The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Am I the Father?

One day in June, I received a phone call from a female acquaintance. We were conversing normally until she came out of nowhere and said, “I’m pregnant and I think it’s yours.” My eyes opened wide, and I asked her when this happened. “Remember back on October 2?” she said.

I was stunned as I remembered the night she was talking about. Then I couldn’t think too well because anger came over me. I asked loudly, “How long did you know this? How many months are you?”

She told me that the baby was due next week and I was the father. I was furious. I couldn’t believe she had known this for nine months and was telling me only a week before the baby was due. I hung up on her.

I sat there trying to get my thoughts together. I knew the night she was talking about. In October, I was chilling and getting drunk at a party when I saw her across the room. I approached her and asked how she was doing. She said, “I’ve been eyeing you all night, and was waiting for you to come to me.”

I was amazed. I thought, “Oh really? Damn. That means I don’t have to do that much.” We went upstairs so we could talk alone. She told me that her name was Melanie and she didn’t have a man, but she was looking for one. I said I was looking for someone, too. That was a lie. I did have a woman, but I figured what she didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her.

Melanie started telling me about her life. She said her moms was a pain in the behind. She had an older brother who didn’t care too much about her. I was interested in her tale. She said, “Let me get your number and we can talk on the phone sometime.” I saw nothing wrong with that. She was cool enough and cute.

Then next thing I knew she started to fall asleep next to me. I tried to wake her up, and she pulled me toward her. We stared into each other’s eyes for a hot second, and before I knew it she was kissing my cheek. We were both drunk, and we did our thang.

I felt weird after we had sex. I hadn’t had a one-night stand before. I felt like I straight up took advantage of her, and that seemed strange. After we were done, I left her and we never spoke again. Whenever I heard about her through mutual friends, I just thought of her as a female I met at a party.

But now she had called me, nine months later, to tell me a baby had come out of that night and that it would be in the world in a week. I was confused. I wanted to punch something.

Instead, I called my new girl, who I had only recently started seeing, and told her what was going down. My lady sounded stunned on the phone but helped me think through the situation. We both thought that the first thing I needed to do was to take a paternity test to see if the kid was really mine. We weren’t ready yet to think too far beyond that. I kept asking myself, “What if it is mine? Am I ready to be a father? Am I ready to take care of another life?”

I did know that if it was mine, I wasn’t going to abandon it. I’ve seen too many fathers leave their kids behind. In fact, my own father left me behind when he went to jail. I knew the pain of growing up without a dad, and I always swore I wouldn’t do that if I had a child. But I knew if I became a father, my teenage life was gone. I would have to stop acting like a boy and take care of my responsibilities as a man.

I didn’t know what that meant, exactly. I didn’t know whether it meant I would have to quit school to get a full-time job. I did know I was too young for this. What’s worse, I didn’t have a penny to my name. But the baby would need things: diapers, a crib, toys, clothes, milk.

There were so many thoughts in my head, so many things to do, and I didn’t have much time to do those things. The walls were closing in quickly and I felt I had no one to help me. I couldn’t go back to selling products on the street. What good would I be to my kid if I were dead or locked up? I couldn’t go to my parents. They would kill me. How the hell could I tell my moms that I had a kid? How could I tell any of my family members? I was ashamed. I was supposed to be the one who succeeded, who didn’t get caught up in situations like this.

The only thing I knew was that I wanted to be part of this kid’s life. No matter what the circumstances were, I wasn’t leaving my seed. But how was I ever going to handle getting along with the kid’s mother, someone who would be there in the child’s life forever, someone I couldn’t stand for putting me through this?

Melanie called me back and asked why I hung up on her. I told her, “You knew all this and held out on me for this long, and you’re wondering why I’m being mean to you? I want nothing to do with you. I want to be with my lady and that’s it. The only reason I am going be nice to you and show some respect toward you is for the kid.”

I knew I was half responsible for all this, and that made me even angrier.

At the time graduation was coming up, and I had to pass the tests I needed to graduate. As I was studying for the tests and, later, taking them, my mind was on the baby. I could think of nothing but the baby, my girl, my family, and how was I going to make money.

image by Stephanie Kunar

For a while I thought that my girl would leave me to avoid dealing with baby mama drama. “Why would I leave?” she said when I told her what I was afraid of. “I said I was going to be there for you and that’s what I’m doing.”

My friends who knew about the baby situation were shocked about the news, but they also supported me 100%. I couldn’t ask for better friends in a time of need. But that didn’t mean everything was good. I was nervous just thinking about becoming a father, and even with the best friends and girl in the world, I wasn’t ready.

I had some idea about how hard it is to be a good parent. After all, neither of my parents pulled it off well enough to keep me at home, and I ended up in foster care. It hurt that my father had always been in and out of my life.

Previously, when I’d thought of having kids myself, I imagined that everything would be perfect. I wanted to have two, a boy and a girl, or as I would call them, my prince and princess. I pictured having my kids by the wife I chose to marry, and being financially stable enough to take care of them. I didn’t want things to be like this—to have a baby by someone who I didn’t care for, and to raise a kid when I’m not stable.

On Thursday, June 20, Melanie had the baby. She called me two hours after she delivered and told me that it was a boy. I was happy to hear that it had gone well with her and that the baby was healthy.

I went to the hospital that Friday to take the paternity test. As he took some blood for my DNA, the doctor said the results wouldn’t be ready for a few days. I felt weird having the blood drawn; my arm was flinching as he did it. I couldn’t stop thinking about how all of this was happening so fast.

Afterward, I went to see the baby. He was sleeping and beautiful. The last time I saw a baby that beautiful was when my little sister was born. I asked the nurse if I could hold him, and she gave me the baby. I sat there holding Shorty in my arms like a prized possession. I started talking to the baby like I already knew he was mine. He was cute, with hazel eyes, a little hair, and tiny hands and feet.

When the nurse told me that she had to put him back in the crib, I didn’t want to let him go. The whole feeling that the baby was mine hit me hard. I saw Shorty’s eyes and I knew that I would be ready for this. He was my responsibility and I wouldn’t let him down.

The whole time I was in the hospital room, Melanie and I didn’t communicate. The only time we spoke was when it regarded the baby. I told Melanie, “My only plans are to raise that baby, nothing else.” She said she understood that. I told her I would get the diapers and some toys, though I still hadn’t figured out how.

She said I could see the kid whenever I wanted. I said I’d see Shorty after school and some nights that I had free. Melanie’s mom was in the hospital, too. She seemed to like me, but she was also mad at me because she knew that we were too young and that we weren’t ready for this.

Monday was the big day, the day I’d find out if the kid was really mine. At the end of the day, I was supposed to meet my lady and tell her the results. When I got to the hospital, I saw Shorty moving, and I asked the doctor if I could hold him while he went and got the results. So I sat there in a chair holding Shorty in my arms, rocking back and forth.

I started talking to him, telling him, “Hey, little one, I might be your father,” and, “Don’t worry, I will never leave you.” I knew I was getting a little too mushy with Shorty, but I couldn’t help it. I even felt the urge to cry and let some feelings out. The way the baby moved in my arms was a joyous feeling to me. He was lying there sleeping, eyes closed, his little fists tight. I couldn’t believe this was mine.

After a while, Melanie caught my attention. She was just outside the room, and I saw that she was crying. Her mother got up and started yelling at the doctor, “It has to be him.” I walked toward them, and as the yelling got louder, the baby started crying and the nurse took him away. Melanie’s mother told the doctor, “I’ll pay you to tell him he is the father.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Then I felt like I was about to flip out on her.

As I struggled to stay calm, the doctor pulled me to the side and told me eye to eye, face to face, that the child wasn’t mine. I felt strange—both sad and overjoyed. I knew I wasn’t ready to be a father, but I had started to like the idea of having a kid to call mine.

That night, I told my girl the news. She was glad. But later as I walked down the streets, I noticed all the babies who were with their fathers, and I started to miss Shorty. It was hard to believe, all I’d been through in the last week because of that one-night mistake with Melanie. It was weird to think that I could’ve been a father.

I call Melanie once in a while to check up on Shorty. I was mad at her for doing all that to me, but I came out all right while she is giving up her teen years. To be honest, I believe some good has come out of it for me. My lady and I are stronger as a couple after going through that together, and I’m much more cautious about sex. I always use a condom. I know that having kids isn’t my thing, not now. (Maybe when I am about 22 and financially stable, I’ll think about it.)

After seeing Shorty and holding him in my arms, I see the love fathers have for their kids. But I also see why so many run. It’s frightening to look at something so small and know how much it needs you. But that don’t make it right for fathers to leave.

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