One thing is obvious when looking at my family: My kids weren’t all fathered by the same man. My older two are white, and my youngest is biracial.
People tend to assume my older two have the same dad. I’ve had nurses presume my kids had the same family medical history, school administrators think emergency contacts were identical, and people have asked why my son doesn’t go to his dad’s with his sister on the weekends.
That’s when I have to explain that they were fathered by different men.
Yes, I have three kids, and they all have different fathers. No, I’m not some promiscuous woman who doesn’t know who her kids’ fathers are. Nor am I uneducated about birth control. And I’m definitely not trying to get rich off child support; I’ve never even collected a penny.
And I don’t think I’m the only one like me. The structure of the American family has been changing for quite some time now. In 2011, a study conducted by Cassandra Dorius, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Michigan, found that approximately 28 percent of women with more than one child have children with more than one partner.
These numbers are a representation of the complex and varied lives women live. We love and fall out of love. Birth control fails, and we decide to continue the pregnancy for one reason or another. We try to build a life with someone only to have it fall apart.
Or maybe we don’t have access to birth control or have a partner who refuses to wear a condom. So many things make our reproductive lives complicated and nuanced. It isn’t as simple as saying that a woman like me is a “slut.”
Not that there’s anything wrong with being promiscuous. I have nothing against women having a lot of sex— whatever a lot actually is. I’ve had my fair share of one-night stands, two-week flings and friendships that briefly became romantic. There were times in my life when “slut” was an accurate descriptor of who I was, and I am not ashamed of that.
But my truth is that I never became pregnant from a one-night stand. My truth is complex, just like every other woman like me.
My first child was a product of young (teen) love. I was only 16 when I learned I was pregnant with my son. I didn’t love his father at the time, at least not romantically. We had been friends for a few years and were just starting to fool around. We tried really hard to fall in love but it just wasn’t there. By the time I gave birth, the relationship was over.
I moved on.
My second child was born three years later. She was fathered by a man I would spend the next six years with. I tried to make it work. I thought I loved him. But the relationship was destined to fail. He was abusive. I survived.
I learned to love again. I built a life with my current partner. We were happy with our blended family and didn’t plan to have any children of our own. But unplanned pregnancies happen even to the most educated and prepared.
When I discovered I was pregnant with my third child I didn’t know what I was going to do. My youngest at the time was already 9. I was halfway to having an empty nest. I was past the round-the-clock care, the diaper changes, the potty training and the picky eating. Did I really want to start all over again?
Initially, I wanted an abortion. I thought I was done having kids, but there was a dream buried deep inside me, nagging me to take a chance and start again. I wanted to raise a child with this person I loved. I wanted to have a child that was ours.
And maybe that choice will cause people to see me as a woman who bounces from guy to guy. Or someone who just sleeps with multiple people without using birth control or practicing safe sex. Or maybe they’ll think that I’m just looking to get rich off child support or welfare benefits — as if that really happens. But the truth is that I’m making the choices that seem best for my life and the lives of my children. I’m making the most out of the unplanned, taking the pieces left from the lives I thought I could build before and starting a new foundation.
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