'Sometimes I'll see him on the street and I'll wonder, "Do you ever think of her? Here's me, always thinking about her, but do you ever think you have a daughter?" '
You are perhaps wondering what became of the fathers to these illegitimate children, their absence in this study echoing loudly as we speak of the mothers’ experiences. Their relationships to the would-be-mothers varied. Some were long term boyfriends, others were short flings. There were one-night-stands and incidents of sexual assault. Some proposed marriage when they learned of the pregnancy, while others denied the child was theirs calling the woman a slut or accusing her of ‘sleeping around’. A few remained present in various capacities through the pregnancy, either sending money to help with expenses or even continuing in a relationship. One woman went on to marry the father of her child which was relinquished for adoption. Another woman’s mother, upset that the baby’s father refused to acknowledge it as his own, filed a police report against him for having sex with a minor (he was a minor as well). Some of the fathers have never been seen since, disappearing from the woman’s life and that of their child. A few women have regularly bumped into the father of their first child, some will speak to him others will not.
Aside from genetics, perhaps the greatest contribution these men can be said to have had is their complete absence from the decisions being made around the mother and baby’s future. It was frequently understood that the pregnancy was the mother’s problem, and not the father’s, and she was therefore left to deal with the consequences of their copulation without his support, guidance, or aid. He failed to relieve her of any of the stress or shame affiliated with their shared pregnancy, and was easily able to escape any stigmatization himself for the role he played in her dishonour and future hardships.
I do not wish to portray the fathers as unfeeling, cruel, or intentionally hurtful. I have not spoken with them as they are not necessarily the focus of this study, and they may have honest and emotional thoughts on the subject which I have not considered. What I am addressing is that in the trajectory of the women’s experience they played a very small role in how her pregnancy and future as a mother was meted out beyond their genetic contribution.
Do you ever think about her?
'But when I've sometimes seen him out in the streets I often think to myself, "Do you, do you ever think about her? Have you ever asked about her? Does your wife know...?" '
Did you tell the father? What was his response?
'He was..in denial. He was exactly the same age, we were fifteen, the both of us. He was in denial over it being his child. I don't think he was really in denial, his father used to use the belt to the boys. I think he was terrified of his father. Um..and my mum wrote his parents.'