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How to Ask Me About the Father of My Baby

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Dear Friends:

It’s perfectly natural for you to be curious about what’s going on with the father of my baby and of course, it’s okay to ask me about him. If one of my friends or family, who had been waltzing around living as an independent single lady, just one day popped up out of the blue on Facebook explaining how she was well into her second trimester and as far as the eye could see, there was no guy in sight, I’d want to know the details too! I’m not a saint, ok? I would want information, especially about that, because it’s big and it’s important and this news is completely unexpected. I get it, and not just because “What’s the deal with the dad?” is the number one question I’ve received in Facebook messages, texts, and e-mails.  My cousin told me the other day that when he found out, he spent the day searching through all of my male friends on Facebook trying to figure it out, which is just adorably silly to me, and so unnecessary. What I’m about to say might have saved him a lot of trouble. I want to help if I can.

First, before you ask me about the father of my baby, try to remember I’m in a unique situation. There’s a reason you don’t know much about him and it’s probably because we aren’t in a committed relationship. If we were, I’d probably be talking about him a lot more, without you having to ask. I’m not a celebrity hiding from the paparazzi and I have a lot of respect for the right of women to choose motherhood when they’re single, planned or unplanned, so obviously, if you know about it, I’m being open about my pregnancy, but I’m not that unique and free-spirited of an individual. I wasn’t planning this, and if he and I were together, I’d be bragging about him like any of my other pregnant friends who are part of a couple. So the first thing you should guess, is that I might not be comfortable talking about him. I might be protecting him and myself. I might not even know everything about what’s going on between us, but we’ll get to that later.

Now for the hard thing, and I know this is hard, because presumably you care about me and you just want to protect me, but please don’t make him the bad guy right off the bat. I know it’s just your heroic instincts kicking in, but it sometimes makes me feel bad about myself, because I feel a lot of pressure to defend him, which really comes from an instinct to defend myself. As if the normal amount of pressure on women about being single isn’t enough, try feeling that when you’re about to become a mother. It might be helpful to try and treat him as any other ex and not just the father of my baby. If I’m not angry and resentful toward him, why should you be? I need you to trust me, because it helps me deal with everything better.

You see, obviously, I made choices that got me into this situation, choices I am living with every day and I’m not exactly delighted to have people questioning them. This is happening to me right now, and it’s not going to change, and I’m trying to embrace that and prepare myself for it as best as I can.  As somebody who loves me, I really need you to be supportive of those choices, even if you don’t agree. I don’t have much time to spend looking at the past and wondering what I’ve gotten myself into. I’m in it, and I’m in it forever.

You might think you’re being nonchalant, but sometimes I can literally feel your suspicion and judgment of him emanating through my smartphone screen, and even if you aren’t trying to convey that, I might still be worried about that, because at this point, I’ve gotten used to people assuming the worst, and here’s the thing… You might think you’re just being judgmental or suspicious of him, but he’s not there to hear it from you. I am the only one hearing it, and so I’m the one who feels it.

Oh, and if it isn’t clear by now, I’m pregnant! My hormones and emotions are out of control. My feelings are so sensitive. I hate to reiterate the stereotype of the crazy pregnant lady, but honestly, I’m on high alert right now. I’m still strong and I’m still capable and I’m still intelligent, but I’m also maybe going to start crying at that commercial with the older cat who tries to impart wisdom to the kitten, and you want to know about personal intimate details of my life? Just, you know, be prepared.

Now, as for me not knowing what’s going on all the time between he and I, here’s the beautiful and challenging thing about getting unexpectedly pregnant by a man I wasn’t in a committed relationship with. He and I have nine months to figure out what to do about it, and believe me, we might need all nine months or more. It’s complicated. Even couples need that time to get their acts together. We’re going to be parents and while aspects of that are joyful and lovely, other aspects are scary and intimidating.  So when you ask me about him, just know that I might be in one of a hundred phases of figuring that out with him and we kinda deserve our privacy.

If at all possible, ask me in person and ask me in private. If you’re a thousand miles away, the next best option is over the phone. This is personal. Over text and e-mail and Facebook feel very impersonal, and over the phone or in person is so much better, because when we’re talking about emotional things, I want to hear your voice and I want you to hear mine, so we know better how to treat each other. It also makes me feel like you care about me, and I need that. It’s the best gift you can give me. If you must e-mail, please start with, “Congratulations,” and before you ask about him, try to ask about me and the baby.

Another thing, and I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but I am only going to share with you what I feel is appropriate to share with you, so unless I open up about the more complex details, try not to ask me about things like money, my sex life, legal stuff like child support and custody, etc… I know you’re probably thinking, “I would never ask that,” and good for you, but some people have, and even though I’m trying to be open and honest about everything, some things are just between he and I.

Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out. Like I said, I know you care about me, and I need every ounce of that I can get right now. I know I said not to ask about the complex stuff, but there is one exception to that rule, and that is when offering help. Some of the most wonderful things have happened as a result of people who reached out and offered help. They didn’t force it on me, but as a result of people reaching out, I’ve gotten great legal advice, lovely gifts offered, and sweet messages of support. Those things have meant everything to me. If I don’t want or need your help, I’ll let you know, but as long as you let me decide, I will never be upset with you for offering. In fact, I’m very grateful for it.

The most important thing to remember is that I’m very happy I’m going to be a mother. I think you would be hard-pressed to find a pregnant woman who was announcing her healthy pregnancy to the public and wasn’t excited about that. No matter how complicated or uncomplicated our relationships are, how committed or romantic or non-committed or non-romantic we are with the fathers of our babies, we mothers are preparing for the arrival of a brand new person, somebody we are dying for you to meet. No matter what choices I made, I am very proud of my choice to be a mom, and I would love to talk about it.

Love,
Leslie