practical note, it plays into the kind of drama you suggest she would love, so it could easily backfire and make her more determined to carry on with the pregnancy.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:31 PM on September 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Of the options laid out, three are really awful and damaging to you and to her (1. Lying to her to get her to have the abortion, 2. High levels of pressure, 3. Cash bonus for abortion). Please don't do them. You will regret them for the rest of your life.

Just talk to her, let her know the medical history of your family. If you want her to feel like a single parent (so she knows what she is getting into) don't do things (dr's appts, genetic counselor, etc.) with her. However, recognize that she should choose to continue with the pregnancy, you will have less of a place in the child's life.

Finally nthing all the posters who urge you to treat her with gentleness and respect, if only because she is a fellow human being in a difficult time.
posted by zia at 1:43 PM on September 25, 2010

For what it's worth, these things can happen with the greatest of precautions - I was conceived between my mother finishing the Pill and arranging to be sterilized.

Seriously, no cash incentive, speak to a lawyer both here and in NY, and prepare yourself.
posted by mippy at 4:34 AM on September 28, 2010

I've been through this recently.

From my own experience:
- A friend said beforehand "decide whether you want to be part of the childs life before she is born. Once you love the child there's no going back" I've found that to be true. I decided to take care of mother and daughter and try my hardest at being a family. Having a child and being a family for a while has been a delight. Not being able to take care of her and little seeing her is utter misery.
- Think about the childs interest and your part in that.
posted by joost de vries at 10:14 PM on September 28, 2010

Think about the childs...
I mean: consider the eventual childs interest and what part you want to play in that.
posted by joost de vries at 12:09 AM on September 29, 2010

Or, more precisely, she can't know that she's pregnant.

Seriously, why do people keep saying this? She certainly could have had an accurate blood test by now.

Because, amro, we're speaking from the context of the time at which the OP's exchange happened. Ergo, she WAS speaking out of her ass, instead of relating facts.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:17 PM on October 3, 2010

Because, amro, we're speaking from the context of the time at which the OP's exchange happened. Ergo, she WAS speaking out of her ass, instead of relating facts.

You said she can't know she's pregnant, I said she can. Your response doesn't make any sense.
posted by amro at 2:21 PM on October 3, 2010

So, thank you everyone for a continuing supply of information for me. I have sent many people I've spoken to to this forum, so that they can catch up.

In case anyone out there would like an update, here's how things stand: she is (apparently) still pregnant, but admitted to me that she had a 4 month miscarriage some time back, and her doctor said she has a medical condition that makes a miscarriage likely (something about her hormones not catching up with her belly). Hearing her say that stopped me from hoping for a miscarriage, as I can't imagine how horrible that experience would be, and how important it would be for an unlikely mother – now in her thirties – to take any chance she can get.

Instead, I'm getting "lawyered up". Been quoted $450 an hour by a lawyer recommended to me. I have no problem with paying child support out of my wage, whatever I make, for 21 years. I don't want to be physically present in the child's life, and will go with however the mother want's to play the rest of my responsibilities (birthday cards, whatever). So, as I don't see a huge conflict in the future, and don't know how she could hurt me financially, or emotionally, should I just pay for a cheap lawyer instead?

Again, to all who have already posted here, your advice has been invaluable already. Lawyerfi, I salute you!
posted by omnigut at 1:45 PM on October 22, 2010

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