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damage control

The question

I started hanging out a lot with a girl, but we were not in a relationship. When we got drunk we had physical relations a couple of times and now she is pregnant. I clearly told her that I am not ready for a baby, but she is saying she wants to keep it. So, what happens now? She is one month pregnant. I am not in a situation where I feel like I will be able to take care of a baby.

The answer

Well, I’m afraid, buttercup, you’re going to have to suck it up and get yourself into a situation where you are able to look after a child.

I’ve written before about my beef with the discrepancy between the verbs “to father” and “to mother.” “To father”, basically meaning “to inseminate” (“Dave fathered a child with his nanny and now he’s got to get out of town!”), and “to mother” meaning “to take care of and worry about the rest of your life.”

As a former stay-at-home dad who changed a million (well, several thousand) stinking, steaming diapers, fished around in turd-filled toilet bowls for dropped toys, taught his kids to bike and swim and so forth, I object to this formulation.

But, let us say you have “fathered” a child. And let me say also: It happens. Could have happened to me. Before I met my wife, Pam (Smart, Sexy, Sensible, and Sane, all four of The Four Esses™ every bachelor seeks), I dated a couple of women who, although beautiful, were – don’t mean to be rude, and they had good hearts – a tad askew, sanity-wise.

And, being in my 20s, a time of life when one does not always necessarily exercise good judgment, please allow me to describe the birth-control methods my pre-Pam girlfriends and I employed with a single word: “lackadaisical.”

What I’m getting at is: It could have happened to me. Thank God it didn’t, but it could have. But here’s what I would have done had it happened, and what I believe is incumbent on you to do:

First off, you have to back off and let her decide whether to have the kid or not. You must simply accept her decision on what to do. You cannot tell a woman to have an abortion.

So, you become a father. Now, I could write a book (and in fact I have: Housebroken, still available on Amazon) on what that means, but let me break it down for you into a few bullet points:

Change diapers. Fish toys out of turd-filled toilet bowl. Make money. Take to park to play on jungle gyms and whatnot. Strap into safety-tested car harnesses. Attempt to dispense such wisdom as you have acquired (“Do unto others as you would enjoy them doing unto you, and eat lots of vegetables.”)

But above all, I would say, realize that a) you’re going to become a father, sounds like, with all that entails, and b) you’re going to have to figure out a way to forge an amicable relationship with the mother of your child.

Trust me, please, because I’ve seen way too much of it going the other way.

You don’t want to get in a battle with the mother of your child, for so many reasons, one being the lawyers will Hoover – hmmm, no, wait, that’s not the mot juste, they will Dyson (much more efficient type of vacuum cleaner: we have one, it’s awesome) all the money out of your wallet.

For that and so many other reasons I would say: Find a way to get along with the mother of your child. Have the child. Ready you may not quite be. But people have kids before they’re ready.

Was I ready before I had my first kid? Hell, no. I didn’t want to have kids at all. But my wife dropped the Hammer of Doom on me around age 30: “Agree now to fertilize my ovaries or, as much as I love you, Dave, I will have to leave you for another donor – oops, I mean, suitor.”

Am I happy now? Ecstatic. My three boys are the great joy of my life. I have a funny feeling it will work out the same way for you. It’ll be a lot of work, but I bet you’ll have fun.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to damage@globeandmail.com. Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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