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What is reasonable contact with baby from father who left when I was pregnant?

(50 Posts)
patchouligirl Wed 06-Jul-11 16:02:12

Hi All

My ex-partner left me when I found out I was pregnant, saying that he had been planning to leave me sooner or later anyway. Ouch!

I didn't believe that the father leaving me was a good enough reason not to have the baby and have gone ahead with the pregnancy as a single mum. I am only five months but wanted to ask if anyone had any ideas about what reasonable contact the father could expect to have with our child, given that he hasn't lived with us and won't have developed that bond.

My ex-partner has suggested that he would like to have the child every other weekend. I intend to breastfeed my baby and understand that I could probably hold off handing our child over to him for perhaps a year?

I do want my child to have a relationship with their father and understand that my feelings of rejection and heartbreak might be clouding my judgment here. I don't know of anyone in real life who has found themselves in this situation and thought you might be able to help?

Any advice would be much appreciated

zkate Wed 06-Jul-11 16:25:32

I’m in the similar situation only my ex doesn’t want to have anything to do with the baby! I am not going to offer but if he asks I will agree to any contact that seems to be reasonable BUT only if I know that my child is safe with him. TBH at the moment – and I have not seen the father since last September (!) I do not believe that my baby will every be safe with him. Whatever anybody has to say I DO NOT believe that a man that hurt and left his pregnant woman alone is able to understand what baby means. And I’m sure he will get bored with the baby very soon – too much hard work and no play lol

zkate Wed 06-Jul-11 16:29:31

Sorry posted it to early smile
Just wanted to add that you are brave woman and I'm wishing you good luck. I know how hard it is but believe you will forget all this cr…p when you hear you baby cry for the first time and with their first smile you will feel on top of the world. There isn’t a better feeling – I can assure you!
My daughter is 11 weeks now and there wasn’t a day when I regretted it!

Tyr Wed 06-Jul-11 16:41:36

I think you are to be commended for putting the child first. As regards contact with a very young child, frequency is more important than duration.
Initially, it will help if you are there. Could you tolerate that?
Going from zero to alternate weekends with a newborn is unreasonable.
Does he have any other children?

gillybean2 Wed 06-Jul-11 17:50:04

Your ex will not understand that a newborn baby (breastfed or otherwise) can not be taken away for a weekend. He won't understand that 'just give it a bottle while it's with dad' isn't in the best interests of your baby or understand the inpact that will have on you both (in terms of your milk supply, that you may not find expressing milk easy or desirable, that a baby may not want to go back to breast once a bottle is given as bottle is easier... to name just a few).

He will not understand that contact with a small baby should be little but often and steadily progress over time and build up eventually to overnights and then to a weekend.

He will most likely not have any real understanding of what a small baby requires and involves to look after. Heck I was pretty shocked at my antinatel classes when the midwife said that a baby will feed every 3 hours and can take up to an hour to feed! I was like [shocked]

He will not understand how hard it is for a mother to be parted from her new born for even a short time and how distressing it can be for a baby to be removed for significant periods from their primary carer.

Your ex won't understand any of these things if he has not had a baby before or been in very close, and significant contact with a baby over a prolonged period before. Being a parent is a huge learnign curve and until you are doing it you won't really know or understand, and neither will he.

So you will need to educate him and help him understand that it's not as simple as 'i can do every other weekend so you must agree to it'. You will need to help him see that, while his request may be reasonable for an older child, it simply isn't reasonable, practical, or in the child's best interest when they are new born and breastfeeding.

If you can find it I recommend the book 'what to expect when you're expecting'. Get a copy for him and for yourself. Also suggest he gets a copy of 'birth to five matters'. Is he in contact with his mother? Suggest he speaks to her, and other women he knows who are mothers, to get some opinions from other people on if what he is asking for is reasonable and practicle. He will get a rude awaking I would imagine.

Do you think you can cope with him having contact with baby with just you there? If not what support do you have in terms of friends and family who can be there to supervise contact while you are in another room or pop out for a walk ot to the shops for half an hour or so?
Contact with a small baby should be little and often. Maybe once of twice a day for an hour, several times a week. Is that something that you are willing and able to accomodate? Is he able to comit to that kind of contact to get to know his child?

How is communication between you at this stage? Are you able to talk and discuss this at all?

Latemates Wed 06-Jul-11 18:35:07

Once or twice a day for a hour several times a week. I'm sorry but if the mother can care for the child for a day then a father can. The only complication is the breast feeding and tbh people with the best intentions to breast feed can't always manage it due to it not being suitable for everyone.

Imagine if in the real world nurses removed babies from their parents due to contact needing to be little and often

Its ok for the mum to have all the contact but the father can not... All double standards really. In a fair world then they would have split the day continuously back and forward while the baby is so young maybe hour then swap hour then swap but I'm sure that is not feasible. Maybe father can have contact and bottle feed and mother can have hour twice a day several times a week.

I think you should conceder it from the point of view a would I be happy if the shoe was on the other foot and b how can I ensure my baby builds a strong bond with both their parents

SirGin Wed 06-Jul-11 19:02:38


If you can sustain a good relationship with the father life will be much easier for all of you. At some point you will need to put your feelings of rejection aside. You may have to bite your tongue a lot too.

It's a good / positive thing that you want your child to have a relationship with Dad, and that Dad wants to part of your child's life.

I broke up with my XP when dd was two, and she stays with me on alternate w/e for two or three nights.

However right back to when dd was 6 months I was looking after her on the odd occasion when XP was away with work for a couple of nights. We both survived.

Concentrate on your pregnancy and hopefully your XP will be / is a reasonable person and realize that overnights aren't going to start for a while.

But if he feels you are being obstructive it will likely go pear shaped quickly.

mrscolour Wed 06-Jul-11 19:23:00

Your ex has obviously picked up from somewhere that every other weekend is what he's entitled to but this is not the case for babies.

As others have said, contact little and often is best for young babies to be able to build up a relationship. I disagree with what Latemates has said, your relationship is more important with your baby than the relationship with the father and you shouldn't feel that you should do anything that might harm that. You will have the maternal hormones and will be more in tune with your child.

You should not feel the need to let him bottle feed your baby if you want to breast feed and certainly shouldn't feel pressurised to express milk as this can be quite stressful.

I imagine that if he had any idea how much work it would be looking after a small baby for two whole days and nights he would soon change his mind!

patchouligirl Wed 06-Jul-11 20:53:28

Thank you all for your valuable advice and reassurance.

I do realise that my child and I are lucky that the father wants to play a key role in their life. We have had contact over the pregnancy, going out for dinner regularly and inviting him to both scans I had. I am having a break with contact at the moment because I was finding it too upsetting and was worried about the effect my sadness was having on Young‘un. The thing is, our relationship is rather good, we get on and are very nice to each other, despite the split. I know plenty of couples who scream at each other and stay together! That being said, I fully intend to resume contact as soon as I feel able to or when I’ve had the baby.

The advice about little and often will be useful to both of us and I shall pass it along. I have come across attachment theory through my work but haven’t made the link to my own situation yet. Thanks also for the reading list Gillybean2, I shall be ordering them online after this. I hadn’t realised that it can be difficult to go back to the breast after bottle feeding and that’s really useful to know.

I don’t think my ex-partner has really thought through just how demanding a newborn baby can be. He doesn’t have any other children and hasn’t been around children a lot, despite being in his forties! He does have a relationship with his mother and I know that she is very excited and look forward to her support and guidance. If I’m honest I feel a great irrational fear that my ex-partner will want to take the baby, even though it’s highly unlikely as he’s said on many occasion that I’ll make a great mum.

Also really grateful for the Manview, it’s helpful to hear from the other side. It’s not about getting what I want, more about gauging what is reasonable, and making sure I avoid feeling like I’ve been bullied into handing over my child before we’re ready.

Thank you, thank you and thank you all again

WelshCat Wed 06-Jul-11 21:09:16

i know this is resolved, sort of, but just wanted to say that Latemates you are not at all helpful and your post is ridiculous. you clearly arent seeing this from the babies point of view, which is always the most important.

Latemates Wed 06-Jul-11 21:23:06

Oh course it is ridiculous that's my point, but it is also ridiculous that so many people disregard the importance of the child bonding with both parents.
The father and mother are both fundamental for the child development and the child needs the opportunity to build a relationship with both parents.clearlyrp the op appreciates this from her response and seams to realise how important the role they both have. But I do not agree that one parents relationship is more important than the other, the importance lies in the child having a opportunity to bonding with both parents and in the parents working in collaboration (be this together or separated)

WibblyBibble Wed 06-Jul-11 21:36:49

Latemates, are you being crazy on purpose? Why should a dad who abandoned a pregnant woman be considered equal to a normal dad, ffs? Women don't get to just walk away from a pregnancy, so you can't see it happening from the other side because it's physically impossible. Also, most people can successfully breastfeed if they have proper support!

OP, my ex was in similar situation, except he left me before we knew of the pregnancy (at about 4 weeks in). Initially he spent time with our daughter with me there, and sometimes then took her out for short walks/trips (less than an hour). By about 6 months we built this up to a few hours, then at a year she was spending whole days but coming back to me for overnight (though she did one overnight at his as I had an emergency at work). She's 18mo now and is about to start having regular overnights now she's stopped breastfeeding and is used to him. The dad not being around and supportive during the pregnancy does make a difference to what contact they should have intially as normally the baby hears the dad's voice in the womb and associates it with the mother being relaxed. If they are seperated, that's not happening so it's basically like the baby going to a stranger unless it's built up gradually. If you are ok with it, it may be a good idea for him to have skin contact with the baby soon after the birth so it kind of bonds to his smell or whatever it is they do that makes skin-to-skin contact important. But don't do this if it would make you more stressed, as you are the most important person to your baby and you need to look after yourself to look after him/her.

PinkCarBlueCar Wed 06-Jul-11 21:40:08

patchouligirl - is there a Dad's group nearby at the weekends? Or, for preference, a baby massage class that your ex could take your new born to?

Well, not when it's absolutely new born, but you know what I mean... Maybe from about 3 months (iirc) or so.

Sure Start Centres often do such groups and classes, they'd generally be ok with it if you hung around, and he would get both time with baby and the company and support of others at the classes / groups.

Try not to worry too much about his current thinking - like mrscolour says, he's clearly picked up on something, yet has little to no idea about new borns, and hasn't really thought it through... I remember how little clue I had before DD came along blush. He'll get past it, I'm sure. Maybe point him towards MN, too?

Latemates Wed 06-Jul-11 21:59:57

Wibbly he is the dad for better or worse, just because he may not be a good boyfriend is no reflection on his ability to be a dad.
Hopefully op will breastfeed if that's what she wants but it is not always just about the support sometimes the breast milk is just not enough for a hungry baby.

If fathers are not as important as mothers then why is there a body of research proving that children without significant relationships with both parents have more emotional, behaviour and academic struggles.

Whichever, way you look at it baby will have a lot more time with mother, op is happy for dad to be involved and is asking what reasonable.

My post is saying how important for the child that parents (even if not together ) should work in collaboration as much of possible. It will benefit the child to have time with both parents (this may be short to start and built on. But it will also benefit op to have someone to help her care for child. It will give her down time which means she will be more refreshed when baby comes back

gillybean2 Thu 07-Jul-11 07:12:01

Latemates - This man does not have the ability to put his child's needs above his own yet if he is saying he can have the baby every other weekend and does not realise what is involved in breastfeeding. He clearly has no clue about young babies. But like every parent he can and will need to learn. Sure he has the ability to be a parent, but I doubt many parents would hand their newborn over to someone who is a stranger to their baby and let them get on with it without any help or advice - let alone for a few hours or over a weekend!

Hence why I suggested some reading material and for him to start having conversations with actual mothers who can give him some insight into teh realities and also what OP will be feeling and what he can expect rather than what he should dictate. And also why i suggested daily contact, and twice a day, if at all possible to try and build up a significant relationship quickly. At the end of the day it comes down to communication and understanding between these two people and putting their own wants and feelings aside for the sake of their baby.

So while he may want every other weekend, at the end of the day if he can't squeeze time in every day because he is busy with his job (which the implication of every other weekend with a newborn implies), and if OP starts to feel unable to deal with the frequency because her emotions and hormones and the inevitable lack of sleep, which will all be relevant in the early days will become a factor, then baby won't get to know dad in the same way they would with a parent who is there before and after work every day. Every other weekend will become a reality much faster if he invests the time and effort required into being a parent to his child. But you do also need to consider that OP may not find it easy to cope with frequent contact with her ex, hence my asking how things are between them now. It is relelvant in advising on how to ensure baby gets to have a relationship with both of them

My suggestion was the nearest to the usualy situation of dad being home twice a day (before and after work) while taking into account that they are separated and that baby will unlikely be awake for more than an hour at a time in the early weeks either and he can't expect to sit around at his ex's house while she is tired and emotional and more than likely unwilling to let her guard down around him.

Almost everyone can breastfeed - whether they believe it or not. Very few people have no milk whatsoever. The obstacles put in their way (by others and by themselves) is what stops mums imo. You are already finding excuses as to why breastfeeding isn't so important. Well to a breastfed baby it is very important.

Being given the occassional bottle, for whatever reason, can have a massive impact on the success of BP. OP needs to know that it's not as simple as giving baby a bottle for dad's benefit so he can have contact and will need her arguments as to why it is not best for her baby, because some people just won't accept it.
She and her ex, also need to be aware that a BP baby will likely feed for an hour and that will need feeding again within 3 hours. That's not 3 hours from when the feed ends! So it could be as little as 2 hours between feeds. So an hour is a lot to expect for dad to have contact between feeds and while baby is actually awake iyswim.

OP you sound very reasonable and I hope things work out well between you all. I do get the impression you are harbouring some feelings towards your ex and that perhaps you are hoping he will come round at some point and you'll get back together? When you say you get on better than some couples that scream at each other... Are you thinking he will see this at some point and hoping you'll be a family (together) at some point? I ask because things can come crashing down very rapidly when you realise that you are in this alone, that he's not going to get back with you, and it's not always easy to be quite so reasonable when you are tired, emotinal and on your own with a baby.

Have you been in touch with his mum yourself? Hopefully you can have a good relationship with her and get support too. Is your family close by? How much support do you have that is for you, not linked to him?

zkate Thu 07-Jul-11 07:24:16


I too think that your point is ridiculous simply cos THIS “dad” is NOT going to spend as much time with the baby as YOU say he and baby need. as soon as he realizes all that gillybean2 said above and much much more all his good intentions disappear and he will not ask about the baby until he or she has graduated from the uni.

When I was in the hospital with induced labor (and ladies know just how bad it is!) I said that if I ever have one wish I wish for every man to have a baby. Nothing will change this world but this.

zkate Thu 07-Jul-11 07:44:50

I think parents with 3hourly routine are lucky – mine was feeding every hour and now at 11 weeks is still struggling with 3 hrs. and she is bottle-fed so it isn’t my “bad” milk etc… she is just a big baby smile
Ps I bottle feed cos didn’t have milk for a week after the birth and when it came she wouldn’t take the breast sad expressing didn’t help much sad so I can only add that bottle feeding is even more complicated than breast feeding so get ready for some seriously long sleepless nights!

Tbh I just think that op has to get real and don’t count on the father. You are not going to give him baby for a weekend, this is understood so let him visit whenever and see how it goes. I’m she he will not cope but i also hope I’m wrong smile

Latemates Thu 07-Jul-11 07:46:02

It does not neccessarily mean he cannot put babies needs before his own yet if he is asking for eveyother weekend. It means he accepts this baby is equal his responsibliltiy and I want and can be involved in the babies life.

I find people who say BF is suitable for everyone makes those who don't try or those who have to give up quite patronizing and this is why so many who give up BF feel so crap and that they have failed. Also there are instances where the mother cannot give the nutrients the baby needs through BF. This is not making excuses this.

Zkate you clearly know this man if you can say he will not want anything to do with his child.

There is no wonder so many men walk away as the attitudes fro so many is that they are unimportant to raising children and their is no expectations forthem to do well. Maybe I'm wrong for assuming the best in everyone and believing that is child and every child deserves a full relationship with both parents and that both parents should be enabled to do this even in complex situations.

Anyway, op best of luck with the baby hope you and your ex can work in collaboration and with mutual respect during this exciting and challenging role of bringing up your baby

zkate Thu 07-Jul-11 08:03:36

“Zkate you clearly know this man if you can say he will not want anything to do with his child.”

The man that wants the best for his baby NEVER walks away on his mother. He doesn’t have to sleep with her, marry her etc – he MUST be with the baby ALL THE TIME full stop. The best for the baby is to have both parents together. THIS man wants what is best for HIMSELF. He does NOT want equal responsibilities if he already talking about every other weekend – why not every weekend? Or every evening? Or mornings? Or will he give up his precious sleep at night to look after the baby? Wake TF up and get real – men’s doings say it all!

allnewtaketwo Thu 07-Jul-11 12:27:35

"The man that wants the best for his baby NEVER walks away on his mother"

Does the same count for mothers who walk away from fathers then hmm.

patchouligirl Thu 07-Jul-11 14:53:28

WibblyBibble, thanks so much for sharing your experience. It’s both helpful, reassuring and has prompted further considerations.

Latemates, you are clearly impassioned by the broader context of this issue, and I like many others agree that there are brilliant men out there who make fantastic fathers, just as there are also women who struggle to be sufficient mothers, for many varied reasons, so we must try not to be too judgmental and quick to argue. In this particular case we are thinking about a man who abandoned his girlfriend when he found out she was pregnant, at a time when a woman should be nurtured and looked after, she was under enormous pressure and emotional distress. Most people would agree that stress makes for a very negative growing environment, so in my opinion, this man isn’t going to be winning Dad of The Year competition anytime soon.

Gilly, I probably do still have feelings for my ex (as well as a whole host of other angrier and more difficult feelings). I never entertained the idea that this might happen to me and I am finding it difficult to let go of the romantic ideal I had in my head that I would have a family, one that includes a father who wants to live us. I feel ashamed of the situation I am in. I realise that I might be in for more storms ahead with this one. I do have a brilliant family and fantastic friends who will continue to give fabulous support when the baby arrives. I am yet to build a relationship with the paternal grandmother, I’m not entirely sure I trust myself not to tell her what a rotten weasel I think her son is!

Thanks again to all who have made time to give their advice.

Seth Thu 07-Jul-11 15:37:54

I could have written your last paragraph - except I guess I am a bit further on. I am not suggesting our experiences will be identical but a lot of the feelings seem to be the same.
My H walked out suddenly when DD1 was just over 2. A week later I found out I was pregnant with DS2. I fell apart, thought I couldn't do it and like you was astounded that I found myself in a position that I never thought possible. (I like you had visions of stable mum and dad relationship, security, traditional family etc.)

I went ahead alone but always hoped in the back of my mind that this baby would bring him back. I just couldn't see how he could NOT want to. Whilst I was pregnant he said he did want to - I let him in only for him to change his mind again about a month later. He wanted to be present at the birth but I didn't feel like I would be able to handle it given I was in such a bad place. I had my baby at home with my 2 best friends and 2 midwives and it was amazing, wonderful and really empowering.

Anyway how contact worked in the early days was really ad hoc. He took paternity leave but I didn't feel able to face him much as I was still in pieces about him and trying to deal with new baby, b.feeding, sleepless nights.
What we did do though was I would do a feed, text him when done and he would take the baby off for a couple of hours but only to the local park -where he would sleep mainly - That was in the pat leave couple of weeks - almost every day.

DS2 is a year old now and he has still never spent more than a whole day with him - even though he is a second time round Dad. He started off having DS2 almost ever saturday for half a day when he was about 5/6 months - with expressed milk and formula as back up but he did always stay local to me in case. More recently (DS is now 12 months) he has started having him for the whole day on a saturday but only every other weekend - and also picks him up early one day a week form the childminder.
It seems to work ok. H had another 'epiphany' a couple of months back where he realised what a mistake he made and said he wanted the family back together and...... it seemed to be working until he backed Off again about a month ago -just as I was going back to work.

It does really sadden me that DS will never have even lived in the same house as his Dad but I think I'm used to the idea now. They seem to have bonded well (my H is a great Dad and he is a real baby person).

Anyway I guess what I am saying i... Don't make the same mistake as I did of allowing yourself to be at the mercy of someone who ultimately only has their own interests at heart. As someone else says he seems to be forgetting that the mother of his child is a very important person in all of this and her emotional state plays a huge part in how the DCs are. I lost sight of me as I was so fixated on hoping /praying that he would come back. And he did and did the same thing to me twice over. I should have been giving myself completely to my DDs (and myself - don't forget that)I devoted myself to the DCs but I was bending over backwards hoping that he would want to come back and didn't take care of myself at all.

Stand up for yourself and do what you need to do to make your situation work for you and the baby. He will ultimately respect you more for it anyway (tho that's not why you are doing it!) hmm The overnight thing - He will never have got up with your DC in the middle of the night let so yes - it will happen in the longer term I feel it's way too early to be talking about any of that.

People said this to me time and time again but I learnt the hard way..... and what I lesson it has been !

Good luck with everything.Oh and by the way. I like you have great family and friends - so you will be fine. Its tough but one look at your beautiful DC and you'll remember why you are doing it grin

VioletV Thu 07-Jul-11 23:44:57

Zkate I agree with everything you've said with cherries on top.

Latemates What utter nonsense and seems to only benefit the male who fucked off. Men who walk out while someone is carrying their baby shouldn't get any rights to a baby. Us women are not fucking walking wombs to give birth to your babies so you can fuck off do what you like when it suits, and then expect us to bow down and give up our children that we gave life too, to fuckwit fathers every other weekend because men like you think it's their right to have a relationship. It's not fair on children being shoved from house to house every other weekend. And I disagree with your statement of If fathers are not as important as mothers then why is there a body of research proving that children without significant relationships with both parents have more emotional, behaviour and academic struggles Utter crap.

OP I think fair play to you for even thinking about giving contact to your pathetic excuse of a man, ex. My above comments will tell you I'm in the same situation as you although a bit worse. I'm due to give birth to my 1st and last baby in 7 days

Latemates Fri 08-Jul-11 07:52:48

Violet no it benefits the child, who is the most important person in my opinion.
sorry you think the research is cr*p but it is real research which parents should take into account.

I am interested in your views on if you think mums who leave their partners should have their child taken away as clearly you believe that if that is a man he and the child should have no rights to seeing each other?

I feel for the op and yourself that your partners left it is an awful situation to be in but I put my views down as they are and don't get into the emotional on these forums as their are plenty of others doing this and sometimes people need it straight and to the point. If the father is a waste who after a cowpoke of weeks let's the child down then more fool him and my sympathy to the child

VioletV Fri 08-Jul-11 11:17:36

latemates where is this research from and how many people was it done on?

Yes I also believe if a woman who has given birth to a child and walks out leaving the child, then she shouldn't have rights either. Unfortunately for us we don't get the option of walking out and carrying on living our lives while we're pregnant.

I am not tarnishing all dads here. I am tarnishing all those who put their needs in front of their unborn babies and walked out. I've been on my own for nearly 7 months now. I'm a very soon to be a first time parent. I didn't have anyone come with me for my baby scans. I didn't have anyone to look after me when i was sick. I didn;t have anyone help me find a place to live when he wanted me out of his place. So not only kicking a pregnant woman out with their child I could have lost my baby several times and very nearly did. Why should he get rights of custody or access because he thinks he has a right to my childs life when he could have helped end it?!

It is of no benefit to a child to have to live between two houses.

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