Why I'm Keeping My Pregnancy a Secret From My Baby's Father


Photo by Corbis

I don’t know. I think you’re being immoral, but I guess it’s your decision.

I blinked at my computer screen. It was a response to an email I had sent to a friend telling her I was 12 weeks pregnant and that the father was someone I had met during my summer abroad. He didn’t know I was pregnant — and I had no plans to tell him.

I had expected surprise or at the very least, “Congratulations!” but her response made me briefly wonder whether I was setting myself —and my baby — up for a lifetime of second guessing.

Still, 10 weeks later, now that I’ve found out I’m having a daughter, my position is clear, if controversial: Despite the unfairness and complications, I will not tell this man that he has a child.

I met Nick at a bar one Thursday night in Dublin, where I lived for several months while working on a writing project. I had gotten used to exploring my new city alone and meeting whoever came along. After a few vodka sodas, I invited Nick back to my apartment. The truth is, I didn’t want to talk to him anymore. He and I disagreed about almost everything. Still, the physical connection was palpable.

We had sex, and in the moment, neither of us were as careful as we should have been. As we said goodbye, we had an awkward conversation. “And you’re … okay?” He asked tentatively, clearly referring to birth control.

I nodded. I wasn’t, exactly — my birth control prescription had run out a few months before and, because I was abroad, I hadn’t gotten a new one. But I had already decided to get a morning-after pill.

The next day, I took the pill. Three weeks later, I missed my period and one week after that, I found myself staring at a positive pregnancy test. I felt simultaneously panicked and excited: How was I going to raise a child? Could I afford this? Would I ever date again? Yet, instinctively, I knew I was going to keep the baby—and keep Nick in the dark.

Being a single mom was always a notion I had considered for the far-off future, imagining that if I hit my 40th birthday and was still single, I would go to a sperm bank. Even in high school, I wrote journal entries imagining life with kids, but never a husband. I had always prided myself on my independence and I couldn’t imagine settling down with just one person.

What’s more, I grew up with a father who would often belittle me. I never wanted that for my own child and I also knew that my rocky bond with my father had established a pattern for my own adult relationships. Although I dated throughout my twenties, I was incredibly skittish, leaving before things ever turned serious. I was slowly chipping away at my relationship issues in therapy, but I understood it would take years before I could be in a healthy romance.

And while becoming pregnant at age 31 wasn’t something I’d consciously planned, I’m cautiously optimistic that the life skills I’ve cultivated thus far will serve me well in my new role. I’ve moved to different cities and countries alone. I dealt with my mother’s death a few years prior with no one to help me navigate the emotional aftermath, and I’m proud of my financial independence. This is my body and my decision, and complications would surely arise if I told Nick about his daughter. What if he didn’t want anything to do with her? Even more horrifying: What if he did?

I imagined an international custody agreement (which would require me to send our daughter to Ireland for summers and vacations), establishing a relationship with Nick for the rest of my life, and having an outside influence on my child. I can’t do that. There are also practical concerns: I only know Nick’s first name and occupation — he could have a trust fund or a criminal record. The unknowns are too great. 

I realize that I’m denying my daughter the opportunity to know her father. I also worry that I’m being immoral by not telling Nick. And as my daughter grows up, how will I answer the questions she’ll have about her origins? My family has been supportive of my decision to leave Nick out of the equation, but I’m not sure what to tell my daughter. Luckily, I have lots of time to figure it out, and I’ll probably share an age-appropriate version of the truth: That it was a one-time encounter, that I had concerns about inviting a near-stranger into my life, and that I hoped I was doing the best thing for both of us. At that point, I will stop focusing on the “What ifs?” and instead on what I know: That I will be the best mother possible.

I also know that being a good mother means being able to admit if I’ve made a mistake. Which is why I’ll probably always have Nick’s contact information in my phone — just in case I change my mind.