White Beach (Boracay), Philippines
Well, if there's one thing that the past 20 months of travel have taught me, it's that life is predictably unpredictable.
I live rather unconventionally these days, and I suppose I always knew that should I ever have a family (or kids), that they too would be rather unconventional as well.
This entire scenario is several years premature for my liking, but I'm feeling better as Tatiana and I have talked over the past week—I suppose I'm finding myself smiling more these days, and humming Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" less. I was nauseous for two days straight after Tatiana introduced me to her expanding belly.
Since then we've talked slowly, as we'll continue to do for some time to come. I casually reminded her a few days back that our time together in the Philippines alone almost rivals the sum total of all our time together previously in Latin America and Miami… I don't think she ever thought of it that way.
For those wondering, I have little doubt this child is mine, and I find myself feeling particularly uneducated in legal matters (such as what my responsibilities and liabilities are) and what is and isn't necessary to validate paternity (to the U.S. government, assuming the child will be born outside of the United States).
One of the strangest aspects for me in all this is dealing with how I feel about Tatiana, as it relates to our relationship. I often feel like I've created a wall around the deeper emotions of my heart after leaving Phoenix—the ledger is closed, no more entries—and found the attitude very much in line with the nomadic lifestyle that I've embraced.
Make no mistake that I'm loving towards Tatiana in most every way that I know how, but I've never told her I loved her or I'm in love with her (nor has she ever said either to me)—although I care for her (and her company) and toss around "mi amor" often enough. I think we're both wildly cautious people when it comes to exposing ourselves, and the fact that we'll be having a child together seems very much out of place, given the infancy of our relationship.
Let's face it, I'm a loner. Home, people, comforts… all are temporary in my life, and I rather like it that way—I love it passionately, in fact. I left mainland Asia a bachelor, and arrived in Manila to myself in the middle of a full blown relationship the likes of which I never expected. There's a part of my psyche that's feeling a bit cornered, waiting to make a break for freedom. How am I suppose to transition from an anticipated three-week sojourn in the Philippines to spending the next X-months (/years?) with another person?
What Tatiana wants more than anything right now is for me to be with her, especially through the remainder of the pregnancy (…and can only assume after that point as well). It's been decided (as much as anything can be these days) that we'll travel together through SE Asia, until such a time where travel is no longer appropriate for her. How things play out between the point when she can no longer travel and gives birth is still up in the air—although she certainly doesn't want me to leave her side.
Other things that I've slowly uncovered Tatiana wants, or are on her mind:
- For the birth not to happen in the United States, but probably in Lima, Peru, where the doctors are friends of the family (and the bill is sure to be less than US$800 (compared with something 10–15 times that amount in the U.S.).
- For me to return to her family with her (as she absolutely will not go back to them alone), and to be present for the birth.
- To have a Cesarean section birth. She tells me she likes her nether regions just the way they are now, and the thought of the possible incontinence (inability to control the bowels or bladder) and other natural-birth related issues displeases her greatly. I've expressed my concern about the procedure, as it's a major surgery and can be dangerous, but she seems resolute in the matter.
- For me to invite my parents to Peru for the birth. I'm going to be immersed in Tatiana's family for many weeks on end, and don't mind the idea of seeing a familiar face or two in the midst of all this. Machu Picchu anyone?
- For the baby to have my last name, and for me to be an active participant with the naming. This breaks the conventional norm in the U.S. for births out of wedlock, and think I offended her slightly by asking why out of ignorance. Something I'd forgotten is that in Latin America a child traditionally has no fewer than four names: The first name, middle name(s), and an unhyphenated surname comprised of both the father and mother's last names. For purposes of identification in the United States, she just uses her father's family name. What I didn't know was to name a child without both family names is a very ugly thing in the Latin culture, as it denotes the mother's uncertainty (or lack of knowledge) of who the father is.
- For me to be happy above all else, and to never sacrifice to the point where I feel resent.
Tatiana is intelligent, opinionated, strong-willed, unusually independent, and a magnet for sexual attention (for good reason): A sweet but aggressive personality that sort of reminds me of Demi Moore in the movie G.I. Jane mixed with the character Foxxy Love from animated series Drawn Together. And for a woman such as this to suddenly feel venerable—which she really does—is quite a new and scary sensation for her. She's gone though some tough times during her first trimester (including a hospital visit for bleeding), and has recently felt pains of insecurity and loneliness that she's never experienced before.
This is all new for me too—it's a rather unfamiliar sensation for me to be needed so fiercely by someone else.
I find myself grateful that this did not happen with a random fling (or with anyone different, for that matter), as the personality, age, and ability to support the child of others would have severely limited my options.
Tatiana, a mature woman in her early 30s, is taking the right approach with me, and has seen a positive reaction because of it. She's letting me come to terms with this on my own time, and allowing my own moral compass guide me in the right direction.
As can be expected, I'm in a very strange place mentally and morally right now, faced with paths I've never stared down before. I find myself wanting to do the right by this child, by me, and by my father. The weight of my selfishness pulls heavily on my heart, mind, and my wind-filled wings of freedom.
I don't want this to be a secret, or something hidden, and fought the obscure urge to let it become such a thing. Although I never wished to have a child out of wedlock, or make my father a grandfather under such conditions, I'm not ashamed of this, nor have I had any desire to flee from it—perhaps I've been too shocked to run; perhaps I'm still waiting to wake up.
I want now, as always, to please dad, and let this be an event that makes him want to e-mail friends, family, and co-workers about the birth of his son's child—not cover it up. Because what kind of son did he raise if I can't take responsibility for my actions—regardless if Tatiana was the one who made the decision to bring the pregnancy to term. I feel morally honor-bound not to walk away from this situation, and I suppose that's a good thing.
But I find myself in a strange position of how much of an active father I'm going to be—initially, during the child's formative years, and for the duration. If by including myself in the mix am I substantially lessening the possibility of Tatiana meeting and falling in love with another man who could provide a stabler family environment for this child?
How do I balance my passion for travel with my desire to ensure a positive outcome for my son? The thought of working a conventional job terrifies me—more than the birth of this child. I need options.
I suppose I'm embracing all of this the best I can, and am keeping things simple by focusing on just the next few months (and of course making sure that Tatiana has the support from me that she desires and deserves). With an expected delivery date in the last week of December—not long after my two-year travel anniversary—it's safe to say I've already got a date lined up for New Years Eve this year.
Interesting times ahead…