Sunday 19 November 2017

Orla Barry: Is the child I am raising really my biological son?

I have a three-year-old son with my girlfriend of five years and I am pretty happy except for one niggling doubt. Four years ago she broke it off with me out of the blue for a few months. At the time she never really said why, just that she was having doubts about us.

We got back together and shortly afterwards she found out she was pregnant. I didn't think too much about it because I was so shocked at the idea of being a father.

Since our son was born, we became closer than ever. He is undoubtedly the best thing that has happened to me.

Everyone jokes that he is the head off his mother and to be honest I don't see myself in him at all.

Recently we got talking about why we broke up and she admitted that an old boyfriend had come back on the scene.

She said she got confused and to avoid the confusion had ended the relationship.

She said I was also very possessive and, if I'm honest, I often still wonder what she saw in me. When I pressed her about it, she admitted they had slept together, although it happened after our break-up.

Now I find myself looking at our son and wondering if it's possible he's not mine. It would cut me up to find I wasn't the father and most of the time I just try and shove the thought away.

I remember when she first told me she was pregnant asking if I was definitely the father and she went berserk.

Recently I said it to a close friend who said you can do a paternity test at home without involving her just to prove it. If I do that and he's not mine, I don't know what I would do.

Orla replies:

You could just forget about it but somehow I suspect you're not the type of chap who can let things lie. It's more likely this is a sign of your possessive nature flaring up again.

Sneaking around behind her back conducting paternity tests might give you the answer but it won't solve the underlying problem of your own insecurity in this relationship. Better come clean now and discuss what's on your mind or resolve never to broach this subject again.

It makes perfect sense that your girlfriend went berserk when you questioned who the father of the child might be, although in hindsight, you were right to query it. After all, she did sleep with someone else around this time.

There are obvious questions you can ask about the use of protection, although in my experience there are no absolute failsafe methods. She is the only person who can adequately address your doubts and, of course, there is the possibility that these are thoughts she doesn't even wish to consider.

Is there a chance that she herself might have wondered and never fully clarified the matter?

Having a child that doesn't look like you is not an indication that the child is someone else's. Sometimes it can take a good few years before you spot family resemblances.

Angry and all though the questions might make her, she did sleep with someone else after you broke up and, in my book, that gives you the right to at least address the issue again.

The problem facing you is what you will do if the answer is one you don't want to hear. You say your son is the best thing to have happened to you and I wonder if he is not yours, will you walk away?

In this little boy's mind you are his father and even if you don't share the same genes you have been there in every other way. I know it's impossible to plan what your reaction will be, but in this case the needs of this boy should come first.

That said, if there are doubts about the paternity of your son, I don't imagine they will just disappear.

For medical reasons it may well matter that you both know who his birth father is. You have already talked about this with a friend of yours, so you have aired the issue. Can you guarantee that in a few years' time, this won't come back to haunt you or your little boy?

Children who are adopted are often left with an underlying sense of insecurity about their origin. Only loving adoptive parents can ensure that this insecurity doesn't have a lasting impact.

Better to have the matter cleared up now than in a few years' time when he is far more sensitive to what's happening.

I wonder why your girlfriend told you about the break-up and her old boyfriend recently. Do you think she was trying to raise the issue?

If there are doubts then she will also be living with a lie which is going to become more of a burden as the years pass.

I do think there is another issue here and that is your own insecurity in this relationship. She broke it off once before, partly because of your possessiveness. The fact that she refers to this now shows how much this characteristic bothered her.

Do you still wonder what she sees in you? Are you wondering if she is still with you because of this boy? Insecurities like this cannot be solved by the assurances of the other partner.

These are issues you are going to have to tackle yourself. If you are together five years it sounds like the relationship is on solid footing. You need to work on improving your own self-belief.

In the meantime, it's only fair that you air your doubts with your girlfriend now. My understanding of paternity tests, if you go that route, is that they require the consent of both adults. It's not quite a Jeremy Kyle-style showdown. Kits can be sent to the family home but, to receive results, you have to send swabs back with letters of consent.

After that it is a simple case of waiting for the results.

Just be sure to remember you have always been a father to this boy and his needs should be paramount whatever a test result might decide.

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