Want a baby? Don’t want a baby? Just say it!

I’m watching Season 3 of “Virgin River” on Netflix. If these people could just communicate with each other, they would have no problems. Example (I hope I’m not spoiling anything): In an episode I watched last night, Mel (short for Melanie) tells her boyfriend Jack that she really wants to have a baby. They’re in bed at the time. He gets all bug-eyed like this is a big surprise, even though she melts over every baby she sees and she bursts into tears when a friend sends her a picture of her pregnant sonogram. Surely men aren’t that clueless.

Anyway, what does Jack say? He could say, “Okay, let’s a have a baby,” “I look forward to having kids together, but let’s get married first,” or “I’m so sorry, but I really don’t see children in my future.” Or something. He says, “I’ll have to think about it.” Mel goes on to say that she knows she can’t be happy if she never becomes a mother. “I need some time to think about it,” he repeats. Then he says, “I love you.” She says, “I love you” back. He says, “Good night.” She says, “Good night.” And they roll over with their backs to each other. The camera focuses on the sparkle of tears in her eyes. End scene.

Subsequently, Jack complains to his friend that Mel wants to have a baby and he’s feeling trapped. Mel tells her friends that she said this thing about wanting a baby and hopes she didn’t mess up the relationship. Mel and Jack spend the next few scenes sniping at each other because they can’t just talk about it.

The baby thing becomes one more lame cliffhanger because nobody in Virgin River can freaking communicate. If Jack really really loves Mel, why doesn’t he say, “If you want it that bad, let’s have a baby.” They’re already talking as if they plan to be together forever, although he has not proposed yet. Another failure to communicate. If he can’t handle being a dad for some reason, why doesn’t he just say so and let us all move on? Bring a new hunky guy to town for Mel to fall in love with.

This is TV. I watch far too much of it. I just finished all 17 seasons of “Grey’s Anatomy.” Toward the end, everybody was having babies. It was insane. God knows who’s taking care of all these children while the surgeons work 90 hours a day, but babies, babies, babies. If shows full of babies bother you, skip the last couple seasons. Go back to when everybody was having sex in the on-call room or the storage closet. Which of course can lead to babies. It’s amazing how these genius doctors get pregnant by accident. No fertility problems there.

Back to “Virigin River.” How many times do we experience the same failure to communicate in real life? Somebody drops a bomb like “I want to have a baby” and the partner fluffs it off with a sarcastic comment, “I can’t talk about it now,” “We already discussed that,” or “Gotta go, I’m running late.” Maybe they pretend not to hear you. Maybe someone says, “I really don’t want any kids,” and the partner dismisses that with “he’s in a bad mood” or “she’ll change her mind.” Maybe the answer is a quick kiss or “I love you,” which is nice but not an answer. This is a big question. We need a yes or no answer so that we can move ahead one way or the other.

So what do we do about this? First, I suggest we pick our times wisely. I’m impatient. I like to blurt things out. I want a yes or no answer right now. But we have more chance of a calm adult discussion if we’re not trying to get ready for work, preparing for company, or engrossed in a football game. The baby discussion calls for a quiet situation where neither of you is stewing about something else. Silence the phone, let your partner know you want to talk about something important, then say it.

Second, be honest. Mel did well in telling Jack that she will not be happy if she doesn’t become a mother, that she is not willing to give up motherhood. We’re all scared of ruining the relationship, but we have to say it. “I love you” isn’t enough. We both have to say it, whether it’s “I want to have a baby” or “I do not want to have children.” Maybe they do need time to think about it. Agree to meet again in two days for the answer. Otherwise, you wander around in this hazy no-decision land where nobody gets what they need. Like Mel and Jack.

Sappy show that “Virgin River” is, they will probably end up married and pregnant. If it were “Grey’s Anatomy,” the baby would come too early, some intern would try to deliver it in the ER, and both baby and mother would almost die before the more experienced surgeon saved them. They would name the baby after the surgeon.

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Can you tell I’m running low on ideas as well as time this week? I spent yesterday dealing with a minor injury at the walk-in clinic and a money situation at the bank. All is well, except once again I had no emergency contact at the hospital and no clear beneficiaries at the bank. The joys of non-parenthood combined with widowhood.

Please consider writing a guest post if you’re in the mood. Guidelines are in the sidebar on this page.

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An updated edition of the book Childless by Marriage is now available on Amazon. By Friday, it should be available at all bookstores, both online and brick-and-mortar from Ingram distributors. Spread the word.

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What Would You Change If You Could?

I have been watching a show on Amazon Prime called “Being Erica.” It’s about a young woman who meets this charismatic therapist who makes her write a list of all the things she regrets in her life and then sends her back in time to redo those parts of her life. Most of the time it doesn’t work out the way she thought it would, but it’s always fun to watch.

Erica is 32 years old, single and childless, and not doing well with her career. In the episode I watched last night, she throws a baby shower for her best friend but finds she is clueless about babies, and her friends don’t include her in that part of their lives. She does not get chosen to be godmother, which she really wanted, because she has never been a mom. Her friends think she should be happy being “wacky Aunt Erica.” Sound familiar?

In that same episode, Erica is sent back to her bat mizvah, a Jewish coming-of-age rite. Although she looks 13, she knows she’s 32, single and childless, but nobody else does. Her mother sits her down to talk about her future, which will of course include marriage and children. What if that doesn’t happen, Erica asks. What if I’m 32 and still single without children? Oh, don’t think such terrible thoughts. That will never happen, says her clueless mom. But we know it did. As it did for many of us

Of course, this is part of the stereotype of Jewish mothers, but in my generation, it was really all mothers. Of course you’re going to get married and have children. You might work a while, but your family will be the most important thing in your life.

Then there’s the book I’m reading by a much older woman, Sue William Silverman. In How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences, a memoir that takes us back to her early years—more time travel—she has no plan to have children. As for husbands, well, she’s had two so far, and I have quite a few pages left to read. But she never saw herself as the motherly type.

Here are two views of women without children and trips into the past to rethink their choices. So far, neither Erica nor Sue has changed the ultimate outcome for anything, only her attitude about it.

What about you? If Erica’s therapist, Dr. Tom, demanded you write a list of regrets, what would be on it? What would you want to go back and change? What would you do differently? Would it be worth it? Something to think about.

For me, everything I think about changing in my past leads to thoughts of what I would have missed, and I don’t think I want to risk that. How about you?

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IMPORTANT NOTICE: As I have mentioned before, I’m putting together a “Best of Childless by Marriage” book from the blog. I am including many of your comments, all anonymous or by first names only. Many of you are better writers than I am. If you have any objection to having those comments in a book, both print and online, please let me know at sufalick@gmail.com, and I will remove them. I don’t want this to be an issue later, so please speak up by the end of June. Thank you. 

Childless by Marriage on Prime Time

          In the olden days, babies were a given, but lately sitcom couples don’t always agree on whether they want to procreate. Almost like real life.
         On “Mom,” Jill is in a panic because she is starting to have symptoms of peri-menopause. Of course the hot flashes and mood swings are exaggerated because the show is a comedy. Now that she is sober and has a great boyfriend, she wants to have a baby while she still has time. But she is already 41, so she needs to put a rush on the babymaking. Enter the boyfriend, a truly wonderful teddy bear of a guy. When she surprises him with “I want to have a baby,” he kind of stutters and stumbles and finally tells her he just isn’t ready, that their relationship hasn’t reached the baby-making place yet. Jill, who is unconscionably rich, decides to freeze her eggs. Good idea, says the boyfriend. He isn’t averse to having children someday, just not right now. After hormone shots and more mood swings, the fertility doctor harvests her eggs. None of them are viable. No baby for Jill. Sad ending.
         Switch channels to “The Connors.” There are already plenty of children in that house, but now that Darlene and Ben are getting serious, he wants to have a baby. The thing is, Darlene already has two nearly grown kids from her marriage to David, who left her to take care of them alone. She does not want to start over at this point. Familiar story, right? Ah, but this is a sitcom, so by the end, Darlene gives in, with a caveat. She will have another baby, but if the relationship ends, Ben will be totally responsible for them. Okay, he says. They write and sign a contract to that effect.
         Backtrack to “The Big Bang Theory.” By the end, there are three married couples. Howard and Bernadette have two toddlers. Sheldon and Amy do not have children yet, but they plan to. The situation is different for Penny and Leonard. For years, Penny has told Leonard she does not want to have children. She doesn’t see herself as the mom type. Leonard really wants children, but he says he will give them up for Penny. But as the series finale approaches, aha, somehow she gets pregnant, and she is as happy as he is. Visit those people a decade later, and there will be oodles of nerdy kids.
        At least some shows are touching on the subject these days. You didn’t used to ever hear someone say they didn’t want to have children. Nor did they talk about infertility. All those Disney and Doris Day movies I grew up with ended with the usual marriage and baby carriage. As we know all too well, some people never have children. Some people never marry. Our culture makes us feel like weirdos if we haven’t done both of those things. But it does seem to be slowly changing.
        And maybe those shows, comedies though they are, can spark a conversation that needs to be had.
        Have you seen more of the childless by marriage issue on TV lately? I’d love to hear about some more examples.

With "The Bachelor," you get babies

I was watching “The Bachelor” on TV the other night. Is it just me or has it become sleazier than ever? So why am I watching it? But that’s not why I bring it up. I noticed that every woman there professes not only to love, love, love the hunky bachelor Sean but to want to have babies with him. He has repeatedly said that he is anxious to “start a family.” So it’s all happy, right?

But what if he chooses his dream girl and it turns out they’re infertile? No babies. What if she decides she’d rather keep her perfect bikini body and skip baby-making?

This year, the candidates are a diverse lot. Apparently the producers heard the complaints, so now Sean can pick from a smorgasbord of women who are white, black, Asian, Hispanic and even disabled–one girl was born without a left arm. No fat girls, of course, no one who isn’t beautiful, and no one who is not gung ho about having children. I bet if one of the girls said, “You know, I really don’t want to have children,” old Sean would vote her out in a heartbeat.

But it’s not a realistic situation, is it? It’s the old Cinderella story. She’ll marry Prince Charming and they’ll have beautiful children together. That’s about as real as their big breasts and their claims that they adore this guy they just met when all they really want is to be on TV and maybe get famous.

The night after “The Bachelor,” I watched the second-to-last episode of “Private Practice.” And what did we see? Babies everywhere. Charlotte gave birth to triplets, Addison’s adoption of Henry was finalized, and Amelia announced to the hunky new ER doc that she wants to have his babies. He was fine with that. By the end of that show, I was suffering some serious baby lust which holding the dog did not satisfy.

In the real world, we may be seeing one in five women never having children, but prime time TV rarely reflects that reality.

What do you think?