Possible Single Mom.
July 15, 2011 8:06 AM   Subscribe

20 years old, pregnant, no longer with the father and he doesn't know yet. I need advice.

Until recently, I was in a relationship with my ex for almost two years. We were engaged to be married. We had a number of problems, and over time I realized that it was a very unhealthy relationship (he was emotionally abusive, called me hurtful names and racial slurs, and cheated on me). I ended the relationship two months ago. He has since apologized and tried to reconcile. It's hard for me to say no to him, and part of me is afraid I'll go back to him. I know I need to stay away.

However, I have a major complication in cutting all ties with this man: I found out a few days ago that I am pregnant.

I don't know what to do, and I hope the metafilter community can help point me in the right direction. I have a medical condition that makes me practically infertile. My doctor was astonished that I was able to get pregnant, and has encouraged me to consider this a real opportunity to have a biological child. For this reason, the idea of an abortion or an adoption makes me cringe, and I want to keep the child.

My ex has a child from a previous relationship and is not interested in having more children. I am afraid that if I go to him he will push me to not keep the child. Even if he were interested in being a father, the thought of raising a child with this man who treated me so poorly is horrifying.

I am currently staying with my family who has assured me their support, but I am scared to raise this child on my own, and unsure of raising this child without a father. My mother has agreed to be with me when I tell my ex about the pregnancy, but I'm not ready to confront him yet. I know he'll act polite and loving when my mom is there, but when it's just the two of us I am afraid it will turn ugly. He is very manipulative and has hurt me in the past, and I can only imagine he will use this as an opportunity to hurt and manipulate me again.

I am in the Atlanta area for the summer and will be returning to Manhattan in a few months. What resources are available to me in my situation? What are the legal issues of raising the child on my own if don't want my ex involved at all? I have health insurance, and have been to see my family physician and a family therapist. I am looking into counseling services at Planned Parenthood. Any advice you can give me would help tremendously. Even with my family's support I feel very scared and alone right now.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (49 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
(IANAL) You never have to tell him, but then you don't get any child support. The plus side of this is that, if he did want to have any rights of custody or visitation, he'd never know to claim them if you don't tell him. Meaning you wouldn't have to be exposed to the potential for abuse anymore.

If he did find out about the child, then he'd likely be able to petition the court for a paternity test. He likely wouldn't do that if he didn't want to be involved, though, as this would mean he would have to pay for supporting your child.

Whatever decision you make, you can make it through this. You're not alone.

I wish you the best.
posted by inturnaround at 8:13 AM on July 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Let me pull out a few sentences for you to look at.

We had a number of problems, and over time I realized that it was a very unhealthy relationship (he was emotionally abusive, called me hurtful names and racial slurs, and cheated on me).

My ex has a child from a previous relationship and is not interested in having more children. I am afraid that if I go to him he will push me to not keep the child. Even if he were interested in being a father, the thought of raising a child with this man who treated me so poorly is horrifying.

I am currently staying with my family who has assured me their support.

I know he'll act polite and loving when my mom is there, but when it's just the two of us I am afraid it will turn ugly. He is very manipulative and has hurt me in the past, and I can only imagine he will use this as an opportunity to hurt and manipulate me again.

I completely understand your not wanting to raise your child without a father. But it sounds like your child deserves for that father to be someone other than this person.

Your family has said they will support you right now. Please use that gift of support to consider the possibility that the father this child SHOULD have -- the kind of father you want your child TO have -- is simply someone you haven't met yet, and that if you return to your ex, you might NEVER meet. Please also use that gift of support to give you time TO meet that person.

I would also ask what you hope to seek by informing him. Are you trying to get child support? Are you hoping maybe he'll shape up? If you don't want child support and you don't want to involve him in your child's life, I would maybe consider not telling him in person, or even not telling him at all. Okay, maybe not telling him at all is a little extreme, but maybe just telling him in a letter -- and reiterating that you simply wanted him to know, but that you will not seek any kind of support -- may be the way to go. You have let him know, but you also are distancing yourself from his manipulation.

Your family offering support is a really good thing right now, and gives you some breathing room. I wish you luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:14 AM on July 15, 2011 [16 favorites]

Just because you got unexpectedly pregnant this time doesn't mean that it is a special miracle and you should overlook who this child's father is.

You have options in the future to try to concieve naturally if you wanted to and there is always adoption.

Ask yourself - if it were not for this medical condition and the surprise conception, would you keep this baby?
posted by k8t at 8:29 AM on July 15, 2011 [12 favorites]

I am in the Atlanta area for the summer and will be returning to Manhattan in a few months.

FYI I 100% beleive that young mothers can rock parenthood. There is no part of me that wants to tell you you're too young or shouldn't do this. There is however a big part of me that reads "Manhattan" and arrives at a significant pause.

I am not sure you have a solid grasp on the cost of raising a child in the city. My sister lives in Manhattan with my infant niece and is a single parent. She is employed as a school teacher. She makes in excess of 65K a year. She gets child support in excess of 1K a month from her child's father. Even with these resources, the cost of childcare is an enormous part of her annual costs. My sister also has the advantage of family support in the city - my other sister, and not one but two sets of parents. This is critical to making it work.

I'm a pretty capable person and I'm from and love NYC, but the idea of raising a baby in the city with no family and little money would be... daunting. Were I you, I would only seriously consider being a single parent in Atlanta, with the supportive family and the cheaper childcare.

I think you need to put location on the table when making this decision. If raising a child turns out to only make financial sense in Atlanta, but being in Altlanta means you have to give up a great degree or a fab job, you will want to take that into account.

Under no circumstances is parenting with or reconciling with someone you don't even think is good enough for yourself a good enough option for your child. Figure out how to do it alone or frankly, don't do it.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:31 AM on July 15, 2011 [17 favorites]

As a mother, I can tell you that there are some major challenges involved (even with family help) in raising a child alone and without a BA (I assume). Even in the best of circumstances, it is really hard. IMHO the challenges associated with this pregnancy are great.

I'm saying this as someone that cares about another (stranger) woman and wants the best for you and your future.
posted by k8t at 8:32 AM on July 15, 2011

Do not allow yourself to be coerced into an abortion or adoption, first of all. If you come to realize that you don't want to bear or parent this child, that's fine, but absolutely positively stand your ground if you DO want to bear and parent this child.

Personally, I lead towards not telling him. If you tell him, you'll get court ordered child support, which I suspect he will use as a leash to jerk you around with much more than he actually pays it. Your parents can help you and there is aid available. DO NOT get back together with him for the kid's sake; in fact, stay apart from him for the kid's sake. It will be very hard, but it can be done.
posted by KathrynT at 8:35 AM on July 15, 2011 [12 favorites]

I have a medical condition that makes me practically infertile.

What is this condition? PCOS? I'm always suspicious when I hear young women say "the doctor said I was practically infertile," because I'm not aware of any common conditions that regularly render young women "practically infertile." If this is going to play a significant role in your decision, then I suggest you really do some serious research into the condition.
posted by yarly at 8:44 AM on July 15, 2011 [5 favorites]

I would also ask what you hope to seek by informing him.

Leaving aside that the guy is an ass, the OP is presumably an adult and understood what the risks of sexual activity were.

One of those risks is having to spend 18 years raising a child with an asshole for a co-parent.

The fact that he is an asshole doesn't abridge his right to be father and have a relationship with the child. It certainly doesn't nullify the right of the child to know and have a relationship with the father. Yeah, I know and you know and everyone knows he's going to be an imperfect father at best.

And who knows - he might grow up. I sure did.

Fact remains, however, that he's got rights if that child makes it to term and the sooner the OP comes to grips with her responsibilities to him as a co-parent, the better it will be for her.

I'm not trying to be a hard ass. I've known women who have hid their pregnancies and it always produces more drama in the end. And I've been the asshole ex-boyfriend whose baby-mama decided he wasn't entitled to his rights as a father.

Your best course of action is honesty and integrity. Talk with a lawyer and prepare yourself for at least 20 years of working with this fellow.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:45 AM on July 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

As to your two direct questions;

What resources are available to me in my situation?
Aside from the aforementioned Planned Parenthood and your current medical insurance, there's an org called Single Mothers By Choice that may be able to offer you some assistance as well. Your child will be eligible for all sorts of federal and state aid in both New York and in Georgia.

What are the legal issues of raising the child on my own if don't want my ex involved at all?
You can totally just not tell him, if you don't want to. I believe that every state allows for unmarried mothers to leave the father's name off the birth certificate. But keep in mind that if you don't tell him, you are unlikely to access his financial aid through child support. If your family is ready to step up to the plate and you won't need the money, I think it's morally okay not to tell him based on your description of his character.

Now, if you're looking to collect child support, you're going to have to tell him, and probably arrange for some legal help to get that ball rolling. You can probably successfully keep full custody, but be prepared for a fight anyway if you think he's likely to want to use the kid as a pawn to manipulate you - and it sounds like he would. A lawyer can probably describe to you your legal options. See if you can get an hour of a family lawyer's time; it'd be worth it.

And as for some unsolicited general advice:

I don't personally think a single young woman without a college education (I'm assuming here, but most people don't have a bachelor's yet at age 20) can afford to raise a child in Manhattan. The cost of living is just too high. I would strongly recommend you look into possibly relocating to be near your family so that they can support you as they have offered.

You say, "Even if he were interested in being a father, the thought of raising a child with this man who treated me so poorly is horrifying." KEEP THIS ATTITUDE. It is your instinct, and it is the best advice you have given yourself. Being pregnant heightens your instinct exponentially. Do not raise your child with this man. It is so much better to be raised by a single mom than it is to be partially raised by an asshole. He treats you like shit; why would you want to subject your cherished and wanted son or daughter to that? I respectfully disagree with the above poster whose views echo the Father's Rights movement. Many people believe as he does, but many people also believe that being a biological father and being a parent are not one in the same and that biological fatherhood does not endow a man with special rights. Write us back on MeFi in 13 years or so when your kid wants to know who his father really was.

Be cautious of online forums and support groups geared towards young or teen moms. The attitude on those is often infantilizing. Just because you are a young person who is pregnant doesn't mean that you are automatically immature or failed to recognize the consequences of your actions. Based on your narrative and your mere presence on MeFi, you're probably going to cringe at the participants at those types of resources. Stand tall. Your situation is unique and you are an adult.

You are going to find that it is a struggle if you do not go on public aid: WIC and TANF. Swallow your pride and apply. You've paid taxes and you'll pay them the rest of your life, you are entitled to benefits. But seriously start laying the groundwork to not have to be on them forever. As a young single mom, you're starting out with the first couple of earmarks for poverty. Your hardest work, aside from parenting, is going to be supporting yourself and your kid financially. Get help from your family and think about your identity aside from being a mom, too.
posted by juniperesque at 8:51 AM on July 15, 2011 [11 favorites]

It might be worth talking to a domestic violence organization as well.

Your relationship, although you have ended it, was certainly abusive. A DV group can help support you emotionally, as well as plug you into low-cost legal resources related to child support, in addition to counseling, and longer-term services like good child care and financial assistance. Raising the child of an abusive ex means the potential for long-term contact with this guy. You'll want help knowing how to deal with this.

The national hotline may be a good place to start if you're not sure of what's in your area.

Take care of yourself!
posted by pantarei70 at 8:54 AM on July 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

anonymous, my heart aches terribly for you. I'm nearly three and a half years out of an abusive relationship and your scenario is one of my recurring nightmares-- something I've thought about a great deal in the abstract ("What if this had happened? What then?") but not dealt with in the concrete.

Lawyer. Therapist. Social Worker. I think one of each is necessary, though hopefully you can find the latter two in one person (I highly recommend master's level social workers as therapists).

I would be more than willing to lend an ear for more worries and fears if you'd like to talk with someone who might be able to understand some of the deeper fears that are going on here, if not all of them. You can memail me or, if you prefer to stay mefi-nonymous, email at axolotl.sam@gmail.com.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 8:54 AM on July 15, 2011

I'm not hugely impressed by the diagnosis of "near infertility." Apparently you're plenty fertile.

If you want a kid right now, have it, but don't tell the douchebag. Whatever child support you might be able to get out of him won't compensate for the cost of having him in your life. He'll likely get shared legal custody even if not physical custody, which means you'll have to have his permission for everything -- it's astonishing how far reaching those privileges are -- and the guy will be able to dictate where you live. Ugh. Stay near your family. A supportive family is pretty much the only thing you have going for you right now and you'd be crazy to move away from them to the most expensive city in the world.

If you don't want this kid right now, move quickly. It will make your life much easier, and there is no shame in it. You only get one life.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:09 AM on July 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

It's up to you what you want for this child. You have the support of your family so that's good. It's ok for your child to have contact with the dad but you don't EVER have to feel like you need to get back with this man. Don't feel obligated. You have options.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 9:18 AM on July 15, 2011

I agree that you should not tell your ex. Stay near your family; it's wonderful that they are supportive.
posted by Specklet at 9:19 AM on July 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Your right and your child's right to live a peaceful, abuse free life, completely trumps the rights of your ex to know about his child, so don't even lend any credence to that twaddle, because twaddle is what it is. You have every right, both legally and ethically, to keep it from him since he's already proven himself totally unfit both as a partner and potential parent. We're not talking about someone who's merely immature, yet basically sane and nice; we're talking about a person who abused you, even going so far as to use racial slurs against you, which tells everyone reading this just what kind of person he is. Please don't expose yourself or your child to that. You are fully capable, with your family's support, of raising your child wonderfully. It will take sacrifice and hard work, but it can and has been done very successfully by single mothers even younger than you. I wish you all the luck in the world, whatever you decide.
posted by katyggls at 9:26 AM on July 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

I can't make many conclusions about you based on this single post. So I'm inferring from your writing style and the fact that you're posting on metafilter that you may find these helpful... my young-mom friends do. But we are "feisty liberals."

Hip Mama's Survival Guide by Ariel Gore. Became a mom at 19, alludes to the father as a negative force in the child's life. This book is hilarious, and makes low-income single parenting sound like a blast. A counterpoint to the "sad struggling single mom" narrative that's everywhere.

Hip Mama forums
which are actually not linked to the book at all, as far as I can tell. The hip mama forums are to be taken with a grain of salt, being online forums and all. Some say there are not a lot of women of colour on there. But hopefully you can use these as starting points to find more resources and perspectives from people who have been down that road.

FWIW, I know plenty of young, happy single moms. Some of whose children were conceived in various less-than-happy circumstances (which they have gotten out of).
posted by 100kb at 9:41 AM on July 15, 2011

You can't always get what you want, and if you have this child you will pay for it with, not for, with the rest of your life.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 9:41 AM on July 15, 2011

The father sounds like a manipulative asshole. If he finds out that you've had his kid and didn't tell him, he's liable to act exactly like a manipulative asshole and make things difficult for you.

So you need to get a lawyer and talk to him about what you can do to minimize any damage or grief he might cause, no matter what you decide.

You need to understand that if you have this child, you will be tied, in some way, to this manipulative asshole for decades, at least. It doesn't matter whether you want to be or not, you will be.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:42 AM on July 15, 2011 [8 favorites]

Not telling him could be risky. If he finds out later, even if he doesn't want to be a dad, if he's the vindictive type he could try to assert some control just to get involved and mess with you -- and he would certainly argue that your not telling him about the kid is a mark against you. (I'm not saying to tell him. Just something to keep in mind. I would talk about the Planned Parenthood people in this regard.)
posted by J. Wilson at 9:44 AM on July 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

What Brandon and J. Wilson said. Regardless of whether or not he'd be a good father, hiding the child from him completely could come back to bite you both (along with other members of your family, if it grows) in a big way. I'm not sure if you have any legal obligation to tell him. But if you don't and he finds out - and he very well could, if not from mutual acquaintances then from your child seeking out his/her biological father - there's nothing to stop him asserting parental rights later on and messing with your life. If you're set on keeping the child, talk to a lawyer, and listen hard.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:50 AM on July 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

posted by Gator at 9:57 AM on July 15, 2011

Part of your question is about keeping the baby, and that's up to you--I'm glad you have the support of your family. Being a single mother is certainly hard, but it's not the end of the world and it can be done.

But part of your question is about what to do about notifying and dealing with the father, and for that piece, I agree with Holy Zarquon about consulting a lawyer about your options. It may be possible for the lawyer to handle communication with the father, and you can find out via that means what he really does want in terms of contact and so on. If he really isn't interested, there may be a way for his parental rights to be voluntarily severed, and then it's taken care of and not a big unknown hanging over your head. And if he is interested in the baby, then, as unpleasant as the process can be, getting a lawyer involved early on can help you negotiate the system as well as giving you someone who is not emotionally invested in any of this but who can speak on your behalf, and on behalf of the baby.
posted by not that girl at 10:02 AM on July 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Receiving certain types of aid such as TANF requires that the mother cooperate with the aid agency by naming the father.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:03 AM on July 15, 2011 [5 favorites]

Also -- as a much older "sister" on this earth, I hope that you are weighing and considering all of your hopes and dreams for your life and including your education and career. In a somewhat similar situation many years ago, I chose (a first-trimester) abortion, after initially thinking that I wanted to have the child. In looking back, I do not think that my life would have been "ruined" had I taken the other path and had a child as a single female in my 20s. But I do cherish the life I have had, which has included many interesting and creative experiences which would have likely been foreclosed to me had I had the responsibility of a child as a single parent with a less-than-ideal situation with the biological father.

My parents supported me back then, but also urged me to consider abortion. They had raised five children, and knew more than anyone in my life the expense and difficulty of babies.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:17 AM on July 15, 2011 [5 favorites]

You don't have to make the decision to tell him or not right now. You can always choose not to tell him until after the birth if you decide you want to and you're worried about coercion. You can take this time to think over the decision and research your options.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 10:19 AM on July 15, 2011

I'd also take into consideration what "support" means here.

As I see it:

Level 1: "Yes dear, we won't judge you for having an out-of-wedlock-child"
Level 2: "We'll fly up to help you after the birth. We'll front you some money if you're in a real pinch."
Top Level: "Yes dear, you can live as an adult in our home, we will fully financially support you and the child for as long as you need (even if it ruins our own attempts at retirement/retirement savings), we will provide free quality childcare for the child whenever you need it for whatever reason, and we will be heavily involved in the day-to-day help with diapering, feeding, bathing, and more importantly, we will invest ourselves into ensuring that this child has all his/her emotional, intellectual, and financial needs met for his/her life. AND we will treat you as first among equals in decisions made about this child."

(And obviously a lot of areas in between... You can see the TV shows Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant for a variety of 'support' levels.)

For me personally, if I was a 20-year-old single mom-to-be, I'd try to determine what part of the spectrum you think that your parents are at before going forward with this.

(FWIW, fulltime childcare costs between $800-2000/month and in Manhattan you're likely to be on the $1800-2000/month end of the scale.)
posted by k8t at 10:20 AM on July 15, 2011 [5 favorites]

I want to throw this out there as a thought. I have a male friend who got his ex pregnant many moons ago. While I don't know all the intimate details of how they initially worked things out, I do know that when the woman was ready to marry another man the bio father legally terminated his rights to the child (this may have happened earlier on and I just wasn't privy to it). In any case, once the rights were legally terminated the male friend no longer owed child support, but also had no rights to visitation, etc.

CHECK WITH A LAWYER (I am not one) on this, but if you don't want the bio father in your life because of abusiveness, etc. and he doesn't want anything to do with the child, there might be a legal way for him to terminate rights. That also means he doesn't pay child support. This law probably varies in every state, and may not actually be an option in your situation. I would visit a lawyer and talk through the various scenarios (telling him, not telling him, etc) to see what might work out best for you.

On the other side, I think you can totally be a single mom. Many, many, many women are and they do well with it. There are also many, many men who could fall in love with you and your child and want to be the dad (I had two friends get married this past month...the woman has a less than two year old son with someone else, and her new husband considers that boy his son and loves him with the white hot intensity of the sun itself). They are blissfully happy together as a family and the same can happen to you. Don't close that door for yourself by taking the ex back just for the sake of the child. Consider the happiness and well being of EVERYONE involved.
posted by MultiFaceted at 10:23 AM on July 15, 2011

A couple of notes: It doesn't seem like your doctor is necessarily giving you unbiased advice. Without knowing more about your condition, it's hard to say, but I'd very much seek another opinion, especially through something like Planned Parenthood, who have much more expertise in, well, family planning and fertility than most GPs.

You may want to speak to a lawyer — different states have different rules regarding parental notifications and obligations.
posted by klangklangston at 11:11 AM on July 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

If your decision is heavily based on the idea that this is your "last chance" or a rare chance to have a biological child, you really want to be sure you're getting good information and advice on that. Get a second opinion. See another doctor and go over the details about your fertility issues with that second doctor -- if possible, someone who is a specialist in whatever your condition is.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:45 AM on July 15, 2011 [5 favorites]

Mod note: this is in MetaTalk, please take metaconversation there.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:55 AM on July 15, 2011

Your questions are difficult and there may be issues you have not considered. I suggest that you contact low-cost or free legal help.

I'd start with the Legal-Aid society in New York.

Other local, low-cost services may be found at

NYU Legal Clinic--Family Defense clinic.
Columbia Law Clinics
Cardozo Law Clinic--Family Court Clinic.

These are complex questions--questions that even lawyers cannot answer for you without a full appreciation of your situation and the facts of the matter. I recommend getting help as soon as possible and avoiding any direct advice here.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:22 PM on July 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


1. Don't tell him - you don't have a relationship with him anymore and you don't need anyone abusing you or manipulating you at this point. You deserve an abuse free pregnancy. Give it to yourself.

2. Custody is a moot issue - the baby's not born yet. When the baby is born, you should take what ever time (and legal AND moral (if you want it) advice about whether and how you want to co-parent)

3. As far as legal paternity is concerned, the alleged biological father will not be a legal father until after the baby is born unless the mother files the paper work to make him so.
posted by zia at 12:23 PM on July 15, 2011

I have an update from the OP:
Just to clarify, I've never considered not ever telling my ex about the pregnancy. I feel that he inevitably has the right to know, however the idea of confronting him while I know I'm still vulnerable to his influence is not appealing to me. This is not criminal behavior.

I asked to know what legal parameters, if any, follows whether he chooses to support the child or not; whether it's child support or legally exempting him of parental obligations. I plan to see a professional about that specifically. I obviously won't know which route to take until this conversation happens, but I would like to be prepared either way. In any case, given the nature my past experiences with him this conversion will happen at my convenience, not his.
posted by phunniemee at 12:54 PM on July 15, 2011

The MetaTalk thread has prompted me to add to my original comment.

Don't tell him for now. Stay near your family, heed their advice, and allow yourself the space and time to decide how you want to handle this. Legal help will be a necessity.
posted by Specklet at 12:56 PM on July 15, 2011

And specifically, on parental support:
My parents truly understand all the costs involved in raising the child and have still given me their support. They've assured me that the child will have a great quality of life (health care, education, etc).
posted by phunniemee at 12:57 PM on July 15, 2011

That's excellent. OP, I can't give you any advice better than the course of action you seem to have set for yourself - consult a lawyer so you know the nitty-gritty of what his involvement or lack of same would mean for your parental and support rights, don't tell him until you're ready and it's on your terms.

posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:11 PM on July 15, 2011

Child support and his custodial rights are not legally related. It's possible you guys will agree he will not be a parent and he will still owe child support, or a court could order the same.

I am not sure if the right to support is waivable - the state has an interest in making sure it does not have to pay for kids.

Be prepared for the possibility that he will threaten to seek parental rights as a bargaining chip to avoid you asking for child support. He sounds like a jerk.
posted by J. Wilson at 1:12 PM on July 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

Is there some reason that you have to tell him in person? You mention not being "ready to confront him". Try not thinking of it as a confrontation. Consider letting him know by mail -either kind.

I had my first kid when I was 20 and I've never regretted it. Do whatever feels right to you. I do agree that being a single mom in Manhattan can be especially hard, I lived there with my son. In those days there was still rent control and a lot of subsidized day care. Do consider staying in Atlanta near or with your family.
posted by mareli at 1:43 PM on July 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't know my biological father - my mom said he was a heroin addict and wasn't good enough to be my dad, so she left him. I truly and honestly respect her decision on this, I am in fact thankful that I wasn't raised in this type of environment.

The man who did raise me, the man I call dad, married my mom and adopted me when I was two. I really don't think you should worry about the child not having a father figure in it's life at this point. A great man can always come along... and if one doesn't it is better that the child is raised in a healthy loving environment than an abusive hostile one.
posted by LZel at 1:50 PM on July 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

Frankly, I think you are doing quite well. It would probably behoove you to talk to a lawyer before you talk to your ex -- a lawyer can outline the legal ramifications of various decisions better than people here can. Similarly, talking to the folks at Planned Parenthood can help you get hooked up with the various resources available to you in Atlanta and NYC. This is one of the things that makes Planned Parenthood awesome. They may even be able to locate some low-cost, reliable legal help, if that is appealing.

I wish you the best with this. This is a very difficult situation to be going through, and you seem to be doing admirably well. Stay strong.
posted by linettasky at 5:26 PM on July 15, 2011

Step #1:


You need to know your medical options, first!

I imagine at this stage in your pregnancy (within 9 weeks) you may still take the hormone based abortion pill, so that option may still be safely on the table for you. As far as I know, this shouldn't effect your chances of getting pregnant again (with the right man!) down the road, depending on your medical condition. Traditional abortion is a lot harsher physically in this regard. (and emotionally more difficult, too. the abortion pill is a lot more like spontaneous miscarriage, which happens naturally all the time. I'll explain my experience with both procedures down below...)

"It's hard for me to say no to him, and part of me is afraid I'll go back to him. I know I need to stay away. "

"I have a medical condition that makes me practically infertile. My doctor was astonished that I was able to get pregnant"

To me, these are your two big considerations.

I had (and still have) endometriosis. I was diagnosed at 22, had surgery for it, and was told I likely would never conceive naturally. I also had two terminations in my twenties, both surgical. I am now just 40 and very happily married and a new mom. I conceived naturally and my son was born healthy and my pregnancy was enjoyable because his father is a great great husband. Back in my 20's, I had a shitty family and was not in any way ready to be a great parent. I made poor relationship choices and the men I conceived with previously would not have made good co-parents or spouses. I was 100% committed to adopting (because that seemed my only option way back when) if I was ever in a place emotionally and physically to be the best parent possible.

Most of the advice upthread is either irrelevant or ancillary to your main issue if it turns out that medically, you have more options than you thought. Go see another doctor about your medical condition. See two more! Please. You need a clear head to think about this. You need facts. Get facts stat.

I was never in exactly your position, but close enough. I chose the happiness of any potential child over all other considerations, even if that meant I might have to adopt some day. To my mind, that's what a responsible parent does. YMMV and no guilt intended with this statement! Just offering up my thought process at your age in a near same situation.

PS. I lived with a roommate back in 2002 who took the abortion pill. She had a way easier time of it than back when I had my procedures done. She obtained the prescription from Planned Parenthood. I was with her every step of the way. It went well for her both during and long afterward.

I'm not advocating termination for you. I am worried you don't have all the facts.

I wish you the absolute best in life. You'll do fine no matter what.
posted by jbenben at 9:27 PM on July 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

but when it's just the two of us I am afraid it will turn ugly

I would urge you not to put yourself in a position where it's just the two of you. If you search pregnancy and abuse, you'll see that intimate partner abuse often begins or escalates during a pregnancy, and that unplanned pregnancy is one of the risk factors. You are safe and supported right now, and there's absolutely no need to put yourself in a position to be coerced or psychologically (or physically) attacked.

Take your time to decide what you want to do, and then if you decide to become a mother, get social advocacy help and advice (see "From the Advocacy Side" at the bottom of that page) and legal counsel specific to the state where you will be residing.

Your post suggests that you are doing all you can to go forward with as much knowledge and preparation as possible, which is smart and wise – stay that course... but also give yourself a bit of time to adjust to this still-new situation; you don't need to make an instant determination on these issues, and the fact that you are with your family now is great. Let the shock wear off for a couple of days, and then, I'd say see what you can learn from local social agencies (see list by county) to begin to get an overall picture of how to organize your plan.
posted by taz at 9:34 PM on July 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

I agree with the advice to get a second opinion on likelihood of potential future pregnancies rather than resting on one physician's advice. It might not ultimately matter if you've decided to take this extraordinarily difficult commitment, but it could help you see further down your path and settle your mind about your decision.

Being a single mom is very difficult, especially so when you've not been an adult for very long - it will make everything about your life more complicated and create barriers above and beyond those that may already exist for you. If you're not in a financially stable position yet, you'll need to stay on top of the options available within the system to keep from being overwhelmed, which may require working much harder than you ever have in your life at a time when you'd most want to be bonding and resting. It will mean trading off on some adult adventures, at least for a few years. You will be judged in ways that will surprise you by people that it would shock you to consider judgmental now. You will need to be exceedingly careful in the choices you make for friends and lovers and how they are brought into your child's life (or even just your home). It will impact your career choices and even the trajectory.

That said, women do this all over the world, 24/7/365, and a lot of them raise healthy, happy, intelligent kids who love them and know they are loved in return. And starting at your current age means you have more energy to do it the hard way than if you were, say, 39. It also means you'll be able to enjoy adult pursuits at a younger age than many other parents and have more years getting to know the person your child will become. Again, this is going to require effort and commitment and you are not going to believe how hard this course of action is, but there is precedent for this decision working out. It will behoove you to pursue help in getting emotionally healthy, staying physically strong, and working through any mental issues. You'll need all the good, smart, experienced people around you to get through each step.

What you don't need is any kind of worry about abuse or even guilt, threats, and manipulation (which are more abusive than not). For this reason, I'm with those advising that you wait to mention anything at all to your ex until 1) you know what you're going to do 2) it's too late to be coerced into another course of action and 3) you can have someone with you at any/every meeting. I know of some terrible examples that are informing this advice, and I can't stress enough how strongly I make this recommendation. If you ever decide to meet him anywhere without a 3rd party (not counting the baby), make sure at least 2 other people know where will be and how long you are expected to be there, and give them a call when you're done so they know you're all right. It would be better to avoid being alone with him, period, if your instinct is one of fear and concern.

If you do decide to continue this pregnancy, enjoy it. Get pictures of each stage. Write things down that matter to you as it progresses. Learn about the development both pre and post delivery. Take infant CPR/first aid classes, if you can. Go to whatever the Health & Human Services (or Family & Social Services) agency is in your state of residence and apply for whatever help you need. You'll almost certainly qualify for WIC, at minimum. Child care is a sticky wicket - start looking now and get as much info as you can about what subsidy programs are available in your state and know that federal programs cover an extremely brief period for very limited circumstances. Tour the facilities and research their history of care. Reserve a space in at least two (note that they might charge a pre-registration/reservation fee and hold onto it until care starts).

Once you know what help you can get and what you have to do on your own, put together a plan and make sure it includes time to rest and enjoy your baby wherever possible without sacrificing forward movement or endangering the support of the various programs. If you get yourself on your feet within the first couple of years of the baby's life, you'll be able to enjoy more of your time together sooner and even pursue your own interests with less negative impact.

Pregnancy and delivery can be difficult and dangerous and are likely to change your body forever (beyond aesthetics - back ache, joint issues, foot problems, hemorrhoids...these are just a few possibilities). Babies are a lot of work. They are exhausting. Things that seem like they should come naturally...don't. It takes them a long while to appreciate what you're doing for them (if ever). Post-partum depression is no joke and can make even the expected reward of bonding and nurturing love into a sick nightmare. And all kinds of other things can happen to impact any happy hopes you have from start to finish.

All of that is true. Most of it can be worked through, though, if you can look upon that wall of worry and upcoming effort and see the potential of a safe, healthy, happy life for yourself and a vulnerable, dependent person and see in yourself the ability to commit to the work it will require without harming yourself.

When you know your mind on all of the above, take the steps and time you need to be sure of your decision. I'd highly recommend seeking out any free cognitive behavioral therapy available to you for before and after the pregnancy, regardless of your decision. It is very likely to help and will give you coping skills for the rest of your life (and teach you to protect yourself from abusers).

If you end the pregnancy, I don't recommend telling the ex. That's a rough decision to make, but I don't think it will help either of you and being in contact with him about it could be unhealthy for you. If you decide to keep it, I would suggest waiting until the baby is delivered and you're both in a safe place with another person. You can tell him what he'd need to do to be involved in the child's life (counseling? supervised visits?) and/or give him the option to sign away his parental rights. People do change their minds. Fathers do fall in love with unexpected children and work to do the right thing. As someone who has created fear in a person vulnerable to him in the past, however, he needs to understand that your most important job is to ensure the safety and health of the child, even if it means hurting his feelings by requiring an external framework of supervision and legal agreements.

I believe it's obvious here that I've experience with many elements of your situation, but stating in case it's not. You are welcome to contact me for any further information or even just as another supportive person out there (memail is active, other social networks listed in profile provide access, too).

May your heart and mind be clear, whatever you decide. Be safe.
posted by batmonkey at 3:59 AM on July 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

One of those risks is having to spend 18 years raising a child with an asshole for a co-parent.

It's not 18 years. It's the rest of your life.

My parents split when I was a baby. I am two months away from 30. My mom still has to deal with my dad's bullshit (and truly, it is objectively bullshit) on a non-infrequent basis.

Kids tie you to the other parent FOR. EVER.

I have a good friend who made the leap into single parenthood after a breakup, but it's very, very hard to do. There are specific steps you have to take if you want child support, and even if you don't, the biological father has certain rights and can sue for custody and such. You need to find out exactly what legal steps you need to take if you truly don't want any contact with the father and what you need to do if you want to be eligible to receive child support.

I would strongly recommend you look into possibly relocating to be near your family so that they can support you as they have offered.

Yes, absolutely. Aforementioned friend of mine moved to another state to be with her parents - which she had to do before the baby was born as if she'd waited until after, the father could get a court injunction to stop her. Which is another thing to think about. Any move you want to make, you need to do now.
posted by sonika at 4:36 PM on July 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

If it were me, I'd find a family attorney and see what they advise re: notifying the father and protecting you and the child. If you can't afford an attorney, I 2nd the advice to find a domestic violence organization in town and see what they can do.

My SO is adopted. We have no medical information about his biological parents, who were teens when he was born. Now that we're reaching middle age, it would be nice to have that. So I might try to keep tabs on the biological father for that purpose alone, but not if he's controlling, abusive, and uninterested in being a responsible parent.

And yeah, put serious effort into staying near your family. You're 20 - whatever's pulling you to Manhattan will still be there in 2, 5, 10 or 20 years. The first year with an infant is mind-numbing, exhausting, 24/7 work -- and also full of wonderful firsts that you will want to share and celebrate with family. Realistically, with a kid in child care you have to plan for having her being sick at least a couple of days a month (maybe more), and if you don't have someone to help that means you're the only one staying home from work. My husband and I split that duty and it was still draining on the PTO bank. And really, that's a small problem compared to all the other situations that pop up with small children.

Good good luck - I don't think 20 is too young to take this on, but I do think that you need to be close to your support system.
posted by hms71 at 6:39 PM on July 16, 2011

I just want to jump on board with those noting that your "practically infertile" condition may, actually, vary. I have PCOS, and I know that when it was diagnosed I was given a massive "you probably won't be able to have babies!" talk. I haven't been pregnant, but I have also never tried, and accidental pregnancy has been off the table for me, too, so I don't know how it's going to go for me personally.

But since that time, I've worked at a gynaecologist's office and snooped on the obstetric histories of many women with PCOS. Some women with PCOS have many children, some have no children, some have a history of terminations, some have conceived with assistance, etc. etc. etc.

In short, if what you have is PCOS, please don't be terrified about your fertility. Maybe that has no affect on your decision to have the baby--in which case, that's great, and I wish you all of the very best luck. But if you are just worried that this is your only chance--please be aware that this is probably not the case.
posted by equivocator at 10:03 PM on July 17, 2011

I am responding before reading anyone elses comments as I got up to this one and I want to repeat it with tears in my eyes:
"Do not allow yourself to be coerced into an abortion or adoption, first of all. If you come to realize that you don't want to bear or parent this child, that's fine, but absolutely positively stand your ground if you DO want to bear and parent this child."

When I got pregnant I was in a similar situation and I thought really hard about abortion and I found that I already had a connection with what felt like to me a living entity in my being. I deeply respect whatever women feel when in a pregnancy and whatever decisions they feel are right for them and their potential offspring. Part of that deep respect involves listening when someone says they want to bear the child.

When I hear you say that I just want you to know you have my support in following your heart with this. I like to meditate and I'm sort of spiritual/agnostic and I found it was helpful to connect to the little "potential spirit" or however you want to define and ask-- "Do want to come into this life? It will be difficult. I have life issues that I am dedicated to overcoming and I want you to be-- but the issues that I face and that will be part of your life are very real and there will be hardship"

For me it's sort of irrelevant whether you're having the conversation with your "internal self" or some real other spirit. The point is, the answers are within you. And there is not a right or wrong in whether to bring a person into the world. And when I say that I mean to say, it is not wrong to bring a life into the world even in the face of hardship if you are prepared to work through that hardship to the best of your ability and, with all honoring of your needs, ultimately you will be putting that child's needs first-- or rather your child's needs will come before your WANTS-- both you and your child's needs are important.

But it's also ok if you do inner reflection and you find it's not the right time to bring a person into the world. Really truly. You have to listen to what you feel. I'm not going to comment on adoption other than that I gave up a child against my wishes "for the good of the child" and I would literally go back in time and undo that choice. I would go back in time and tell myself this:

"Do not allow yourself to be coerced into an abortion or adoption, first of all. If you come to realize that you don't want to bear or parent this child, that's fine, but absolutely positively stand your ground if you DO want to bear and parent this child."

I'm going to do some research on your area and post some support services--- however--- I'm going to second anyone who has suggested staying close to your supportive family. If there is not a father involved having involved loving relatives close by and involved will make an unspeakable difference in your child's life-- both in your ability to parent and get support you need- and in your child having a sense of belonging to a group of people who can love in different ways. (Not to mention costs of manhatten!) Please take note--- I'll post a lot of services since you don't have an e-mail but if you want to memail me I can send you that info by e-mail and I am hear to talk at anytime-- and also importantly-- I am only posting such information because you asked and in hopes that it will allow you to make a decision with regard to your pregnancy outcome that involves knowledge of all that is available to you.

and I want to add-- if you decide you want to commit on parenting end I would agree that truly opening up to celebrate this new being and feeling joy is ok. My heart is with you.
posted by xarnop at 11:20 AM on July 18, 2011

Ok-- because it would take me a long time to find all the resources I'd like to connect you with in Atlanta and I don't know if you will be staying there or want a list of resources I'm going to give you some pointers instead:

Research preschools and day cares--- would your family be willing to set up a plan with you now in which you give them a portion of your pay now and save up with them and then stay with them at home for a year? It's a good time to talk to your family about what kind of support they would want to offer--- Would they be willing to let you live with them, or would they be willing to help you financially? Be sure that in ANY such discussion you make it very plainly clear that this is ultimately your journey and that as a starting point they are under no obligation to help.

Clearing that up at the start will make it possible for them to decide exactly what kind of giving would feel good to them if they do want to contribute and in what way. If you enter into a helping situation with them, make sure you ask them at the start what they are hoping to see from you so that the situation feels compassionate and fair to all involved- and if their terms of offering help will not work for you-- then instead of badgering them about their terms, the solution is to let them know you appreciate their offer and that you are going to find a different way to do it. If you accept their terms-- then do it fully.

Do you have goals about staying at home with the child for a period? Saving up NOW to help achieve that is an important step with that. If you would like to stay home with the new born for a long period of time, but have financial issues with that, you might consider being a nanny and bringing your child with you. If that is something you might like to do, doing some babysitting/nannying or working in a preschool might be something you could do now in order to have job experience to apply for nanny jobs later.

What I would search for you would be doula and birthing centers with sliding scale fees, pregnant parent communities that focus on the parenting style you would like--- (Stay at home mom groups can be hard for single moms, and single mom groups with a lot of party moms can be hard for moms who want to focus more on parenting than margaritas, so it's tough to find support).... but also read. Read pregnancy and parenting books and then look for services that you think would help you in being the kind of mom you want to be. Don't be afraid to ask service orginizations for sliding scale fees or if you could volunteer for them to get a discount. If you want someone to search for resources in Atlanta or Manhatten, let me know, but I'd like to know more about what kind of needs you have and I could help you with that. Memail me if you want that kind of help.

I'm sorry this is so long! Last post. : )
posted by xarnop at 11:38 AM on July 18, 2011

Also, I really enjoyed prenatal yoga-- and as you're probably stressing right now, it's a great way to relax and be around other moms and start getting connected to parenting resources in the area------ if continuing the pregnancy is your direction.
posted by xarnop at 11:41 AM on July 18, 2011

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