You’ve got to ask the hard questions

Two days ago, Richa wrote:

I am going through the worst pain of my life. On second day of my marriage my husband told me that he already has two kids so he would not want kids from me. It came to me very shocking. He just announced his decision and never thought what I wanted. Today after 4 years of marriage I keep fighting for kids but he just turns a deaf ear. I have started having menopause and he never ever discusses anything about my pain of being infertile. Many times I talk abt out adoption but he doesn’t even wanna do anything about it.
I loved him but I hate him for this. I am really not a risk taker and because of insecurities that life offers I continue to live with him. But it is really difficult to forgive him for all this.

On the second day of their marriage???

As someone far removed from the situation, I’m thinking I’d be screaming, “Annulment!” But then I try to put myself in her situation on that day. She loves this man. For months or maybe years, she has been planning this wedding and this life together. Now, with the wedding dress not yet put away, the gifts not yet all opened, the ring still new and shiny on her finger, her new husband drops this bomb. She feels stuck. Heartbroken. Disbelieving. Surely he doesn’t mean it. He’ll change his mind.

He didn’t.

Why didn’t he say something sooner? Did he just realize he wasn’t comfortable with the idea of becoming a father? Was he afraid he’d lose her if he told her the truth? Is he just a jerk?

What would you do if you were that woman? From the comments I have received here at Childless by Marriage, I know that some of you ARE that woman or that man who found out after the wedding that you did not feel the same way about having children.

If you’d like to respond to Richa, go to (https://childlessbymarriageblog.com/2013/02/26/sometimes-childless-grief-is-too-much-to-handle-alone/) and scroll down to the comments.

There are certain questions that need to be asked before a relationship goes too far. Maybe I’m influenced by the finale of “The Bachelor” TV show that happened on Monday. I hope I’m not spoiling anything, but Nick chose Vanessa. Unlike the usual “bachelorettes” who swoon into their engagement as if it were the happy ending of a fairy tale, Vanessa still has lots of questions and concerns and is not ready to plan a wedding until she knows some answers.

I’m with Vanessa. Love is great, but you’ve got to get some things straight before you make a long-term commitment. The following is a list of things you really need to talk about. If your partner refuses, see that as a giant red flag.

  •  How do you feel about having children with me? Do you want them? How soon? How many? What if we have fertility problems? Would you be willing to try in vitro fertilization or other techniques? Would you be willing to adopt children?
  •  Where do you want to live? Would you be willing to relocate? Are there places you would never want to live? Would you be willing to change jobs so we can live where I want or need to be?
  •  What are your goals in life? What do you dream of doing? Do you have a secret desire to be a singer, mountain climber or astronaut? What would you regret never having a chance to do?
  •  Are you religious? What church do you belong to? Would you be open to changing churches or expect me to convert?
  •  Republican or Democrat?
  •  Have you ever been arrested?
  •  Do problems with alcohol, drugs, mental illness or domestic violence run in your family? Do certain diseases run in your family?
  •  How will we handle money? Who will be in charge of the checkbook?
  •  Dog or cat?

It’s funny. We learn our sweethearts’ favorite foods, favorite music, and favorite football teams, but we don’t always know about the things that really matter. If I don’t eat sweet potatoes or okra, so what? But if I won’t set foot in the church that means everything to you, that’s a problem. Likewise, if I say no to the children you have always wanted. Sometimes we don’t ask because we’re afraid the answers will destroy the relationship. They might, but better now than when it’s too late.

So ask the hard questions. Sometimes people will give you the answers you want to hear instead of the honest truth. But push for real answers. It will save a lot of heartache later.

What do you think? Let’s talk about it.

**************

Advertising makes me squirm, but I need to tell you my birthday month $6.50 sale is still going on. You can buy brand new paperback copies of my books Childless by Marriage, Shoes Full of Sand, Azorean Dreams and Freelancing for Newspapers for just $6.50, including shipping. Such a deal! Click here for details. Don’t go to Amazon for this sale (but do go there for the e-books). This is just between you and me and Paypal.

 

 

Advertisements

Have a Talk with Yourself on Paper

Dear friends,

Often in the comments, people tell me they are so depressed, so sad, so confused they don’t know what to do. I’ll bet you feel that way sometimes, as if what you’re going through now or facing in the future is just unbearable. You want children so badly, but you might never have them. You love this man or woman with all your heart, but if you stay with them, you have to give up your dream. It hurts. Right?

And what do I tell you? Talk to somebody. Talk to your partner, your family, your friends, a minister or a shrink. Easy to say, not so easy to do. I know. People are always telling me to call them when I feel depressed, but I can’t. It’s just too hard to pull out of my funk long enough to dump it all over my friends and relatives. If I do call, they either don’t understand or they offer solutions that just make me feel worse. But there’s something I can do that really helps: I can write. As a lifelong professional writer, I naturally turn to words, but writing is a great outlet for anyone.

Writing is great therapy. It allows you to get your feelings out of your head and onto paper, to work through problems and to figure out exactly what’s bothering you. It doesn’t have to be perfect or professional. Who cares if you spell all the words right? You don’t have to share it with anyone. It’s just for you. So get out some paper or boot up the computer and give it a shot. Here are some suggestions.

1) Journal: Write about what’s going on, about how you feel, about why you think you feel that way, what you would change in your life if you could.

2) Make a list: What’s bugging you? Put it all down. Feeling hurt, resentful, sad or scared? Write it down. Don’t know what to do? Try a list of pros and cons. Feel guilty or hurt or resentful? Write it down. List every last little thing that’s bothering you, no matter how trivial. Get it all out.

3)Write a letter: Is there someone you’d really like to talk to but can’t because they’re not alive or not around or you don’t dare say what you’d like to say? Write it out. You don’t have to mail it, but just putting it down will help.

4) Fantasize: If all your dreams came true, if your partner changed his mind, if her infertility suddenly disappeared, if you got pregnant or met the perfect person who can’t wait to have kids with you, what would it be like? Just write it down and let yourself enjoy the dreams. What would you have to do to make those dreams come true?

5) Count blessings: Yes, you do have blessings, and if you can find a few, it will help you feel better. It doesn’t have to be big. A perfect hamburger. A dog who loves you. A favorite pair of shoes. Maybe your partner’s hugs make you feel safe and warm. Maybe you have a wonderful job. Maybe the sky is a gorgeous shade of blue or the rain feels good on your face. Writing down your blessings can help you see it’s not all bad.

6) Get creative: Try making up a story about someone else. Give them lots of troubles, then find ways to solve them. Or try writing a poem or song. Some of the world’s greatest songs have come from composers who were feeling bad. Remember “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”?

You could just go to Facebook or Twitter and tell the world you feel bad. But that will just bring a flurry of pity responses and then everyone will forget about it. That doesn’t help much. Try writing something that only you and God will see.

I have suffered from depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember, and I have considerable experience with various types of therapy, but for me, the best therapy is writing. Most people I meet don’t know about my “blue days.” I don’t call them. I write.

When that doesn’t work, I go out and eat a massive sandwich and a ton of French fries. I look forward to your comments.

 

Don’t hide your childless tears from your partner

“My god, I cried and cried reading your post as I sit here in the dark outside grieving for what will never be. I love my partner and I hate him a little too because he doesn’t want children and I am left bound by that decision. I feel my time running out and wish every single day he would change his mind but he is unwavering in his decision. And at the same time I can barely acknowledge this pain and grief to myself because I am terrified of it consuming me. This is the first time I have ever really sat down and let it all wash over me. I can’t stop crying. I don’t know how I am going to walk inside and pretend I’m okay because he doesn’t understand.”

One of my earliest posts, “Are Your Grieving Over Your Lack of Children,” published Nov. 7, 2007, still draws more comments than any other. The comment above is the most recent. It brings back memories for me. I too hid my grief from my husband. I cried in the bathtub, in the car, or in the garage, but not in front of Fred. Oh no. Mustn’t make him feel bad or risk making him mad. But looking back, I think that was wrong. I should have showed how I felt instead of hiding my feelings and hoping some kind of miracle would occur.

I am also bothered by her statement, “I am left bound by that decision.” Is she? It’s so hard to see a situation clearly when we’re in the middle of it. We can’t see any way out, we think we have no options, but we do. To Anonymous, I say reopen the conversation. You can agree to disagree, but don’t hide your feelings. They count as much as his.

I don’t cry all the time anymore. Sometimes I just curse and kick things, but when you’re at the time of life when you see your chances of parenthood disappearing with every passing day, it hurts like hell. Losing your chance to have children is a big loss, and we don’t need to hide it. If people don’t like it, too bad.

I’d love to hear your comments.

His wife couldn’t have kids, but he stayed

Dear readers, 
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 to 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 homelife.  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 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. 


What’s the big deal about childlessness?


What is it that makes people feel bad about not having children? That’s what the young man interviewing me over the phone yesterday wanted to know. I struggled to find an answer that he would understand. It became very clear that men and women have different ideas about this stuff, especially when they come from different generations. His questions showed he really didn’t get it.
Is it that everybody else is doing it? Are we looking for a sense of accomplishment? Do we want to leave something behind? Does it help to be around other people’s children?
Well, I could answer that last one. No. When you are hurting over your own lack of children, it does not help to be surrounded by everybody else’s. It just makes you more aware of what you’re missing. I don’t think he understood that either.
I tried to explain that it’s all of the above and more, that we’re missing a major life experience, that we have no younger generation to replace the old ones who are dying, that we have no one to inherit our keepsakes, and that for some people children are their only legacy, but none of that was really getting to the heart of it.
Why does it hurt so bad to realize we may never have children? Is it a deep-down physical need to reproduce? After all, every living thing on earth is designed to reproduce. Some can’t for various physical reasons, but reproduction is the plan. Humans are the only ones who can say, “No, we’d rather not,” the only ones who mate and don’t procreate. So maybe it’s just a basic biological need. But then why don’t some people feel that need?
Almost a quarter of women are not having children these days, and a lot of them don’t feel bad about it. They choose to be childless, preferring the unfettered life. Why do the rest of us grieve the loss of the children we might have had?
The young man segued into a discussion of social media and wouldn’t I like my blogs to be reposted in perpetuity if some company offered that service. No, I don’t think so, and was he actually scamming me to sell a product? I don’t know. But his questions about childlessness linger. What’s the big deal? Why do we feel so bad?
What do you think? Help me find answers? Why do you feel bad about not having children? Please share in the comments.

Are you hurting during the holidays?


At least once every holiday season, I have a meltdown. I sit between the Christmas movies on TV and the twinkling lights on the Christmas tree and cry. It seems like everywhere I go everybody is celebrating Christmas with their kids, whether it’s the school holiday pageant, my friends all heading out to be with their children and grandchildren, or those TV shows where everybody is gathered together, young and old, from babies to great-grandparents. Here, it’s just me and the dog. I will be spending Christmas afternoon with a childless friend at his senior citizen mobile home park potluck. That will be nice, but it’s not exactly a Hallmark holiday.
Last week I wrote about getting off our pity pots and joining up with our friends and family with kids to help them and to ease our own grief. I still think it’s a good idea. But let’s be honest. Sometimes we’re just hurting too much to do that sort of thing. We just want to hide under the covers until the holidays are over. Watching other people with their kids is the last thing we want to do.
“It’s just another day,” says my Scrooge-y father, who does no Christmas decorations or other festivities. He just writes a few checks for his kids and calls it Christmas. He never was big on holidays and since Mom died, forget about it. He has children and grandchildren, but he doesn’t do warm, fuzzy relationships.
It’s all about attitude. I plan to make the best of my holidays. I will enjoy the food and friends, the music and colored lights. I will enjoy giving and receiving presents. I will be working my church music job Christmas Eve and Christmas morning—my choice—to keep myself busy. I plan to have fun at that potluck. Will I shed a few tears? Probably.
Dad also likes to say, “It is what it is.”
I don’t want to alienate anyone by getting all religious, but think about what we are celebrating this time of year, whether you’re welcoming the birth of Jesus, celebrating Hanukkah, or enjoying the winter solstice. Whether or not you have children has very little to do with it. Try to see the blessings that you have, even if you’re looking at them through tears. To paraphrase the old Crosby, Stills and Nash song, “Love the ones you’re with.”
And turn off the TV if it makes you cry.
How are you doing this week? Please share in the comments.

How do you begin to heal from childless grief?

Grief. My 2007 post about childless grief has been the most clicked and commented on over the last seven years. Readers continue to pour out heartbreaking stories about being denied the chance to have children and finding the loss unbearable. They write, “I don’t know what to do.” “I can’t go on.” “My heart is breaking.” I tell them I’m sorry. I tell them I’m praying for them. I urge them to find someone to talk to, whether it’s a friend, family member, or therapist. I tell them to keep talking with their spouse; don’t hurt in silence.

The pain is real. The loss is real. You are trying to figure out how to live without the family and the life you thought you would have. It’s not just the children. It’s not just grandchildren and descendants through the ages. It’s also a way of life, an identity as a mother or father, an experience that most people have and you never will.

How do you begin to heal? What do you do with this pain? A reader recently suggested that I write about this. In the next few posts, we will look at ways to heal. Even if you do eventually have children, you won’t forget the years when you thought you never would, so healing is needed.

The stages of grief outlined by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross can be applied here: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Denial: He’ll change his mind. We’ll do IVF. I’ll get pregnant by accident. She’s 43, but it’s not too late. We all do this. We think a miracle will happen, and we will have a baby. While we’re waiting for that miracle, our lives are passing us by.

Anger: It’s his/her/God’s fault, and I am so pissed. He cheated me out of my chance to be a mother. She’s too selfish to give me the children I always wanted. I never should have married this @#$%. I’m an idiot. And God, you suck.

Bargaining: I’ll let him get his degree/sports car/trip to Europe, and then we’ll get pregnant. If I get a second job, she’ll change her mind. If we move to Cleveland, which I hate, he’ll let us have a baby.

Depression: I am so sad I can’t go on. I want to have babies. I want them so bad I die every time I hear about somebody else having a baby. My friends and my sisters are all having kids, and I feel so left out. They just don’t understand. Nobody understands. I’m never going to have children, and my life is ruined.

Acceptance: They say you have to hit bottom before you can start working your way out of your troubles. One day, you will begin to see that although you don’t have children, life has many other good things to offer: a partner who loves you., great food, blue skies and green trees, work you enjoy, a house you love, hobbies. friends, God. You realize lots of other people do not have children and live happy, successful lives, and you can, too. You still wish you had children, but life goes on whether you’re a parent or not.

As anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one knows, we don’t progress through the stages of grief in a straight line. One day you’re feeling acceptance; the next day you’re back at depression or anger or denial. I still feel sad sometimes, and sometimes I cry and punch things because I’m furious at how my life worked out. But the acceptance grows with time until it becomes your usual mood.

In coming posts, we will look at alternate life plans,  ceremonies and rituals to let go of grief, and more steps to take toward healing.

Please forgive me if my posts are not quite on time this month. I’ve been in California taking care of my father, who broke his hip, and there is no Wi-Fi at his house. But I will not desert you. You are all in my thoughts and prayers as we heal together.

Copyright 2014 Sue Fagalde Lick