Today I’m yielding my space to a reader who would really like you all to read, reflect and respond to his dilemma. Most of our comments come from women, but we need to hear the guy’s point of view, too. He asked me not to use his name, so let’s just call him Sam.
I’m a 56-year-old man, who’s been married 34 years last February. My wife and I are both only children. My wife is 7 years older than I am and had been married once before. We agreed before we were married that we both wanted children, though in hindsight I’m not sure she was as enthusiastic as I was. In any case, she never expressed any reservations before we were married.
My father was a bit of a flake, and though he never abandoned my mother and me, he was constantly changing jobs. I once counted that from the time I started school until I left for college, we moved 15 times. I consequently was determined that my own child(ren) would be provided with a stable home life. My wife and I waited 5 years after we were married, until we had purchased a house and were both fairly well established in our careers, before we started trying to have children. I was 27 and she was 34.
The month after we closed on the house, she stopped birth control and made an appointment with an OB-Gyn. Upon her first examination, he discovered that she had multiple large fibroid tumors. I understand that there are now treatment options, but 29 years ago the only option we were offered was an immediate hysterectomy. I was crushed, but I never seriously considered leaving her. I loved (and love) my wife deeply. I consider myself a very loyal person, and would never have abandoned my best friend for something that was never her fault.
I wish I could say that we pulled together in this tragedy, but she acted then as if it was a huge relief. I tried to talk with her about it, but she always pushed it away, perhaps uncomfortable because of my difficulty in talking about it. I realize that she may be covering her pain in flippancy (a common coping tactic for her), but she has often said how glad she was not to have had children. I threw myself into my work and tried to cope that way.
I tried to talk to her a few times about adoption, but she always immediately changed the subject. Recently, one of her friends from church adopted a child from the Child Protective Services program. After a few years, it became clear that the child has severe emotional problems and must undergo constant counseling and medication. My wife’s comment is that she is so glad that we never seriously considered adoption.
I always assumed that my grief would diminish over time, like my grief over my father’s death. But lately I find myself brooding over this constantly. My friends’ children are leaving for college or graduating, and having children of their own. Every time I hear about another “happy event” I feel like I’ve been stabbed in the heart with an icepick, I have tears in my eyes as I type this.
I wonder if my loyalty was misplaced, and if it would have been kinder to both of us had we split up and started new lives years ago. I recognize that I may be going through mid-life depression, and have simply seized on this as a hook to hang it on. I beat myself up every day for wallowing in self-pity, but I don’t seem to be able to stop. I also realize how ridiculous it would be to consider leaving my wife and trying to have children with someone else now. I’d probably have to marry someone at least 20 years younger, and I’m no George Clooney, nor am I a millionaire. I’m past the point of caring about becoming the cliché, but I couldn’t bear to break her heart like that.
And that’s how it ends, readers. Doesn’t it make you want to give Sam a big hug? Your comments are welcome.
Next week: surviving Mother’s Day.
6 thoughts on “His wife couldn’t have kids, but he stayed”
Sam, I grieve with you, but… I posted recently about my own grief over my limp handshake attitude to kids. I relate a bit in that my husband does not like or want them- full stop and I worry we will regret it so I sometimes allow my mind to wander but quickly realize these truths that might apply to you– The grass is NEVER greener. You have a woman who has been with you for better or worse and you've given the same to her. That's just about tops in my book. Having children is not a guarantee for happiness or fulfillment and I would be cautious in even thinking about trying to pull a George Clooney. I'd get involved with a Big Brothers type organization or coach or tutor children if you have that paternal need. Take some classes with your spouse at the local community college or whatever it is you are both interested in to keep building on your relationship– it's a priceless gift to have someone you love dearly. Time moves at warp speed– don't spend another second with regret over this. Grieve and then move on. What if and regret are easy to do.
Hope I don't sound harsh. I'm better at dishing it than taking it.
Wishing you the highest joy and peace.
Sam, thank you for sharing your story. It opened my eyes to the grief that men feel, too. I applaud you for staying in your marriage and remaining faithful to your wife. She needs you!
I think you are spot on when you talk about that mid-life thing affecting your perspective. It is common to look at the path we have taken in life and wonder if another path (or another spouse?) might have led to better outcomes. I did the same thing and grieved my choices, too.
Now that I have emerged from my grief, I see things better. Lots of my friends (with kids, even!) have gone through what Dr. Carl Jung called the “midlife transition” and wondered if they made the right choices. It is a natural and psychologically healthy thing to do.
My faith in God is stronger than ever and I trust that there is a plan B and purpose for my life. The Lord has even brought special children into my life to love and be loved by. He knows how much I really appreciate them, and I think he waited until I was healed to surprise me like this.
I now happily call myself a spiritual mother and praise God for this new title and responsibility.
I am also grateful for the freedom I enjoy. I have no biological boomerang kids to deal with at odd hours around the house and no drug-addicted or mentally ill 30 year old children to nurse. You would be surprised how many parents are dealing with this now.
Sam, I will be lifting you up in prayer today. I do not mean that in a condescending manner. (So many people are offended by this gift of love!) It simply means that I trust your life is being gently guided by a God who deeply loves you and knows how to lead you out of this dark valley of grief into a verdant pasture of abundant life.
Beautifully written post, Sam. My marriage had severe issues at various times, but I was committed to this person who I had (still have) total faith in. I am finally rewarded with a husband who is now consistently wonderful. I catch myself expecting him to behave how he used to, and I told myself this past weekend that it was time to accept that I have a fabulous partner and to simply enjoy it. Still, all those experiences took time and now I'm rounding out an age where it's almost too late to start a brand new family. Not unheard of, but possibly not for us. My husband doesn't say it, but I suspect that he's quite relieved that children never happened. I sort of am, too. But then, why do I always think about children and having that family?Like you, I'm not considering leaving and starting over with someone who already has a family or has the confidence to adopt. I'm here. I put in plenty of effort and I'm (finally) in love with my spouse.I do feel that if I am to be a mother, God will make it so–somehow, some way. In the meantime, I am blessed with many nieces and nephews, and I enjoy them. I too have considered Big Brothers, Big Sisters, but with so many children already in my life I'm pretty content to focus on them.I certainly hope something will materialize in your life that fills the void. You can be an important person to a youth, and you can make a difference–with or without your wife. Maybe that opportunity hasn't presented itself yet, but God's plans do not follow our timeline. Not sure if you feel that way, but it has comforted me in the past. Best of luck to you!Anon S
Sam,Firstly iIwant to say that I'm sorry for your pain and the various gaps in your heart that you feel. I feel that to minimize pain only causes it to get worse later, as well as result in causing pain to others, so I strongly encourage you to continue to process the pain and work through it.Secondly, I want to say that I don't want or mean to minimize what you are going through. This (Sue’s blog) should be a safe place. We should be able to be transparent and let it hang out. I never mean to ever convey anything other than love and compassion.My story is I battled infertility, was told I'd never have kids, remarried a man with adult kids, ended up pregnant three times and miscarried all three times.My husband was NOT pleased when I turned up pregnant. Initial reaction was a four-letter cuss word I was crushed! He softened a little, then I miscarried.Sam the hole in your heart cannot be filled by man in my opinion. My faith is strong, and I ask the Lord to heal my heart. There are small victories, but the main victory over this pain I don't expect I'll receive on earth.I mentor several women who are incarcerated. Some are the age of daughters if I had a daughter in her twenties. I was floored at first when they began to turn to me as a mother, then I relished in it. I love on them, make sure they can get a hold of me if they need me, then I turn them loose and watch with great love as they mature into beautiful mature women of God. This is an option for you: mentoring.It is not the only option by any means. It will not fill the void. I think if I had adopted a child, it wouldn't have gone well. I would have tried to put on the child all my hopes and dreams I harbored for my own birth child. There would have been cataclysmic pressure from me to the child. Sure there would have been love and vacations and good memories and a mostly stable home but it would have been way too much about me, more than it should be.I've accepted whatever call the Lord put on my life for whatever reason didn't involve me carrying a child nine months and raising it. This is heartbreaking, but my faith tells me there is a reason. I know one thing. I am much more attuned to the pain others experience because of my infertility.Sam, if you continue in this state I can't help but suggest professional counseling. Life is too short to stay sad, and life is a grand adventure when we allow it to be. Continue to honor your wife. 34 yrs is pretty amazing. Congrats! And know that there *is* a life without kids and while some days are better than others, there are some positives about being childless. No, they don't outweigh the negative! But life is short, so find the positives, focus on those and be grateful for what you do have. If you haven't already, make plans every Father's Day to do a road trip or getaway & turn it into romantic time with your wife. I know it's just a band-aid but it's a pretty cool one.God bless you!
Thanks Sam, it's nice to be reminded that men have hearts, too. Sometimes I forget, since my experiences with my father and my husband typically indicate otherwise. I can relate to what you said about wishing that you and your wife were able to bond over the grief. I'm at an age where I've had to accept the fact that I’m never having kids, but it's hard when there's no one to talk to about it. My husband is happy the way things turned out, and he got exactly the life he wanted. The sadness is something I have to carry alone.
Anonymous, I totally get it, too. I know no one in my similar situation and carry it alone. Until I found this blog, I honestly thought I was the only person on the planet with my situation. Glad you all are here! Just wish some of you lived in my home town.