Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up here to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon. I look forward to your questions.
Q. Pregnancy, Delivery Room: My husband and I are happily married and expecting, but due to my fertility issues and my husband's desire for a biological child, we ended up choosing a wonderful surrogate mother who is now almost eight months along. She has been an absolute dream and has been very considerate of us, but now that it’s almost time for the delivery she has made a request: She has asked for a women-only delivery room as it will be more comfortable for her. My husband is beyond upset with this request, seeing how much he wanted this (I was OK with adoption, and we still plan to adopt in the future), he financially supported her and the pregnancy and it is his biological child. I can understand making her as comfortable as possible during this time, but I can also sympathize with my husband's desire to be a part of the event, rather than waiting outside. What should I do?
A: This is the sort of thing that should have been sorted our contractually before your surrogate became pregnant. But your husband is fixating on a not very important issue and you don't want what has been a lovely relationship to degenerate into recriminations on the eve of her presenting you with your child. I think you should tell your husband you totally understand his desire, and you will try to be the go-between, but if your surrogate doesn't want a man who's not a doctor, or not related to her, in the room, you can't force her to change her mind. Remind him that a generation or so ago, all fathers were in the waiting room having a smoke, or waiting it out at a nearby bar. Tell him right now it's easy to get fixated on the moment of birth, but parenthood will actually begin when you take your bundle home. When you talk to your surrogate tell her that it would mean a lot to both you and your husband if you could both be there for the birth. You could say he could sit quietly in a corner until the baby is born if that would make her more comfortable. If it's a no go, then work on convincing your husband that seeing your child when he or she is cleaned up and swaddled will not mean he's missing anything in the grand scheme of parenthood. And maybe the surrogate would allow some more or less discreet filming of the big event, if that would mollify the new father.
Dear Prudence: Mother and Daughter Hitting the Bottle
Q. Possible Child From High School Relationship: When I was a junior in high school I was friends with a freshman in college, "Sarah." One night after a party we ended up back at her apartment and slept together. It was the first time for both of us and no protection was used. She then moved back home a month later and shortly married her high school sweetheart. Now, 10 years later, I ran into a mutual friend who told me odds are good that Sarah's 9-year-old daughter is mine. I didn't believe her, but when I did the math and found out when she hooked back up with the high school sweetheart, it's my daughter. Sarah has never asked for anything or even brought up the possibility that I was the father. I'm fine not being involved and have no desire to—she's being raised by a great mother and father. From what I've been told only I, Sarah, and the mutual friend know that I am most likely the father. My question is, should I tell my wife that I may be the father of this child?
A: I agree that even if you are the biological father it is best if you stay out of Sarah's life. You only heard about your possible paternity by chance, you have no proof, and bustling into a happy family and claiming a child is only going to make everyone unhappy. It's possible the father is the biological father. And it's also possible that if he's not, Sarah told him someone else impregnated her (although I kind of doubt that). But yes, this is the kind of thing spouses normally tell each other. It's weighing on you, and there's a sliver of a chance that if you are the father, it could come out someday. But be clear with your wife that you want her to know because you want her to know, not because you think you should change the status quo.
Q. Adventures in Baby-sitting: This past weekend my teenage daughter baby-sat for our priest and his wife. They live on church property and allow their three children to ride their bikes in the church parking lot. My daughter dressed the youngest child—a 13-month-old—in his best, white Sunday shoes and pushed him around the parking lot in a Flintstone-esque child's car. Needless to say, the baby's feet dragged along the ground, scuffing up the shoes and turning them from white to black. When the priest and his wife returned, my daughter said nothing about the shoes, accepted her (generous) pay, and came home to tell me about it. I'm of the belief that, when we see them next Sunday, my daughter should admit what happened, apologize, and return the money. My husband disagrees about returning the cash and had told our daughter that an apology is enough since she's only 16. Who's in the right here? Should we compromise by having her return a portion of the cash, or make her offer to baby-sit for free in the future? Thanks!
A: This must be a very strict denomination your belong to. I'm hoping few religious leaders would consider it a sin for a toddler to end up with scuffed shoes. Scuffed shoes seem to be the natural order of things when it comes to people who are about 1 year old. I think you should stop micromanaging your own child. It sounds as if she provided a safe and fun time for three little kids. She earned her pay and no apologies are necessary.
Q. Re: surrogate: Prudie's advice is spot-on with regard to all kinds of things that can happen to make delivery not what you had dreamed. I had dreamed of giving birth naturally, with no drugs, having my husband cut the cord, having the baby laid on me immediately and nursing as soon as possible, but in the end, it was a C-section and I saw the baby for two seconds before they whisked him off to the NICU for two days. In the end, it didn't matter one whit. Ever since the first time I was finally able to hold him, he has been my precious baby and there has been no looking back. Congratulations on the letter writer's impending bundle of joy.
A: Thanks for this reality check. A reminder that a wedding is not marriage and that birth is not parenthood.
Q. Probable Gay Teenage Son: I am fairly sure my 16-year-old son is gay, based on his choice of pornography found on his computer. I mentioned it to him but he said he isn't. There have been other minor indications since he was a child. So, not a complete surprise. Since I don't have a choice whether he is or isn't, I will support him. He's a great kid, smart, cooperative, helpful. However, should I mention this probability to his mom now or wait for him to sort out his position? I am sure she would be supportive too, but for now mentions girlfriends, marriage, hetero topics, etc., in general discussions, typical mom to teenage son comments. And, if we both know, then should the 18-year-old brother (at a nearby college now) be told or let younger brother tell him on his own whenever? Meal-time conversations may be a bit silted and clue-filled if mom has to change her comments.
A: Again, I always thought one of the major pleasures of marriage that you have a life partner with whom you share your most intimate thoughts and concerns. Especially when it concerns your offspring. I'm surprised, if you've wondered over the years whether your son might be gay, that you've never broached this with your wife. So yes, I think you should tell your wife what you found, what you're thinking, and what your son said. But then you both should back off. Your son may be gay, bisexual, or heterosexual. He's only 16 and not only does he not have to know, he may not know. You should take your clues from him, but also express in the myriad ways parents do, that who he is is wonderful with you.
Q. Dad's Pissed at Mom: My little brother and little sister don't know why our dad has suddenly become so mean to our mom. He belittles her, they argue often, and sometimes he gives her the silent treatment. I know why. Two weeks ago my parents sat me down and told me that my mom has been cheating on my dad throughout their marriage. My dad is furious, and he has reason to be. I still hate the way he treats my mom. And part of me thinks that my parents told me about the affair because my dad wanted to humiliate my mom in front of at least one of their kids. My dad has also, in a short period of time, become very sensitive to anything to do with affairs. He calls these "triggers." My family is a mess and I feel caught in the middle.