Poly Pregnancy by Paul Westfall
My partner is pregnant with another man’s child, and my world is not coming to an end. In fact, everything is pretty much just fine.
The night Anna told me of her pregnancy was for me a time of holding the world at bay. No matter what else happened, I wanted for this moment, this time, this night to be given over to celebrating the fundamental magic of this miraculous event. Conversations about paternity, partnership, parenthood and any other projections into possible futures would have been too much intrusion into the intensely intimate, loving space of pure wonder that I wanted Anna to enjoy. After all, this is her first pregnancy; and in a single stroke all of her many concerns and questions regarding her fertility, fed by years of unsuccessful attempts to conceive with a previous partner, were laid to rest. Never again would she have a first pregnancy, and I felt she deserved the space to truly relish this moment with me, her chosen life-partner.
And there was no shortage of questions, concerns and crazy-making to withhold. Soon we would look at calendars, recall schedules, ask the questions, do the math and we would know, with near certainty, that I am not the father of this child. Anna would soon discover that regardless of paternity, she loves this child beyond measure, and the question of whether or not to keep him would answer itself. This and many other discoveries, questions, conversations, laughter and tears would soon rush in upon us. But for that moment, for that night, we parted the curtains of the world to reveal a sacred circle of us-ness, and allowed ourselves to snuggle into the love and partnership we found there.
Something of that sacred circle connection has always been at the heart of who Anna and I be with each other. There is the world; there are all the vagaries of being Human in an inhumane context. And there is this connection, to ourselves, to our breath, to the heart within us that knows us before and beyond our consciousness, which allows us to be somewhat circumspect about the supposed seriousness of all the rest of it.
A wheelchair-bound jazz man in Olympia, WA once told me that there are two kinds of serious: deadly serious and joyfully serious. I believe that my connection to my breath, to the silence within me, is at the heart of what allows me the gift of joyful seriousness that I have enjoyed throughout this process of discovery that began the day we met, and continues unabated.
For Anna and me, our independent, free-spirited natures have led both of us to polyamory as the way of being in partnership that makes the most sense to us. I am not polyamorous by nature, but by choice. It has never been easy choice for me, and sometimes has been quite painful. But the fact of the pain seems to me insufficient argument for cessation. Sleep, too, is painless. Death is perhaps a more comfortable alternative to life. I choose the discomfort of a fully awakened life. Nor do I think that this is a one-size-fits-all choice. Polyamory, like any lifestyle, is most definitely not for everyone. I am no proselytizer, and I have no agenda for anyone to be polyamorous who doesn’t want to be. I choose polyamory because it appears to be aligned with my desire to live a life where I can be fully present to and accepting of love as it presents itself. I relate to my occasional encounters with pain and jealousy as a price I have agreed to pay for the gradual disassembly of my ego that my relationship choices afford me.
Anna’s relationship with the father of her child has provided me with a rich vein of opportunities for ego-release. When people first discover that she is pregnant, they often want to congratulate me. Or when they learn that I am not the father, the most common response I hear is something along the lines of, “Well, as soon as you see the child, you’ll just fall in love with it as if it were your own.” During the first trimester, this infuriated me. I wanted to stand up and shout at the top of my lungs, “You have no clue what the f*ck you are talking about! This does not fit neatly into your little coloring book of life! Stop trying to ‘fix’ my life with your platitudes!” As the days pass I’ve begun to find compassion. I see people trying their best to find a toehold in what must seem to them an incredibly complicated situation. I hear them offering connection, support, and as much understanding as they can muster for a relationship that may be somewhat incomprehensible for any who are not deeply involved.
So, for those of you who are curious, here’s what our relationship looks like right now. Anna is clear that, while she loves the father of her child very much, she is not interested in developing a co-parenting relationship with him. She welcomes his support and would like for him to be at least somewhat involved in the life of their child. For his part, the father is pretty much on the same page as near as I can tell. He loves Anna, but recognizes that they don’t have the kind of partnership that could easily include raising a child together.
Anna and I have dreamed into the possibility of having children together someday, and she asked me if I would be willing to take on the father role for this child. I have looked and continue to look deeply into my own heart, but I cannot authentically find the father of this child there. I am unwilling to make the shifts in my life that would be required were I to truly take on being this child’s father, and I don’t want to lie about that or try to pretend. At the same time, I love Anna very, very much. I don’t want to just say, “See you later, have a great life raising your kid,” and move on.
And so, here we are. Anna and I are still in partnership with each other. We continue to have an open and deeply loving relationship, and we are inventing and re-inventing our relationship on a day-to day-basis. We do our best to make no assumptions and take nothing for granted—just act from our hearts as we continue to discover what is authentically right for us at any given moment.
She lives in Portland, where she is growing her own upcycled clothing business and sharing her truly remarkable voice performing as a classically trained soprano. I continue to live and work at Breitenbush. I’m beginning my sixth year here, was recently elected to the Board of Directors again, am doing well in my job, and as far as I know I’m well respected in our community. I’m not making much money, but I’m earning enough to live on, I have good vacation and health benefits, I’m eating well, exercising regularly and am healthier and happier than I’ve ever been.
Anna is relating to her pregnancy as something like “single motherhood with benefits”. We spend 3 or 4 days a week with each other, most often in Portland. She is due in mid- to late-February, has enrolled the assistance of two midwives who work as a team, and intends to have a home water birth. I am providing as much loving support and assistance as I am able and plan to attend the birth. She is in the process of finding other mothers and families to move in with her there, with the intention of creating a mutually supportive mini-community.
This is our invented life. It is not always easy, the path is not always clear. But isn’t that true for all of life? Aren’t relationships of all kinds always deeper and more complex than they may seem on the surface? Polyamory may just be our particular vehicle for personal discovery.
I send you blessings on your own journey, and wish for you to always be grounded in and present to the extraordinary gift of your humanness.
Paul Westfall lives and works at Breitenbush Hot Springs as the resident Techno-Wizard, a fancy term which he invented because the words “Network Administrator” just don’t even come close to describing the fascinating variety of things he gets to do in the name of keeping an advanced network and phone system running in the middle of the woods, high up in the mountains in the wilderness. When he’s not fiddling with technical jiggery pokery, he serves on the Breitenbush Board of Directors and the Breitenbush Fire Department as a firefighter and on *their* Board of Directors, creates public rituals with the Breitenbush Magic Team, and recently has taken up with minstrels, mixing live audio for the band Kendálin in Portland.
But wait! This is by no means a one-sided tale. If you’ve enjoyed reading Paul’s ruminations, you may look forward to Anna’s reflections on her pregnancy in the next issue of Alternatives.