Real Chick Lit: “Rattled,” Accidental Pregnancies, & Paternal Responsibility

In 2007, 26-year-old magazine editor Christine Coppa found out she was pregnant by her boyfriend of three months. Christine decided to continue the pregnancy, a choice her boyfriend supported — until a few months later, when he suddenly decided he wasn’t prepared and/or didn’t want to be a father and subsequently signed away his parental rights. [See below.] Coppa wrote about her pregnancy and continues to write about being a single mom to her son “J.D.” for on her blog “Storked,” and recently released her memoir, Rattled!

I read the book and found it interesting, particularly because Coppa’s life is similar to mine, in that she’s in her 20’s, single, lives in New York (she now raises her son in NJ), and works in media. Like her, were I to find out I was pregnant at this particular stage in my life, I would probably choose to continue the pregnancy and have the baby. Rattled brought up an interesting issue, one I hadn’t really considered before in much depth. When an accidental pregnancy occurs, the choice whether to continue or abort it is in the woman’s hands. The man doesn’t have a choice in whether or not he will become a father, but societal opinion — though not always legal opinion — considers him equally as responsible for caring for his child, lest he be labeled a “deadbeat dad.” After reading Rattled, I wondered how fair that was. In the book, Coppa’s baby daddy — referred to as “A” — is somewhat villainized. In fairness, “A” isn’t super sympathetic, in that he started off gung ho supportive of keeping the baby, then changed his mind, and essentially went AWOL. But even if he had handled it better, wouldn’t we still think of him as the bad guy? The guy who didn’t care about his child? The guy who ducked out of his responsibilities? In Rattled, it seemed clear that Coppa was going to have the baby with or without “A”‘s support. Since he’s not looking to enjoy the “perks” of fatherhood (i.e. a relationship with his son), should he be expected to bear any of the responsibility, including paying child support?

It takes two to get pregnant, but a woman has control over her body and holds all the decision making power as to whether she continues that pregnancy. If a guy isn’t ready to be a dad, should he have to bear the emotional and financial responsibility of one? And if he doesn’t, does that make him a bad guy?

NOTE: Coppa contacted The Frisky and wanted to clarify that her son’s father DID NOT legally terminate his parental rights. (In the book Coppa writes that “A” mentioned wanting to.)