My girlfriend is pregnant with another man's child

I'd like to stay and raise that child, and have another with her. But she doesn't seem to be interested.

Published April 25, 2005 7:51PM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

You wrote in your Feb. 23 column:

"Yet when life insists with a terrifying power on having us for its purposes, when some unknown being insists on disrupting our plans in order to be born, we find that strangely mystical and abstract."

I have been considering writing you for advice, and this line really drove the consideration into action. I am struggling in a relationship with a woman whom I feel I have a very deep connection with. We've been through a lot together. It's a very long story, but suffice to say, we began a romantic relationship during her leave time from the Navy (she was stationed in Japan), after a number of years of long-distance friendship with an undertone of the romantic.

When she got out of the Navy, I made the decision to get a job near her new home in upstate New York, so we could give our relationship a try. I knew it would be very difficult. Why? Because while I was busy waiting for her to get out of the Navy, she was busy getting pregnant with another man's child.

I feel a little cheated. We were "seeing other people," but I know I didn't see anybody else, nor did I want to, but she said she needed to because she was so lonely a half a world away from all her friends and family. Maybe I should have drawn the line then, but I didn't; I really do care for this woman.

So, to get back to the quote, this strangely mystical experience of her giving birth to another man's child has certainly been disruptive! I've shown a willingness to adopt this child, be the father figure, etc. But my girlfriend says she's not looking for a surrogate father, she wants the real father to be the father ... which he's not very good at being, especially from wherever his post is in the Navy.

She assures me that she is not interested in this man; in fact, she feels betrayed by him because he denied the fact that he was the father for her nine months of pregnancy (until a DNA test proved the truth).

That's OK, I don't really want to be a surrogate father, either. I want to be a real father, but she is saying it's very unlikely to happen because she has just started school, has some tentative plans for medical school, and a career as a doctor ... she is 28 years old, so once she's done getting her life together, she might be ready for more kids by the time she's 45.

I feel left behind. She's already got that strangely mystical experience of being a mommy, but no daddy for me, not even a fake one. Should I go hire a surrogate mother to have my children? I mean, is that even a realistic option? Should I ditch this woman, whom I love so very much, because I want to breed?

I feel like I've been working to get to the North Pole, and all I've had is a compass to go by. It's been plenty easy to know the way here, but the going has been rough. Now I am here, and my compass is spinning in circles. I don't know which way to go next.

Spinning Round and Round

Dear Spinning,

I'm glad you liked that quote. What I was thinking about when I wrote it was the way life sometimes chooses us for its work in spite of our best-laid plans for ourselves. I remember thinking that it's a good thing to learn to honor the forces beyond our control, such as the forces that result in birth and death.

I have the sense the quote struck you differently, or perhaps for different reasons. In your case, rather than a new life visiting you, it is more that the temptation, or the possibility, of a new life has visited you in the form of this other man's child. This vexing, mysterious force of life that I referred to in that quote chose this woman as its vehicle; it did not choose you; and she in turn does not choose you. So you are being called to honor this vexing and confounding refusal. That is the life circumstance you are being called to explore and meditate on: What does it mean that this woman had a child by another man? What is it saying to you that she is rejecting your attempts to act as a father? What does it mean that you've reached the North Pole and now your compass needle is spinning wildly?

In seeking to understand our fate, it's only a distraction to compare ourselves with others: Why did that man get her pregnant and not me? Why do others get this and that but not me? Instead, we must find a way to tell our own stories in a way that makes our random confrontations with fate into a quest, a search for meaning.

Right off the bat, one might say that you have been drawn off course by a siren's song, and what you need to do is recall who you are and where you come from and try to get home. Perhaps it is your weakness to be attracted to situations that seem to have great promise but don't pan out. I think that is perhaps the message here. It also says to me that you have been looking for something ideal, something that transcends the ordinary, so I would say this as well: The ordinary transcends the ordinary. That is, the local, the vernacular, your own postage stamp of land, holds great and powerful meaning for you. I would return to it and seek what is there.

As painful as it may be, you need to disentangle yourself from her and turn your attention to your own life and what you want out of it. This is a good opportunity to think about that. You haven't told me much, actually, about your life other than your interest in this woman. Do you have a keen interest in the mysterious forces that guide our lives? Are you also very interested in raising children? If so, it's not too late to set about constructing a life around those things. The benefits of such a decision are twofold. One, when we are acting in accordance with our core beliefs and values, we tend to be happier. Two, we are more likely to meet a compatible mate.

There may be reasons you seek the extraordinary. You may be of a mystical bent. You may be one of those restless people, like me, who are never satisfied with what is in front of them, who are always chasing something. I am still restless. I am still chasing something. But I can tell you this: After years of chasing women, I was exhausted and sat on my front stoop. That's when my future wife walked by.

I was looking everywhere but right in front of my house.

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