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Surprise Pregnancy at a Crossroads

Surprise Pregnancy at a Crossroads

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

I am coming to you, because I have no objective third party to talk to. I just found out that I am pregnant, about 5 weeks. I have been with my boyfriend for 6 months (I am 24, he is 37 with 2 children).

I live with my father who, last year in November, was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer (lung with metastasis to the brain). My father is still fairly independent, undergoing chemotherapy every 3 weeks and has had two rounds of radiation to the brain. His treatment is purely to prolong his life. We have been told that his cancer is not curable and I don’t know how much longer he is going to be with us. This is a very emotional time for me because I am the only one of my siblings who is working and can help support him (my older sister is unemployed with 5 children living with my mom, my two younger sisters are in college and high school). His neurology doctor is nearly two hours away so I am the one who takes him to his appointments.

My dilemma is that my boyfriend lives 2 hours away and wants me to move in with him so that we can be a family. I, however, feel that I need to stay with my father and support him in this journey. My boyfriend and I are close to separating over this disagreement and discussing this issue leads to heated arguments.

Am I being unrealistic given the situation? The thought of leaving my father is nearly unbearable.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Oh, man. Hugs. So many hugs. ALL OF THE HUGS TO YOU.

So yeah, it doesn’t sound like things are off to a super-good start here. I’m sure your boyfriend thinks he’s doing the right/noble thing by pushing for the live-together-and-be-a-family option, but needs to understand that actually isn’t a one-size-fits-all option. Not every couple facing an unexpected pregnancy should necessarily rush into living together or marriage “just because.” Yes, even couples who find themselves overjoyed at the news and have every intention to co-parent and remain romantically involved might not benefit from rushing the relationship timeline.

Let’s remove a couple variables here: Your father is healthy and you are not pregnant. Would you still be considering an offer to move two hours away to live with a boyfriend of six months? Would that offer even exist? Now add the pregnancy back in. That’s still a big decision that I believe deserves some time to consider, like more time than it takes for the pee to dry on the stick. I mean, you’re only five weeks along, he can chill for a little bit while you guys think this through and decide TOGETHER what’s best for you both going forward. Which again! Rushing to move in or get married is not always the right answer, and it also shouldn’t be a “well if we DON’T move in together we might as well just break up” ultimatum.

Your situation is made even more difficult because of your father’s illness and the fact that you are his main support person. I’m kind of wondering what your boyfriend’s solution to that dilemma is. Like, is he gonna foot the Uber bill so your dad can get to his doctor’s appointments? Pay for a in-home nurse or hospice care? Also, what would he hope HIS children would do if faced with this exact scenario? (I’m sure your father will also have an opinion, since he’ll naturally be worried about you and the baby’s future security after he’s gone.)

You sound like your mind is pretty made up: The thought of leaving your father is unbearable, both emotionally and logistically. That’s a brave, loving decision and I find zero fault with it. I’m guessing your boyfriend is hurt because you’re “choosing” your father over the father of your child, because he’s got this whole thing set up as either/or in his head. You’re not refusing to EVER live with him, parent with him, marry him, whatever, just pointing out a few VERY IMPORTANT AND PRESSING REASONS why that won’t work for you right now.

You’re facing a lot of unknowns right now. The fate of your father, a very very brand-new pregnancy, a relatively new and long-distance relationship. There is nothing wrong with taking a few deep breaths and some TIME here. Wait until you’ve at least seen a heartbeat on the ultrasound before getting into arguments with the boyfriend. Try to get a realistic prognosis from your dad’s doctors. (I also found out I was pregnant right as my father was diagnosed with leukemia. He was given three to six months, and we got almost exactly six.) If it really is a mystery, I think you and the boyfriend need to find a middle ground on ways he can feel involved in the pregnancy while understanding your commitment/obligation to your father. Maybe some couple’s counseling would be helpful.

Above all, please grant yourself permission to get really, really introspective here. You are caught in an emotional tug of war here, between two men you obviously love and care about. And now you’ve been handed another majorly life-changing piece of news. This is your life, and there’s nothing wrong with telling BF to chill and back off this topic for a bit while you take some time to figure out what you WANT, rather than what you feel obligated or bullied into.

And while your situation is certainly a very different one than mine, I can say this, since it’s a question I’ve gotten quite a bit: Being pregnant while my father was terminal was a bittersweet blessing. He didn’t live long enough to meet my baby, but the pregnancy and prospect of new life did make things very special and a bit more…bearable, in the end, for me and him and everyone else he left behind. Life goes on. Yours will too. And it’s okay if you feel like pausing the whole living together situation until you are really and truly ready to move on in that particular direction.

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Comments

  • Ros

    I think that the advice about being introspective and figuring out what you want to live with is a good one (and also figuring out what you’d want if the situation wasn’t what it is – that helps clarify things).

    But also, on a personal level, if it was me (all caveats apply that this might not be your experience, etc): 1) I’d be really weary about moving in with someone who was super-pushy about it, after only 6 months, 2 hours away from my support system. I’d be ESPECIALLY weary about doing that if they were pushy about it even in the face of obvious reasons why not (“I need to stay with my dying parent for several months” is not unreasonable!!). Please consider whether he’s usually pushy about the boundaries you set before making any moving-related decisions, because this is ringing every alarm bell I have. 2) Your letter mentions that ‘you are pregnant’. You don’t say you’re happy, that it’s a great surprise, that you want to have a child with this man. Consider your emotions. Do you want to be pregnant? To have a child with this man? To have a child right now? Is he a good father to his current children? There’s no ‘right’ answer here, but you’re only 5 weeks pregnant, and if you’re not happy and being pregnant and confident that you want to be, it’s worth thinking about.

  • Christen

    I agree with Amy’s advice to take out all of the variables that make moving 2 hours to be with boyfriend out of the equation and see if that appeals AT ALL. Because if not, adding a baby to the mix won’t make those reservations disappear. 

    The fact that he’s not respectful of your current obligations (I hate to use that word, as you obviously treasure and selflessly care for your dad!) and doesn’t realize he’s ADDING to your stress by demanding you set up house and be a family today is a huge red flag for me. It doesn’t sound like you’re cutting him out of anything, so he needs to chill. 

  • s

    Hi. Stay with your father if you feel as strongly as it comes across in your letter. I lived with my parents while pregnant and going to classes up until my son was born. The two week before he was born? Making daily trips to our local cancer center over an hour away for my dad’s cancer treatments. A week before he was born? Making daily trips to the cancer center to visit my admitted not all the time lucid dad. The day my son was born was the day my dad came(by hospice transport) home. 5 days later he was gone.(and I was at my sons first well visit, oh the guilt still). Now I’m not saying your dad will fade that fast. (Good thoughts to you and yours that he won’t) But better safe than sorry right? Go with what’s best for you and him. If your boyfriend isn’t okay with that then I agree with Ros above. He seems very pushy about it and watch out for that.

  • Melissa

    I agree with Amy’s advice (as usual!) and would take some time to consider what YOU want to do.  But I did want to add, as someone who has married a man with a child from a previous relationship, that perhaps your boyfriend is being so pushy because he doesn’t want to make the same mistakes he did with the mother of his other children.  If he is like my husband, he wants to do things right this time.  That shouldn’t change how you feel, and I could be completely wrong about your boyfriend!  But maybe you trying to understand where he is coming from, as he needs to understand where you are coming from, could help your relationship during this complicated time.  Best of luck!

  • Cobwebs

    I agree with Amy’s advice, and would also like to put in my two cents that the person I was at 24 with a 38-year-old boyfriend is one hell of a lot different than the person I was at 30, when I divorced that guy. I was *just so sure* that he was my only chance at happiness, and I ignored all of the warning signs in hopes that we could somehow make it all work out.

    If he makes you feel sick and sad about choosing your father over your not-yet-to-be family, that pattern will likely continue. Try to imagine how you’d act if your positions were reversed. Would you understand if he needed to spend a lot of time with his sick parent? Would you be willing to put aside your own immediate needs so he could help them? If your answers don’t match up with his, you need to think a WHOLE lot about committing your life to this person, because some time down the road there’s going to be some similar situation that you’ll have to address.

    Having a child with someone makes things *exponentially* harder to get free of them if you eventually decide that they were a very bad idea. Six months into a relationship, I would very definitely not be secure that a guy was Mr. Right, or at least Mr. I’ll-Spend-the-Next-18-Years-Dealing-With. (And sorry about the wall of text, but for some reason I can’t put in line breaks.)

  • Cobwebs

    (And now when I post there are line breaks. Thanks, AlphaMom!)

  • SarahB

    Go see your OB or Planned Parenthood. Ask for a referral to a counselor or social worker. If your dad is under hospice care, you might have access to a counselor there too.

    One way or another, find an objective third party to help you figure out what is right for you. It sounds like your dad won’t be here much longer, but you will. What then? Do you want to be a parent? What does your employment situation look like as a single parent? What job options are there two hours away in boyfriend’s town?

    You are in such an intense time now, but think beyond it. What do you want your life to look like?

    Best wishes.

  • K

    Hugs! Agree with Amy- you are allowed to take your time on this and think it through. Please think long and hard about a guy who would second guess for even a MINUTE your need to be with your father at this difficult time in his life. The fact that he wants you to leave your dad right now could indicate that he has serious control issues or major insecurities. Is there any way you can discretely talk to your bf’s ex-wife about her experiences with him? I know that could end up having pretty bad repercussions if he found out, but something here just doesn’t feel right.

  • K

    Hugs. So many hugs. I found myself pregnant at 25. I had known him for just 3 months. I was not ready to settle down. He, six years my senior, was totally ready. We didn’t have the extra complications of a sick family member or previous marriages/children, but we still had some serious discussions about whether marriage/living together was an automatic outcome of our unplanned pregnancy. We met here: we gave ourselves time to adjust to the new world order before we made ANY big decisions. We changed nothing about our relationship until we were both completely comfortable and ready. And it was tough. We both spent a lot of time focusing on what we agreed was most important: healthy mom and healthy baby. Everything else could wait. And it did. We’ve been married for 5 years now, and I love him (and our little one) more each day. But I don’t think we would be here if I hadn’t stuck to my guns and given myself time to process things and make sure that (to the best of our ability, anyway) the decisions we made following our pregnancy were decisions we would have made with or without a baby in the mix. Best wishes!

  • Kari

    I recently lost my mother to cancer. You won’t regret a single minute spent with your father during this difficult time. You have the rest of your life to spend with your boyfriend, but a very limited amount of time to spend with your father. If your boyfriend can’t understand where your priorities need to lie now, I question his maturity. The news of a sudden pregnancy is a shock to both mother and father, I hope he’ll come around once he’s thought some more about it. I’m so sorry about your father. For me, knowing that I was there until the end has been a comfort afterwards.

  • F

    So many hugs for you right now. What a horrible situation to find yourself in.
    It is worrying that your boyfriend is putting so much pressure on you to leave. Yes, he may want to do things “right” this time, but he should be able to think of you, and how making you leave your terminally ill father (and possibly younger siblings?) will make you feel. The fact that he can’t, and is threatening a break up if you won’t move, (meaning he’ll have three kids in “broken homes”) is a major red flag.
    You need to take a step back, and think about what’s best for you, and whether you could manage to go this alone without him. Or in fact, if you even want to. and there’s no shame in that. You’re 24, with a huge amount of responsibility in a brand new relationship. Maybe adding more responsibility to that pile isn’t the best course of action.
    Whatever happens, I hope you do what is best for YOU. Because you will be the one that has to live with the consequences.

  • Anonymous

    I had a similar thing happen to a friend of mine, more than twenty years ago.  I would like to share the bare details and her decision, and how she felt about the decision years later, because I think it would help Amalah.  My friend’s father became mentally ill and needed help, and her fiance demanded that she remain living with him, instead of temporarily moving to help her father with a complicated illness.  Essentially, he made it a “its either him or me” situation.

    She chose her father, and she never regretted it, even though it ended a relationship of several years where they were engaged and planning to marry.  Personally, I think she made a lucky escape, before she married, because her ex-fiance essentially showed his true colors, that he was going to expect her, quite unreasonably, to sacrifice all her other familial interests in favor of him.  Despite the fact there was no immediate need on his part, and a quite compelling need on the father’s part.  When given the opportunity to show self-sacrifice or putting other loved ones ahead of himself, her fiance failed miserably.

    I think, baby notwithstanding, the issue is even more clear cut here than it was in my friend’s case.  Her father has terminal cancer, she is supporting him financially, and she is the only one who can take him to his doctor’s appointments.  She is literally and figuratively his lifeline.  If she were to abandon her father, she likely would regret it the rest of her life, particularly if it forced one or more of her siblings out of school to compensate for the loss.  

    If her relationship with her boyfriend were to fall apart, it would be unfortunate, but it might well be a blessing in disguise.  He has an opportunity to prove who he really is, to step up to the plate and show his maturity, his understanding, and his willingness to sacrifice for the greater good of the extended family, and if he fails that test, especially at his much older age and with the responsibility and experience of his own kids, then I question whether he’ll ever be up for the job.  At his age, there is just no excuse for this apparent level of selfishness and lack of understanding, and it makes me wonder if there’s not good reasons why at his age, he’s got 2 kids and is not in a relationship with the mother(s) – or at least in a longterm relationship with someone else – and he’s dating much younger women.

    My advice would be to stay with your father, even if it means the end of your relationship.  That’s the relationship you would regret, not a boyfriend of 6 months.  Any other decisions, family planning, adoption, living arrangements, etc. can be made according to what’s right for you and your child, and as the baby’s father demonstrates whether he’s capable of rising above self interest in the face of illness and crisis.

  • Lindsey

    A lot of people here have made very excellent points. I have recently been working through a lot of issues with my husband (my 18-month-old daughter’s father) and one thing that you might want to bear in mind is this: you said this is something of a long-distance relationship. If you and your boyfriend break up over this before the baby is born, you will automatically have custody. It sounds like your boyfriend is committed to parenting. If you split up after the baby is born and he is still committed to parenting when you split, you may have to share custody more equally. That’s complicated, even if you live in the same town, let alone semi-long-distance.

    The way he treats you now, newly into the relationship, while you aren’t married and don’t have a baby to care for, is better than he will treat you after a few years of marriage with a child in the mix, guaranteed. Six months into a relationship, he is still “dating” you. He’s pressuring you and giving you ultimatums when you need care and support. This behavior will not improve with time, marriage, and children.

    It may be easier to split now if necessary and reunite later, than it is to try to make it work because of the baby, fail, and fight an intense custody battle and possibly have to share your child equally over a 2-hour distance in a few years.

  • Emily

    I agree with Lindsey@! Someone who is pressuring you (to the point of possibly ending your relationship) does NOT sound like a compassionate and worthy partner. 

    This is the most personal decision a woman can make, but I would terminate the pregnancy, if he were my partner. He is not supportive nor is he considerate. You are PREGNANT and are taking care of your terminally ill father. He is being a selfish jack*ss and pushing you to lose the last precious months you have with your dad.

    Having a baby with the man will mean he stays in your life forever. I wouldn’t commit to a lifetime with this man at 24. You sound so warm and loving and amazing and you deserve so much better for yourself and whatever children you may choose to have in the future.

    • Suzy Q

      I would also terminate the pregnancy and break up with this controlling, narcissistic  guy.  I was you, in many ways, a long time ago, and while it took more time for me to complete the breakup, I have no regrets. You are so young, although it may not seem like it.  Your dad needs you, and vice versa.  Hugs and luck!

  • Kristen

    I am so, so sorry that you are going through this right now.  It sounds like a very challenging situation in all respects, and you are doing an amazing job of holding it together for yourself, and helping the people in your life who need it.

    My family recently faced different but similar challenges.  One of the questions we always asked, as we made decisions was “if we do/don’t do “x” will we regret it the rest of our lives”.

    There are no easy answers, and there are always trade offs.  But you will live with the aftermath of your decisions.  Try to determine which will cause you the least pain in the years to come and follow that course.  

    Good luck, and  many giant ((((hugs))))

  • Maura

    Just a little perspective to add on the relationship front during a parent’s illness: I was married when my father was terminally ill with cancer, my then-husband’s inability to support me during that process was a big factor in my eventual decision to get a divorce.  As so many have said before me, this pressure and lack of support on his part is a big red flag.  Please take all the time you need to consider what is best for you during this very difficult time!  Many hugs!

  • anonymous

    I really agree with all the points made here. And I just want to send you some good vibes as well. We found out my dad had cancer when I was 3 months pregnant, it progressed much faster than anyone expected and when my baby was 3 months old I brought him to stay with my parents for the last weeks of my dad’s life. It has been really hard to leave behind my husband (on another continent no less), and know that our baby is changing so much every day and he’s not here to see it, but he has been nothing but supportive every step of the way. If this boyfriend can’t recognize the really heavy things you’re dealing with and support you however you need to be supported now, I would seriously question tying up your life any more with him.

  • OP

    Sorry for my late response. I am so very grateful for your your insight, Amy and for the responses of those in the comments. The only reason I’m considering moving in with my boyfriend is because I want my child to be raised in a two-parent household (I know that’s not a fantastic reason). I’ve arranged for my sister to take my dad to his appointments on Fridays when she doesn’t have class. I will still send him any monetary support he needs. I told my boyfriend that if my father’s condition changes (takes a turn for the worst), that I would go back home. I will be honest here though. My heart is not in this move. I feel guilty and terrified to leave my father so much so that I have nightmares about it. My heart has been telling me to leave this relationship while my head is telling me that my child needs his/her father. I work as a nurse so I am secure on my own financially. I feel like I know what I should do, but sometimes I think I’m being unrealistic. I will sit down with my father and really discuss my feelings with him. I think I already know how this story will end. Thank you all again from the bottom of my heart.

    • Jay

      I’m really glad that your dad got such good news at the MRI!  

      Please do not move in with this man just because you believe your child should have a two-parent household.  I think you know that is not enough of a reason to be in an unhealthy, unhappy relationship — two parents do not make a happy, healthy family if their relationship with each other is based on pressure and bullying, which it sounds like yours is, at least in part.  Not moving in with the boyfriend this very moment does not mean that you are denying your child the opportunity to know his/her father.  Not at all.  

  • OP

    I’d like to add that my father doesn’t have to go 2 hours to an appointment again for six months because a recent MRI has shown that the lesions in his brain aren’t even visible anymore. That’s honestly the only ray of sunshine I’ve felt in a while.

    • Autumn

      I’m so happy you had good news about your father!

      But I still would exercise caution about moving in with your boyfriend.  A 2 parent household is a great thing if the 2 parents are committed to each other for the long term with the same long term goals.  

      To be blunt, would you move in with him if  you weren’t pregnant?  If not, there is your answer.  If he truly loves you, he will wait for the time to be right for you. 

  • Kim too

    I’m lste to this party, but please listen to your heart.  There are lots of ways for this moan to be involved in your child’s life.  You will never get this time with your father back.

  • Liz

    Please don’t move in with this guy. Raising your baby by yourself is much better for the baby than being in a 2-parent family with a guy who makes ultimatums about dumping you (!) because you don’t want to move 2 hours (!) away from your dad who has cancer (!) 

    That way abuse lies. Please listen to your doubts and fears, they are telling you the truth.

  • Elizabeth

    I am in a similar situation, but where I immediately chose to live with the father of my child because that was my initial instinct.  My family, i.e. my father’s sisters and my bestfriend, called me selfish and have been pressuring me to terminate my pregnancy so I can focus on being my father’s caregiver.  My father, on the other hand, refused to allow me to entertain the thought of abortion so I could tend to him, because the death of his grandchild wouldn’t magically make him well again and he wouldn’t ever want me to carry that guilt.  My aunts and my best friend gave me the ultimatum that if I chose to keep the baby they would not, under any circumstance, support me or the pregnancy and now I am a pariah of the family.  I’m sorry to hear that someone else is in a situation like mine, because I wouldn’t wish this kind of pain on anyone.  To the girl who wrote the question, I hope you know there’s someone out there who is facing the same challenge, but on the flip side.  Good luck, soul sister.

  • OP

    I’m not sure if anyone will read this, but I am posting an update about the above situation. I continued with the pregnancy, remained with my father, and broke up with my boyfriend 3 months into the pregnancy after he made some cruel statements. My daughter is now 9 months old, and is my entire world. She did not get to meet my father. He passed away last April, in our home, during my 6th month of pregnancy. My daughter was, and still is, my only glimmer of hope in this world while my family still copes with our loss. Her father has been involved in her life so far as we attempt to coparent. We are, however, in a bitter dispute about custody and visitation (sigh). I hope others who expressed that they were in similar situations had good outcomes. Sending much love, OP.