Book shows how people can change their minds about having kids

Sometimes it seems like every woman over 30 has kids, right? Well, not always. I’m reading a wonderful true story called Wild Within: How Rescuing Owls Inspired a Family by Melissa Hart. An Oregon writer and teacher, she was the guest at our local Nye Beach Writers Series last weekend. She is a wonderful writer, performer and teacher, one of those people who just sparkles with life.

Melissa grew up not wanting children. Her childhood, profiled in her earlier book Gringa: A Contradictory Girlhood, was more than a little unusual and she saw traits she did not want to pass on to another generation. Plus, despite years of babysitting, she didn’t really like babies. Her first marriage a bust, she raised cats and dogs instead. One day at the dog park, she met Jonathan, and a romance blossomed. Jonathan didn’t want babies either. Perfect, right?

Jonathan was a volunteer at a raptor rescue center that cared for injured and orphaned owls, hawks, eagles, kestrels and other wild predatory birds. He was going to school and planned to be a photographer, but the raptors were the center of his life. He soon lured Melissa in to volunteer, too. They fell in love, moved in together, and eventually got married. Together they poured their love and nurturing energies into the birds and their four-legged children. They agreed they didn’t want to have babies. Jonathan, plagued by infections in his testicles, had a vasectomy. Still perfect, yes?

Well, it was perfect until Melissa met Jonathan’s sister’s adopted daughter and realized she wanted to have a daughter, too. Nervous about how her new husband would respond, she told him she wanted to adopt a child, not an infant but a girl a few years old who needed a home. He said yes. Now I’m at the place in the book where they’re trying to adopt. I can’t spoil the rest of the story for you because I haven’t read it yet.

But here’s the thing. People change their minds, and that’s okay. We’re human. So many of the people who comment here have experienced that change of mind, either themselves or in their partners, sometimes to wanting a baby, sometimes to not. Problems arise when only one person wants to change the terms of their relationship. Ideally, if you both really love each other, someone gives in and the other accepts the decision. That’s so hard. Sometimes it’s impossible. But we need to try to be open to each other’s changing needs and desires.

And read this book. It’s encouraging. Besides, if you don’t end up having babies, maybe you could take care of owls or dogs or salamanders . . .

Have a wonderful week, and send me some comments besides the spam I keep getting about magic spells and potions, house remodels and website development.

Time to go walk my dog child before she starts eating the furniture.

Should you gamble on a partner who says he or she doesn’t want children?

Back in my grandmother’s day, things were pretty simple. You grew up, got married and had babies. Period. No birth control. No legal abortions. No vasectomies or tube-tieing. The only people who didn’t have children, aside from priests and nuns, were the ones who were physically unable. And everyone pitied them. “Oh poor Aunt Martha, she couldn’t have children.”

There was no choice, no changing of minds, no “do you want to have children?” “Let’s wait until we have more money” or “I don’t think I want to have children.” People just had babies, and if it made their lives more difficult, if taking care of the kids meant sacrificing something else you would have liked to do, tough.

Sometimes I wish we were still back in those days. With all the sex my first husband and I had, I’d have at least three children now, maybe more because we might not have gotten divorced. I’d still be attached to a husband who drank too much and didn’t believe in monogamy. Instead, we split up, and I married Fred, who was the best husband ever, except for not wanting to have children with me. Did it turn out for the best? I think so.

Every day I receive comments from readers struggling with the baby question. In many cases, they and their partners completely agreed when they got together about having or not having children. Then either one of them changed their minds or one of them proved to be unable to make babies. And now they don’t know what to do. They’re broken-hearted. They’re talking about breaking up, but they’re still in love and don’t know if they’ll ever find a better mate. I don’t know what to tell them. Things happen. People turn out to be infertile. People who said they didn’t care about having children suddenly realize that they can’t bear living their entire lives without experiencing motherhood or fatherhood. People who thought they wanted children discover they really don’t.

What it comes down to, I think, is making a commitment to another person and sticking to it, no matter what. Relationships are a gamble. Marriage is a gamble. He/she might die, might get sick, might get fired, might not be able to get pregnant, might decide he’d rather have a puppy. People change their minds. If you truly love that person, you don’t leave when things get tough. You talk it through and find the best solution for both of you. When it comes to having children, if one wants them and one doesn’t, somebody’s going to get hurt. So the question it always comes down to is: Is this person worth taking a chance?

What do you think? Please post your comments. I’m running out of answers.