The right way to have a child out of wedlock?
January 3, 2015 8:52 AM   Subscribe

I'm in the unexpected (as they situations generally are I imagine) situation of having a rocky relationship with a woman who is now pregnant with our child and need some encouragement or advice on how to handle family, the mother, and work. We dated and are still technically dating for about 10 months now.

1. How do I stay positive in the face of conservative family members' disapproval and subtle judgment? Family has been supportive but also pretty bleak at times, saying stuff like if you had lived according to the Bible this wouldn't have happened, the child is going to have a hard life and if it has any chance it's by the grace of God, and don't you feel any remorse about this, etc. I want their support, but I don't want to be basically told I'm this lost cause of a human being.

2. How do I keep positive when the mother and I had/have a stressful relationship (even prior to the pregnancy)? We often fought during the relationship and I generally was blamed, insulted, and criticized for things large and small. We haven't seen each other in about 3 months (just texting), because I've been informed that my mere presence is stressful to her. Also, how do I not worry too much? All I can think of is how hard it's going to be to co-parent with someone that I don't get along with very well and that I feel can be domineering and at times unreasonable. I also keep seeing all the statistics about how children born out of wedlock have a multitude of difficulties.

3. What's the best way to tell my superiors at work? Or do I even need to? It's a rather conservative place and I worry about future considerations concerning responsibilities, promotions, and raises. I've told associates and friends at work and sometimes I just think I don't need to make a formal announcement - my boss will find out at some point. I'm not quire sure how to handle it.

A few items: I've been advised to talk to an attorney already; I'm also seeing a therapist; I've told my close friends as well; and I've suggested couples therapy to her about four times but have been told various reasons she couldn't make it, with the newest one being that I need to resolve my issues first.

Any words of encouragement and advice much appreciated!
posted by yeahyeahyeah to Human Relations (30 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I worry about future considerations concerning responsibilities, promotions, and raises.

Well, if it helps any, you're not the one looking at any sort of penalties/opportunity cost at the workplace (and potentially quite the opposite), if research like this is to be believed.

I can't address your other points, but vaguely related to this, no matter what your relationship boundaries for your own health end up being, you won't lose by consistently trying to practice empathy towards this woman--your child's mother--who is also struggling with "the right way to have a child out of wedlock," only at significant physical and social disadvantage compared to your own (unless you're writing from Scandinavia, or a traditionally matriarchal society).
posted by blue suede stockings at 9:03 AM on January 3, 2015 [14 favorites]

Yes, go speak to an attorney as soon as possible. You and the mother are going to have to present all of your financial documents and figure out a child support and custody plan.

You guys (after you have an attorney advising you) need to seek coparenting counseling. Every minute there are decisions to be made and you guys are going to have to work through them. Of course you can't figure it all out now but at least you can get into some routines and have a third party present for some decisions that need to be made now.

Find a single parenting group in your area. I have a friend in one of these and have met some of her friends from the group and it seems to be really helpful for all of them.

But overall, what kind of relationship do you want to have with your child, especially given your difficulties with their mother?

Until the baby is done breastfeeding, you're going to have limited contact without the mother being nearby.

As far as conservative relatives, ignore them. Be strong. But also know that once little Joshua or Melinda is around, they'll probably stfu.
Work? No idea.
posted by k8t at 9:15 AM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you haven't seen each other in three months, you are no longer dating. Move forward assuming you will not have a romantic partnership with her, and think about and work toward the custody arrangement you want in that circumstance.
posted by metasarah at 9:17 AM on January 3, 2015 [26 favorites]

This sounds unbelievably difficult for you. You have my best wishes, first of all.

This is going to sound callous, but - I would back WAAAAAAAY up and ask yourself if you do indeed want this child. Again, I know that sounds cruel, but the reason I ask is: the thing that alarmed me most is that the mother is pretty much shutting you out right now, and has circled the wagon with her family. That's coming across to me as a warning sign of two possible things:

a) the mother has decided to be a single mother with the support of her family, and leave you out, or

b) the mother has decided to give the baby up for adoption, and leave you out.

Also, you mention that the family has been criticizing your actions, but I don't necessarily see that they have been compelling you to marry her or be more take-charge about the pregnancy and supporting your girlfriend yourself, and....I'm wondering if there may be a reason for that.

So before you get into worrying how to handle family or work, I would first get to the bottom of what exactly she wants to do with the baby herself - and before you do that, I would decide what your OWN feelings about the baby are as well. Because it makes a difference whether you are actively super-duper wanting to be an active co-parent, or whether you are preparing to be a co-parent out of a sense of responsibility.

But you also really, really need to know what SHE wants to do. Offer her your support as a co-parent if that is really what you want, so she knows you are willing; but also respect she may be wanting....less than that (i.e., she may only want financial support and that's it).

But you and she really, really need to have a frank talk about what you are going to do, and you can't have that while she is stonewalling you. Which is why I suggested you decide yourself first how much you really, really want the child yourself. Because you will have a fight on your hands no matter what - and deciding whether you super-duper want the child yourself can help you decide whether to engage in that fight (in which case you would persuade her to sit down and talk to you frankly and come up with a collective game plan), or whether you are just wanting to be responsible (in which case I would suggest a more passive approach - a letter, perhaps, in which you spell out your willingness to support her however she chooses, but that you need to know from her what she DOES choose, and then you wait for her to tell you - that way it is on her to get back in touch with you).

The situation with the family and work may have to wait until you sort that out, because a lot of things will be affected by that one big issue. But that one big issue is right now between you and her, and the two of you need to sort that out first, whether it is in person, or over email, or what. And knowing where you stand and how you feel is an important part of that.

Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:22 AM on January 3, 2015 [17 favorites]

Your first task as a father is to give your baby as healthy of a gestation period as possible. If that means staying away from mom so that she isn't stressed out then, stay away from mom. Please do not talk to an attorney until the baby is old enough for visitation. Stressing a new mother out by telling her that you are going to take her baby is not in the best interest of the baby. Do get counseling for you so that you can be the best you that you can be and try to be patient. The more you push the mother, the more difficult your child's life will be. Try to be friendly and supportive and avoid arguments, even if that means taking the high road and taking blame where blame isn't necessary. Mom will be exhausted those first few months after giving birth. Your best bet is to set yourself up as the trusted friend who she will call to help her. Don't start dating right now. She can't date for the next year, you shouldn't either. Focus all your energy on self improvement and building a nest egg and let her see that you will be there for the baby in a way that will not harm her. Co-parenting in this way is the healthiest for the child. And remember, while you are moving freely through the world, this woman is trapped in a hormonal body that is sore and tired all the time. It can take up to a year after birth for a woman to fully recover. Please don't pick a fight with a vulnerable, hormonal, new mom. You won't win and neither will your child.
posted by myselfasme at 9:25 AM on January 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

Oh, one important note - if you decide you reallyreally want the child, but she reallyreally wants to give it up for adoption or something like that, PLEASE don't persuade her to keep it and co-parent with you just for your sake.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:26 AM on January 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

1. I want their support, but I don't want to be basically told I'm this lost cause of a human being.

I use what I call the Time Machine reply: "Stu, as soon as I get a time machine, not-conceiving-this-child will be #3 on my list, right after killing Hitler and saving Lincoln. So let me know when you see a time machine on Craigslist, m'kay?"

2. How do I keep positive when the mother and I had/have a stressful relationship (even prior to the pregnancy)?

Reconcile yourself to being the junior partner, and try to understand that she will genuinely be looking out for the welfare of your child like 95-plus percent of the time, not attacking you.

3. What's the best way to tell my superiors at work? Or do I even need to?

Hell no. Tell them exactly what they need to know. If you want to take (and are eligible for) paternity leave, then you'll have to tell them; otherwise, they don't need to know anything about your personal life.

I've suggested couples therapy to her about four times but have been told various reasons she couldn't make it, with the newest one being that I need to resolve my issues first.

You are not a couple anymore. Even if she claims to think that you are still some form of couple, she has shown you quite clearly that she does not want you around. You need to proceed as though you will never have any relationship with this woman besides "What time can I drop off our child after this weekend?"

I have been (and remain) in a very similar situation; MeMail me if you need someone to talk to or more specific advice.
posted by Etrigan at 9:26 AM on January 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

Not to sound insensitive, but are you absolutely sure you're the father?
posted by dbiedny at 9:29 AM on January 3, 2015 [19 favorites]

I am extremely proud to say that our family successfully co-parents. To brag for just one second and to illustrate my point, we recently read this article about the 7 Daily Steps to Co-Parenting. We were doing 6 out of 7 and immediately agreed to do the seventh. As a family. A big, messy, disagreeing yet united family.

I'll only address this from that point of view, the co-parenting.

If you have to move heaven and earth, swallow your pride, eat shit and like it, step back, step forward, whatever you have to do for the betterment of your offspring. That's what you do. That's co-parenting. Don't worry about your family's opinions, worry about your kid's opinion.

You are an adult, other people's thoughts about the propriety of your situation need to go on a far back burner...You have a lot of work to do...Less about trying to stay positive in the face of people's opinions and more like laser beam focus, I am going to have a kid. I have stuff to do, conversations to have, apologies and fences to mend.

She's difficult? You probably are, too. Those things are secondary to your focus, which should be stability and respect between yourself and her. It can be done. Do NOT get overwhelmed by this and walk off, it will make things 100 times harder. Communication is key here. You can do it.

From one co-parent to another :)
posted by Grlnxtdr at 9:30 AM on January 3, 2015 [9 favorites]

Not to sound insensitive, but are you absolutely sure she's pregnant? I find it odd that you are technically still dating yet you haven't been allowed to see her for three months.
posted by hazyjane at 9:49 AM on January 3, 2015 [9 favorites]

I would stop the communicating by text'ing now. I'm not saying that this relationship/non-relationship with your co-parent is necessarily going to result in a legal battle but it might and leaving a trail of texts is dumb. Also, talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.

It would be incredibly good if you two could find a way to work together to raise your child. I don't know how you two get to there from where you're at but while there's will always be stuff you have to do immediately you also have two decades to work on figuring out how to work together.

Somewhere north of a third of the children in the US are born of wedlock. Many of people talking about dire consequences for out of wedlock children could be talking about the effects of poverty, promoting access to family planning resources and stricter enforcement of child support laws, working to correct inequalities in education and opportunity, especially for women but they aren't so it pretty easy to see what their agenda is.
posted by rdr at 10:03 AM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

You are not dating. You need to look at this as a support, custody and co-parenting relationship as one commonly sees in divorce. Functionally, that is what this is. What state are you in? Many states have mandated support but you need to see a family attorney to figure out what your rights are, what your legal and financial obligations are, what kind of involvement you wish to have in your child's life, and if that's generally possible in your state of residence.

FWIW my sister had my niece in a relationship similar to this in that they were not dating and had no contact for most of her pregnancy. The first two years were hostile and very difficult but it's much smoother now and all three parties are happy and thriving.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:05 AM on January 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

1. How do I stay positive in the face of conservative family members' disapproval and subtle judgment? .... I want their support, but I don't want to be basically told I'm this lost cause of a human being.

You tell them they can love the child and be part of its life or not, but that you won't subject the child to that kind of judgment. And then you stick to it. It's not about you anymore, it's about the child. So you get over whatever timidity you feel in the face of your family's judgment and you protect your child.

I also keep seeing all the statistics about how children born out of wedlock have a multitude of difficulties.

The difficulties that children born "out of wedlock" (or in wedlock with crap parents, or in marriages that end in divorce, etc.) face are largely related to uninvolved parents and poverty. So be in your child's life - fight for the child's right to have two parents if need be - and make sure it has the resources it needs to thrive.

You don't need to tell anyone at work. Work life and personal life need not intersect, especially where there's drama.

In all three of these scenarios you seem timid/afraid - of your parents, of the mother, of your superiors at work. If you are going to be someone's father, you need to stop being afraid of what everyone thinks of you. Do what you believe to be the right thing - seek counsel as needed - and stick by your decisions. Another potential human being is relying on you now.
posted by headnsouth at 10:07 AM on January 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

My best friend and my sister are both single moms and I love them and their kids like crazy. Right now, for potentially judgy family members, the kid is abstract. It's always different once you're talking about a living breathing person.

The most important thing for you to remember, IMHO, is that the kid is your priority, period. Since the kid is part of the mom right now, you should make sure she has what she needs. Don't be a doormat but don't be a punching bag either. At this point, I think the best way to tackle that would be saying that you're here for her, you want to help, but you don't want to be in the way so you need her to tell you what to do. And then if she calls, you do what you can to help her out.

For the reasons mentioned above, I'm a little sensitive regarding concerns that all children of single moms have problems. Some certainly do but a lot of potential issues can be mitigated by making sure that the kid is surrounded by people who love him/her. A lot of the related problems are more demographics than something intrinsic about being conceived by unmarried parents - single parents tend to be poorer, less educated, less stable, etc. So worry less about statistics and more about your kid.
posted by kat518 at 10:10 AM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

tell your conservative family that the most well adjusted kids come out of lesbian homes, but since that's off the table you'll just have to make due with the situation you're in. also, be careful that when you're looking at all those scare quotes you aren't looking at conservative, please give us your baby, type of places. they are often liars. children need love, attention, support, and stability - if they have those things it's more important than their parents living under the same roof. it sounds like it wouldn't be a happy home if you all lived together so figuring out how to co-parent seems the best way forward.

as for the stuff with your child's mother - i agree with myselfasme and Grlnxtdr. reread those and really start considering things from the point of view of best for your child, not best for your relationships with your family or her. i also think that figuring out your rights and responsibilities is a good step to take, but that doesn't mean you should be using court or lawyers as a way to threaten or stress her - be mindful as those two posters suggest of the delicateness of the current situation.
posted by nadawi at 10:12 AM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

The most important thing is the baby and how much you love it. Not your pride. It's time to stop worrying about yourself and focus/re prioritize on what's really important. That includes not caring what other people think and figuring out how not to feel sorry for yourself. It's go time.
posted by discopolo at 10:19 AM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Empress Callipygos has got this perfectly. Read and reread her answer and follow her advice.

Anecdote: I was once engaged to a man who had a child. He and the woman were together for a few weeks, she got pregnant, they tried to make a go of it, she realized they were seriously incompatible and broke up with him while pregnant, she had the kid, and they never discussed how any of it was going to work and then never went to court.

Over the ensuing 21 years, it was just a completely massive clusterf*ck. He never actually knew if he was the dad. He had no legal reason to send child support and often wouldn't. There was no discussed visitation so he would sometimes see the kid every other weekend, then not for a year.

In hindsight my ex-fiance should have initially sat with this woman, with the help of lawyers and not family, and figured out what the hell they were going to do, starting with a paternity test. He knew he never wanted to actively parent the kid but did this bizarre pretend-daddy thing when it suited him. He was a shitty, uninvolved father, the kid grew up into a pretty sad mess, and the kid's mother never had her act together enough to protect her son legally.

You're completely entitled to think through how you want this to be. But you need to talk to her and establish what you're going to discuss and how.
posted by kinetic at 10:22 AM on January 3, 2015 [8 favorites]

Wait a moment - OP, can you clarify WHOSE family is giving you criticism? Because for some reason I was reading this as HER family being critical, but now i'm wondering if it's YOUR family.

My original advice still applies about how to relate to the mother. But if it is YOUR family that is being critical, I would go ahead and deal with that the way that we usually advise people to deal with difficult family members - to enforce your boundaries and say that you need their support and not criticism, and then when they start picking on you, tell them to please drop it or else you will leave the room/end the conversation/etc.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:39 AM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

God gave you that child to raise, and He has His reasons. Congratulations, Daddy... the Creator knows you're the right person for that particular child, and it's okay that you have worries and doubts, because He's got your back and always will.

When I was pregnant with my oldest, I was in much the same shoes, except I was the girl. And it was 20 years ago. And whatever you're experiencing now, let me assure you... it could always be worse. My guy cheated on me, left me, then was living with someone else - and lied to everyone , including his own parents, saying that our son wasn't his. Until he called and woke them up the morning he was born to tell them they had a grandson. (I was dumb... our drama went on many more years after that.)

Since the dynamics are already bad, you need to mentally prepare yourself for a few things, because they're likely to get worse... and just deal and get through.

Decide NOW that you are going to be there for that child, and be an active parent to him/her, no matter how stressful or difficult the mother makes it. Now, next year, or ten years from now. You are making decisions for your child's benefit, not yours, and definitely not the mother's.

If she does not willingly allow your name on the birth certificate at the hospital, demand paternity testing and get it there. You will need this so that you can enforce your rights as a parent. The sooner you do it, the better it will look to everyone that matters (legally) in the future.

Same thing for parenting plan and visitation. Do it via legal, so you have a way to enforce it, and so that the basics are set down concretely to fall back on when things fall apart. Do not rely on her goodwill. That is not in your best interest, and it's definitely not in the child's best interest. Drama never is.

Make sure you've at least considered what to do if her behavior disintegrates to the point where your child's safety is at risk. I hate to mention this, but it happens so often these days, usually due to drugs and/or alcohol, that it has to be.

If finances are an issues, contact your state's child support program. (Of course, that's assuming you're in the U.S.) They can often provide free paternity help, and they can point you in the direction of legal aid for your location.

And for goodness' sake, do NOT just marry her to "give the child two parents" or whatever words are thrown at you by her or anyone else. This just makes you, her, and the child more miserable in the long run.

Oh, and your workplace doesn't *need* to know anything at all, unless you decide that you wish some time off work for parenting leave, or to go to doctor's appointments, etc. And then later for health insurance, if that's an option. Other than that, because you're a guy, it's totally whatever you feel like sharing. I've known guys who discussed every pregnancy at work, including one who was so impacted by their miscarriage that it took him a week to come back to work. Others are so private that we didn't know anything until almost the due date - or after birth! (That usually gets them in trouble with the women co-workers - we generally *like* hearing about babies and want to offer gifts!) The reaction will be colored by how you talk about it, so be mindful of what you want to have reflected back at you.
posted by stormyteal at 10:58 AM on January 3, 2015

You are the father. You have as much right to see and raise the child as the mother. I agree that you should get a lawyer. Sooner rather than later. Forget aboutyour family's negativity. My husband is the stay at home parent and he does a great job. If you want to be involved ignore the family/society members who don't see fathers as nurturing. (On the flip side, I couldn't wait to go back to work and I love my kids). Try your best to coparent but there's no need to wait and see what the mother wants. You are just as much involved - I mean I'm pro choice but once the woman goes ahead with pregnancy then the father is involved. And finally, kids are great. Hard as it may seem now you can experience great joy as a parent
posted by biggreenplant at 11:09 AM on January 3, 2015

I was married to the father of my two sons for more than two decades, yet was still essentially a single parent. He was gone a lot for his job -- sometimes he was elsewhere for six months out of the year -- and I couldn't trust him to so much as feed his own kids if I left them with him. The main thing he provided was a paycheck and access to free medical care. As long as he was not around making me crazy -- in other words, when he was actually GONE -- life as a single mom was pretty rad for me and my sons.

As noted above, one of the big issues for kids born out of wedlock is poverty. Historically, kids born out of wedlock experienced crushing poverty of the sort that meant they were malnourished and so on, in part because so much of the human race was just barely eking out a subsistence existence. So if a) you determine the child really is yours and b) you and mom just cannot co-parent, one option is just to make sure she gets money from you and you send material things for the kid.

During my divorce, my husband, who had been a good provider but not much of a parent, never exercised his visitation rights and I made damn sure to not take any digs at him about things like that. I emphasized to him that his sole responsibility was to make sure I got my alimony and child support on time and in full every month. He did that. The result: My divorce did not involve any of the really shitty, abusive drama that is so common for divorces where there are children in the picture.

My sons, who got told while growing up that their mom believes in shotgun weddings and would kill them herself if they knocked some woman up and abandoned her and the child, have decided that if they wind up in the kind of situation you are currently in, they can handle it with greenmail and mom won't murder them and the kid will likely be fine. Which is to say that even without being religious, I used to be the very socially conservative judge-y type about such things but, having gone through a divorce myself and read plenty of stats, I have concluded that greenmail is absolutely a reasonable means to reduce the actual crappiness of such situations and make sure the kid is not growing up either in severe poverty or torn between two parents who just can't stand each other.

Your employer is owed no explanation. This is personal, If you were gay or into BDSM, you wouldn't need to confess those things to your boss. You don't need to confess this either. They may end up finding out due to you, say, adding the child to your health insurance at work. And people in HR or whatever are generally covered by laws like HIPAA and shouldn't be gossiping about you or what not. So, even if they know, in theory, it should not have any real social impact on you.

If they aren't just assholes, conservative people (like me, for example) mostly want to know that people aren't being screwed over by irresponsible behavior. You can take responsibility for this child without marrying the mother. You can be a decent human being about the situation and own up to your duties and look out for the best interests of both the child and that child's mother, even if you don't much like her anymore.

We are no longer a subsistence culture. Make sure you value feeding your child, regardless of the custody agreement, more than you value owning the latest tech gadgets or blowing scads on frivolous expenses like vacations and hobbies and a new car every two years. If there is enough money to take good care of your kid AND do that other stuff, great! But if you have to choose between the two, then do right by the kid and forego the shiny toys for yourself. The non-asshole conservatives around you will eventually come around and your child probably will have a decent relationship to you, even if it isn't particularly close (due to not living in the same house all the time).

Best of luck.

PS: My take is JUST ONE OPTION, not some edict on "the right way to handle things."
posted by Michele in California at 11:19 AM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

You have a tough row to hoe here, and it's a good time to think seriously about how you want to be involved with your child's life. Do you want to share custody? Do you want to have full custody? Do you want the mother to have full custody and to have visitation? Have you budgeted to account for paying child support?

I would propose that you and the mother attend counseling together so that you can determine all of these VERY important issues.

I will also say that having a DNA test is absolutely necessary before signing the birth certificate or any other assumption of responsibility is taken. No one should be insulted or upset at the suggestion, since you are not currently in a committed relationship and even if you were...I watch too damn much Maury.

As for the family, etc. You don't have to have anything to do with them if you don't want to. You can easily say, "I won't stay here and be insulted. I am the father of this child and I insist on being treated with respect."

No, until you add your child to your health insurance plan, you don't need to tell anyone at your office about your child, unless you want to.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:28 AM on January 3, 2015

Just Nthing the notions that you need to

a) determine if the ex- is really pregnant, and if so

b) determine that the child is actually yours.

I have personally known a guy who was told he was in your situation, but later discovered that the pregnancy was imaginary. I've also known a guy who discovered that the child was not his.

I'm not trying to second-guess you. But (I hope you'll agree) these are non-trivial aspects of the situation that you really need to follow up.
posted by doctor tough love at 11:54 AM on January 3, 2015 [9 favorites]

See a lawyer. Nthing paternity test. She'll probably hit the ceiling, which is why it's best this comes from your lawyer. It is your legal right to have one before becoming accountable.

If it's yours:
Pay for at least half of the prenatal and birth expenses.
Also, put your big boy pants on and do not fight with her ever again over this issue or any other. It's not about you anymore, its what's best for the child.

You tell them they can love the child and be part of its life or not, but that you won't subject the child to that kind of judgment.

This is a fantastic comment
posted by BlueHorse at 12:43 PM on January 3, 2015 [6 favorites]

I have a close family member who's in a situation similar to yours, though with some pretty shitty complications. If it's any consolation, it can be worse.

Yes to DNA testing, yes to a lawyer who specializes in family law, yes to therapy.

How long has it been since your family found out? My family was ready to throttle Close Family Member when we first found out. There was a lot of guilt and shame slung around. It probably took a good 3-5 months for people to simmer down. Now, however, the focus is on Future Baby. Because baby! It doesn't hurt that our matriarch has laid down that Future Baby is a part of this family and deserves all our love and care. We're now about 2 months from due date and have planned a baby shower with a large family contingent coming to support CFM. The person CFM is having the baby with is not involved, nor are their family/friends.

Do you have any family members, siblings, cousins, whomever who is more willing to listen and be supportive of you? If you have one ally who has your back, it can make the situation much more bearable.

Don't try to force some kind of relationship with the mother; it sounds like you two were not meant to be as a couple. That kind of stressful relationship is not healthy for a child. I sincerely hope my CFM never ever gets back together with their person, because I can see that train wreck from a mile away.

Look into parenting classes, single parenting groups, when Baby is born pick a regular library story time/lap sitting/baby & parent time to bring them to. The librarians & storytimes can often have good parenting advice and skills hidden in them and the other regular parents/grandparents/caregivers can make for a great support network.

Your superiors do not need to know any details. If you are taking paternity leave, all they need to know is that you are having a baby (and when).
posted by carrioncomfort at 12:57 PM on January 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

I would focus on rebuilding a relationship with the mother (not necessarily a romantic relationship, but one where you are two healthy adults able to communicate). If you are willing to entertain being in a romantic relationship with her in the future than step up what you are doing while being respectful of the boundaries she has set. Did you give her a nice Xmas present? Have you suggested going on a date to a nice restaurant or to a movie/show when it is convient to her? Have you been sending her shipments of quality, organic foods you know she enjoys and gift certificates for prenatal massages? If you are in a snowy area do you go over to her house and shovel the walkway/clean off her car for her before she leaves for work? Do you send her texts that tell her how appreciative you are of his strong she is being during this pregnancy? Can you ask a friend to take her shopping for some maternity clothes as your treat? Have you communicated with her parents about how proud you are of her and asking if there is anything they are aware of that you could do to help? You seem to have made some positive motions; although couple's counselling was offered as a positive option she probably felt it was a criticism of her so don't push it. Even if you don't get back together romantically, performing positive actions, rather than just talking, will demonstrate a true commitment and ability to take on responsibility to the mother.

If you have worries, issues, personal concerns etc, don't burden her with them. That is what your friends/therapist is for. For example, you are concerned about whether to tell your superiors - if you were to tell her that was one of your major worries she would probably go "wtf? Do you not see *I* don't have the option to NOT tell people and get judged every single day?" (And uh, yeah, people look for a ring when they see a pregnant belly ALL THE FREAKING TIME). Speaking of which, a ring might be a nice present for her - not a promise, or commitment ring, but a classy understated ring as an early "push present" for her strength in this difficult situation. But, that would be something you should feel out with her/her mother/sister/best friend if that was something that would be accepted in the spirit it is given.

There just seems to be such a huge communication gap between you to, your concerns seem to be very different to hers, and a pattern of behaviour has now been established that assumes a lack of faith on both sides that you have a lot of work ahead of you. I think you can overcome it though, especially if you continue to demonstrate your perspective and actions reflect being positive and proactive.
posted by saucysault at 1:23 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Do not give her a ring.
posted by bq at 1:48 PM on January 3, 2015 [7 favorites]

Make sure your lawyer is in her jurisdiction and has experience with contentious out of wedlock, broken up at birth, situations in that jurisdiction. There are courts that will start sympathetic with you, and courts that will by default grant you no visitation and garnishee your paycheck for max child support.

DNA test is essential. Do not marry her even if she asks without a DNA test -- that could be her way to railroad you into presumptive paternity of somebody else's child.

Don't believe people's wishful thinking about outcomes of illegitimate children. They tend to be far worse across the board and you need to take action early and often to prevent it. Getting full custody and marrying a suitable stepmother would maximize your kid's chances but in America that's not happening unless she's a serious felon.
posted by MattD at 2:01 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

As someone who grew up estranged from her father (not through the mother’s fault), and as someone co-parenting a young child with her ex, I just wanted to put a word of encouragement in to you. If this is your child, you owe it to you and your child to stick things out and have a real relationship with them. This doesn’t have to mean equal custody but it does mean a constant presence so that this child grows up really knowing you and vice versa. I think in light of the difficult relationship you’ve had with the mother you need to accept things as they are (during the pregnancy), but don’t give up being present in your child’s life just because it’s difficult, and don’t believe people when they tell you to run, or that you have no rights or that your child will be better off solely with the mother. I’m not saying to get all aggro with the lawyers and stress the mother out right now (although it sounds like you have to do some work here and there will be some degree of stress getting the big issues settled no matter what), but believe that it’s in the child’s best interests to have a real relationship with you, and base your decisions from that perspective. Remember that the baby will grow up and wonder who/where their father is if they don't have that presence during childhood (and I think regardless of whether their are other (step-)parents involved). Heck I've met children who were adopted into loving families at birth and they still want to know who their biological parents were decades later.

Personally speaking it was hard for me to swallow shared and equal physical custody at first but I've come to see that it’s the best thing for everyone in our case (we live fairly close together and are fairly amicable as long as we’re discussing our child, we don't speak ill of each other in front of the child and try to keep things light when we're transitioning between homes). I hope the mother comes around to an agreement that includes you as a significant part of your child's life and that it all goes as well as possible.
posted by lafemma at 2:58 PM on January 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

Kinda like therapists, there are professional mediators that help you talk to the difficult people in your life and sort things out/come to arrangements.

- Are you giving her money for doctors and stuff?

- Are you CERTAIN she is pregnant?

- Are you planning on a paternity test? You'll need one.

You need a lawyer, STAT. And yes, stop texting with her !!!
posted by jbenben at 6:06 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

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