unplanned pregnancy


A Singlewith.com exclusive by Christine Coppa

“I think Adrian wanted to be born. I felt him. I felt Adrian. I felt his spirit.” – Adrian Grenier’s mom, Karesse

Entourage hits theaters tonight and while I’ve been a huge fan of Adrian Grenier’s witty work – his star turn as Vincent Chase on the HBO series that inspired the buzzed-about movie, his flirty role as Andy’s boyfriend in The Devil Wears Prada and, yeah, he drove me crazy with Drive Me Crazy, too – I was much more entranced by his directorial debut, Shot in the Dark (available on DVD) in which he embarked on a personal quest to find his absent biological father he’d met only a few times.

It takes an ‘entourage’ to raise a family

Behind every absentee dad is a single mom. I had the pleasure of interviewing Adrian’s mom, Karesse Grenier, about raising Adrian alone, with limited support and resources.

Here, she shares details of Adrian’s conception, expectations she had for her unborn child’s father, the bond between a single mom and her son, and more.

Meeting Adrian’s father

Karesse, who was 25 at the time, describes Adrian’s conception and that time in her life as “going with the wind.” It was 1974 when she met John Dunbar, Adrian’s father. They met in upstate New York at a summer camp run by the Theosophical Society, an organization that brings together wisdom and knowledge from all religions, exploring spirituality and “the essential oneness”  of all beings. “I taught the kids yoga and spiritual movement,” Grenier says. Adrian’s father, then 24, was working in the camp’s kitchen. Grenier says he was very handsome with a gentle spirit, but very quiet. “I took that as him being strong inside and stoic.”

“I did all the talking,” Grenier admits. “I was making the relationship, the fantasy and the romance. It was the ’70s. We were in the moment and there was a physical connection, plus the camp was a very magical place.”

Grenier remembers sipping wine in the evening with Dunbar, then a fantastic lightning storm. “We ran in between the lightning bolts in the woods.”

Reacting to the pregnancy news

“I was living in NYC with my roommate and I called John to tell him I was pregnant. He was nervous… but thrilled. However, John did not offer any direction as to how we would live and was always looking to me for what’s next,” says Grenier.

Grenier got serious, fast, as she faced the reality of being with child. “Oh my God, I’m really going to have a little person!” she remembers thinking. “My body was changing. How was I going to work and live?  She felt John needed to grow up a bit and admits being intolerant of him. “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen,” was her attitude. Grenier’s motto for her new life as a parent: “Whatever I did before, I’ll just do the same thing. The only difference is I’ll have my ‘little gremlin’ with me.”

“I didn’t have too much support,” she says. “I did go home to New Mexico to have the baby. It was day-to-day, hand-to-mouth. I’m the oldest of many kids. I was home, but I was on my own.”

Adrian’s early relationship with his dad 

Adrian’s father did come to New Mexico for his birth. “I wanted to be friends with John,” Grenier says. “I didn’t want to be with him, romantically, but I wanted him to be a part of Adrian’s life.”

She made her feelings clear: “I kept telling him, I’m not going to be committed [to a romantic relationship].” Dunbar went back to Ohio, married and did not see Adrian again until he was six. “His wife initially wanted to embrace a relationship with Adrian. This was a good sign, I thought,” Grenier says. During the visit, “Adrian was upbeat and loving. For him, this was another opportunity to have company.”

But the company didn’t last. “I don’t think Adrian was bummed when he realized John wasn’t going to be around after that visit,” Grenier says. Since his father hadn’t been a big part of his life before the visit, 6-year-old Adrian didn’t seem to experience his dad’s departure as a loss.

Being Adrian’s single mom

Adrian and Karesse

 “I moved back to New York when Adrian was a month old. I breastfed him until he was nearly two-and-a-half,” says Grenier, who today is married to a wonderful man named Bob. Adrian calls him his #2 dad and even jokes he has DNA from both John and Bob.

Adrian and mom share a similar favorite moment from when Adrian was a young boy.

“I would wake him up early, wrap him in a blanket, put him in the car and go on adventures,” Grenier says. She also loved bike riding with Adrian once he turned 7.

“We would bike from the Upper West Side to the ferry and then go to Staten Island. There were these fantastic abandoned warehouses to explore.”

Karesse Grenier’s advice for other single moms

Be honest with your child. “I never kept secrets from Adrian,” Grenier says. “I always spoke very positively about his dad. ‘Dad does love you,’ I would tell him. I liked to remind him that human beings have weakness and his dad wasn’t strong-willed, but that one day you will know his love is real for you. People can’t always act on their feelings.”

Don’t let guilt get in your way. “I went to a psychic before Adrian was born, because I felt guilty about bringing Adrian into the world without a dad and wondered if I pushed John away,” Grenier says. “The psychic told me that my child had his own personal destiny and  came here primarily to be with me for his purpose… that was the choice of his soul.”

Don’t let society stigmatize you. “I encouraged Adrian to be aware of this,” Grenier says. “I didn’t want him to be pitied because his father wasn’t around. Adrian and I didn’t lack. You can be as fulfilled and as whole as anyone.”

Know that you’re enough. If you end up as a single mother, Grenier advises, understand that you are a full, complete human being and you can provide your child with everything they need. The support of a male figure is ideal, but not necessary to hold your family up.

Adrian Grenier’s advice for kids who have an absentee parent

After speaking to Karesse, I emailed with Adrian to get his take on having an absent father. “It’s hard sometimes not to have the support from parents that we want, but you’re not alone,” he says.

“We all have to make the circumstances we’ve been given work for us,” Adrian adds. “Some people are born without dads; some people are born with dads that have one leg. Whatever it is, all of life is a unique, special opportunity to rise to the occasion.”

The hardest thing about being a single mom, according to Karesse

“It’s having to be a nurturer, loving parent, provider and in the older years, a disciplinarian,” she says. “You do it all alone. You have to wear two masks. As a boy growing up with a single mom, they want that comfy pillow to lay their head on and don’t always understand the tough-love boundaries coming from Mom.”

How Adrian’s art was able to change his life

Adrian,  8th grade, playing the prince in "Into the Woods"
Adrian the summer after 9th grade, playing the prince in “Into the Woods”

“Adrian was always creative and loved music,” his mom remembers. “He had a natural ear for music. He was expressive but a little shy. I never thought of him as being an actor.”

Adrian took his creativity to another level when he directed Shot in the Dark and Karesse thinks it helped his relationship with his father, beyond what we saw on camera.

“Adrian said, ‘I’m going to take a camera and find my dad. And I said, ‘OK, that will be cathartic.’ I never thought he’d make it into a movie and show the world!” Grenier says, laughing.

“It took a lot for John to even take Adrian to the house to meet his wife [her feelings had changed since the visit when he was 6]. She hung up on him when he called. He had to go back a few times to shoot.

“She was resistant. In the documentary, she talks about this stone in her heart – closed-up feelings and pain – having to deal with her own personal challenges of not being able to have her own biological child with John.”

Grenier’s take on the issue?  It is important that a stepmom or girlfriend embrace her partner’s history and the relationships that come with that history. It is not always that simple, she says, but in the end openness and acceptance of the role of stepmom will define and build character.

Where are Karesse and John now?

Today they are friendly, Grenier says. “He’ll give me a hug at events and I know that John is proud of Adrian. Debbie, too, is always warm and truly gracious.  Everyone has come together and found peace in what has connected us in life.  Adrian is at the center of this bond, reuniting us with a gentle reminder to keep our hearts open.”

“Adrian loves to document things on film. [Shot in the Dark] was a public event. That was good in the sense that it brings you to the stage and you become less significant – you’re part of a greater purpose. You’re sharing a story with the world. The documentary opened up doors and conversations not just for us, but also for others going through similar family events.”

Where are Adrian and John now?

“I celebrate my mother on Father’s Day,” Adrian says. “She was a mother and a father to me for so long. There are father figures in many different variations. John is my dad in his own way, amongst other role models and people I look up to.” (Hear that kiddos? Give your single mommy a Father’s Day gift this month.)

Is Adrian ready for fatherhood, himself? 

“I don’t have expectations that he has to give me a grandchild,” his mom says. “I would welcome it, [but] he has to find his own way.”

Grenier says her son is very happy to have a Bohemian life – who cares about the white picket fence? Adrian values individuality, autonomy and honest communication, she says. For him, “Nothing has to be ‘legal’ official or to standards determined by society’s perception of normal.”

So, would he ever choose to become a single dad? I think he’d be open to having a kid alone,” his mother guesses. “But having a partner is going to give him peace in the long run.”

She’s right-ish, says Adrian: “I’m big into the idea of chosen family, where you build and create the family that is right for you,” he says. “Sometimes it’s better to depart from a situation that is destructive or perhaps isn’t best serving you, even if it is biology, blood. We’re all one big family under God. I would adopt, and I think I could raise a child alone, but I would not choose to – it takes a village.”

The bottom line on single motherhood, according to Karesse

I asked Grenier for her definition of single motherhood.Very rewarding, very defining of your character,” she says. “It ultimately defined me as a person. [It was] a big leap of faith.”

How well does Karesse Grenier really know her son?

Ent_ 0045.DNG
A still from the Entourage movie.

Does a single mom know best? Just for fun, I asked Karesse to answer a few questions about her son. Next, I followed up with Adrian. She did pretty well!

Adrian’s favorite ice cream?

Karesse: Coffee

Adrian: Vanilla chocolate chip, or strawberry. I like simple flavors

Adrian’s favorite movie?

Karesse:  Splash

Adrian: Amadeus

Which does Adrian prefer, acting or playing in his band The Honey Brothers? 

Karesse: The Honey Brothers

Adrian: I like being in front of and behind of the camera. They both fulfill me in different ways.

L.A. or Brooklyn?

Karesse: Brooklyn

Adrian: Brooklyn

Adrian’s favorite food: 

Karesse: Avocado

Adrian: Avocado

Favorite dish made by Mom:

Karesse: Veggie tacos

Adrian: Veggie tacos

Does Adrian have a girlfriend?

Karesse:  I don’t think he’s in a committed relationship.

Adrian: No comment.

What’s Adrian’s favorite drink?

Karesse: I don’t like him to drink! Don’t ask me.

Adrian: Tequila and soda

Adrian’s favorite color:

Karesse: Blue or green

Adrian: Blue

Where does Adrian want to travel next?

Karesse: Australia

Adrian: Croatia

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featured photo by Kevin Winter © EdStock

Entourage photos by Claudette Barius, courtesy Warner Brothers Pictures

family photos courtesy Karesse Grenier

WHY WE LOVE HER: Christine’s honest writing about her unplanned pregnancy, her son’s absentee father and now, her thyroid cancer, has helped and inspired  hundreds of readers.

“Are you a fucking idiot?”

Christine Coppa’s brother Carlo has been an incredibly supportive uncle to her son Jack, now 7, but when she told him she was pregnant at 26 by the guy she’d been dating for 3 months, his initial reaction was the same as, well, her own was.  As she writes in Rattled!, her single-motherhood memoir, “Having sex with [my boyfriend] without a condom was like getting on a roller coaster at Six Flags and not buckling my seatbelt. You don’t do it.”

And yet she’d done it, and the nausea she felt wasn’t the flu as she hoped. She was pregnant. At the time, Christine was a women’s magazine editor whose life was very Sex and the City: Evenings out with her friends, dressed in heels and a sparkly top, carrying a cute designer handbag.

“The single mom Carrie Bradshaw”

Not too long after that positive pregnancy test, her boyfriend – the one that seemed to have “kind eyes” – took off. (Eight years later, he still isn’t in touch with their son.) Christine moved back to the New Jersey suburbs, close to her incredibly tight-knit family, and then became the face of single motherhood to thousands of readers through her blog, Storked!, at Glamour.com. Storked! paved the way for Rattled!, which the New York Times called “a warm, frank, big-hearted book.” Christine was dubbed a pregnant-turned-single-mom Carrie Bradshaw, but the effect of Christine’s high-profile blog was way deeper than Carrie’s column. As Christine could see from the mail and email and messages, she was breaking down stigmas and changing women’s lives.

“Prevailing” through parenting…and cancer

Christine went on to write for Parenting.com, Babble.com, Yahoo! Parents and now, Singlewith. Hundreds of loyal fans have gotten to watch Jack Domenic – and Chrissy – grow up. She’s shared the beautiful moments – Jack’s birthdays and accomplishments – and the hard ones, like the year her beloved dad, an attorney, went to prison. So when she was diagnosed last summer with thyroid cancer, she shared that with readers, too, hoping to raise awareness, spreading the hashtag #checkyourneck. Christine’s honesty and openness has been inspiring. One of her most-used words is prevail. She has, and she’s helped many others do it, too.

As Chrissy’s 7th Mother’s Day approached, we emailed her some questions about her writing and her life.

Singlewith: You got pregnant by accident and your boyfriend bailed. Why did you start writing about it?

Christine Coppa: First off, I never consider getting pregnant an accident. It was unplanned. One of my favorite quotes on the subject is from the actress Patricia Heaton: “A woman experiencing an unplanned pregnancy also deserves to experience unplanned joy.”

Writing came organically. I was working full-time as a magazine editor and freelancing for Glamour. I mentioned to my editor that I was pregnant and my boyfriend split and she asked me to write a personal essay about it. But that was replaced with a personal blog on glamour.com called “Storked!”

Honestly, at first, my motivation for writing the blog was to align myself with Glamour. It’s such a strong, girl-power title. But a few posts in, I realized people were actually reading my virtual diary and liking it. It got a lot of attention – good and snarky and mean – from blogs and other news outlets. I definitely didn’t expect to be a poster child for single motherhood or branded as a pregnant Carrie Bradshaw looking for love, but it happened.

The attention was exciting and terrifying. Eight years later it’s amazing to look back on that blog and read how I was really feeling when I was a week away from giving birth. A lot of my feelings towards my son’s father (who has yet to surface) have changed and I’ve worked through a lot of anger, guilt and sadness — but it’s still remarkable to own that on this day in 2007 I was beat up and afraid. I’m hardly that woman today.

Being recognized in New York City or a Target store in New Jersey was strange, but it made me feel like real live people not just bubbles23 on the Internet were reading and resonating  with my blog. It was an honor and privilege to share my experiences on glamour.com. I’ll always hold Cindi Leive and all the editors that championed me in the highest regard. That blog gave me a career.

SW: What do you feel the impact of your Glamour blog and your book has been?

CC: I still get mail from single moms and dads 8 years later. A colleague of mine is expecting to become a single mom any day now and she texted to tell me she reread my book, Rattled!, and felt less alone and scared. I think my blog and book are evergreen. There’s always going to be an unplanned pregnancy and a scared woman. I’m not an expert and was merely sharing what I was feeling, but I’m glad all my single mom writing is accessible on the web via a simple Google search.

Just the other day a single mom Facebooked me to ask how she should answer her kid’s questions about her absent father. I sent her a link to an article I wrote for Parenting in 2011 titled “Single Parenting Advice”  I interviewed experts and used my own knowledge on the topic to craft that piece. I have to say, it’s nice to be a resource.

SW: You’re being very open about your thyroid cancer treatment. Has that been different than writing about being a mom?

CC: Writing about thyroid cancer and treatment wasn’t much different than writing about single motherhood. I took the same approach – tell the truth and raise awareness. And again, women have contacted me, thanking me for my candid essays and photos of myself post-op with a fresh scar – it’s not so glamorous. But, hopefully, that fresh scar picture encouraged a woman to #checkherneck for lumps. Thyroid cancer is highly treatable if caught early.

SW: What are the best and worst things about being a single mom?

CC: Best thing: Easy, having Jack all to myself and running our circus. Hardest: I get easily overwhelmed and would love a partner in crime for pillow talk. Having a husband or partner or even a dad around is not the same as other help. I am solely responsible for Jack. It’s a wonderful job. That can scare the shit out of me sometimes.

SW: How do you talk to Jack about his father?

Jack and Lucy
Jack and Lucy

CC: Jack has seen his dad’s picture and pictures of his family. He has half-siblings. We are in contact with other members of his father’s family and they are the sweetest. Jack’s father was a high school, college and career track star. Jack is very fast and it’s not from me. We run the track at the local high school and I’ve started having conversations about his father with him as we jog along. It seems like a good place. Running has been extremely symbolic to me from the beginning of my pregnancy.

SW: Are there things you won’t write about? Has that changed as Jack has gotten older?

CC: Jack is almost 8 and I’m getting less and less personal for three reasons. First, Jack deserves privacy. Secondly, life isn’t so exciting. I’m a working single mom. Jack goes to school, loves books, Derek Jeter and playing baseball. I had a story worth serializing in 2007 – people were counting down to my kid’s birth – but these days are pretty routine. Lastly, I credit myself as a reporter and writer, not just a mommy blogger. Some of my most important work was published this year on Yahoo! Parenting. I got an exclusive interview with Zoey Mendoza, the New Jersey mom whose husband murdered their kids. Her story inspired a segment on Dr. Oz.  I also interviewed a mom whose child survived the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and I’ve written heartbreaking stories about bullying.

SW: Loved your post on the sexist assumptions of your son’s team, saying that Jack’s dad or a male relative needed to volunteer.

Chrissy and Jack stadium
Ball game!

CC: I was an indoor soccer coach, yet never played soccer in my life, so I would stay up at night and Google how to teach kids to play soccer. We had a blast. I was also bench mom for Jack’s T-Ball league for three years. It was great being in the dugout with the kids and helping them with clunky helmets, shoe tying, calling for kids to get on deck. I organized the snacks. This year is a whole new ballgame. Jack is off the T and I was booted from the dugout. I sit in the stands every game and cheer my son on. We play catch and go to the batting cages. We’ll take in a few Yankees games this summer.

Growing up, I didn’t play sports – my brothers did. That’s not to say girls don’t rock at sports. They do. But, me? I took ballet and cheered on the high school football team. I liked art and writing. Now I have this little boy who is such a superstar baseball player that people call him “Jackie Jeter.”  I just had to … get in the game. I went to Sports Authority and bypassed the cute workout clothes I often buy and asked a salesman to fit me for a glove. No, I didn’t get a pink one and yes, he tried to sell me one. Lame.

I play catch in the yard with my kid and we practice regularly at his school’s dusty field, joking it’s just like The Sandlot (our fav movie!) We also love watching Rookie of the Year because it’s about a single mom raising a little boy who isn’t such a great ballplayer until a freak accident. My favorite line in that movie is when Henry says, “Mom I knew he left when you were pregnant with me.” I tear up, because Jack knows the same thing. But we’re not a sad story. We’re the opposite.

I never thought I’d love sports as much as I do. I’m actually a pretty good pitcher. We watch the Yankees on TV together and have a blast at the games. I don’t think I would have cared to go to the Derek Jeter ceremony and game last Fall if it wasn’t for Jack, who is the ultimate Jeter fan. I did it for my kid, but I really had the best time. I never thought the magazine-editor, brunching gal in me would have grass stains from sliding into home, but I do and it’s so cool. The funny thing is, Jack’s father is an athlete. He’s the sports star, not me. But I figured it out on my own.

SW: Your family seems amazingly supportive.

CC: My family is not perfect. I was very vocal about when my father was in prison for seven-months in 2013 after pleading guilty to a white collar crime. I think a lot goes on behind those pretty picket fences, but I’m not scared or ashamed to share my struggles because I’ve learned that exposing the truth can always help someone else. But, yeah, I mean, I’m best friends with my brothers who do everything a dad should do for their son. My father loves Jack more than anything in the world. Jack calls my mom his best friend. We’re always their for each other. Corny: It takes a village for sure.

SW: Unapologetic single moms sometimes get pegged as anti-fatherhood. Is supporting and empowering single mothers related to devaluing fatherhood? Do moms rule and dads drool?

CC: No way! I’m a Daddy’s girl. I think it’s very important for Jack to be around men. I hope one day his father comes around and I hope one day I find a partner who will be there for Jack.

SW: How do you talk to Jack about fatherhood? About him possibly being a dad someday?

CC: Jack wants to be a teacher, a doctor, the president of the United States and a dad. He told me I can live with him forever. When we talk about him being a dad – which isn’t often – I often refer to things my brothers do with him. Dads take their kids fishing and cook food for them and make sure they are safe and happy. When I was going through my cancer surgeries and treatments both of my brothers stood in for me and made sure Jack was taken care of. I hope Jack grows up to be responsible like them. However, moms do all that stuff too. Parenting comes down to being present and involved.

SW: What’s your daily routine with Jack? What do you do on weekends?

Chrissy and Jack in suitCC: Jack’s in first grade. He wakes me up. We take our golden retriever, Lucia, out. Coffee, breakfast, cartoons. I get him on the bus and then either work from home or in NYC. Depending on my workday, Jack might attend the after-care program at school or have his babysitter pick him up. We cook, we order in and we admittedly like to eat out. Nighttime is all about baseball practice/game, dinner, homework, reading, sporadic dance parities and walking our dog for miles and miles calling out clouds that look like a chicken leg.

We live for weekends. I don’t really like to schedule play dates for him on the weekends because I want to eat him up. We love to park hop in the warmer weather. I pack sandwiches, snacks and lemonade. A lot of the parks near us have adjacent dog parks so Lucy is always with us. We love going to museums, farms, hiking and exploring. My family has a condo a block from the ocean in Bradley Beach, New Jersey, so we are lucky to spend summers at the Jersey Shore.

SW: How are you doing now, after your thyroid cancer treatment? What’s next?

CC: I’m feeling great, My cancer is in remission and my life-long meds are suppressing the TSH hormone that could encourage cancer cells to grow back. I’m a lucky lady. I’m healthy, happy and doing what I love for a living: writing. I’m working on a children’s book series inspired by Jack and his puppy Lucy. As for Jack, that kid just amazes me everyday. So he’ll continue to be a master of the universe.


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