42: Mr. 99.89%

42: Mr. 99.89%

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman

Mr. 99.89%

I wanted to be an independent woman, a woman who could pay for her bills, a woman who could run her own life — and I became that woman.

~Diane von Furstenberg

There it was in black and white: “Subject A is NOT ruled out as the father of subject B, with 99.89% certainty.” It was all so clinical yet the undeniable validation I had been seeking for more than three years. The man I had been married to and shared the promise of a future with was proven to be the biological father of our son. As I held that single sheet of paper, I was consumed with vindication and anger, but mostly a profound sense of sadness for a dream deferred.

When I first received the e-mail from my husband informing me he was “staying in the U.K.,” my son Christian had just turned nine months old, and his father had seen him a total of four weeks since his birth. Essentially, he was a stranger to him, so Christian wouldn’t feel the void. On the other hand, this news floored me and completely turned my world upside-down. It was not so much an emotional blow — I have always been very handy at compartmentalizing the practical aspects from the more cerebral ones. It was more about coming to grips with the fact that all my expectations of our life as a family together, coupled with the many sacrifices I had made professionally and personally during the past decade, had been shattered by two short sentences emanating from a twelve-inch computer screen.

My husband and I met while I was living in London, employed as the marketing director for his father’s company. For the first few years, we had nothing more than a cordial professional relationship. In fact, we probably had two non-work-related interactions during that initial period. Gradually, we developed a friendship, followed by a romance and marriage. We were able to keep it hidden from our colleagues. Our family members were aware of our relationship, but we were able to keep our colleagues out of the loop — that is, until that damn stick turned blue. It was not the first time a blue stick would impact my life.

We had already been married for almost two years before I became pregnant. It was unplanned and unexpected. Nonetheless, after the shock wore off, I became extremely excited at the prospect of impending motherhood and the new journey my husband and I would take.

The choice to relocate and raise our child in the States was mutual. The better quality of life, access to my family and the fact that my husband’s company wanted to expand to the U.S. market were all factors in our final decision. Therefore, when I moved back to Philadelphia in order to prepare for Christian’s birth, there was no hint that life would be less than idyllic. I was seven months pregnant at that point, and my husband would spend the next year dividing his time between countries until we were settled.

After our son was born, my husband was present for about a week and then felt compelled to “get back to work.” To be honest, it was fine with me. He was reacting to what I assumed were typical first-time father fears, so I attributed his indifference to that. He showed no real interest in feedings, diapering or even holding our son. I spent the next few months living with my mother. I looked at houses to buy, researched commercial properties and offices for the business, and reveled in being a mommy, sleepless nights and all. Soon after I gave birth, I became ill. No one could conclusively come up with a diagnosis, so I was in and out of doctors’ appointments on a regular basis. Later, we would discover I had multiple sclerosis.

My husband eventually travelled to the U.S. for an extended period to sort out his residency visa. Rather than the logical decision to live with Christian and me at my mom’s, he opted to rent a place in the city. He argued it was easier for him as he had access to the train to New York for business. Again, it all seemed rational, and with everything else going on, I did not have time to be more introspective about his snub.

My daily existence remained the same, filled with hospital visits and taking care of my infant son. Understandably, my focus was not entirely on my husband, and he made it perfectly clear he was not happy. He would make the occasional visit out to my mom’s house, but never stay the night. He argued he did not want to impose — on his wife and son? The cracks were starting to show, but I still had no clue as to his real intentions.

A few months shy of our son’s first birthday, my husband had to return to London for personal reasons. He was advised against it for fear of compromising his visa status. He went anyway.

Precisely a week later, I opened that e-mail from him. It said simply, “Lucy, I have decided to stay in the U.K. This just isn’t what I expected it to be.” I remember turning my computer on and off about five times, expecting the words to change. The lack of sleep was causing my mind to play tricks on me, but each time the result was the same. My husband had cowardly informed me he wanted out. We had been abandoned. All couples go through hiccups in a relationship, particularly during moments of great change, but mature individuals push through it together.

Before people become parents, they tend to think more viscerally. They can be vulnerable and disappointed by others, but it is a manageable discomfort. When they add a child into the equation, that pain becomes profoundly overwhelming. I once was told that having a child means allowing our hearts to exist outside our bodies. Before I had Christian, it was merely a cliché. But now every breath he takes is my own. Every tear he sheds, every laugh and every thought is an extension of who I am. Therefore, he is my ultimate priority.

After a year of trying fruitlessly to get my husband to communicate, I realized I had to go through the courts. He offered no support nor showed any interest in Christian or me. He feigned sudden poverty despite living in his parents’ $5 million Kensington home. Then, when that tactic failed, he said he doubted he was the father and demanded a DNA test.

At first, I refused. I was not going to subject Christian to that to satisfy his father’s newfound neurosis. It was ironic that during the entire marriage, the nine-month pregnancy and the first year of Christian’s life, there was never a question of my fidelity. Conveniently, it was only when asked for child support that I suddenly became “get-lucky-with-Lucy” in his eyes. Seriously, we had worked together and lived together. When was this supposed clandestine moment to have taken place? During those five minutes we were apart at the grocery store? While he was in the organic-food aisle, and I was choosing between Oreos and Chips Ahoy? Finally, against legal advice — apparently, by law, the husband in a married relationship is automatically recognized as being responsible — I relented.

When the results came back, all I could think of was that old Ivory Soap slogan: “99 44/100% Pure.” In our scenario, however, the subject was far from pure: My husband was 99 and 89/100% dishonorable.

So, I have essentially had to start over, and despite a court order, we still receive no support. But I am more than okay. I run a consulting business now that helps people reinvent themselves after life has thrown them a curveball. It turns out that Christian and I are 100% better off without Mr. 99.89% in our lives.

~Lucy Alexander

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