August 7, 2007

Accidental Babies
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…

Comments:

Malaysia

Craig | travelvice.com

September 9th, 2007

Some constructive e-mail Q&A that I'll share…

So, what are you going to do? Are you seriously contemplating staying with this girl and the kid? Don't you see the way she showed up pregnant without advanced warning as an ambush designed to trap you!?

I'm just taking things a day at a time, and for the time being, yes.

She made the decision to keep the baby without my consult because she wasn't going to terminate it, regardless — although that wasn't the rational behind why she didn't tell me sooner… or her family (until recently).

Tatiana believed that I wasn't the type of person who would just pick their backpack and grab the next taxi back to the airport after she revealed the news. She said she never would've told me if she thought I was that kind of a guy, and I believe her.

So, in a sense, I suppose she predicted how I would react and withheld the information until she could tell me in person (something she feels quite strongly about). And if her educated guess about me was correct (which it was), then letting me travel for three months without knowing and then telling me face-to-face when we had planned to meet up again in the Philippines didn't really alter much (except grant me ignorant bliss). The baby was still going to be born, regardless of my reaction.

So, in short, no, I don't feel like I walked into a trap. Yes, I was initially unhappy that she waited to tell me (because I would have expressed to her my reservations about bringing a child into this world in an unstable family environment), but like I said, it wouldn't have changed her mind.

I don't believe for a minute that she had any malicious intentions with the decision not to abort this child. She's not a passport or child support hunter. She's a good person who never expected to be a mother, but believes that this child persevered against the odds, so it was meant to be.

With or without the 'lil nomad cookin' in her belly, I like the girl enough to keep her in my company (repeatedly). We've never spent more than two weeks together before, so it may turn out we're not as compatible on a long-term basis as we are on a short-term one. If that's the case, then that will of course be factored into how the remainder of the year (and beyond) plays out.

If not than you have to admit that her wanting you there at the birth with both sides of the family is nothing less than a design to create immense social pressure on you to stay with and support her!

I'm sure the social pressure from her side of the family will be there — wouldn't you as a brother or father want the best for your sister or daughter? — but I'm not feeling it at the moment. My focus has been largely introspective, while trying to figure out what's best for me, the kid, and Tatiana.

My actions are my own, not because of what's normal or what's expected of me. If I choose to put this child and its mother ahead of my desire to travel full-time, then that will be the result of my own belief system — not because it's what her family/friends or my family/friends think I should do.

I really like Craig the Nomad. I'd hate to see him die off after just two years.

I really like "Craig the Nomad" too, but this too is one of the life experiences that adds to my collective knowledge and will change me in ways that I don't yet realize — much more than a visit to China ever will (although that too will eventually happen).

I still don't plan on living in the U.S. — perhaps some time in Miami whilst Tatiana works, assuming we're still doing the parenting thing together. But other than that, nope. We both still want to travel, and although I think traveling with child is wildly complicated, I'm also not sure I like the idea (or even capable) of leaving her with a newborn while I go tramp about the globe.

These are certainly interesting times, and although this was thrust upon me earlier than I ever imagined, I'm an adaptable person, and find myself rebounding from the initial shock and awe of the situation rather quickly.

I'll be taking the rest of the year with Tatiana to step up my confidence, vocab, and grammar in Spanish — and focus on how to get an income stream coming in (as $ will be leaving my pocket at an much faster rate than previous). We'll probably be in Lima for a lengthy period of time, and expect to finally be able to get back into a gym — I'm guessing three hours a day for "Craig Time" will be the norm; so I'm looking forward to the physical results/benefits that will come from that form of stress relief.

Anon

September 9th, 2007

Mr. C, There isn't enough time for me to write all my thoughts, but to summarize, you (and your new family) will be glad you did the right thing and be a part of this child's life. This is earth-shaking for you, but is a blessing and don't get the idea you can't still have freedom in this new land of relationships. :) You are in for the best adventure of your life and this child may change you in ways you never ever imagined (of course good you silly pants).

I'm sure you are majorly freaked out, but you really have a good grasp on the issues at hand. This baby is part of you and is a miracle.

Thanks for keeping me posted and up to date on your where-abouts and thoughts. You are such a curious fellow to me. :) Hugs to you…and I won't call you "dad" yet… Every thing will be OK and you will always be loved by your family and friends. :) You will be great… it's just a big thing to swallow, but it will go down and feel good in the tummy.

Did I mention… You CAN do this. And you will be great. :) Have faith!

…I love your amazingly written stories with ability to capture the details and paint a beautiful word picture, your honestly and openness with feelings and life, unique and colorful pictures you take and post regularly and truly do feel for you as you took a left turn down a path that feels a bit out of your control, which clearly and understandably is a weird/foreign feeling to you.

It will be great… just have faith. A little, new human being, half of you, deserves your love and time as he grows up and he'll will be so grateful to have a loving and caring father he trusts, can ask questions to, can laugh and play with, experience the beach with, travel with, feel safe with… Can you imagine not being there? I can see you holding and loving him now even… (smiling).

He'll crack you up, make you a better person and change you in amazing ways… And with Tatiana, even if you don't marry or live with her forever and ever, you can be an important part of the child's life and be a good, loving father figure as you had growing up from your father and parents as a team.

Who knows…what if it's in the plans for you and Tatiana to expectantly fall in love and are super happy forever?! :) Never know… you didn't see this coming. :) Anyway, no rush with life decisions obviously, I just know there is a plan for you and your life and it'll be a good one… Right now, just take one day at a time and journal and listen to her and seek support from your friends. Again, you'll be great Craig. Deep breaths and sunsets….

I hope things go well for you and a seed of excitement and love will start to take root.

Brian

September 9th, 2007

Well son your at one of those crossroads in life. No matter what you do everything will change for one way or another.

Not that I am wise in these types of situations but I have always thought my friend Seth has got it made. He works in a seasonal industry (fishing) he works for nine 8 months out of the year and then takes 4 months of free time to travel and collect unemployment.

They always needs smart IT people in those kinds of businesses. You could be business/daddy craig by day and then four months out of the year grab the girl and kid and see the world.

Congratulations.

Katie

September 9th, 2007

First off, congratulations. If anyone knows what great qualities you have to offer a child, it's me–I thought about it often. You have a wonderful ability to take care of those you love, as well as so much knowledge to offer. You are a great teacher, you are patient, and you are rational. These are all great qualities for a parent to have. And although you tend to be very guarded with your heart and emotions, I hope hope hope you will not be this way with your child. Giving love and attention and stability is the most important thing for a child to have. I think if you can open up to your son it will do both you and child wonders. I know you can be a great father, you just have to let yourself.

It saddens me to hear how unsure you seem of your situation. I know it is terrifying and must seem like its ruining all of your plans, but you can't dwell on the things you're going to miss. Think of all the wonderful experiences that lay ahead of you now. Just remember you only have one chance with this child, don't screw it up. You'll regret it later.

Try not to resent Tatiana for this, you are just as responsible as she is. Be patient with her. Her body is going to undergo serious changes, physical and otherwise, and this is going to be extremely difficult for her. As I'm sure you know, she is going to be a part of your life now forever, it will be a lot easier if you maintain a good relationship. Be nice. Although I don't think continuing your travels is a good idea, please at least do some reserch on what she can and cannot eat, and so forth. Your son's brain and body are developing, and it's essential he get the proper nutrition. Also, regular OBGYN appointments are crucial!!

You can do this Craig! You can be a wonderful dad! You just have to give up on a selfish lifestyle to some degree. Its going to be tough, but you're going to have a son!! That's so exciting and wonderful!! I just hope you focus on the good, rather than the negative, and remember that you only have your first child once, so soak up everything you can from this experience, I'm sure it will be great. I know you have it in you.

B

September 9th, 2007

Hi Craig,

So you have committed to staying with her for the short term at least, until the baby is born and a little bit afterwards, and after that you are leaving the decision open for what you will do and where you will go. It is an honorable decision to make. As you said, it is lucky that this turns out to be one of the girls that you respect and quite enjoyed the company of instead of just a quick fling.

The emotional turmoil that you would have gone through straight after she told you is intense. I'm sure that the time now is still just as intense as you hit more difficult questions and ones with longer lasting implications.

It is good that Tatiana is able to stay with you now and travel with you. For the time that you guys are going to spend together over the next few months, in the midst of this fire to your emotions will help you see exactly how well the relationship will work over the longer term. Hell, maybe you'll grow to see more to her than even now and end up as a 3-person traveling troupe.

I'm guessing that the Philippines is a good place for this to occur - great beaches, people and food in a low stress environment.

My thoughts are with you Craig,

Carrie

September 9th, 2007

I know you are still coming to terms with everything, but I am pretty confident once you meet the little guy, you would never wish he didn't exist. Being a parent is the greatest, even when it doesn't happen under ideal circumstances. You can't even imagine how you will feel about him once you see him and he starts developing a little personality. Each day, I feel stronger about Maggie than the day before, and this is a really fun time with her. You will all be in my thoughts and prayers as you try to figure out a solution that works.

Peace,

Des

September 9th, 2007

Wow…what to say…hmmm…congrats…hmmm?

All of your previous travels barely hold a candle to the one you are embarking upon now; you don't need me to tell you that.

All the best to and the many decisions to come…we'll be thinking of you.

findthejake

September 9th, 2007

I was referred to your site a couple weeks back cause a friend really liked your layout, since then I have subscribed and been following along on this saga, dude I can relate!
I just got back to Phoenix after a couple months in Guam and a girl there thought she was pregnant, although I was going through major post-traumatic stress from an emergency beach rescue, found out I have TB and all kinds of other crap, none of it was scarier than thinking I had impregnated a fellow traveler.
I understand your thought process man, I so wished and hoped that she was wrong and that my travel life would continue, in the end I dodged a bullet, this time.
I admire you for owning up and being a man, I don't think I am mature enough to do that yet but it's good to know that even us backpacking vagabonds can take responsibility when we have to. It gives me hope for a better me in the future.
Stick to your guns though bro and stay far away from corporate america. It's a soul-sucking drain!

Best of luck from the rest of us on the road…

Prof. Dr. El Darden

September 10th, 2007

Hey there, Craig!

I feel somewhat like an intruder, penning this message so late in your travels. But, I stumbled upon your site a few months ago and have been reading your postings ever since –even going back to the beginning of your travels because your odyssey has been so refreshingly daring, bold, and adventurous.

[A word about who I am: A university professor in his last year of service in academe and in the process of retiring and relocating to SE Asia, where I'll enjoy some combination of part-time teaching, part-time consulting, and lots of travels around the region. (Also, my educational background is similar to your own: bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees is Business Administration.) Finally, I'm a 62-year-old Afro-American, with international living, work and travel experiences, primarily in Africa and SE Asia. Divorced. No children (wish I had though!).]

I write at this time to say that I, too, was totally unprepared for the shock that you encountered upon meeting up with Tatiana in Manila in July. There I was reading along, soaking in your experiences in Laos. And, then — WHAM — comes this momentous news concerning Tatiana's pregnancy. But, I was stunned for only the briefest of moments, as the sense of surprise was quickly replaced by the feeling that this is but another of the many challenges that you have encountered and will continue to encounter on your chosen path of "being and becoming through traveling." That is, becoming a father and working out a mutually satisfactory arrangement with Tatiana are but the next phase of your ever-unfolding adventures as a citizen of the world. These are, to be sure, big challenges — and ones without any guide books to which to refer. But, they are not insurmountable challenges. Neither need they be life-altering obstacles to the essence of the lifestyle that you set out for yourself a few years ago.

As others of your friends have already noted, becoming a father is not the end of your travels-to-date, but rather the outset of a new and different journey — a journey that can (and WILL, I believe) be no less exciting and personally fulfilling that the travels that you had undertaken to date. So, I say CONGRATULATIONS, Craig!!! I think that the prospect of becoming a father, while a totally unexpected and unplanned event — is a MARVELOUS, even divinely ordained thing! And, I predict (if I may be so bold) that you and Tatiana will evolve some arrangement that is both mutually satisfying and fulfilling and that permits you to continue most of your global wanderings while simultaneously attending to the critical responsibilities of being a father.

I was struck (and greatly IMPRESSED) by how quickly you began overcoming your initial shock of learning of Tatiana's pregnancy (which I know was a MAJOR surprise) and moved into a mode of contemplating, from the standpoint of all "three" parties, how to incorporate this new reality into your life and lifestyle. You are right on top of what needs to be done and what needs to be considered at this point in the process. As I am sure you are slowly surmising, day by day, there are a number of possibilities — possibilities that will leave you (and perhaps Tatiana and your son-to-be) the freedom to travel a good part of the year. Of course, only you and Tatiana will be able to come up with the arrangements that will work best for you. But, I am confident that such arrangements can (and WILL) be found. You and Tatiana have but to keep the lines of communication open and honest, continuing to share with each your personal dreams, desires, hopes, and fears.

One of your friends (I don't recall the name) wrote that he/she could envision the three of you eventually traveling together during major parts of the year. This is absolutely possible, if it is your and Tatiana's desire. Last year, I read an L. A. Times Magazine article about a medical doctor, married to a Latina, who raised a family five children while spending the major portion of his life SURFING, primarily in Hawaii and, secondarily, in Southern California. He simply walked away from his job in his early-30s and has spent the last 40 or so years of his life doing time "doctoring" here and there in order (as the need arose) to earn the limited amount of resources needed to support his growing family while living in a mobile room on the beach.

So, never permit yourself to feel that the lifestyle that you so bodaciously carved out for yourself has come crashing down, now that you are about to become a father. No, no! Rather, continue to put your head together with Tatiana's and FIND a way that permits you (singularly or as a family unit) to continue doing what your heart desires — traveling the world, meeting new people, experiencing new cultures, and connecting with a side of life that most of us work-a-day "laborers" will never know until our retirement years (and then we find that we have TOO little time left to enjoy it!).

The motto of a university at which I once taught may be germane to your and Tatiana's current deliberations: "I'll either find a way, or make one."

Obviously, I do not know Tatiana. But, my heart and sixth sense tells me that she is not the kind of woman who would try to "tie" you down and expect you to adapt to the conventional notion of what constitutes being a father or husband or "significant other." I believe that she's intelligent enough to realize that in so doing she would destroy the very thing that attracts her to you in the first place — your quest to know, to experience, to "be." Trust that she cares too much about you to ever desire to do that.

Again, I do believe that what has happened was MEANT TO HAPPEN. Your challenge — and Tatiana's challenge — now is to incorporate this new reality into who you both are as people. There IS a way to do this. But, it is a way that only the two of you can ever come to know and implement.

May the two of you continue your search for the "right path" with a clear mind, a loving heart, and a resolve to never betray the dreams that have brought you to this juncture in your journeys.

With all good wishes for a clear mind, a loving heart, and the resolve to stay close to your chosen path (even as the number of "fellow travelers increases),

Prof. Dr. "El" Darden
The Graziadio School of Business
Pepperdine University &
The Graduate School of Bufiness
Assumption University of Thailand

Malaysia

Craig | travelvice.com

September 13th, 2007

My heart and hugs go out to those warm messages of hope, encouragement, excitement, and congratulations above.

Dr. Darden: I forwarded your insightful and well articulated words on to Tatiana, who was as impressed with your remarks as I.

Thank you all for sharing with me in the peaks, valleys, and unexpected surprises that Life has in store for each of us.

Peace and smiles,

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