With thanks to TheDeadGuy for his writeup above:

I have been struggling with a certain problem for months, though all the while slowly working towards the right conclusion, I think, for myself, and certainly for one innocent little girl.

Due to my upbringing and witnessing firsthand the damage that can be done to children who, at best, are not valued, I hold extremely strong beliefs on the raising, nurturing, and protection of children. All children, not just mine. I have seen first hand, just as TDG describes in his w/u above, what can go wrong when they reach young adulthood without being treated like the magical creatures they are.

See I am thankful for the ocean eyes of Shaymus for a good example of the right way treat our little ones. We'd surely have a lot less problems if we were all as reverent, as thankful, as junkpile, I think.

Recently, I found myself placed in the extremely difficult and painful situation where I would have to ultimately live up to my own standards or abandon them for the sake of my own emotional comfort.

A child had been placed in my sphere of influence through extremely painful circumstances, the result of a one night stand my partner had in a night of drunken stupidity. He confessed. I forgave. She called, months later, pregnant, claiming the baby was his. I raged all over again. Forgiveness was harder to come by this time. The baby was born. I insisted we sue for paternity testing. The test was positive. Now I was stuck, and firmly, on the horns of a dilemma.

We knew next to nothing about the mother, other than she had multiple DUIs. I knew J. was lost; he was clueless about what to do, never having had a child or even wanted one. Send a check every month, ignore her, and hope for the best? Wait till she (the daughter) was ten or 15 and start up a relationship if she shows up on the doorstep? I couldn't believe he wouldn't just 'automatically' step up and take responsibility. It was his daughter, after all. I mean, Jesus.

The baby is now 4 months old. I guess I secretly knew this was coming as I have been pushing her Dad from the day he broke the news to me to do everything 'right' -- from sending child support to the mom from the day the baby was born (without court intervention), to filing for full joint physical and legal custody, to counseling and long, long, talks on being a full and positive presence in his daughter's life.

*Note: Borgo and Borgette's write-ups were infinitely helpful in this. A big thank-you to them, too.

Well, he got it. Joint custody. Her name is Magdalena and she is a beautiful little girl that looks just like him. He is going to be a Dad with all that entails.

So now is the time for me to put up or shut up, as they say. Do I stay or do I go? Easy way or hard way? Do I dig in and commit to being a huge part of this child's life? Because I know it is no halfway thing. Not for me, anyway.

I know that by staying I can make this child's existence and prospects infinitely better than they would be without me. To do that, I would need to drop my hurt and my pride and my righteousness and offer up my whole self to her...no strings.

I know this thing in my heart. Everybody who cares for me, including J, has told me it is not required of me. That it is 'too much to ask' of me because of the 'circumstances'. (Sarcastic side note: I love how everyone uses 'circumstances' as a euphemism for 'you aren't obliged to do anything because she is the product of him cheating on you').

But if not me and not now, then who and when? I have a chance to make a difference. Right now. With a real live little girl. SHE didn't cheat on me.

So really, deep down, I know better. I couldn't live with myself knowing I had left a little girl hanging just because I felt shamed and embarrassed over something that I didn't even do. And when I look around here, at J and the other woman, her mom, and the various satellite characters who have become involved in this little tragedy -- when I really look? I'm the strongest one standing after all of this. Which is really pretty fucking amazing. I hadn't noticed before. I was too wrapped up in trying to find forgiveness or distraction or sanity. But I had all of them all the time. Well, most of the time anyway.

Welcome to the world, Magdalena. I hope that I am worthy and able to do my part and show you the wonders it holds, and, more importantly, the wonders that you hold and the magic that you are. You have my word I will give it my best.