I'm in a strange bind that may result in me becoming a father
February 17, 2023 12:08 PM   Subscribe

I decided to have a child with a close friend. I was enthusiastic about the idea, but it soured quickly. Should I bail out before she conceives? Can I?

This is a story with a lot of twists. Thanks in advance for the patience.

I met S about 2.5 years, a year into the pandemic. I'm a male in my late 30s and she's the same age. We hit it off immediately, connecting mostly on a warm, friendly, and intellectual level. We had adventures and discussed things we were watching and reading, talked politics and philosophy, it was fun and stimulating and endless. But after trying to be a couple for a good 6 months, I realized I just wasn't feeling it. The connection for me was more friendly than romantic. We were incompatible in one key area: emotional expression. I have a good amount of therapy and mindfulness-based spiritual practice under my belt. She struggles to verbalize her emotions, and doesn't see much reason to do so anyway. Emotional intimacy based on spoken exchange is a big part of romance for me, and this became the dealbreaker.

She was deeply hurt after I ended it - she wanted a relationship with me, and we were out of contact for a few months. But then she reached out to me and said she would rather be platonic friends with me than lose me, which I was delighted about.

Over the next year our friendship grew effortlessly, and we decided to team up to buy and restore an old farmhouse that would be an investment and secondary home for us both, in addition to our apartments in the city. Looking for a place and planning it out together brought us even closer. Then, she got some bloodwork done - and learned to her utter dismay that if she ever wanted to be a biological mother, she better start trying to get pregnant, immediately. We were both single and open to alternative arrangements, and neither of us particularly on the hunt for a new relationship. So, why not - she asked me if I would like to coparent with her, and I had no time to think, the clock was ticking. I rashly agreed, and hoped for the best. I did want to be a father one day, after all. But the trouble started almost immediately.

A month into our first IVF cycle (her numbers were so bad that IVF would be the only way to get pregnant), my 80 year old mother on a different continent had a new heath cirsis - the visiting nurse was recommending palliative care. I spent a few weeks remotely managing the situation and then flew over to take charge. After a few weeks, my mother recovered. This was far from the first time in recent years that something like this hapenned. At the beginning of the pandemic, I lost my father to an aggressive leukemia and then my longterm relationship right after. This was the last straw on my mom's fragile health - and over the next years, she broke a hip, sternum, and multiple vertebrae, had to have a tumor removed, and more. My parents had been neglectful (dad) and emotionally abusive (mom) to me as a child and as an adult they continued to be demanding, invasive, and aggressive. I'd spent the last decade maintaining a chilly distance, but they did not plan adequately for illness or old age, and I was all they had. I grudgingly stepped up, though every day spent in the presence of my mom is pulling teeth.

This means that by the time we were 1 month into IVF, I was yet again on another continent trying to take care of my critical, ungrateful, and panicking old mother, 2 years after seeing my dad through to his end. At this point I had been doing this a few times a year for over 2 years. Medical appointments, rehab facilities, specialists, social workers, hospice, hospitalizations, shuttling an old woman around a big city - it was a lot. I'd had no breaks since my dad died, all my holiday spent on these rescue missions - and otherwise a fulltime job. I was tired.

When I got back from the rescue-trip, I found my normally rock-solid S in a state I'd never seen. Although she tolerated the round of hormones well, afterwards she descended into a deep anxiety and insomnia at the prospect of never becoming a mother. The construction in her building was not helping. She couldn't focus or sleep. I tried to do everything I could to relieve this - being in constant contact with her, often bringing her to my home for days of coworking and binge watching so she could escape noise and solitude. Listening. But it was a drain on me, I had few emotional and physical resources remaining from my mother's brush with death, and I felt a need for lightness and an escape from existential topics.

In another month S seemed to recover her spirits, and I started to spend a lot of time with other friends - looking for lighthearted diversion. During that period we spent about a day together a week and were otherwise in daily phone and text contact (we live on opposite sides of our large-ish city). To me, things seemed to be normalizing and I was starting to dream about fatherhood. After a month of this, S exploded, berating me for not making good on my promises and not giving her the attention and time she was due. She was thinking about a "state of the union" discussion we had, right when we decided to coparent. She had asked if I thought we could ever return to a romantic mode, and I had honestly told her that I could not rule that out, something that greatly pleased her. Now, she was fuming, upset that there wasn't any movement toward romance. This would make her feel a lot better about starting a family with me. I was stunned and blindsided. Those 3 months were head-spinning for me - between starting the IVF process, and my mom's health crisis, and trying to take care of S, romance was the farthest thing from my mind.

Since then, everything changed. It took days to explain to S that I hadn't made any firm commitments and that I was in no place to think of romance with her. Eventually, she admitted that she had been self-centered and apologised. But my trust in her was shaken - I felt that her expectations were unreasonable, anxious state or not - and I was dismayed that she had let herself stew and become enraged for months without saying anything. I started to feel unseen, like a means to an end. She didn't offer me any emotional support, that was beyond her. Before finding out about her fertility, she had spent many years living a relatively charmed life without any care responsibilities. I started dwelling on these differences, and fighting to not become resentful. But it became one vicious cycle after another.

S felt that the time we spent together wasn't enough (still 1-2 days a week). I told her that I was depleted and missing my friends and concerned that I was her only support system and didn't feel like I was up to it. She accused me of trying to fob her off onto others. Then she wanted reassurance that I wouldn't back out and crush her last attempt at recovering a life that had veered childlessly off course. I told her that I would rather remain childless than doom a child to dysfunctional bickering parents, and that I had big concerns about our ability to communicate and work through emotionally difficult patches. It was more important to me that we do the right thing, whatever that was. I thought we should try to work through our differences, prefferably with some couple's counselling.

She's resistant to therapy herself - she thinks it's an indulgence for healthy people like her. But, she consented to couples counselling, though it's difficult to find a quickly available therapist in our city. I wanted us to pause IVF so we can sort out our relationship, with a therapist or without. But to her, any pause in IVF would unacceptably endanger her attempt at motherhood.

Since then, we've been stuck. She says that as long as she knows it's possible that I might withdraw my participation, she can't be anything other than an anxious wreck. She says that it feels like I hold her entire future happiness in my hands and she doesn't trust that I won't destroy it. I can't honestly reassure her that I'll never withdraw, so long as we continue to seem like the last couple that should become parents. She waves away my fears with a "whatever happens, we'll work it out". We disagree on future housing arrangements, and the conversation deteriorates because any sign of disagreement is a sign that I might withdraw. I've become surprised how many conversations about logistics feature surprise disagreement and end the same way, and I've started to avoid them. Generally, half our conversations are highly emotional and exhausting.

To be perfectly honest, at this point, mostly I want out. I don't trust her to be a reliable and centered mother or partner, and I don't trust us as a unit, or our ability to hold up under pressure. We both come from broken families, I don't want to perpetuate that. And I'm already depleted and she's not even pregnant yet. But, as she's made clear many times, if I withdraw it would be utterly devastating to her, she would never recover. I feel trapped by this. Any advice would be much appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (68 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
absolutely, please, do not proceed if you are not 100% on board.
posted by supermedusa at 12:14 PM on February 17, 2023 [57 favorites]

She's not really looking for a co-parent, she's looking for a partner. You do not want to be her partner. Having a child will make this situation worse. Back out now.

if I withdraw it would be utterly devastating to her, she would never recover

You don't owe her a baby. What would she have done if you'd never made this agreement? It will be devastating to her, but that's not a good reason to yoke yourself to her for 18 years. She's manipulating you.
posted by Mavri at 12:16 PM on February 17, 2023 [147 favorites]

You are right to want out and you should get yourself out. If she can't deal with your withdrawal then she needs to get that therapy that she thinks is an indulgence for healthy people like her, not hold you and your sperm hostage. You do not owe her this.
posted by Rhedyn at 12:16 PM on February 17, 2023 [11 favorites]

If your primary counterweight to "I want out" is that your friend will be devastated and blame you for it, the wall of text here strongly suggests that procreating is not going to guarantee a different result anyway.

Parenting is tough, co-parenting even in a committed relationship (platonic or romantic) is tough, and while I am sure that the IVF process is likely taking a toll on your friend, it's clear that she has a very different view of *your* future than you do. This situation is not a healthy foundation for starting a family. You have this Internet stranger's permission and encouragement to (please, please) not have a child with this person.
posted by LadyInWaiting at 12:19 PM on February 17, 2023 [8 favorites]

It seems like S wants and expects a romantic relationship - even if that's not what is actually named. If that pressure exists now, before you are coparenting and entangled forever, that will only get worse. If she wants to be a mother, she needs to move forward, quickly, in another route. You don't want to be that route and should not be that route. End this quickly, and now, for both of you. My sympathies - this is very hard and has lots of layers, but it seems like there is an underlying truth that this is not the right thing for you or S.
posted by quadrilaterals at 12:19 PM on February 17, 2023 [12 favorites]

Please don't bring a child into this situation.
posted by headnsouth at 12:22 PM on February 17, 2023 [38 favorites]

There are really compelling reasons for her to try to have a child right now. I can see that you also feel very compelled to follow through on your previously stated commitment to her. Holding someone else's fertility in your hands is a great responsibility. There is great potential here, since you like each other very much at the core level. It could in theory work out romantically, or as good co-parents. At some point, your mom will have passed, and that stress will fade. IVF stress should be temporary.

But that's not what's actually happening right now. And the stability you need from and for each other, isn't happening right now either. This is not the time, and possibly not the right person. You wrote this in your last paragraph. Listen to yourself.
posted by Dashy at 12:24 PM on February 17, 2023 [2 favorites]

Please do not bring a child into this relationship.
posted by victoriab at 12:30 PM on February 17, 2023 [8 favorites]

Almost everyone will say this is a no go. Probably it is. However, if you want to put the time and thought into setting up a system and presenting conditions -- that may seem extreme to her, but maybe not -- then it might be worth a try. Honestly, I hope you do try.

The goal here is, partly, to get her to say no. So be as complete and perfectionist as you want -- and then go further. Look into example co-parenting/surrogate/open adoption agreements; maybe ask a lawyer. And make sure you put mechanisms into place that will not only protect the child (and your heart) in the future, but mechanisms that will make those consequences workable.

For example, if you require that she take two University-level classes in developmental psychology (which might help her understand the importance of emotional openness, at least with the child, and as a model to the child), knowing that she won't complete them until next year when she's almost due, or that it won't happen until after the child is four years-ish old -- what possible recourse do you have if she just decides she doesn't have time? Maybe a requirement that the child spend X amount of hours with you, or that X number of those hours will be in therapy or very supervised group play activity, or that the child attend the most emotionally-intelligent, low-teacher-child-ratio preschool in the city (all expenses split between the two of you).

Also, think through how she will arrange her time _now_, and if she gets really, really tired, to make sure those courses happen, and everything else you need happens. Will she get a house cleaner service? If she has sensitivities to old-school cleaning products, find that service now. Will she get a long-term doula (if that's even a thing)? Does she have helpful relatives? Is there someone you can hire to stay all night with the baby, or can she quit her job until the baby sleeps through the night? How practical is hiring a nanny?

If you require that she commit to some kind of activity or "coaching" relationship / personal assistant relationship so that you yourself have time to _seek and nurture emotional connection elsewhere_ (which seems quite necessary), then how will you be sure that happens? How will you handle emergencies - under what conditions are you the person to call when something needs doing? (plumbing leak; baby won't sleep; car breaks down; post-partum depression).

There are three main areas to cover, I think:

- Make sure the child is raised in a way that you think is emotionally healthy enough, so you won't feel the need to sue for custody;

- Make sure you get the emotional support you need, which means you need to spend less time with her and make sure she gets what she needs elsewhere;

- Make sure she gets the support _she_ needs without making you feel trapped.

And on top of that:

- If you're asking anything of her that will not be an easy ask, how can you make sure it's done without being too despotic.

So - Go ahead, make your list, make it as extreme as you feel necessary -- the goal here is not to get her to agree; the goal here is to make it so that if she _does_ agree, you'll actually be _happy_ about it.

This is adjacent to the contracting idea that, if you don't really want to do a job, you don't say no; you just say it would take an extremely large amount of money. Probably the other party will say no, but if they say yes, wow!
posted by amtho at 12:31 PM on February 17, 2023 [1 favorite]

Good lord no, do not co-parent with this person.

If you do at some point decide to co-parent with someone, I suggest getting the legal ducks in a row before you actually begin the process. All kinds of questions occur to me about who has parental rights, how you would handle living arrangements if one of you wanted a "divorce" when the child was older, how would you handle money, etc. Because society doesn't have a lot of models and legal structures to support co-parenting by platonic couples, you can't just coast on a lot of shared assumptions. Not that you can really do that in any relationship, but you're usually working from at least some shared starting points.

Almost all my friends who have tried long-term, serious but uncommon family set-ups have foundered on various rocks - mismatched expectations, people's trauma going in, lack of clarity about money and housing, unacknowledged jealousy, various kinds of inequality. All that stuff has to be sorted out before the actual relationship can be settled. It's not that no one has inequality or trauma in more common relationships; it's that society provides various good and bad supports to those relationship patterns and that tends to stabilize them. You need to build your own supports if you do something else.
posted by Frowner at 12:33 PM on February 17, 2023 [27 favorites]

Good lord, she needs to buy sperm. This is a giant list of red flags and misery. She's already pre-miserable and deep down probably knows this isn't going to last. Just end it already. Don't be "friends" with her either, seriously just break it off entirely.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:42 PM on February 17, 2023 [38 favorites]

ok I admit I didn't read the whole thing because there is no need to read the whole thing. NO, YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE A BABY WITH SOMEONE WHO YOU DON'T WANT TO CO-PARENT WITH FOR A COUPLE OF DECADES. Good lord. How is it even a question?

I'm sure you meant well but now is the time to be grateful you can back out before a terrible mistake is made.

She can go to a sperm bank if she really wants to be a single mom.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:44 PM on February 17, 2023 [29 favorites]

This is not a healthy relationship - please do not have a child with this person.

You are not S’s only chance at parenthood: there are sperm banks, there are foster kids, there are adoption agencies. Those routes might be harder, or might not be what she wanted, but they are there. While I can understand the suffering behind S saying, “You are my only chance!”, I wouldn’t even continue a dating relationship with someone after hearing that.

I’m sorry this is so hard.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 12:45 PM on February 17, 2023 [14 favorites]

Do NOT have a baby with this person. She wants a relationship, or rather, she has already successfully forced one (with your help). A baby will only make things harder and also connect you two forever. Bow out and let her buy sperm. It's only going to get worse / more entrenched from here.
posted by Ink-stained wretch at 12:45 PM on February 17, 2023 [11 favorites]

Everything in your "more inside" is irrelevant.

Do not proceed under any circumstances.
posted by dobbs at 12:46 PM on February 17, 2023 [12 favorites]

Emotional blackmail, ie devastation on her part, is a good reason to back out of any relationship.
If she's so desperate to be a mom, there are sperm clinics.
If she's this needy now, you don't want to be her only support during post partum depression.
I see nothing good in this situation, neither true friendship or true love. Back away.
posted by Enid Lareg at 12:50 PM on February 17, 2023 [7 favorites]

Set yourself free from this situation and in so doing set her free from the prison she has created for herself in which life without either a child or you is a devastating life sentence she can not survive. She can survive. But not while you are still around like some ghost of two dreams she once had.
posted by desert exile at 12:54 PM on February 17, 2023 [8 favorites]

So you own a house with, are trying to have a kid with, and go to couples counseling with this person. That's fine to not call it a relationship but I'm pretty sure y'all are married by this point. And being married doesn't seem to be what you want.

There are other ways to become pregnant, and even more if she "just" wants to raise a child, that don't involve this level of situationship.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 12:54 PM on February 17, 2023 [28 favorites]

Oh no. Please don't have a child with this woman.

Earlier this year I came very close to being manipulated into doing a very big favor for a friend, because "she had no one else she could ask."

At the time I felt like an absolutely horrible, selfish human being for refusing. But now, with 6 months distance, I can see that what she was asking me to do was not reasonable, refusing was 100% the right decision, and the way she acted like I was her only hope was in fact part of the manipulation.

You need to refuse. It's so hard right now, but with time it will become crystal clear that you made the right choice by getting out.
posted by mekily at 12:54 PM on February 17, 2023 [12 favorites]

Since then, we've been stuck. She says that as long as she knows it's possible that I might withdraw my participation, she can't be anything other than an anxious wreck. She says that it feels like I hold her entire future happiness in my hands and she doesn't trust that I won't destroy it.

This is some seriously manipulative bullshit right here. You need to get out of this relationship she's maneuvered you into. It will never change, child or no; friend or no. It's definitely not a situation to want to complicate by bringing another life into. She's an "anxious wreck" because you might end participation- by ending it you end uncertainty and speculation. She can move on and so can you.

If she's not capable of taking care of herself once you're gone, she's not capable of taking care of a child either.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:56 PM on February 17, 2023 [16 favorites]

This is the last thing you need on your plate. Tell her you’ve changed your mind. With any luck, the IVF won’t “take” anyway.
posted by BostonTerrier at 12:56 PM on February 17, 2023 [4 favorites]

It seems clear that when you and S agreed to coparent, she assumed a very different style of coparenting than you did. Neither of you is wrong to have the vision you have but they are wildly incompatible.

You clearly envisioned a situation in which you two mostly lead separate lives but somehow now there's a baby. (Frankly, all this talk about you needing to be overseas constantly, spending tons of time out and away with friends...were you really envisioning, like, PARENTING? Or just sperm donoring?)

She envisioned basically being a couple, but without the sex, until eventually there was the sex and y'all were basically a married couple with a baby. (Also pretty wildly off base! You maybe misled her a little at the start but people are allowed to be unsure about romantic attraction. And anyway, you did set her straight.)

This is...not going to fly. Get out of this ASAP.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:57 PM on February 17, 2023 [33 favorites]

She knows sperm banks exist, right?

Should I bail out before she conceives? Can I?

A thousand time yes. That would be the right and responsible thing to do.
posted by trig at 1:02 PM on February 17, 2023 [6 favorites]

So, why not - she asked me if I would like to coparent with her, and I had no time to think, the clock was ticking. I rashly agreed, and hoped for the best.

What in the NPC ass shit is this.

You are a person. A human adult. With agency. ENACT ON IT.

You are allowed to make choices, change your mind, consent to things, and revoke consent. That's, like, the rules of adulthood.

Stop participating in this!!!!
posted by phunniemee at 1:20 PM on February 17, 2023 [37 favorites]

not a good reason to yoke yourself to her for 18 years.

I think you already know the answer from all the responses but to be honest, it is not 18 years, it is the rest of your life. Maybe your legal/financial ties can technically end at 18, but if you want to be part of a child's life, it lasts their lifetime. Think of graduations, birthdays, weddings, grandchildren, health events and so on. You will not be able to avoid one another and be a part of the child's life and that is complicated.

You also do not hold someone else's happiness in your hands. She controls her own happiness.
posted by maxg94 at 1:26 PM on February 17, 2023 [12 favorites]

Absolutely do not coparent or create a child with this person. She can pursue IVF with donor sperm or approach other people she knows about participating in the process. It does not have to be you and it should not be you based on everything you’ve written here. You need much much less entwinement with her, not more.
posted by Stacey at 1:38 PM on February 17, 2023 [2 favorites]

No no no no no.
And do not do all these other married-type things with her either. You can't have just the selected parts of romantic life partnership with this person. Get out of the shared home ownership. This is not really what "friends" do. You have some kind of friendship without true romance but shot through with romantic confusion on *both* your parts, because really, are you going to be co-parenting and buying houses with someone of the gender you're not attracted to at all? Just break all that ambiguity. DO NOT HAVE A CHILD WITH HER.
posted by rainy day girl at 1:42 PM on February 17, 2023 [8 favorites]

We were incompatible in one key area: emotional expression. I have a good amount of therapy and mindfulness-based spiritual practice under my belt

oh, is that so.

she is behaving in the way that is most likely to get her what she most wants, if what she wants is a child with you. this is not wise or long-sighted in my opinion but it is rational as far as it goes, direct, and self-aware.

but you? you aren't trapped. you are taking deliberate, conscious actions that have a risk of bringing about a result you say you don't now want. Why you might be continuing to take those actions in full knowledge that you don't want this result is a good question to explore with a therapist.

whether or not she is able to conceive is between her body and medical technology; your special contribution will not make the difference. it is, respectfully, replaceable and interchangeable at this stage. you are not the thing standing between her and childlessness, or between her and permanent misery. why you might decide to collude with her in believing that you are essential to this endeavor is another interesting question, but one best explored after you stop doing it.
posted by queenofbithynia at 1:44 PM on February 17, 2023 [62 favorites]

Without going into details, I'll just say a whole lot of things about your story are very familiar to me.

Do NOT proceed. The best thing you can do, for yourself and for her, is to walk away. She needs to do a whole lot of work on herself before she's ready to be a parent, with you or anyone else (or even on her own).

I can confidently say that trying to co-parent with someone like her would be extremely difficult, and would inevitably subject the child to a lot of crap too.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 1:48 PM on February 17, 2023 [4 favorites]

Reading your 'more inside', it seems to me you are just about moving on from having a relationship with your parents where you are exploited and not really treated like a proper son, to this new situation where you will be exploited and not really treated as a proper partner/father.

This isn't just a bad idea, it is a bad idea on top of a bad idea. I think you need a holiday and some therapy and to put all this behind you.
posted by Lanark at 1:51 PM on February 17, 2023 [9 favorites]

if I withdraw it would be utterly devastating to her, she would never recover

This is not true. I mean, it may well be devastating to her, but you are not really her only possibility for having a child and either way she can recover from the disappointment even if that's hard for her.
posted by plonkee at 1:59 PM on February 17, 2023 [5 favorites]

Yikes at the pile-on towards your friend here. (Mefi I'm a bit disappointed - these responses are so hostile and misogynistic towards OP's friend). There are lots of people who want children and learn that they have vanishingly little time/opportunities to have biological children, and who did what your friend did, i.e. have a responsible conversation where consent/participation is offered by another person, and when that consent/participation is rescinded, it is totally understandable for people who want children to feel angry/betrayed/devastated.

It is not "manipulation" for your friend to feel disappointed/hurt/anxious about the idea of potentially not getting to have children and/or at learning that the nature of your relationship is not what she understood/hoped it would be. Yes, there are "other options" that she can pursue, but you also had a hand in misleading her (mainly by over-promising things in an attempt to make her happy, but these are things that you really shouldn't over-promise, precisely because of the potential for creating false hope and then dashing those hopes).

OP, I think you know that this should have been handled differently from the beginning, and it's also OK that it wasn't, because neither you nor your friend really understood what you were getting into. Through various different relationships involving fertility decisions, I have learned that you really have to talk about everything, particularly logistics/practicalities of family planning, in depth, honestly, and considering all possible scenarios, ahead of time, and that it's also really important to be clear about contingency and worst-case-scenario plans.

What this means is that you and your friend should have had a much more explicit conversation from the beginning, but I'd suggest that it's not too late to have these conversations now. With something like co-parenting, in particular, you really need to treat it like a legal/business agreement, and ideally should have a family lawyer involved from the very beginning (this is what many married couples do, as well as queer couples, people using surrogates/donors, and most couples/people going through IVF have to talk about things like who gets "custody" of the embryos if one person dies, etc.). I think a "custody" conversation is a must (i.e. custody of embryos but also, once the baby is born, what if one parent has to move? Who will be on the birth certificate? Since you're not married/partnered, would you share physical/legal custody of the child or take turns, etc.?). I'm frankly a little surprised that you and your friend were allowed to start IVF without having some of these conversations and signing some paperwork to this effect.

I think you need to do some reflecting on what you want at this point: do you want to become a father right now? Do you want to be a father to this person's children, if you see evidence of healthier communication between the two of you? If you do want to be a father right now, what kind of co-parenting arrangement do you envision? If you don't want to become a father right now, do you feel comfortable being a "known donor" who is not actually involved in raising the child? If not, what happens to the existing embryos that you and your friend have created (I presume there are some embryos if you've already started IVF)? If you don't want to become a father right now, what level of friend support are you able/willing to offer to your friend if she decides to pursue solo parenting with donor sperm?

I think a good next step would be to meet with your friend, acknowledge that there were a bunch of things that you both should have communicated about sooner, and that you're hoping to have a frank conversation now before things move any further. I think you should acknowledge and apologize for the part you played in misleading/poorly communicating with your friend. You are not responsible for her feelings or for her ultimate fertility journey, but you did drop the ball on communication here, and I think acknowledging and offering some empathy to your friend will go a long way towards preserving your friendship and helping you feel less guilty/icky about the whole thing. Best of luck to you both.
posted by sleepingwithcats at 2:03 PM on February 17, 2023 [14 favorites]

It’s better to tell her as soon as possible as it will give her the most amount of time to make other arrangements. And I think you will both be happier in the long run if you aren’t in this relationship which sounds unfulfilling to both of you.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 2:04 PM on February 17, 2023 [9 favorites]

When you say that you "are in a strange bind that may result in your becoming a father" - look, not to be crude or anything but did you donate sperm for this process? If you did, you really, really need a lawyer stat, since yes, you could become a father. I assume that if you have literally donated sperm for her to use, you had to sign things - take a close look at those.

If not, then there is no way that you can become a father against your wishes. You won't be biologically related to any child that she conceives, you haven't entered into a legal agreement to coparent. She can want whatever she wants, she could get pregnant tomorrow - but you would not be a father.

You are almost certainly not in a bind that may result in fatherhood. Really, you're not stuck here - you have been stuck with your mother's care because you feel like your pre-existing family ties compel you. They don't, literally, but it makes a lot more sense to feel that you have to care for your mother in her last years - she raised you! - than it does to feel that you need to seek out a coparenting relationship.

How much of this is grief and uncertainty around your life after your parents have both died? You can easily have a sort of unconscious "gap" that you move to fill with something equally stressful and bad-feeling because your mind is so used to feeling stressed and bad - your mind may be more afraid of the change coming with your parents' deaths than it is of the suffering involved in trying to coparent with this woman. Don't let your mind play tricks on you - your life after your parents is going to feel big, scary and sometimes sad, but you need to live it on its own terms.
posted by Frowner at 2:06 PM on February 17, 2023 [25 favorites]

It would be a really bad idea to have a child together. She wants a child, and that's fine, but clearly what she also wants is to have power over you to force you into a relationship that you aren't interested in having, and that child is going to become the means by which she executes that power. That's a terrible thing to do to a kid, it will be a shitshow. It's going to be hard for her to give up on her dream of having a kid with you, but the sooner you make it known that you're not participating the better - right now, the idea of that dream is holding her back from moving on and finding a different route to conceiving. You can help her by being clear and decisive about your intentions. You can offer to help her find and pay for a sperm donor if that will help you feel better, but leaving her hanging with a maybe is probably making her anxiety worse.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:07 PM on February 17, 2023 [2 favorites]

Your body, your choice.

Get your sperm back if the clinic has it, do this first, but talk to her the second you have it confirmed as no longer available to her. Don’t offer to help her find or pay for a sperm donor, don’t entangle yourself in this process any further. You can decide at a later point how/if you want to support her in her motherhood.
posted by Iteki at 2:13 PM on February 17, 2023 [11 favorites]

You already know what to do. And it's okay to honor your no, to set the boundaries you need, even if S will feel devastated and crushed and even if she never has a child. As you know in your heart, you "would rather remain childless than doom a child to dysfunctional bickering parents."

There is so much grief and heartbreak in this story, so much of a sense of reeling. Sometimes life is like that. Sometimes beauty can emerge from the storm and sometimes children are born in the midst of chaos and thrive. And also beauty can take many forms. What could be more beautiful than you learning that you don't have to replicate the dynamics with your parents with new partners and new potential children? What could be more beautiful than you learning that your choices matter, especially with family, that the true family of your heart will honor and welcome your no's and your boundaries, even when they hurt?

You (and probably S as well) need to truly parent yourself before you can responsibly parent anyone else. Saying no here, and accepting the pain of knowing that someone you love is hurt by your boundaries and still staying firm, is a key part of you learning how to be a good parent, whether or not you ever have any biological children.
posted by overglow at 2:27 PM on February 17, 2023 [6 favorites]

Edited to add: if you decide that you are not ready to be a father right now, please make that the focus of your reasoning for why you need to withdraw from this process (i.e. "with all the health stuff going on in my family, I'm realizing that I am just not in the right place to add co-parenting to the mix.")

Please, for the love of everything, do not tell your friend that you and a bunch of strangers on the internet have diagnosed her as a narcissistic manipulator who is not fit for motherhood. You get agency over your own body/fertility choices, and she gets agency over hers.
posted by sleepingwithcats at 2:28 PM on February 17, 2023 [14 favorites]

I have a new framing that will perhaps help you understand what I am perceiving about this situation from what you've shared:

But after trying to be a couple for a good 6 months, I realized I just wasn't feeling it. The connection for me was more friendly than romantic. ... She was deeply hurt after I ended it - she wanted a relationship with me, and we were out of contact for a few months. But then she reached out to me and said she would rather be platonic friends with me than lose me, which I was delighted about.

S never ended her attachment to you. When she reinitiated contact, it was with the hope that you would be romantic partners again. Whether she knew it or not (and I don't think she was intentionally manipulating you, by the way), every step was about escalating your relationship such that you somehow (passively? going along with things?) ended up in a situation where you are sharing a home and and household and building a family with someone who isn't, ostensibly, a romantic partner, but I think that what's really going on is that you are in a sexless relationship. Or are you having sex? I wonder, since you specifically refer to couples counseling.

In any case, I don't think the primary question here is if you want to have a child with S. I think the question is if you want a relationship with her and what you want that relationship to be--and then if that's what she wants too. If not, then no, don't have a kid together. It would be unkind to continue a relationship with her right now, as is, because she will always want more.

Now, in the bigger picture, something for you to think about and reflect on in therapy or whatever self-reflective practice you have: are you at all unintentionally repeating a dynamic you saw in your parents in your relationship with S? You said your dad was neglectful. Are you becoming the neglectful father, because of circumstance? It sounds like you are spending more time with friends when S needs you most, leading to her feeling emotionally abandoned. What's complicated is that the parameters of your relationship seem to preclude this as being a possibility, but, if you look again at my framing, that for S, you have always been in an attached relationship, then perhaps it begins to make sense that your trip away and spending time with friends could feel like abandonment to her. In fact, perhaps her emphasis on needing you as a caretaker is her attempt to play a role that seems to get you to pay attention to your mother. The reason she felt recovered after living at your place for a month is because that time together reinforced the attachment; after being back at her place, being in regular touch but only seeing her once a week, she had an attachment crisis.

And here's some real talk: you have been stringing S along for YEARS. If you want to be in a romantic relationship with her, deal with your likely avoidant attachment style and actually talk to her about what you both need and want. But otherwise, my goodness, please let this poor woman go find a partner or have a child on her own, without the hope of having the relationship she wants with you.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:53 PM on February 17, 2023 [45 favorites]

Holy shit, no, absolutely do not inflict this situation on a child.

Hell, I don't even think you should continue to co-own property with this person, but if you want to do that it's up to you. Creating a human being and dropping them into the middle of this would be grossly irresponsible.
posted by Ragged Richard at 3:00 PM on February 17, 2023 [10 favorites]

The greatest kindness you can do for both of you is to end this whole thing with S and be crystal-clear it's over. And then go no-contact until this settles, for however long you need; literally, sell the property or rent it to someone else or something. This situation is deeply dysfunctional for both of you, and I think it's triggering a lot of unhealthy coping mechanisms and bringing up lots of hold hurt from long ago. You also need some time with yourself to figure out why and how you got here--I say this gently: you blew through a lot of red flags. Both of you did, but S's journey is not your concern.

You are not S's last and only hope, and she is not yours. It's okay to devastate people when you have to, and right now you have to. She will survive it.

And there is no need for couples counseling. You are not a couple because you don't want to be a couple. Why agree to this?
posted by namemeansgazelle at 3:39 PM on February 17, 2023 [14 favorites]

I agree with everyone saying that you should absolutely not proceed towards any path that results in having a child with this person -- because I think you both seem alarmingly incompatible in any kind of relationship AND made a rash decision to go into this without seeming to actually talk about what any of it means.

Also, it is really easy to criticize her from your telling of this, but I think you really need to consider how your decisions and behavior are problematic, contributing factors to this mess.
posted by sm1tten at 4:09 PM on February 17, 2023 [13 favorites]

Do not have a child with her and also spend some time reflecting on how you are not blameless for this situation. I am bothered by your characterization of her as emotionally unintelligent or whatever phrase you used--it may be that she could benefit from therapy but the way you talk about her seems like a therapied up version of "my ex girlfriend is crazy" which is problematic.

It's no wonder she is confused about your intentions--all your actions are those of someone in a partnership. You bought a house together, started renovating? together, are going to IVF together and then suggested couple's counseling! You may have been clear in your communication but the way you have been treating her is unkind. End it, wholly and completely. She will survive, and find some other way to get some sperm. If you learn nothing else from this, it's don't ever string along a woman whose clock is ticking, ever again, got it?
posted by purple_bird at 4:16 PM on February 17, 2023 [54 favorites]

She's resistant to therapy herself - she thinks it's an indulgence for healthy people like her...
Since then, we've been stuck. She says that as long as she knows it's possible that I might withdraw my participation, she can't be anything other than an anxious wreck. She says that it feels like I hold her entire future happiness in my hands and she doesn't trust that I won't destroy it.

With kindness to your friend, she is not healthy. Healthy people do not hinge their entire life's happiness on to someone else's consent to do a thing that is a decades-long commitment. You seem to have agreed to a thing that is not-this and now want out. She seems to have thought you'd "come around" in a way that you're not doing. I agree with the MeFite upthread who said that it seems like you're sort of replicating bad family dynamics that you had with your folks with another person.

I have a good amount of therapy and mindfulness-based spiritual practice under my belt

This may be good for working on your own feelings here but you are passively (and sometimes actively) continuing down a path you say you don't want and acting (a little) like this is something she is doing to you. She wants what she wants. What do you want besides "not this"?
posted by jessamyn at 5:03 PM on February 17, 2023 [15 favorites]

I give you permission to withdraw consent for use of your genetic materials to create a child with this partner.

There you go.

Now quick, tell the lab and the lady too.
posted by jello at 5:09 PM on February 17, 2023 [4 favorites]

I am going to disagree with everyone here putting the blame squarely on S.
You were dating and heading toward a serious relationship, broke up with her (and knew she was devastated) and then decided to agree to co-parent with her? I don't care how "rash" this was, it was also seriously selfish on your part. You got something out of making that decision, whether it was your sincere desire to parent or your desire to look like the good guy after hurting someone's feelings. Don't co-parent with this person but also, leave her alone after you all have had this conversation. There is nothing healthy here.
posted by simonelikenina at 5:39 PM on February 17, 2023 [31 favorites]

You won't be doing anyone a favor by proceeding with this situation. She sounds like she wants a spouse and child; you sound overwhelmed, uncomfortable and pressured; the theoretical baby won't be benefitted by being born into that.

It also sounds like, due to simultaneous pressures, the two of you haven't been excellent to each other. You could have been better at drawing boundaries with someone who sounds like they needed a clearer relationship model, and she doesn't sound like she's had the bandwidth of late to be interested in anything besides her own fears and desires.

In another universe, maybe the two of you could have entered into this project in a more thoughtful state of mind and figured out everyone's roles and limitations, but it didn't happen that way, and it doesn't sound like it has much chance to happen that way, anymore.

I'm sorry, this sounds sad and stressful for both of you, but from my viewpoint the kindest thing is to tell her you're not on board to have a baby, "break up," sell the shared house, and let her live her own life.
posted by hungrytiger at 6:13 PM on February 17, 2023 [3 favorites]

I think you should end it - but pay for one round of her (solo) IVF.

You owe her a huge apology for wasting her time this long when it should have been obvious to you that you did not actually want to date her or co-parent with her. You dicked her around HUGELY by saying you miiiight get back together and talking about couples counselling etc etc. You knew you both had “broken homes” from the jump so that’s not a justification for suddenly not wanting to be with her.

Own your shit. You got cold feet. That’s fine and good for you, but you wasted her time and she has none to waste!

Sell the shared house, get the hell out of there and never look back. You won’t be able to be friends any more either.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 6:52 PM on February 17, 2023 [36 favorites]

Wait... You agreed to buy a property and have a child, with your ex, who at all points is clearly holding a flame for you??

At some level you know that's a bad idea, right?

Honestly... Her actions make sense throughout. She wants a romantic relationship and kids and a house with you.
I mean, it's messy and I wouldn't touch it, but well, you've been going along with it so far, so she *has* been kinda getting what she thinks she wants?

But you - why on earth are you going along with this?
You have agency.
You're expecting her put the brakes on, or to draw boundaries for you, when you are the only one who is actually motivated to do this.

You've been getting a level of attention from her, as an ex, rather than a friend, which may have been appealing, but you're really unhealthily emotionally entangled.

Is she even really an ex, or is she your defacto partner who you stopped having sex with? Because yeah, you've been acting more like partners all the way through.

Do take responsibility for getting into this situation. Taking agency for getting into this will help you have the agency to get out of this - don't have to placate, or go along with these plans.

*You don't have a child together, and you know you shouldn't have a child together*

The hilarious thing is, I'm saying this as someone who has even asked an ex to be a coparent! 😂😂😂
But our situation was/is infffffinitely less messy than your situation.
We really were exes for a verrry long time, and mutual friends suggested we'd be good coparents knowing we were both looking to do that.

So yeah, take that as a data point?
posted by Elysum at 7:35 PM on February 17, 2023 [7 favorites]

In short, you need to break up. *Actually* break up.
posted by Elysum at 7:36 PM on February 17, 2023 [2 favorites]

Oh no.

#1, regardless of what she thinks she is or what she has appeared to you in the past, it's blatantly clear that she is nowhere near "mentally healthy".

Don't bring a child into this mess. Don't participate in allowing her to bring a child into HER mess.

You do NOT owe her a child or a relationship.

Take care of YOURSELF and extricate yourself from this.
posted by stormyteal at 8:01 PM on February 17, 2023 [1 favorite]

I'm confused: does she still have some of your sperm?

I am guessing she would tell this whole story very differently than you are, but that doesn't matter in the immediate sense. You need to end this relationship because you want totally different things out of it to an irreconcilable level. I suggest you do some introspection about how it got here, but that takes time. In the immediate, tell her you changed your mind and do not want to coparent and if there is stored sperm you ask that it be destroyed. There is no happy outcome to be had here, but there is a mature and wise one.
posted by latkes at 8:17 PM on February 17, 2023 [2 favorites]

Everyone already said many of the things that jump out at me in this story -- but one thing that I have not seen mentioned is the resonance between you grudgingly stepping up to take care of your parents who have put themselves in a situation where they have made themselves your responsibility by not planning for old age, and you now grudgingly existing in this limbo with this woman who has made herself your responsibility.

The way you seem to be experiencing this situation reminds me of this fable about the man on the bridge. Read it, see if it resonates.
posted by virve at 8:36 PM on February 17, 2023 [3 favorites]

Sound advice not to bring a child who isn’t wanted into an untenable situation.

But more to the point of the only reason you’d stay: no doubt she’ll be devastated if you back out, but she will be equally—if not more—devastated when she has a child with you and that doesn’t magically transform you into her romantic partner or even her life partner. So in that way, it’s a simple choice.

I think people are being a little hard on her and that your words and actions have been confusing and contradictory; I’m not surprised she’s blown up after feeling strung along. But having a child with her is like…the opposite of the solution.
posted by kapers at 9:43 PM on February 17, 2023 [7 favorites]

Everyone above has more than covered the baby aspect, so I just wanted to touch briefly on some other salient points of your post:

(1) First, you come across as incredibly, almost pathologically, passive here. You're "in a strange bind that may result in [you] becoming a father"!?! Dude, you DONATED SPERM, specifically for that purpose, after deciding fatherhood with this woman was a project you wanted to participate in. What else did you think your sperm was going to be used for, other than baby-making? Making holiday ornaments? I say this not so much to make you feel bad about the past as to encourage you to seize your agency in the future. You describe various decision points in your post that you fly by because you're not cognizant and you've given over the steering wheel of your life to someone else. For instance, this: "So, why not - she asked me if I would like to coparent with her, and I had no time to think, the clock was ticking. I rashly agreed, and hoped for the best." Whether or not her clock is ticking is irrelevant: parenthood is a decision you can take as long as you need to decide about, before you commit your sperm. Other decisions are likewise. Own your agency, own your decisions, live your life as the execution of what you decide. Don't float along on the current of others' choices and then blame them for it.

(2) Relatedly, I'd urge you to think about this: "[We] were otherwise in daily, phone and text contact (we live on opposite sides of our large-ish city).... After a month of this, S exploded, berating me for not making good on my promises and not giving her the attention and time she was due. She was thinking about a "state of the union" discussion we had, right when we decided to coparent. She had asked if I thought we could ever return to a romantic mode, and I had honestly told her that I could not rule that out, something that greatly pleased her. Now, she was fuming, upset that there wasn't any movement toward romance." You have been, I assume unintentionally, cruel. The very idea of coparenting with an ex who still holds a torch for you is crazy. Chatting daily, buying and renovate a house together, and going to to couples counseling together is insane. And even worse, keeping her on a string by suggesting you might at some point be willing to revive the romantic part of your relationship? It's not a question looking for an honest answer, it's looking for a definitive answer! If you know someone is pining for you, you need to let them go if you don't feel the same, rather than let them continue the endless audition to be your partner. I can understand why she felt like you had essentially told her that if she kept holding on, you'd likely get there. As above, I'd encourage you to seize your agency, to make your own decisions, and to be clear about those decisions when you communicate with others. I've found in my own life that people typically haven't reacted badly when I've disagreed with them or struck out on a different path, and they've respected that I've been upfront with them rather than using them selfishly to hedge my bets.

(3) It's obviously impossible to tell from a single first-person post, but I'd urge you to reconsider your level of confidence in your emotional fluency, and your dismissal of that of your (ex-?)partner. In particular, I'd urge you to meditate on this: "We were incompatible in one key area: emotional expression. I have a good amount of therapy and mindfulness-based spiritual practice under my belt. She struggles to verbalize her emotions, and doesn't see much reason to do so anyway." Perhaps I'm overly sensitive, but I have been in a relationship in which my partner was well-versed (from my perspective, far too well-versed) in therapeutic language, and used his fluency there as a weapon to dismiss my articulations of my emotions and being. I have rarely engaged with anyone - especially any romantic partner - and felt less genuinely listened to, even though he had all the right language and conceits and our therapist loved his expression. Therapy is very popular on Metafilter, and I have no doubt it's helpful for many, but it's not the only emotional language, and its prevalence in modern wellness culture I think often blinds people to other ways of being in touch with yourself. Given the lack of context, I'm agnostic about whether your charges against your partner are reasonable, but I'd just encourage you to expand your imagination here, and think about your therapeutic language as a way to communicate and experience the other, other emotional languages, and other subjectivities, equally valid to your own, rather than think of therapeutic language as the dominant tongue and yourself as a sort of schoolmarm, in a position of superiority while marking others on how well they diagram their sentences. Reminds me of this recent NYT piece, and I'll leave you with this quote: '“It’s been really helpful for us to try to use language to connect with each other,” Mx. Campeau said, “instead of just using words to judge.”'
posted by ClaireBear at 9:49 PM on February 17, 2023 [49 favorites]

Wanted to add one thing to the above, to my third point. I say this only half-jokingly: too much introspection can produce selfish navel-gazers*. Everyone thinks of themselves as the hero, in the story in their mind: but your self-conception doesn't matter because you are what you do, not what you think. People nowadays often focus far too much on their intent, and think that that absolves them charges from bad behaviour. Think about what your actions have actually been, not the gauzy interpretative gloss you can spin around them in your mind. More focus on others - imagining how things might feel from their perspective, how they could conceivably interpret your behavior, what is driving them, etc. - and less focus on yourself and your own motivations will likely help you lead a healthier and more balanced life, and to treat others in a more just manner.
posted by ClaireBear at 10:11 PM on February 17, 2023 [13 favorites]

Without assigning blame to either side here, how do you envision the next 20 years going if you go ahead with parenting a child?

What is your relationship going to be like? How much parent time will each of you do? How much time will you be spending together? Who will be financially responsible for what? What happens if one of you wants to move across the country or the world?

What happens if she meets someone else and they become a couple? How would you feel? What would that mean for the child?

More to the point, what happens if you meet someone else? And if you and this new woman have children? How would the woman here, in your post, feel, given how she currently views, and hopes for, your relationship?

It currently feels like you're planning to begin parenthood as divorced parents who can't agree on the fundamentals of any aspect of their joint lives. This isn't a good position from which to start two decades of co-parenting.
posted by fabius at 5:04 AM on February 18, 2023 [2 favorites]

I'd like to address what it actually means to **have** a child. Here's the sh*t that happens, whether you want them or not (and this is all setting aside that you will NEED to have a 20+ year relationship with this person you can't even talk to honestly NOW):

* they will be awake when you want them to sleep;
* they will often screech and scream and communicate in other bizarre ways;
* they will vomit and defecate on you;
* they will manage to get all sorts of illnesses that could require 2am hospital visits;
* they will need to be cleansed, fed (with actual healthy, thoughtful meals), read to, entertained (get ready for **years** of imaginary truck and dinosaur play), enlightened, kept healthy, treated with kindness, love and respect;
* they will not give two shits about your mental state and how you're getting along with their mom;
* in general, they will not really give two shits about how you're functioning;
* they will have to be taken to school and to extra curricular activities for about 18 years;
* they will take up most of your money and they won't appreciate it at all;
* they will likely have some mental or physical issues that will require you to essentially drop everything in your life except their actual survival;
* their entire psyches will be built on how you treat them and your relationship with their mother; and
* every.single.decision you make for at least the next 20 years will be based on putting their needs first.

And you won't get thanks for any of it.

If you can't manage the extraordinary effort to raise this child right, you will likely create a damaged human being who will get to spend a lot of their life working through the issues YOU caused them.

Look. I think you need to see the actual reality of having a child. Even when you want them, your life changes. Forever. You are nowhere near ready even seeing this, let alone living it.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:10 AM on February 18, 2023 [16 favorites]

Always get the eff out of any relationship with a person who tries to keep you in it by making you responsible for their emotional well being. That’s her job.
posted by spindrifter at 5:15 AM on February 18, 2023 [1 favorite]

I admit that I initially assumed that this was a coparenting agreement but using donor sperm, because that's what my friends have tried in order to avoid at least some of the legal-biological complexities. It surprised me a lot to realize that you went ahead with actual embryo creation so informally and fast.

Now that I realize that it's not a chosen family/donor sperm situation, I would say that you should immediately review any material you have from the clinic to find out what the status of remaining embryos may be and to make sure that there aren't any weird surprises waiting for you.

When you write about this decision, you write "so why not". I don't know anyone in their late thirties with a somewhat together life who thinks "so why not" when asked to co-parent and father a child.

My point isn't that this is monstrous, but the more I think about it, the more I would suggest that you see a therapist, initially with the specific goal of unpicking your feelings about your family and their control over your life.

For [reasons], I grew up with the unconscious assumption that I would not be allowed to make any decisions about my fate, that nothing I did could prevent bad stuff from happening and that the best I could do was try to get enjoyment in the intervals. This led to a casual attitude about things that I should have taken seriously and a high tolerance for avoidable problems. It did also lead to some good stuff because I made weird choices, but on balance it created a lot of mess.

If you grew up feeling that you had no control because of your family situation, you need to address that. I got therapy in my late thirties and while I didn't get a do-over on life, looking back I can see that I basically immediately began some good changes that have really paid off and made me happier.

Your friend is going through some stuff - that doesn't mean she's a villain, it just means she's making bad decisions. But if you have this feeling - based in early experiences! - that you must let others make big decisions and then figure out how to endure the results, you'll be in bad situations over and over again.
posted by Frowner at 6:26 AM on February 18, 2023 [11 favorites]

Adding to what Frowner said -- be aware if you're using spiritual bypassing in your life too, as a way of avoiding responsibility or decision-making.
posted by lapis at 7:04 AM on February 18, 2023 [3 favorites]

So I'm going to jump into this, as someone who is nearing the end of my fertility, and has a lot of emotions about this.

First of all, you cannot, absolutely cannot, make any assessments or decisions about someone's mental health based on how they are reacting around the end of their fertility.

Secondly: this isn't just her perception: you are, essentially, holding her happiness hostage. You may not know how expensive IVF is: let me assure you it is staggeringly and awfully expensive, and let me assure you that every single month she isn't doing it worsens her chances of getting pregnant. You are asking her to put it on "pause" until she meets some standard - you are essentially asking her to worsen her chances of something she's already banking on a moonshot on, so that you can deal with your cold feet.

Thirdly, you're describing a situation where you get along, and then about once a month, she gets really upset. That is probably because the pregnancy failed to take in that month. Being upset in those circumstances - even devastated - is a perfectly rational response to essentially a new grief. That new grief will continue once a month until she gets pregnant.

Fourthly: yes, you can do IVF with donor sperm. However, work has already been done with your sperm. For you to withdraw consent for the use of your sperm at this point *is* setting her back, and *is* fucking her over. There's no way around it where you come off like a prince but still withdraw - you'd be literally screwing her over.

Fifthly: her fears of you backing out appear entirely rational, because you're on the internet asking a bunch of strangers how you can back out of it.

I think the ethical thing to do at this point is to ask her, point-blank, "are you interested in continuing to use my donor sperm even if it means we won't be in a relationship, I won't co-parent, and will have no relation to the child?" If she says yes, then I would draw up a contract that terminates your parental rights and responsibilities in the event of pregnancy and call it a day. Let her use the sperm that's already been worked on, but exit the co-parenting and relationship dangling which is also probably not helping her mental health.
posted by corb at 7:32 AM on February 18, 2023 [10 favorites]

I'm going to hopefully break from the pile on to share a personal experience.

I've been in this position.

Not a perfect match, but I did have a past romantic partner ask me to parent a child to which she expected me to not be around for. The details would be far too long and tedious, but the same basic outline is there.

What happened:
  • I chose not to.
  • I still think about this often, fifteen years later.
  • I have never once regretted saying no.
  • Me saying no was the thing she needed to move on from me, find someone who was a much better fit, and have children with them. They are married, happy, they have a 12 year-old and a 10 year-old who are excellent kids with two loving parents. This never would have happened if I'd said yes.
  • This never would have come up at all if I'd been honest with her, and myself. I was trying to have my cake and eat it. I knew what I wanted but didn't want to hurt her, so I strung her along. That was 100% on me and I regret it and that's the one thing I would have done differently. If I had, she might have found her way to making her new family and finding her own hapiness much sooner.
Good luck to you both.
posted by Ookseer at 9:36 AM on February 18, 2023 [23 favorites]

She will recover. On the very unlikely chance that she doesn't, she is clearly too fragile to become a parent.

(Anecdata and probably tmi: my partner left me 6 months after my daughter died - went out of his way to hurt me, including an email re sex with another woman a couple of months later. I was beyond devastated for months, but I'm still here - recently bought a full year on a dating website. No one is irreplaceable.)
posted by she's not there at 9:53 AM on February 18, 2023 [5 favorites]

Your ‘passive’ way of handling this reminds me a bit of (younger) myself. In my current thinking, I’d suggest meditating around what YOU want. When you can be clear on what YOU want, with yourself and others, you’re much less likely to end up in this “nice guy” situation. (I’ve been there. I was a “nice guy” who really wasn’t that nice because I couldn’t subvert my own desires forever).
posted by u2604ab at 7:05 PM on February 18, 2023 [1 favorite]

Run, do not walk, far far away from this very toxic relationship. You cannot fix her problems, and the last thing you want is to be tied to her via a child for the next 20+ years. Move away, block her, do not accept mail from her. You have been a caretaker for far too long, and you need a substantial break. Your future is not, should not be with her.
posted by summerstorm at 2:47 PM on February 22, 2023 [1 favorite]

As hard as it must be to worry about one's biological clock ticking, no person has the right to bully someone else into reproduction. You're not withholding motherhood from her. Her wanting kids is between her and god. Also, she went into this knowing it was platonic. Now she's suddenly angry that it's not romantic. That's not honest and it's not fair. Honestly, you're blessed that this IVF process has delayed pregnancy. Get out while you can.
posted by winterportage at 4:25 AM on August 25, 2023

Secondly: this isn't just her perception: you are, essentially, holding her happiness hostage

OP it might feel this way to some people but please don't let that histrionic guilt tripping get to you. Manipulation is manipulation, no matter the ends or the causes. If someone is trying to manipulate you, you need to stand on your own feet and figure out what you want first.
posted by winterportage at 4:35 AM on August 25, 2023 [1 favorite]

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