There are fewer more awkward and nerve-wracking conversations than having to tell a man that you’re knocked up. I’ve done it twice with two different men and fortunately, it turned out well in both cases, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t nervous as hell. There really isn’t much one-size-fits-all advice on this topic, I have broken it down into several possible scenarios so that the advice is tailored to each situation.
1. If you absolutely know you want to keep the baby and…
…you are in a long term or serious relationship and have talked about having kids together before: Congrats. This is the easiest position of all to be in. There are two ways you can go about telling him. You can involve him in the process by telling him you’re late, going to the store and buying the pregnancy test together, and letting him stand outside the door while you wait for the results so that you can share the special moment together.
You can also wait until your suspicions are confirmed and surprise him in a number of ways such as wrapping up a gift to give him at dinner (like a rattle or a onesie, something cute for the baby) or writing a special card. Check Pinterest for inspiration if you want to go the second route.
…your relationship with the father is rocky or non-existent OR you are not sure how he will take it: Unless he lives across the country or was just deployed for a year, do everything in your power to make it a face-to-face conversation. A text, email, phone call, or social media message is a cop-out and puts distance between you and him, making it easier for him to react badly. Avoid the “we need to talk” line and just set something up sooner rather than later, paying careful attention to the time and place.
If you have any reason to suspect that he will react very badly, arrange for the meeting to be in a public place, and don’t make it for a time when you know he’ll be tired. Envision the best possible outcome but brace for the worst. Know that fear and/or selfishness may cause him to suggest abortion, and don’t let him sway or bully you in that direction.
Don’t readily volunteer to “do this without his help” just to make things easier at the moment. It’s his child and his responsibility too, and the abstract idea of a baby is far different from an actual baby. I don’t know of anyone who wishes they had an abortion once their baby was born. Men need time to process things so try to give him a chance to let the information sink in before making any further plans.
…the father is abusive: In the case of an abusive father, it’s time to end the relationship before he even knows you’re pregnant. Having a baby means putting your baby first and an abusive man almost never changes. Even if he makes promises to change “for the baby” you’ll always run the risk of him abusing your child one day, and Child Protective Services can and will take your child away from you if there is evidence (police reports, restraining orders, etc.) that you knew he was abusive and stayed with him.
At best, he can have supervised visits with the child and at worst you’ll have to go WitPro to get away from him, depending on the level of severity. I know that the idea of being alone and pregnant is terrifying, but it is a better alternative than him causing damage or miscarriage, or beating, kidnapping, or even killing the child after it’s born. Please, please, please seek professional help before it’s too late. You and your child deserve better than abuse.
…you are not sure who the father is: Ahhh…the ultimate slutty girl problem. While it may seem like the worst problem in the world, the good news is that you’re going to have a baby and you will love that little cherub regardless of whose half of DNA he or she has. This basically boils down to the process of elimination. Just how many potential fathers are there? Check your calendar against your ovulation date and try to narrow it down.
While in utero paternity testing is possible, it is expensive, invasive, carries a small risk of harming the fetus, and may require a court order. Most likely you will have to wait until the baby is born to solve the mystery. If you’re lucky, it will be obvious by looking at him or her. If not, lead with the person who is either most likely/most accessible/or you are most comfortable with as the case may be.
Buy a DNA kit and have a face-to-face conversation with him saying, “I know this sucks, but I want to be 100% honest with you and handle this like a mature adult. I am not positive that you are the father and would like you to take this test to make sure.” If it’s negative, move on to the next. If there is only one other potential father, follow the most applicable steps above. As tempting as it may be, never EVER tell someone they are the father if you are not 100% sure.
2. If you are not sure what you want to do about the pregnancy…
Take a few days, or even weeks, to figure it out before you tell him (if you tell him). Don’t make the decision to keep the baby, have an abortion, or give it up for adoption lightly. Try talking it out with trusted friends and family, making a pros and cons list, and really reflecting on where you are in life and where you want to be.
If you go into the conversation with him unsure about what to do, you could be swayed by his reaction and that might not be what is best for you. Listen to your gut. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t respectfully listen to what he has to say, but it’s your body and your choice and if you keep it you’ll probably be the one changing 99-100% of the diapers, not him. So really think about how you feel before you invite his feelings into the mix.
3. If you are absolutely sure you want an abortion and…
…are in a relationship with a father who would not support the decision: This is the type of thing that can make or break a relationship. If he does not agree with your decision, your relationship is not likely to last because he will always harbor resentment and see you as “the girl who killed his baby”.
So, if you want to stay with him, it might be in your best interest to keep the news to yourself, because what he doesn’t know can’t hurt him. Of course, there’s always the possibility that he could find out down the road and break up with you over it anyway, and keeping a secret like that isn’t easy, but if your values differ that much maybe you weren’t meant to be.
…are in a relationship with a father who would support the decision: Have a mature conversation in which you ask him to split the doctor bill and drive you to your appointment.
…aren’t in a relationship with the guy and have no intention of being in one: Depending on what you think his feelings on the subject would be, follow one of the above scenarios. If it’s a toss-up and you can afford the amount of the procedure, you might want to spare his feelings/guilt and go at it alone.
4. If you are absolutely sure you want to give the baby up for adoption and…
…are in a relationship: Make a list of all of your reasons. Be prepared for him to be confused or disagreeable. Being pregnant for nine months is a big commitment for someone who doesn’t plan to keep the baby, and asking him to stick around for that is a big deal, especially since it’s his kid too. He might worry about getting too attached, think you’re crazy, or not know how to feel. Lay it all out for him, give him time to sort out his feelings, and try to be kind. This is also the kind of thing that could make or break your relationship but it is a very noble thing to do if you feel like you can’t keep the baby yourself.
…aren’t in a relationship: Telling the father becomes optional at this point unless he’s an ongoing hookup, but if you elect to do so then follow the steps above. If you want to hook up with someone else during your nine months of pregnancy, just let him know up front that you are already pregnant and have elected to give the baby up for adoption so that there are no surprises.