Hello, I'm an 18 year old guy who found out a week before my birthday that my 16 year old teenage girlfriend is pregnant. First off, is it illegal to continue having sex with her in Missouri? In addition to an already scary time for myself, her parents are legitimately crazy. They will say one thing yet do another, lie to me and her about ridiculous things, I know my girlfriend wants an abortion and doesn't want to keep the baby, but since she is a minor her parents aren't allowing abortion or any other option then to keep it.
I care about her, but I don't want to be stuck with child support, should I just try to keep the relationship going although her parents are always fighting to get involved in our own lives. I know she is a minor but my own parents know that they are going over board with this. Flat out truth I'm terrified and have no clue what to do, running feels wrong, and finding a way to avoid child support seems like the worst idea, but staying with her to allow her parents to raise MY kid, is something I can't live with. But if I wait it out till she's 17 we can move out together and we can attempt to handle this ourselves in an apartment or something that I can afford with barley being out of high school with no college degree at this point. Honestly I just need some advise to help me through this, I never wanted to bring a child into a split up home, but I didn't want one this early either.
New adult in need
Emily's Take: First, Congratulations! I know that may not be what you want to hear but you are doing something that not everyone gets to do, you are becoming a Dad. I'm sure that once you get over being terrified that you'll be excited and realize that this "mistake" is really a blessing. Being a Dad should be the best thing that you've ever done; your kids are your legacy.
But I'm not going to sugar coat it for you – being a parent, let alone a teen parent, is a HUGE responsibility and even if you aren't ready for it at 18, I'm glad that you seem to be taking it seriously. It is not easy and I'd like you to go and watch each and every single episode of 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom. I have a feeling that your relationship with your girlfriend and both of your families will go the way that some of those have gone. Watch it, study it and LEARN from their mistakes. Watch what the Dads do correctly and what they do that you think is wrong and try to avoid going down that path.
You also need to get as much information as possible. Take a teen parenting class. There, you and your girlfriend will get the support that you need from your peers to be good parents. You'll be able to talk to others that are in your same situation and learn how to manage the problems that arise between you and between your families. Go to the support group meetings but also do research online. There are sites geared toward teen moms and then there are also teen dad sites. I think you should look at this one as a starting point: fatherhood.org. You can check out an article here that gives you some more information on how to treat your girlfriend as well.
I can't answer your legal question because I'm not a lawyer and this is something that you should ask a social worker or lawyer about. In my state, my understanding is that it is still legal because you are within 2 years of each other, but each state makes their own laws. With that being said, you're in a tough spot and it is going to get a lot harder before it gets better. From this moment forward, you don't get to think about yourself and what you want; everything should be focused on your unborn child and in a few months, your child. You don't get to be a teen anymore, you are an adult and the faster you accept it, the better things will go for you.
Parents have to give up things in order to be good parents. Good parents don't go out partying, they don't let fights get out of hand, and they certainly don't balk on child support in any form – financial, emotional or physical. Teen parents, sadly have to give up more. They have to give up the end of their own childhood and acting like teens. They have to start thinking and acting like responsible adults because now they're responsible for something that cannot take care of itself.
As far as child support goes, that's part of the deal. If you're mature and adult enough to be having sex, then you need to be prepared to have the consequences that go along with it. Babies are really expensive and child support is something that is needed to help take care of the expenses that come along with babies. It is based on your income and not-paying court ordered child support will only hurt your chances for getting jobs, but it can land you in jail. That's much more trouble than it is worth and it is unfair to the child that you helped bring into this world. It is also unfair to think that the baby's mother can be the caretaker of the baby while you're out there pretending as if you didn't have a responsibility. I'm really happy to read that you also find this wrong! You are in for a lifestyle change but I think once you lay eyes on your son or daughter, your paternal instincts will kick in and you'll see the gift that this is.
I don't know the family dynamics, but what I do know is that both you and she have rights. If you don't like that her family is controlling the situation, you both should go to court and get a custody arrangement and child support worked out there. The court can help set boundaries for her family, but with her living there, that will likely be minimal at first. It is also good to be on your best behavior for her family, if the baby is living there, they're going to be giving your girlfriend support and helping with the baby in the middle of the night when you aren't able to be there. They're going to be doing a lot of things for your child and even if they're rude to you, they need to know that you appreciate it. Kill them with kindness as much as you can.
In my own relationships with my boyfriend, friends, family or co-workers, I've noticed that you can sense when a fight is brewing. When this happens I have to force myself to not react right away and to stop and think about the issue that is the root of the problem. I have to decide if, in the grand scheme of things, the root issue is a big deal. If in 10 or 20 or 50 years, I'm going to still be upset about it, or if it doesn't really matter. If it doesn't really matter, then I work really hard to compromise or I just give in and make the other person happy. There are only so many times that I can do all of the work on a project before I get furious about it, but in the long run, it isn't that important. In 30 years, it won't matter and in the short-run, fighting about it will just make my life harder. I've lost enough people in my life to know that life is far too short and too precious to spend it fighting about insignificant stuff. I have a feeling that you're going to end up doing a lot of compromising or giving in to the demands of your girlfriend and her parents, and that's going to be very hard for you to do. You're going to want to yell, scream, and fight to make your own points. But before you do, try to stop and think about the big picture. I just turned 30 and it took me the better part of the last 15 years to figure out what is worth fighting for and what isn't. As a teen and young adult, I was awful at sitting by quietly and not speaking my mind, so I think you and your girlfriend are going to have a really hard time with it too. I certainly don't envy you, but I want you to know that it won't all be bad.
In no time your baby will take one look at you and smile, and then she (let's pretend you're having a girl) will see you walk into a room and her eyes will light up so big. She'll learn to say "Dada" and run into your arms. She'll be sick with a cold and unable to fall asleep until you hold and comfort her. You'll push her on a swing, teach her to ride a bike, and tuck her into bed at night. So many exciting things to look forward to. Focus on that stuff and hopefully it will be enough to get you through the day-to-day stress of being a teen Dad.
You raised a question about staying with your girlfriend or not. If you love her, then you should try to remain a couple. There are obstacles in every relationship. Some might not be as big as yours, but some are. Also, her parents are going to be helping to raise your kid whether or not you two stay together. That's going to happen regardless because you two are very young and will need the help. I think you need to stay involved as a parent to your son or daughter and stay on good terms with your girlfriend. And know that pregnancy hormones are going to make her emotions go wild. Read the book, what to expect when you are expecting and try to be supportive!
As far as moving in together, I wouldn't rush it. In the same sentence you wondered about breaking up, that's not the sign of a person ready to move in with someone else.
They say that moving, starting a new job, getting married, and having a baby are the most stressful moments in someone's life. I would take them one at a time! Adding more stress to your relationship will probably hurt it. I know that you don't want to bring your baby into a broken home, but I think taking things one at a time is better than rushing living together or marriage, otherwise your relationship might not be strong enough to get through those hurdles and you'll end up divorced. One at a time! These days, there are all kinds of families and you have control over what kind of family you create. I think starting with a big support system between your family and your girlfriend's family is the best place to start. Easier said than done, I know. Rebuilding the trust of your girlfriend's family is going to be hard, just take that one day at a time too.
Are you going to college or a training program? If so, stick with it! Getting an education and a job that allows you to provide for your family is a very noble goal. Also, help your girlfriend so she can finish her schooling goals too. The more that you do, the easier things will get in the long-run. But it will be incredibly hard in the short-term. Watch teen mom, see how hard it is to do it yourself but how the people that have support seem to do better and get a handle on their lives for their kids.
I know that this is all very scary right now but I think the more information that you get, the more prepared you'll feel. Start stocking up on diapers and baby goods now, look at Craigslist and yard sales and prepare early. The more you do, the less of a financial burden that you'll have after the baby's born. Buy one pack of diapers and wipes a week in various sizes and brands. Acts like this should also go a long way with your girlfriend's family because they'll see that you are taking impending fatherhood seriously. I'm glad that you are.
Good luck on this amazing journey!
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