The most dramatic Askme ever?
October 18, 2017 3:24 AM   Subscribe

I'm a single woman, 35, recently out of an LTR. I made a mistake and slept with my (partnered) graduate program director. I am now pregnant after the morning after pill did not come through for me. Hope me out of this clusterfuck.

I started this program in September and something its I worked hard to get on to. Unfortunately drunk, horny, lonely vibes got to me, and I crossed a line. He doesn't mark any of my work. But I would have face time. It's a part time program and lasts another 1.5 years.

I am currently on the fence about having the baby... It's something I've always wanted. As a single parent, which I totally get I would be, I realise it would be hard, but I own my home, have a consultancy job and have my own amazing parents.

Plot twist: I have heard a rumour that he may be expecting a baby with his partner.

The options as I see them:

- Terminate the pregnancy, continue studies = awkward
- Continue the pregnancy, continue studies = awkward.
- Terminate the pregnancy, stop studies = I would feel disappointed at not completing my graduate program. I am not sure I would have my fees, which I paid in full, returned.
- Continue the pregnancy, stop studies = perhaps I would get some money back from not completing it due to a medical condition?

Any other options? Is disclosure necessary for option 1? disclosure necessary to the university for the last three options? I haven't told him yet because I am still in the pissing on multiple sticks phase and getting a blood test this afternoon... My mental state is surprisingly calm but I actually have no idea what to do. Clusterfuck.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (54 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I think there's a couple of options you haven't considered.

First, universities are getting more cautious about the bad press that comes from professors preying on grad students (and even if you don't see it that way, they probably will). I think you could leverage that to get your money back. He most likely broke various university policies and talking to the right people will probably result in an outcome where they are just relieved if you want to leave and not make a fuss and will take a financial hit to make sure that happens.

Secondly, if you want to continue in the program, is it not possible to change directors? Or transfer to a different program or different university even?
posted by lollusc at 3:44 AM on October 18, 2017 [9 favorites]

First of all, I think you need to cut out any guilt you might feel. You say "I" did this and that but he did it too and you don't have to protect him or his partner. I think you should try to put them out of your mind for now and focus on what's right for you and the baby. The "plot twist" for example has almost nothing to do with you and your baby and can be completely ignored. Don't take any of his concerns onto yourself as you have enough of your own to deal with.

By far the most important decision for you to make is whether or not you want to have this baby. The decision about graduate school is very much a second order of magnitude choice that you can make after you've decided whether to continue the pregnancy.

And if you do decide to go on with both the pregnancy and graduate school, I don't think it would be particularly awkward for you. I think the graduate school management will realize they need to bend over backwards to make sure of that because they and the program director are in a pretty precarious position here while you are not.

And I know I said put him out of your mind but he will have a financial obligation to help support this baby. Put your baby first and make sure he fufills his obligations.

Don't be embarrassed about your situation. Drunken sex happens and everyone understands this. He has a lot more to be embarrassed about than you do. For goodness sake don't let your embarrassment colour your choices here.

And finally, if you do choose to keep the baby, this could be the best thing that's ever happened to you. If you choose not to, your life can go on as it was. It isn't honestly the most dramatic mefi question ever and you can work this out and obtain a happy ending here. You sound ready for a baby but it's your choice and you can do what you like.
posted by hazyjane at 4:11 AM on October 18, 2017 [100 favorites]

Definitely stay in the program - this is an investment in your future, and you'll need it to support this or future offspring. Forget the awkwardness - you're not the only one, it happens all the time, nobody's judging.

A big question for you to think about is - do you want to be inextricably linked to this man for the next 20+ years - lawyers, court orders, alternating holidays, etc? If named as the father, he will have obligations, yes, but he will also have rights.

Also - there are probably going to be strong opinions about this, but if this was a encounter between consenting adults, you have the option not to go to the administration with this. The fact of the matter is, if you do want to continue with this program, or even just stay in this academic field, you will be referred to as "the girl who...". It's not fair, but that's the way it is. (See under: Monica Lewinsky.)

The decision is yours.
You are strong and smart and you have people who love and support you.
Best wishes.
posted by metaseeker at 4:36 AM on October 18, 2017 [28 favorites]

I want to preface my response (and provide a preface to the whole of the thread) by noting that everyone brings an incredible amount and variety of bias to a question like this. Every response in this thread is going to be heavily biased by the personal experiences and beliefs of its author; no one is giving you even handed advice. Take what feels right to you and throw away what doesn't.

The fact that you took the morning after pill is, to me, telling. What has changed since then -- when you wanted to not be pregnant? Medical abortion is available to you up to 70 days after the first day of your last period (10 weeks gestation), so if you choose you can terminate this pregnancy using a couple more pills.

I also wonder why fully half of your listed options involve quitting this program that you worked so hard to get into. You can absolutely have a baby without sacrificing this academic opportunity, and I am firmly of the belief that pursuing your passions is beneficial to [future, hypothetical] children. Is part of what appeals to you about this pregnancy that it would be a "good" excuse to leave this program? Impostor syndrome is real and feelings run especially high in the early months of any graduate program. You probably have other classmates casting about for plausible reasons to justify leaving the program, too.

Maybe this is totally off base, but if any of it rings true for you, being aware of these feelings should be an important part of your decision making process.
posted by telegraph at 4:41 AM on October 18, 2017 [92 favorites]

The most important thing here is for you to not concern yourself with his feelings. If it’s awkward for him that’s his problem. You can make whatever decision that is in your best interests and hold your head high. No one needs to know who the father is. A few words to him that you’re not out to seek revenge is probably all you need to offer him, if even. Based on your description and the points you focus on, I’d lean towards option 2. You’re entitled to a certain amount of discretion.
posted by alusru at 4:43 AM on October 18, 2017 [11 favorites]

Do what's best for you. You have nothing to be embarassed about and you do not owe anyone, whether it's your cohort or the director, anything.
posted by thesockpuppet at 4:57 AM on October 18, 2017 [7 favorites]

If you have your baby, your choice altogether, do not get sucked into giving it up for adoption. Your child, with a grad student mother and professor father, is prime product for the adoption industry, and you will be pressured to surrender, lied to about "open adoption" options, and you will be letting yourself in for a lifetime of grief. Do not contact anyone who offers to tell you about the "adoption option".

This is from personal experience, and the pressure on women like you is even greater now than it was years ago for me. I can't speak to abortion, only you can decide how you feel about that and what you are comfortable with but I can with good conscience warn about the predatory nature of the adoption industry. This is not just my experience but that of countless birth mothers and adoptees I have known through years in the adoption reform movement. My first son with whom I am reunited is the light of my life, as are the children I raised, but I will never fully recover from the grief of not keeping him.
posted by mermayd at 5:09 AM on October 18, 2017 [12 favorites]

"I think the graduate school management will realize they need to bend over backwards to make sure of that because they and the program director are in a pretty precarious position here while you are not."

This this this. You don't have "stay in the program, keep the pregnancy, have the professor terminated (from his job for being a sexual predator lawsuit waiting to happen)" on your list, but that could be an option if you wanted it to be. You have more power here than you think. You don't have to use that power vindictively but I think you might be in a stronger place than you're feeling right now.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 6:07 AM on October 18, 2017 [10 favorites]

One of my best friends got pregnant accidentally when she was 35. She was an untenured new faculty member, he was a foreign visiting scholar. She decided that, given her age, it might be her best chance to have a kid. She told him, he was ok with it, and she never asked him for child support; it helped that he returned to his country and that it was far away. She had strong family and friends support networks. The kid grew up with a grandfather, an uncle, and cousins as male role models. He just started college, he's awesome.

Obviously, your situation is a bit different. Were you planning to stay in this location after grad school? Is it a big city?

If you decide to stay pregnant, will you tell the sperm donor? (Think of him as the sperm donor, if it helps.) He sounds like a slut, you might be better off leaving him guessing, if he notices at all.
posted by mareli at 6:09 AM on October 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

I was a pregnant part-time grad student- it can be done! Sounds like you have a decent support system. You could push through for 1.5 years and the school is required by Title IX to accommodate for pregnant students as needed- a short 18 months and you will have a masters degree that can never be taken away.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:17 AM on October 18, 2017 [9 favorites]

Your position should be: fuck everyone else for whom you are not responsible. That's you, and should you decide to see a successful pregnancy through, your child.

For me, this would mean a couple of things, primarily disclosing to the university to force them to accommodate your fees and maternity leave requirements and making continuing your studies as not awkward as possible.

It would also mean not letting an accidental pregnancy de-rail me from completing my graduate degree, even on a delayed schedule, even with the father on campus. Why should it be you who has to carry the academic and professional cost of this?

However, I need to really emphasise to you that if you have this child, not telling him or her who his or her father is isn't an ethical option. Right now, you're looking at all of the players actually standing on the field and that's you, the father, the university, etc. But this pregnancy, unimpeded, will result in a real, fully-fledged human who has a right to know his or her origins and genetic medical history.

There is also an argument to be made about his right to know, but since that would follow from all of the above, I'm not engaging in that. It's resolved by looking out for the people you are actually responsible for here.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:18 AM on October 18, 2017 [21 favorites]

First things first: have a good sit down with yourself and, if you want, a trusted friend to decide whether you want to continue the pregnancy. Both options are valid, trust yourself to make the best decision. Map out your life with THIS baby and your life without THIS baby, don't work off hypothetical scenarios.

Take as much time as you need to be comfortable with this decision, everything else is by necessity dependent on this.
posted by lydhre at 6:40 AM on October 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

Disclosure: I exist due to a not-totally-dissimilar (though definitely not identical) set of circumstances. I will say this: the triangular dynamic of you, the father, and the father's partner could get weird. This in turn may have hard-to-predict and potentially-not-so-great effects on things like visitation. It may result in the father not wanting to, or not being able to, participate much in the life of potential-kid. Now, that's not necessarily a tragedy, but still, if you go through with the pregnancy, please do consider that it might be kind of sad and weird for potential-kid. Not following through with *this* potential-kid does not mean you won't *ever* have a kid, someday, in a situation with perhaps fewer tricky obstacles for both you and Kid to navigate.
posted by halation at 6:44 AM on October 18, 2017 [15 favorites]

I'm really concerned and perplexed that you're looking at this as dramatic and a cluster fuck and referring to "plot twists."

The ONLY question right now is whether or not you want to become a single mother.

This is about as serious as sh*t gets.

Becoming a single parent is going to completely change the course of your life, yet you have plot twist concerns about whether or not this dude may or may not be expecting a kid with someone. It doesn't matter.

What matters is whether or not you want to become a single mother. Period. There are no other considerations. You can figure out staying in the program or whatever later.

Yes, people stay in grad programs with babies and yes, he will be ordered to pay child support and yes, you can get all of that stuff ironed out eventually.

But the ONLY thing you need to be thinking about right now is:

ARE YOU READY TO BECOME A PARENT? Put your focus on that before you decide what to do about the program.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 6:58 AM on October 18, 2017 [68 favorites]

If you want to bring the pregnancy to completion, you should consult a lawyer. Father has parental rights, he may choose to exercise them. This links you to him for the next 18+ years. It is conceivable that he could get court orders preventing you from moving far from him.
posted by Sophont at 7:01 AM on October 18, 2017 [25 favorites]

If there is a counseling center at your university, I recommend you make use of them. They are not required Title IX reporters, you can safely disclose everything to a mental health counselor and it will not go beyond that room.

All that said, if you do disclose this to any other employee at the university that this guy is the father, they will have to report this to the Title IX investigator. The other employees will not have a choice, so as you decide your course of action, bear this in mind.

Additionally, Title IX has protections for pregnant students and universities and colleges must make reasonable accommodations around pregnancy. Should you decide to stay in the program, make use of these.
posted by zizzle at 7:21 AM on October 18, 2017 [10 favorites]

When I was younger than you, I got accidentally pregnant from a horrible human being. That wound up with me being a single parent for several years. My daughter is absolutely the light of my life, and I don't regret having her at all. The only thing I do regret is telling the bio father.

You may owe it to your child to tell them with her father is someday, but I don't think you owe it to that guy to have a conversation about how you're pregnant now, unless you want child-support. Have your baby, stay in your program, fuck that guy who is really not your problem.
posted by corb at 7:22 AM on October 18, 2017 [12 favorites]

don't make the mistake of thinking that because this is a life-changing catastrophe for you, it's anything out of the ordinary for him. He: slept with a student in his program, without using any contraception (? it sounds like), while in a serious committed relationship with a life partner.

I will bet you money that if you decide to continue the pregnancy, that will be the only part of the situation that is new to him. there is no way this is his first time for the rest of it.

what I mean is all this talk about oh, his rights his rights -- sure the law is the law, but don't worry about his rights until you factor in what his threats and pressure and vindictiveness are likely to be. is he guaranteed to behave just as unethically for the remainder of your time as a student as he did that night? no. but you know he probably will. I want to say, don't let yourself get pushed out of the program no matter what else happens, but that's only going to be partly up to you.

be prepared. don't waste precious time thinking about what this will do to his life; strategize for what he will do to yours.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:27 AM on October 18, 2017 [25 favorites]

Speaking as a former academic, I have heard MUCH more shocking things related to affairs.

If you have the baby, the dad should know and have the opportunity to be involved in addition to being on the hook for contributing to the child's welfare. Don't terminate because it will mess up his

If you want a baby, given that you got pregnant this easily, you can likely terminate and get pregnant again with a more appropriate partner/sperm donor at a more appropriate time, like in a year or two. I wouldn't give up on finishing the program because of this, although nthing that you do have options and are in a position of power even though it doesn't feel like it right now.
posted by lafemma at 7:28 AM on October 18, 2017 [6 favorites]

Should you choose to raise this child, please don't drop out of the program. There are plenty of kids out there, myself included, who can attest to lifelong feelings of guilt (or hours of therapy) for having derailed their parent's education or career trajectory just by being born... regardless of what that parent says to alleviate it. Ordinary parental admonishments to treat school/college/grad school/jobs seriously become fraught since they make clear the value and importance of what was sacrificed. It will be hard, but you can do it, especially since it sounds like your baby will be born towards the end of the academic year.
posted by carmicha at 7:44 AM on October 18, 2017 [10 favorites]

You already chose to terminate this pregnancy once. What changed?

This is actually not a dramatic situation at all if you decide to terminate again. At this point, I think it's still doable with a pill. Or else, a clinic procedure. Millions of women do it. Total effect on your life: barely noticeable.

It truly is your decision, and I don't think anyone here can possibly know you well enough to advise you on whether you're ready to be a parent. But, from the outside, it's telling to me that you immediately went to the option of quitting the program, which doesn't actually seem to be required on any basis, after saying that you'd worked hard to get there. Please, if you do choose to carry this pregnancy to term, do it because you want to be a parent, not because you're looking for a "justifiable" out from a scary new challenge.
posted by praemunire at 8:10 AM on October 18, 2017 [9 favorites]

You already chose to terminate this pregnancy once. What changed?

She did not. that's not what emergency contraception does. The whole reason it isn't foolproof is because it cannot terminate a pregnancy if one already exists. If she terminates, it will not be "again."
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:15 AM on October 18, 2017 [68 favorites]

As someone who used plan B and had it fail and THEN went on to have an abortion I can attest that they are two completely different emotional decisions. Plan B is contraception, not a termination.
posted by lydhre at 8:35 AM on October 18, 2017 [51 favorites]

Agree with those who've said the primary question is whether you want to have a baby now.

If you do, great. You are much better equipped than many mothers. And you're 35, so if you want a baby, this might be the one to have.

You can decide all the rest of it later, much later. It is up to you whether you want anyone to even know who the father is (I would suggest that it sounds like the advantage to you might be much smaller than the potential liability of having this guy potentially have rights over you and the kid; but whatever, that's a decision for another time and you're the ONLY one who has the power to tell, and the only one who needs to determine the timeline on which to do so.)

I would strongly, strongly suggest not telling anyone about this right now in any case. Work through it with a counselor not connected with the university.

Of course if you don't want to have the baby, that's your choice as well and that's fine, and in that case nobody needs to know either.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:21 AM on October 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm going to say one more thing.

Again, if you don't want to have this baby, that's fine! Totally fine.

But if you do: it's also FINE. Souls come to earth in strange ways. Amazing people are born in sub-optimal circumstances all the time. It's maybe not ideal to not have a dad... maybe? But to be born to a mom who actively chooses to have you, who has the support of a loving family around her and is financially solid, sounds FINE to me. Much, much better than being born to a couple that hates each other, or to experience abandonment as a child, or to a mother under the thumb of a man who doesn't have her best interests in mind.

You're fine and if you have this baby, it will be just fine. And you don't have to make this guy a character in the play if you don't want to.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:31 AM on October 18, 2017 [7 favorites]

Side note about the father having parental rights: if you're married to someone else, he may not. Most states recognize the husband as the father of the baby, regardless of biology, even when everyone involved wants to acknowledge the biological father. (This is to avoid situations like, "that slut slept with the milkman; that's not my baby and I'm not paying for it.") The courts are very, very firm on this: Married couple's babies are legally theirs, regardless of circumstances.

I'm not recommending that you get married to Some Random Person in order to create a legal buffer between you and your program director, but the option exists if you think he'd be horrific to work out visitation etc. with. (OTOH, if you do that, you lose all chance for child support.) I don't think this is a good option - but it's in the set with the others, and you are likely to need to know all your options.

Legalities of two-women marriages and external father who wants rights have not been tested in court. But if you need legal protection and distance from him, that might be an option. Note that it's non-reversible: Getting divorced later would not change the legal parental status.

nthing all the others who've said: Look to what YOU want. You fought hard to get into this grad program; don't give it up over awkwardness. If you want to be a parent, take the opportunity, and rely on your support network to help you juggle the two sets of complications until you graduate.

HIS wishes are not important at the moment, and may never be.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 9:38 AM on October 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

All right, technically, yes, Plan B is not an abortion, and in policy discussions about abortion rights, that's an important distinction to maintain, but, in this particular context, OP decided after the sex that she did not want to have a baby at this time. Of course she is completely and totally free to change her mind--as I said, I don't think I or anyone here even begins to know her well enough to know whether she should carry the child to term--but she did think, "No. I don't want this at this time with this person." If she is uncertain about her decision now, I think it only makes sense for her to consider what she was thinking and feeling then, and what, if anything, she is thinking and feeling differently now.
posted by praemunire at 9:39 AM on October 18, 2017 [6 favorites]

I just want to say that whether you're ready to or want to be a parent are different questions than whether you want to continue this pregnancy. If you don't want to be pregnant for the next ~35 weeks, you don't have to be, and it doesn't have to mean anything with respect to your feelings about raising a child or being a parent.
posted by melissasaurus at 9:52 AM on October 18, 2017 [24 favorites]

I think fingersandtoes really gets to what I mean here...

"And you don't have to make this guy a character in the play if you don't want to."

Very true! But this guy will be a character of importance in any child's script because, like I said, even when young children have agency and will come to their own conclusions.
posted by jbenben at 10:41 AM on October 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

[Couple comments deleted; wildly overgeneralized condemnations can go somewhere else.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:57 AM on October 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

be prepared. don't waste precious time thinking about what this will do to his life; strategize for what he will do to yours.

I can't agree with this more. I acknowledge that I am answering this with my own biases, as we all are. You need to put on your own breathing mask first, then worry about a potential future child, THEN worry about everything else, and way at the very bottom of the list is any ethical consideration for your the graduate program director.

Whether or not you want to continue this pregnancy is one decision. If you do decide to continue, remember that you have 9 long months where anything can happen - I would not rush to disclose anything to anyone. At 35 years old you are considered "advance maternal age" and your risk of miscarriage in the first trimester is about 16%.
posted by muddgirl at 10:58 AM on October 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

[Guys, do note that the OP doesn't specify where they live, so US-law-specific advice about paternity, visitation, child support, etc., may or may not apply.]
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 12:04 PM on October 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

This is indeed really complicated. I'm sorry you're going through this!

If I were advising someone I was close to, I would suggest either a) get an abortion, stay in the program, attempt to arrange things so you don't have to interact with this guy ever, start dating to distract yourself from guy OR b) have the baby and leave the program. For my personal sense of ethics/wish to minimize stress, I would not want to be a student in a program where the partnered father of my baby worked. I would also not want to have a baby in the setting of having accidentally gotten pregnant with the help of an otherwise partnered person. I like my life clean and neat so, that's my bias.

Really sorry you're going through this but you are not a bad guy here. In my opinion, he is though.
posted by latkes at 12:12 PM on October 18, 2017

Why do you assume you will be parenting alone? He may want to be involved. It is also his child even though you are carrying the baby. It is a lot more complicated than should I stay in school or dropout. You could be involved with him for the rest of your life through your joint child. Do you want to be involved with him in this way? These things should all be taken into consideration as you make your decision. I wish it was as simple as I will drop out of school and move to the next town over, but it isn't. Good luck.
posted by cairnoflore at 12:15 PM on October 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

Honestly, if you don't have any prolife leanings, it would be easier to have a baby with a literal sperm donor later. It would take out a whole lot of variables you can't control if you proceed with this particular pregnancy.

I think like wanting a baby, and having this particular baby are two pretty different propositions.
posted by smoke at 1:37 PM on October 18, 2017 [16 favorites]

I would disagree with those who are telling you "you can always get pregnant again later". That is not always the case. In making your choice about this pregnancy, you also need to think seriously if you want children or not, and if this is to be your only pregnancy, will you still be ok with terminating? Perhaps you do not ever want children, which is fine. But if you do, this could be your one chance...or you could have many more, but nobody can predict that, especially not strangers on the internet.

Fertility decreases after 35, not for all women but for some, for all the publicity about older and older women having babies, many with assisted reproduction. You are not 20 years old and in peak fertility years.

I hope this will all work out for you. Having a baby is not the end of the world or the end of your opportunities to have a successful career and life.
posted by mermayd at 2:19 PM on October 18, 2017 [7 favorites]

[A few comments deleted. Folks, if you feel the urge to give a "tough love" answer, please skip this thread and go deal with that urge in some other way.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:12 PM on October 18, 2017 [7 favorites]

It is true that you can't know for certain if you will be able to get pregnant again easily, but I think it's worth considering that pregnancy was not, evidently, part of your near-term life plan prior to this situation. Had pregnancy not resulted from the director hookup, you would presumably not have felt disappointment, as pregnancy wasn't something you were pursuing at that time -- with the director or with anyone else. So I would caution against letting the current circumstance make you feel pressured. If you choose not to keep the pregnancy, you're not necessarily 'losing' anything.

I would also reiterate (and I hope this isn't counted by mods as 'tough love,' since it's not intended that way) that even if you choose not to inform anyone about the paternity or to involve the director in potential-kid's life, potential-kid is still going to wonder about it all. How this manifests will, naturally, vary from individual to individual. Potential-kid may ask you a lot of questions about their father, or feel sad or angry or rejected, even if you and other adult figures are active in potential-kid's life. It's worth considering how this might make you feel, and how you might deal with it. People above have said that you are not required to tell potential-kid anything. But potential-kid will almost assuredly have feelings about this, someday, and part of your role as potential-parent would be to figure out how to handle this in a way healthy for both you and potential-kid.
posted by halation at 3:46 PM on October 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

I don't have time to give a more complete answer right now, but my advice is to consult a lawyer as soon as you can. There are 2 reasons why I say this:

1- I know of at least one location that has successfully passed legislation to make it a requirement to involve the other party in an abortion process. While I haven't checked to see if that legislation is still on the books, I know of many locations where this is the type of thing that legislators would try to pass. Depending on where you are, you may need legal advice right now.

2- I also say this because some people's decisions are influenced by the type of custody arrangements that are common in their area. That is, for some people, the only safe option for them is an abortion if they know or think they will be required to share custody/interact with the other party in the future or if they will be required to interact with the other party in relation to an adoption process.

I know you may not have the time or resources to access private legal advice, but I wanted to mention it in case you do. I think no matter what happens, you're doing a good job.
posted by Verba Volant at 4:03 PM on October 18, 2017

I have some US-centric advice based on my decisions as a queer parent and academic. I thought a lot about where to get the sperm I would use to try to get pregnant. I considered an anonymous donor, a known donor (someone I knew IRL), and a hookup. In the end I decided to go with an anonymous donor because, in the US, sperm bank donation does not come with any parental rights for the donor. I have friends who used a known donor (with a good legal agreement) who now struggle with not just the donor but also the donor's extended family wanting to be part of their kids' lives - they think of the kids as partly theirs. I decided that couldn't handle the ambiguity of a situation like that. For me personally, using a sperm donor was the only way I could feel confident that there wouldn't be this shadow additional parent in my kid's life.

If you continue the pregnancy and disclose it to the bio dad, how would you feel if his reaction is very different from what you expect? What about the following scenarios?

- Bio dad is overjoyed, wants to marry you and raise the baby together.

- Bio dad and partner decide you should give them custody because they are in a better position to raise the baby than you are. They take legal action based on this belief.

- Bio dad's extended family member is so excited about the new addition to the family they want to move in with you to help you out with the pregnancy and child rearing.

- Bio dad demands joint custody, your child spends half their time at bio dad's house, where they are a second class citizen compared to their half sibling (Bio dad and partner's kid).

- Bio dad denies ever having slept with you, fights you in court to try to deny paternity, never voluntarily pays child support, tells everyone in the program that you're a psycho liar.
posted by medusa at 6:30 PM on October 18, 2017 [11 favorites]

Don't talk to the shaggy professor about any of this. Don't do it. Make your decision, it is not his business if you decide to be pregnant. Finish grad school. Get a different advisor or mentor for your program. If you want to be a mom, with a graduate degree, do it. It is a lot more difficult to have a baby, than a graduate program.
posted by Oyéah at 9:04 PM on October 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

Continue the pregnancy, continue the program, consult a lawyer, talk to him about it if/when he mentions it (talk to the lawyer before this).

It would be awkward, but if you want both, you want both. There is nothing to say that you won't miscarry or that he won't be a major dick and try to pressure you to terminate.

At the same time, you do need legal advice going forward, so you can't just wing this. Protect your own interests.
posted by heyjude at 10:47 PM on October 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am an only parent. The first thing I would do in your shoes would be to make an appointment with a family law attorney to find out what the likely outcome of a custody battle with the bio father would be in your area, the extent to which you might end up tied to him for 18+ years, what his rights and responsibilities would likely be if he found out he was the father (or guessed/suspected and went to court to force the issue of determining paternity), and so on. Arm yourself with as much information as possible.

Consider ALL possible scenarios, for ALL of your life expectancy. He quits his job and moves to another country. You end up too ill to work (this is my present situation; we subsist off a miniature disability pension). Your parents die prematurely. You end up meeting and marrying a lovely man who wishes to adopt the kid, the bio father has no interest; you are not a single mother. You die prematurely (are your parents young and healthy enough to take over, do you have a sibling who is well positioned to step in, etc? Me dying before my daughter is out of the nest is high on my nightmare list). He takes you to court and gets 50/50 custody and you must co-parent with him. He wants to abandon his current relationship and proposes. Lightning strikes twice in the same place and you are pregnant again not too far off in the future. Ponder every what-if and think about how you might expect to feel about choosing every possible path when you are elderly.

The only thing I would be dead positive about here is staying in school. I also agree with previous comments about your having more power, so to speak, than you may think you do. That might be another thing to ask another attorney about. But, I would definitely want a very experienced family law attorney to spell out the laws in your jurisdiction that would or might be applicable to you as a single parent with a known bio father who will not be part of your family. Even if you have no interest right now in pursuing support or co-parenting with this guy and would rather never deal with him again, it would definitely not hurt to find out, ASAP, what the law where you are would have to say about things. Even if you don't tell him and he appears to have no suspicions and has no interest in the child, if you do continue the pregnancy to term, I would want to know where the chips would fall if, years down the road, his partner leaves him and he doesn't get custody and decides he wants a stand-in to fill the void child-wise, and you and your kid and your happy calm life have everything thrown upside down by a sudden reappearance of bio father with a lawyer in tow.

Whatever path you take, consider every possible everything that could happen over the longest of long terms -- plan for all life stages here, not just the most currently pressing ones.

(This is not coming from any anti-choice standpoint, but, I do want to add that, while not the easiest thing, there are loads of people parenting single/solo, and, especially with a good support system {and good education}, being a single mum is not the thankless and horribly heavy workload it is sometimes made out to be. Despite the variety of crises that followed my {planned, even!} pregnancy and my now being physically in rough shape and broke with no other parent to back me up, I, knowing what I know now, would definitely still choose to have my child, if I could go back in time and change things. It is rewarding, a tonne of work, joyous, loving, and the best thing in my life, ever. It is quite do-able, especially with a sharp mind and friends and family. Also of note: there are a lot of horror stories about the difficulty of dating with a kid in the picture. It is admittedly hard to engineer the details without shared custody, but, when I decided I was ready to date, there were loads of interested men out there who saw the kid as a bonus rather than a problem. Turns out rather a lot of people, for one reason or another, miss the boat on settling down and having a family, and come to regret this, and a "package deal" is very appealing to that category. Which was actually sort of problematic; I had to weed out men who were too into the idea of becoming some sort of insta-daddy and who did not grok that a fatherless child was not exactly longing for a relative stranger looking to suddenly play at fathering for them, and did not get that it would take years for a bond to form, if one did form -- admittedly your serious-dating pool shrinks to men who will get on with not just you but who will be on the same parenting page and who the kid will also adore. But single motherhood definitely doesn't mean you will lack for dates in your late thirties, in my experience, anyway.)

See a lawyer, stay in school, and, choose whatever path works best for you and the entire rest of your life. All of my major life decisions since becoming a mother have pretty much been sorted by "What is, objectively, in my child's best interests?" That, I think, sorts the issue of staying in the program you very much wanted to be in -- I grew up with a career SAHM (professional father, siblings; very unlike how my own child is growing up) but her having a good post-secondary education was a significant advantage. Having a child changes the direction of your life, but the answer to the "What is...child's best interests" question is invariably the right answer for me, too; it has meant stuff like being a homeowner, learning to drive (which I did not do until my 30s, infant daughter in a car seat behind me), and other good-for-me things that I might not have done otherwise. Right now I am preoccupied with trying to figure out if I can stabilise my health enough to go back to university at some point. You are already there, and it is a good place to be on many levels -- stay put!
posted by kmennie at 11:49 PM on October 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

If you're still peeing on sticks and getting a blood test to confirm, it sounds like you've still got some time to work out what you want to do. Take this time and really trying to get in touch with your feelings. What does your gut say? Once you've established those feelings, start thinking about the other stuff.

There are a few answers above which cite that because of your choice to take emergency contraception, you should get an abortion since you're "not losing anything". I think this is a bizarre argument. I am on hormonal birth control because a pregnancy would not be ideal for me right now. But if my BC failed, I wouldn't just jump straight to getting an abortion. I'd consider whether I wanted to continue with the pregnancy, since circumstances have changed.

Life is so unpredictable, it's impossible to say whether you will or won't ever get pregnant again. I would say that if you choose to get an abortion, you do have to come to terms with the possibility that it may have been your only chance.

There's no one else who can tell you which decision you should make. Please make the best decision for you. All the best to you!
posted by kinddieserzeit at 11:53 PM on October 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

I think there's a lot of misinformation in these answers.

If you want a baby, given that you got pregnant this easily, you can likely terminate and get pregnant again with a more appropriate partner/sperm donor at a more appropriate time, like in a year or two.

I wouldn't count on this at all. Fertility can change at any time and being very fertile now (if indeed you are) doesn't have any bearing on how fertile you'll be in a year or two. (Not trying to scare you; at age 35, you likely do have some years left to have kids, but this notion that current fertility predicts future fertility is simply incorrect.)

This is actually not a dramatic situation at all if you decide to terminate again. At this point, I think it's still doable with a pill. Or else, a clinic procedure. Millions of women do it. Total effect on your life: barely noticeable.

I've never had an abortion but my understanding is that they have a tremendous impact on some women who have them, a lifelong emotional impact. This description of abortion as "no big deal" is pretty different from my understanding of it.

I also disagree with the posters who are saying you already made your decision when you took the Plan B pill. First, as has already been pointed out, Plan B isn't abortion. Second, Plan B is something taken in a hurry or even a panic. It's not like you sat down to really think through all the options. But things are different now because (a) you're actually pregnant vs just thinking about pregnancy as an abstract concept, and (b) you do have time to sit down and really think your decision through.

I wish you the best of luck in working all of this out. I think you have tons of options and I think you'll figure out which options are best for you.
posted by whitelily at 3:35 AM on October 19, 2017 [4 favorites]

I truly want to support you in whatever you choose. I'm a parent of a relatively young child, and I love parenting, but I'm also keenly aware of how very much it changes your life (just to disclose where I'm coming from).

I think the biggest questions are whether you want to be a parent now, and if so, what do you need to do to be ready for the baby? There's a secondary question of, how much is this particular guy going to stay in your life/lives, and what would that be like? My comments below assume that the secondary questions get resolved to your relative satisfaction.

On the first question, whether you want to be a parent now, I want to echo these comments from above:

- if you don't want to have this baby, that's fine! Totally fine. But if you do: it's also FINE. Souls come to earth in strange ways. Amazing people are born in sub-optimal circumstances all the time.

- And finally, if you do choose to keep the baby, this could be the best thing that's ever happened to you.

- Or, as Mary Austin put it, "a child, any way you get it, a child is good to have." I'd reword that a bit: "if you DO want a child, it is a blessing, no matter HOW it comes into your life."

To be clear, I'm not saying "Option Have-The-Baby is better than Option Don't-Have-The-Baby." I'm saying that if you did have the baby, the amazing and miraculous nature of their existence would be what you think about, and the awkwardness of their conception would be more like a footnote.

Some people are suggesting that you have an abortion and get pregnant again. If that's because this guy will cause problems, or because you don't want to be pregnant now, that would make sense. If it's just to have a cleaner "how I got pregnant" story, I would absolutely not worry about that.

Just for one thing, fertility treatments and sperm banks can be expensive and take awhile. If you'd happily have a child in your life now, and if he as a person is not going to really mess up your life, then don't waste that money, and don't waste that time. I used to think that starting a family was all about being perfectly prepared to have a baby and doing all the stuff I wanted to do first. Now that I'm a parent, I'd gladly give up a year of barhopping in my 20s to have an extra year of hanging out with my child. I'm not saying that that's what you're doing, just that none of us know the number of our days, and if you think "I guess now would be an okay time," which is kind of how your post sounds (and TBH, owning your own home and having an established consulting practice is a fairly enviable setup) then maybe... go for it? Accept this blessing?

If you do decide to keep the baby, then the other big question is, what do you need to do to get ready. Pregnancy itself is intense, and then you have a child to care for around the clock. Being pregnant is like being on a conveyor belt toward the baby's arrival, ready or not. Time and energy are limited. I would not waste it caring about awkwardness with this guy, beyond doing what you need to do to get your own feelings about it and the legalities in order.

This might make it easy to disregard the awkwardness. If you decide to move ahead, your focus may quickly shift to things like "I fall asleep immediately after class and can barely wake up long enough to fix my own dinner; how can I still get my coursework done?" And after that, it will be things like "why does this baby feed for small amounts every 25 minutes instead of having longer feeds every 1-2 hours? is everything okay with their digestion? how will I survive if I never get to sleep for more than 23 minutes at a time?" There are a million variations on both of those, but you see my point -- the pregnancy transforms your personal body in ways that you must deal with while also trying to prepare logistically for this big change in your life, and then there is a baby there who needs round-the-clock care. How this guy feels about you will/would be an esoteric abstraction without the immediacy or importance of what you will/would be going through. I would analyze whether to stay in school from that angle if you move ahead with the pregnancy.

I do think that it would be important to make peace with a few things. (1) Your child might look like him. You'll have to tell your child something. You'll know that he is your child's genetic father, and your child will pick up on your attitudes. If you were to move ahead, could you find respect or gratitude for him as the source of bringing a wonderful child into your life, or would seeing any resemblance or having to talk about this deeply bother you? (2) Also, you will see the guy around. When you're pregnant, and maybe feeling tired and vulnerable, how will that impact you? I personally do think it's relevant that his partner might be pregnant. If you see him helping her cope with pregnancy or if you hear people congratulate him on the birth of his child (with her), will that send you into an emotional tailspin? Or could you welcome single parenthood enough to be happy that he has helped you conceive but then not infringed upon your independence?

Good luck. I remember those first few days of discovering that one is pregnant. I hope the comments here have been helpful, because I remember it as a very intense time.
posted by slidell at 6:31 AM on October 19, 2017 [4 favorites]

(NB: A lot of people who wouldn't think twice about emergency contraception would have a much harder time contemplating an elective abortion, and a lot of 30something women who got pregnant once accidentally could not necessarily count on getting pregnant deliberately later on.)

OP, I think you should continue whatever major commitments you want to continue -- the pregnancy, the program, or both, with the full knowledge that neither will be guaranteed anyway, and anything could happen. Nthing the above advice to consult a lawyer about the ramifications of crediting the biological father.

Full disclosure: I have never been pregnant nor pursued an advanced degree, and at 35 I still don't know if I'll ever do either. But I do firmly believe that there is only "going with your heart/gut/better judgment/some combination thereof," or not. You have several options here for either "complicating" or "simplifying" your life, but none of those is destined to ruin it...other than possibly your choices about communicating with Professor Sperm-Donor (or staying in a town where your kid miiiiight have a handful of unknown half-siblings).

Do what's compelling for you (and for OP 2.0, if applicable). Warm wishes, whatever the outcome!
posted by armeowda at 11:18 PM on October 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you decide to continue the pregnancy, nthing that you should talk to an attorney about your options and about likely outcomes.

I agree with the many comments that you should make your decisions about the pregnancy, disclosing the father, and the continuing grad program based on what's best for you without consideration for the director.

Also, keep in mind that some decisions can only be changed in one direction. If you decide to continue the grad program, you can always leave it later. If you leave, you probably can't rejoin where you left off. If you continue the pregnancy and don't disclose the father, you can always disclose later.

You sound level headed and well positioned to be a single parent, if that's what you choose to do (though again, talk to an attorney!). FWIW, if you choose not to continue the pregnancy but decide to have a child in the future - my OB friend has told me that the best predictor of whether you will be able to get pregnant in the future is whether you've been pregnant in the past. There certainly aren't any guarantees in fertility, but getting pregnant at 35 is pretty much the best possible sign in terms of your likely ability to get pregnant at 37.
posted by insectosaurus at 10:23 AM on October 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

Side note about the father having parental rights: if you're married to someone else, he may not. Most states recognize the husband as the father of the baby, regardless of biology, even when everyone involved wants to acknowledge the biological father. (This is to avoid situations like, "that slut slept with the milkman; that's not my baby and I'm not paying for it.") The courts are very, very firm on this: Married couple's babies are legally theirs, regardless of circumstances.

Also - this isn't true in the jurisdictions I am familiar with. In those jurisdictions, the husband/spouse is the presumptive father of a child born during the marriage, but it is a rebuttable presumption. Please talk to an attorney who is licensed in your state (or your country/territory/province/etc) to get accurate information.
posted by insectosaurus at 10:28 AM on October 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

I've never had an abortion but my understanding is that they have a tremendous impact on some women who have them, a lifelong emotional impact. This description of abortion as "no big deal" is pretty different from my understanding of it.

As opposed to birth and child-rearing which are truly not a big deal at all?

OP, I am so sorry you're going through this. It sounds very difficult and I get your inclination to use humor, I'd do the same thing. Clearly I don't know you but based on this question alone, I think you should terminate the pregnancy. Pregnancy and birth are very hard on the body and will definitely derail your studies, possibly forever. I know a lot of folks here have fun stories about how they never wanted kids and now it's the best thing they ever did, but it's less socially acceptable to tell the other stories; the ones where people regret having kids and how it took away their freedom and stood in the way of their dreams. It sounds like you're on a good path right now and eventually kids may be more doable--but right now YOU should come first. You did nothing wrong, and an abortion is not wrong either. MeMail me if you want to talk!!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 3:02 PM on October 20, 2017 [4 favorites]

From the OP:
A few weeks later and things have mostly worked themselves out. Due to his own actions, he has been removed from the educational programme immediately. I believe he was pulled into a disciplinary meeting and they asked him if he had anything to share – and the truth of everything just spilled out. After MUCH anguished soul seeking I've decided to keep the baby and do it alone. I also get to stay in the programme until June when le enfant arrives!
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 5:20 AM on November 16, 2017 [8 favorites]

Wishing you much joy!
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:41 AM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Congratulations. I'm so happy for you!
posted by slidell at 12:52 PM on November 17, 2017

Sending good thoughts and wishes for a healthy and easy pregnancy plus rest of your program!

Also, there’s a Metafilter pregnancy/parent group on Facebook if you’d like to join - sestaaak started it so if you MeFi mail her she should be able to add you (it’s a “secret” type FB group, so you can’t just join). Or you can message me and I’ll figure it out.
posted by insectosaurus at 5:34 PM on November 18, 2017

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