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updated: 1/20/2014 3:22 PM

Her lies add up to a surprise pregnancy

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A. I always wanted kids, but fate and life being as they are, I managed to get to my early 40s with no husband or children. Not from lack of trying, I assure you, but nothing took.

Three months ago I started seeing a nice guy. He has potential. But I feared he'd go the way so many had: dating for a while then moving on. This time I was determined to at least try to get something of what I want, so I did what I never thought I'd do. I lied when he asked if I was taking birth control. My bad luck coupled with the pure statistical improbability of it all really led me to believe I had little to no chance of getting pregnant.

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Well, I'm looking at a positive pregnancy test. How do I do this? How do I tell this man I barely know that I lied to him and hey, sorry but I'm about to torpedo your life?

And the worst part is that what I thought would be the happiest day of my life is making me want to cry and throw up. I've made a huge mess and I don't know how to fix it. I think I just didn't realize until right now how badly I wanted the whole white-picket-fence thing, too.

Just Sick

A. I'll let Bernard Malamud get this one. "We have two lives," he wrote in "The Natural." "The life we learn with and the life we live with after that."

You thought you wanted a baby above all. You learned, through your terrible lie and surprise fertility, that the "above all" was wrong -- you actually didn't want a baby at the cost of your integrity.

So now you live with what you learned: From now on, it's integrity first. You start by making an appointment with a reputable therapist, since you need to figure out when and why you let emotions push your judgment off a cliff. That's the surest path toward keeping it from happening again.

Also, you've just become rudely acquainted with what a bad person you're capable of being. You're hardly the first to have such an awakening -- arguably everyone will, or should, over the course of a lifetime -- but it's not an easy thing to live with. Having someone to guide you through it can help.

Next, you tell the nice guy that you are pregnant, and also lied about birth control. You tell him why. You tell him how wrong you were that you were self-indulgent without any regard for the consequences to him. You tell him you are prepared to absorb as many of the consequences you can, including that of raising this child entirely on your own.

You tell him you're seeking therapy.

If you care about him as a person and not just as a squandered potential picket fencing contractor, then say that, too. But don't if you don't. (See "Integrity first," above.)

Stay this honest course, and you will be a better, more self-aware, more compassionate person than you were before you sunk to deceit. It will make you a better mom. I realize how perverse that is for me to say, but there's no getting what we want; we all get what we get.

• Email Carolyn at tellmewashpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

2014 The Washington Post

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