Does this mean we can’t have children?

Does my partner’s condition make it impossible for us to have children? Do we dare? What if one of us says yes and one of us says no?

In the last few days, I have received several comments from a woman with epilepsy. Over the years, I have heard from people who suffer from diabetes, venereal disease, mental illness and other problems. Should they/could they have children? What if things go awry? Will their babies inherit their conditions? Three responses come to mind.

First, couples need to share important physical information that might affect their ability to bear healthy children, and they need to talk it through. To hide such things would be more of a deal-breaker for me than telling me about them. Are you not talking about it for fear the other person will leave? If they really love you, they won’t. If they can’t handle it, better to find out now.

Second, are you marrying a baby machine or a life partner? Ordinarily, babies follow marriage, but not always. For better or worse, right? Since my husband died, I can tell you I miss him far more than I miss having children.

Third, you need to get as much information about the condition as possible. Talk to doctors, do research, find out the risks and possibilities. Make an informed decision.

Epilepsy is a scary condition. I have friends and relatives who suffer from it. The writer spoke of her fear that she might have a seizure in labor or while taking care of a baby. That’s a very valid fear. I know women with epilepsy who have successfully given birth and raised children to adulthood. I have known others who didn’t dare take the risk. If you have this condition, talk to your doctor. If you can get the seizures under control, motherhood may be possible. But both parties have to be willing to try, knowing the dangers.

My first husband had a form of epilepsy. Early on, he taught me how to take over if we were riding in the car when a seizure happened. His seizures were terrifying, but I didn’t love him any less for it, and it had nothing to do with our not having children together.

When I was dating my second husband, I questioned him about why he was so quick to get a vasectomy after his son was born. Was there some physical problem he was worried about? No, he said. He just didn’t want any more children. But everyone has something. Almost everyone on my mother’s side of the family has diabetes and kidney disease. Fred’s son inherited his farsightedness and will probably have to deal with thyroid disease at some point because it runs very strongly in Fred’s family. But meanwhile he’s a healthy young man who enjoys hiking and mountain-climbing.

There’s so much we don’t know. But people who claim to love each other need to talk about the things they do know and find out as much as they can before they have children together–or decide not to. If you can’t talk about these things with your girlfriend/fiancé/spouse, see that as a big red flag. Maybe this isn’t the right person.

What do you think about all this?

8 thoughts on “Does this mean we can’t have children?

  1. I have two children by my ex-husband, now in their teens. I had my tubes tied and an ablation because both of my pregnancies were very complicated and ended in prematurity and I’m approaching 40 and have some other health problems. I also couldn’t imagine wanting to live with someone again, much less marry or have children. Then I met someone. He’s my age, also almost 40, always wanted children, but has never had them. Wants them desperately. I would have tried to have a baby if I still could have, with him. He would be a wonderful father. He’s not American and has a cultural bias against adoption and surrogacy. He may have fertility issues of his own, too.

    I’m stupidly in love with him. He’s kept himself consistently at a distance though because I was honest with him about my fertility and he sees himself as having just one more chance at finding a relationship in which he could have kids. I understand his wish and desire for kids and I want more than anything to give them to him, but I can’t. I struggle with wanting to just get over him so he can try to find someone who can give him children, or trying to stick around and have him realize that I’m worth more than my lack of baby-making capabilities.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As someone who has severe lower back problems and insulin dependent diabetes, as well as a lack of a child wish, all I can say is that he’s not worth it. I know that we can’t control how we feel about others, but you are so right when you say you’re worth more than just being a baby machine for another human being.

      I don’t know about you, but when you love someone as a whole, you will not grow distant from them because they can’t carry or make your baby. If you really love someone, you will at least sit down and talk about other options and genuinely consider the pros and cons and how you feel, and none of it has to be affected by the culture you grew up in especially if you really value the other person. (If he’d still not feel comfortable with it after that, then that’s something different than not even considering it in the first place.) Adhering to a culture is still just a choice in the long run.

      Adoption is something wonderful. So many children who just want to be loved are cast out from abusive, drug laden and violent homes with nobody who cares about them. So many get stuck in the system until they’re adults and are then on their own without anyone to call family. If we can adopt pets and love them as family, creatures who aren’t even our own species, it shouldn’t be so hard to be able to adopt and love another human being as we would our own blood.

      I think a man who is incapable of seeing children this way is not someone worth my time and care as a partner. I strongly feel that this is important to realize, and maybe can help you move past him to find someone who is more worthy.


      • It’s not that he grew distant – it’s that we started off planning to just casually date and while I started having more feelings, he purposefully held himself back emotionally because he knew he could fall in love with me, but that if he did, it would mean forever giving up on his dream of having children.

        Adoption isn’t as easy either as you make it seem – the kids that are coming from abusive, violent and drug-laden homes often have severe physical, mental, psychological and emotional problems, problems that are not easily dealt with, no matter how much you love a child. Problems that make it very hard to bond with a child that you don’t have a prior connection to. And problems that frequently necessitate at least one parent able to stay home full time to get them the help they need and make them feel secure in their new situation. It is not a quick fix for childlessness. We can adopt animals because when animals bite and become violent, they are put down, not placed for adoption. We don’t do that to children (rightly so of course) but it is way easier to adopt a dog than it is to adopt a child.

        He’s basically just afraid because so many things with me are uncertain and he’s been severely hurt before, and doesn’t think he could recover again, so he keeps his heart to himself.


    • Lily,

      I’m sorry for your hurt. I didn’t think I wanted children when I was younger. Didn’t think I’d be a good parent. Now I want them and have a much younger woman who wants them. Why I changed, I don’t know. Facing my own mortality, I guess. I do feel your pain.


  2. We’ve been married eight years. She’s 34, I’m 33. We’ve never been able to get pregnant after years of regular unprotected intimacy. I’ve always really wanted to be a dad. But she just gave me the ultimatum this week that she’s decided she doesn’t want to pursue treatments or natural attempts or adoption or anything from this point on. She just wants to drop it and move on as a childless couple. This came as a massive shock. Her position for years was “happy if it happens, happy if it doesn’t happen too.” She’s evolved her opinion as she’s realized she was trying to please other people and afraid she would lose me in the process of being honest.

    But it leaves me feeling isolated and alone. And I feel like I’m grieving the loss of a child I’ve never had. This pain is unlike anything I’ve faced before, and her recent dose of energetic optimism isn’t helping the situation at all. I feel dead inside. I don’t feel like I could ever enjoy intimacy ever again. I feel neutered and invisible and directionless. I’m a ghost, just fading through life. I’m told that this pain will eventually get easier, like when someone you love has died and you got through stages of mourning. But I don’t know where it leaves us. I just feel like we’re platonic roommates now.

    Lastly, anything that the childless-by-choice folks say stings like lemon juice in a wound. I’m not ready to hear how much I have to look forward to, how much I can enjoy the financial freedom, guilt-free sex, world travel, career opportunities, charity involvement, etc., etc. Those people need to take a page from their own book of advice. They don’t like being pressured either by the pro-kid crowd. And I don’t need to hear how blessed I am right now. Because I feel like I’m living in a black and white world with no hope.


  3. Hey Sam,
    Sorry to hear that you are going through this. I’ve been and pretty much still am, where you are right now. I know what you mean about the energetic optimism not helping. When my husband made the final decision that he wouldn’t have kids and had his vasectomy, he was thrilled. He was so happy with his decision and this wonderful new carefree lifestyle we were supposedly going to have while I was left alone to deal with my own sadness and hopelessness. I wish I had some advice to give, but I never quite got a handle on my own situation. I just hope for your sake that either things change for you for the better or you somehow find a way to make peace with things as they are.


  4. Sanne said, “I don’t know about you, but when you love someone as a whole, you will not grow distant from them because they can’t carry or make your baby.” I disagree about this. My husband and I have broken up numerous times over the baby issue (before we got married). Even on our Walmart trip yesterday, it felt like we might break up. If you are the one who doesn’t want the kid, it apparently eats you up inside, that you either are taking away something from your partner that they might have a shot at without you, or that you know that they want something from that you that you just aren’t willing to give them.

    And in a relationship, adoption is something that both parties need to agree to. I can just bring home a dog without consulting him as far as a shelter goes, but adoption agencies do home visits and whatnot, so both parties need to agree to it. If only one would love to adopt a child and the other wants no part in it, then tough luck, no adoption.

    Sam said, “And I feel like I’m grieving the loss of a child I’ve never had. This pain is unlike anything I’ve faced before.” I feel so much for you, and you explained that well. There will be spells, where sometimes it’s overwhelming pain for even weeks at a time, and then you might have some days where overall it was a good day, despite “the children issue.” And then when you can’t handle the feelings inside anymore, you might have a conversation with your spouse, and old wounds open up and you might not even want to speak to her for days. It sucks, but having a support system (like this website) can help a little.


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