There may be no easy time to break up with your partner, but splitting up while you’re expecting brings its own specific challenges.
By Marie Holmes
E! News reported that the baby boy was conceived via surrogate in November 2021, before news broke in December that Thompson was also expecting a child with another woman. An unnamed source told E! that the two have only spoken about “co-parenting matters” in the time since.
Whether or not they play out in the public eye, breakups are difficult. When children are involved, they can be even more intricate, and when the pair is expecting, it adds yet another layer of complication. Even when communication is limited to “co-parenting matters,” a lot of decisions and agreements need to be made.
Stacia L. Brown, a writer and storyteller who lives with her daughter in North Carolina, confirmed she was pregnant the same week that she and her partner broke up.
They ended up splitting responsibilities along gender lines. Brown prepared to become her child’s primary caregiver, with the father assuming a less intensive role.
Brown’s primary concern was having enough money to raise a child, but, she told HuffPost, “I also didn’t think I’d have a parenting partner. At minimum, it seemed clear that whoever might help me raise my daughter, day to day, wouldn’t be her dad.”
When Brown’s daughter was three, they wound up in the same city as her father, and he began to take a more active role in her life. While they now live four hours apart, Brown described their current co-parenting relationship as “more collaborative and inclusive.”
She characterizes the relationship as “workable,” but not without its challenges. “I think he’d like to see her more often, and we don’t always see eye to eye on parenting decisions.”
If you’re currently facing a break-up while expecting a child, here are some expert tips on how to manage. While aimed at couples planning to split, they’re good reminders of things that all co-parents should keep in mind, even while cohabitating.
Be clear about what each person needs to communicate.
People often assume that the other parent will keep them up-to-date but then don’t agree on what information needs to be shared.
“What I’ve seen in my work is that sometimes each person is not actually fully aware of what the other one wants to hear about, or maybe things they don’t want to hear about, or appointments they want to attend,” said Vanessa Benzan-Monteiro, a therapist who remotely sees clients living in Florida, Georgia and Massachusetts.
Map out what each parent needs to know. Thinking about the entire pregnancy may be overwhelming, so Benzan-Monteiro encourages clients to break things down into smaller, more manageable chunks.
“Sometimes it’s harder for people to see that far forward, of what is the birth going to look like? And what is it going to look like in regards to taking care of the baby and the infant and so on. Break it down piece by piece, that’s my biggest recommendation for people.”
“You don’t have to map it out 100%,” said Benzan-Monteiro. “Navigate just this next month, maybe two months, if you can see that far, and say, ‘All right, what are the things that I want to know about? What are the things that I want to share with you?’”
Plan how your communication will take place.
Solid communication requires both time and effort. Dedicate a specific time for this communication to happen.
Terry Gaspard, a couples counselor and author, recommends meeting regularly, perhaps every couple of weeks — unless you can’t speak to each other without the conversation devolving into an argument. In these cases, a “referee,” such as a therapist, may be able to facilitate effective communication.
While email can work as another form of communication, Gaspard recommends against relying too heavily on text messages, as they can be easily misconstrued for lack of context. Phone calls are second best to in-person meetings, she says, as they allow you to ask each other questions.
Enlist outside help.
Many people assume that couples therapists are only for couples who want to stay together, but that’s not the case.
“Couples therapists are skilled in helping multiple people navigate communication and get creative in thinking outside the box,” said Benzan-Monteiro.
Personal counseling for one or both partners can also be helpful, said Gaspard.
A mediator is another option. Unlike lawyers, mediators work for the couple — not just one person — to help make decisions.
“You each have a say,” explained Gaspard. “You work out a memorandum of agreement on every single detail of your child’s [life]. It’s really beneficial to children.”
Benzan-Monteiro also recommends The Co-Parenting Handbook as a resource.
Assume best intentions.
It’s true in disciplining a child, and it’s true in co-parenting. Start from a place of believing that the other person wants to do the right thing — in this case, for your child. Even when it feels like they are purposefully making your life difficult, give them the benefit of the doubt that they are not out to get you.
“Separated and divorced parents have a way of being competitive with one another,” said Gaspard. ”[It’s] very common for them to badmouth each other, and that’s probably one of the most harmful things you can do to a relationship, and certainly, even young children pick up on it,” she said.
When you’re “not always criticizing or looking for the negative, it can change the dynamic,” said Gaspard.
Take advantage of neutral locations.
Because visiting each other’s homes can be emotionally fraught, Gaspard recommends that the hand-off of the child occur in a neutral setting whenever possible.
“I’ve seen it work out where separated or divorced people have a pretty good relationship with their partner or ex-partner’s family, or they have a mutual friend, and maybe they could do the drop-off and pick up there,” said Gaspard.
If you’re the birthing person, seek out the support you need.
Brown remembers the loneliness of solo pregnancy and recommends that you “find the people who will shore you up.”
“If there’s someone who can attend prenatal appointments if you need them to or crib/clothing shop with you or fantasize about what your baby will be like in the future, surround yourself with those people. It’s super-easy to slip into a depression when you’re alone during pregnancy. And that can mean that you aren’t taking care of yourself.”
Don’t assume things won’t get better.
Pregnancy or early parenthood may be fraught as you negotiate a co-parenting relationship, but that doesn’t mean things will always be this way.
“We’re talking about, at minimum, three individuals,” said Benzan-Monteiro. “So we have to be flexible and give permission to each other to learn and evolve.”
She suggests asking, “How can we do this in a way that centers the child or children, and in a way that is still each of us taking care of ourselves as individuals?”
“It’s important to remember that the way things are during the pregnancy aren’t necessarily how they’ll be after delivery,” said Brown. “If the person you’re breaking up with is truly amenable to the possibility of co-parenting with you, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to end your romantic relationship, if that isn’t working. Sometimes you get along better with the other parent when you don’t see them every day. And sometimes your child is better for the two-household arrangement.”