If You Don’t Want Kids, Just Say It

This morning, I found a card in my files that I wrote 13 years ago: “We are biologically programmed to reproduce. Like every childbearing creature on earth, our whole beings are set up to make babies, to continue the species in an unending chain. If we don’t, we wander, lost, trying to find our way home. It’s as basic as eating, sleeping and excreting.” Ironically, I woke up thinking the same thing this morning as I wondered what to write this week. Maybe it was seeing the pregnant women on TV’s “Bachelor in Paradise” last night.

Before you get mad, think about it. We have all these parts designed to make, carry, deliver, and feed our offspring. Why would we choose not to use them? Why would some people go so far as to surgically disable the baby-making parts? What other animal does that? It seems unnatural. What do you think? I really want to know.

Last week’s post about my friend’s daughter’s fiancé suddenly announcing that he doesn’t want kids sparked a barrage of comments both at the blog and at the Childless by Marriage Facebook page. Some were sympathetic, some quite angry. How dare I suggest that that guy or anybody has to want children? He has a right to change his mind. He might have good reasons for feeling the way he does. I know. It’s all true. And it still sucks. In every situation like this, somebody is going to wind up brokenhearted.

Consider this: For most couples, having children is the default position. Children are assumed until someone challenges that assumption. Four out of five women give birth. The number of childless couples is growing, but those of us without children are still the minority.

When you’re dating someone, I think it’s natural to assume you’re both planning to have children someday—unless someone says something. And that’s the thing. It’s an awkward conversation, could be a date-stopper or a relationship-killer, but someone has to ask the questions. Do you want children? Are you able to have children? How will you feel if I get pregnant? How will you feel if I never do? You both need to honestly say how you feel about it: I really don’t want children. Or I want children so badly that I don’t want to live without them.

If you’re not going with the default position of having children, someone has to say it. And not after the wedding flowers have already been ordered. People can feel the way they want to feel. That’s fine. Just say it before it’s too late. Please.

Yes, folks change their minds. But—and this is the old Catholic lady talking—if you agreed to children before you got married, you can’t break that contract later. That’s just selfish and you shouldn’t hurt someone you love that way.

I expect some difficult comments. My back is in bad shape today, and I hurt too much to be diplomatic. So let the comments fly.

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Is 49 Too Old to Become a Dad?

He’s older and thinks he’s too old to become a dad. I read that in so many comments. In fact, I received such a comment from a man this week. “Ezz” says he’s 49 and his wife, 33, agreed they didn’t want kids when they got married five years ago. Now she has had a change of heart and wants to have a baby. He’s still not into it and feels that he’s too old. Sound familiar? Sure did to me since my husband and I were almost exactly the same ages when we got married. I hear it a lot. The guy says, “Nah, I’m too old.”

Is he? We know that while women’s time to procreate is limited, men can keep producing sperm all their lives. We know that some celebrities, like Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, and Michael Douglas, fathered children when they were in their 60s, and they claim to be very happy. But what about your average guy?

My husband had three children from his first marriage and didn’t want to do it again. The thought of going through all the stages with new children just made him tired. As it was, he was the oldest dad in every setting with his youngest son, who arrived as a surprise when Fred was 39.

As I write this, I realize that if Fred and I had had a child in 1986, the year after we got married, that child would have been 14 when his dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, would have spent his teen years watching him deteriorate and would have been 21 when he died. But nobody could have predicted that. Fred might have stayed healthy and full of energy into his 80s or 90s. Would it matter that people mistook him for his child’s grandfather?

There are practical considerations. An article from Time magazine,“Too Old to Be a Dad?” by Jeffrey Kluger, certainly raises some concerns. It suggests that babies conceived with older men’s sperm might be born with autism, schizophrenia and various physical problems. We don’t hear much about that, but it’s certainly something to talk to the doctor about.

Another concern is that the father may die, like Fred did, when the child is still relatively young. He might not live to be a grandparent. And the child’s grandparents might already be gone when they’re born. I was blessed to have my mother till I was 50. My dad is still alive at 94. And I had all four grandparents for a big chunk of my life. Two of my great-grandmothers were still alive when I was little. Are we cheating these children out of important life experiences by starting our families late in life?

Think about that older man. Just when he’s looking forward to retirement, to having time and money to travel or pursue new interests, there’s a kid needing to be taken care of and educated. If he has a baby at 50, the child will be a teenager when he’s ready to retire. When you look at it that way, it’s hard to blame the guy for being reluctant to start a family.

But what about this younger woman who wants to be a mom, who is and will be an appropriate age? She and her parents are likely to still be around. Is it fair for the husband to deprive her of children because he’s older?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. I would love to hear what you think about this, especially if you’re in this situation now.

 

Check out these articles that offer a response to the Time Magazine doom and gloom piece:

“What My Son has Taught Me in the First 100 Days   by Robert Manni

“What Time’s Article on Older Dads Did Not Report”  by Len Filppu

P.S. Today is Fred’s birthday. He would have been 79. Our mythical child would have been 29. Big sigh. Thank you all for being here.

 

 

Why Wouldn’t He/She Want to Have Children?

Here at Childless by Marriage, one reader after another reports the same problem: One partner wants kids and the other does not. Period. End of discussion. If infertility is an issue, there are ways to work around it, such as in vitro, surrogates, donors, or adoption, but no. They don’t want to talk about it. I always encourage readers to keep the conversation going, but I had a tight-lipped first husband who wouldn’t discuss it either, so I understand if you keep running into a dead end.

Why are some people so sure they don’t want children? Let’s look at possible reasons:

  1. ·They hate children–Kids are needy, whiny and sticky.
  2.  Money–Raising children is too darned expensive.
  3. Conflicts with existing kids–They already have children from a previous relationship. Between child support, dealing with the ex and taking care of these kids, they can’t imagine bringing more children into their lives.
  4. Fear–of pain, conflicts, cost, life changes, and passing on physical or emotional problems.
  5. Age—They don’t want to be the oldest parent on the soccer field.
  6. Career—Having kids will totally screw it up.
  7. Freedom—They want to do whatever they please whenever they please.
  8. Marriage—Will having children ruin their relationship? Will the wife focus all her attention on the kids? Will they fight over how to raise them? Will they never have sex again?
  9. Inadequacy—They’d be a lousy father or mother.
  10. Responsibility—Don’t want it.
  11. Overpopulation—The world has too many people already.
  12. Messed up world—Why subject a child to wars, terrorism, climate change and a culture gone to hell?

Do any of these sound familiar? Can you add anything to the list? Do you think it’s possible to change their minds? I look forward to reading 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.

Are you afraid to demand what you need?

Dear readers,

Happy New Year! I suspect that you’re as glad as I am that the holidays are finally over and we can get back to normal. The holidays build up so many expectations which usually result in disappointment. Right? So, let’s just move on.

I have decided to feature some of the comments I receive here on the blog from time to time. They often come on old posts that you might not see. One of the posts that draws the most comments is “If You Disagree About Children, Is Your Relationship Doomed?” from Jan. 4, 2013. Most readers can’t answer the question, but they’re hoping somebody else can. Check out this comment from Miranda:

I’m 30 he’s 38. He has seven yes 7 kids from previous relationships. Ages 10-22… We’ve been together just under ten years. We finally got married in 2014. I had been so excited to finally have the wedding and then his mother died the week of the wedding unexpectedly. They used our reception hall the day after the wedding for the funeral. 😦 the week after the wedding I collapsed and a CT scan showed a tumor, a rare fibroid in my uterus causing chaos in my body and also not allowing an egg to ever attach. It’s going to be removed next month. Up until this year I loved kids but my bio clock wasn’t ticking or anything. Now it’s ticking. Up until now he said he wasn’t getting a vasectomy because it wouldn’t be fair to expect me to help raise all his kids and then tell me I can’t have one. Except that’s exactly what’s happening. He doesn’t want more kids. He’s worn out. He will have another but not because he wants to. It’s a totally different story to raise other people’s kids. His youngest is ten and We’ve had full custody since he was two. It’s still not the same. I want my own child. I won’t leave over this matter but I’m heartbroken. It seems like everything I’ve ever looked forward to is being destroyed. I can’t feasibly get pregnant and feel good about it if it’s just going to chase him off because he’s tired of kids. I doubt he’d leave but I don’t want to do it alone either.. 

Seven kids and he can’t handle one more? Now he’s getting a vasectomy? My reaction is that she should insist on having the child. It’s not fair to say yes and then say no, especially in a situation where the woman has only a short time to get pregnant. I know all the reasons why it might not work, but the thing is, I think too often we’re afraid to demand what we need, to say, “I want a baby, and we’re going to have one.” We’re afraid it will destroy the relationship, that our mate will resent us, that he won’t love the baby. But we might be mistaken about that. We’re afraid to even mention it for fear he or she will get upset. I suggest that we all make 2015 the year we speak up for our needs. If it goes bad, it goes bad, but at least we didn’t suffer in silence.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments. I’m sure Miranda would like more opinions than mine.

Beware of unreasonable baby expectations


* She’s 46, he’s 36, and he wants to have children, preferably several. But she’s 46, past the age when most women can get pregnant without heavy medical intervention, and she has almost finished raising the daughter she had with her first husband.
* He’s going through a divorce that nearly destroyed him emotionally and financially. His two half-grown kids are breaking his heart. And now his girlfriend is badgering him to get married and have children. She won’t stop talking about it when he barely has the energy to get through his day as it is.
* Before they got married, he said he didn’t want to have any children. She said kids were never a priority for her either. But then a couple years into their marriage, she saw all her friends having babies and started wanting one, too. When she mentioned her new desire to her husband, he told her he still had no desire to have children. Now she is certain she must become a mother or die of grief. It’s all his fault for denying her this essential part of life. But he told her all along that fatherhood was not on his bucket list.
Dear friends, I read stories like this almost every day in blog comments and in private emails readers send to me. Most of the writers are heartbroken and struggling to figure out what to do. Should they leave their partner in the hope of finding someone eager to make babies or stay and risk ending up alone and regretful in old age? I sympathize. I really do. When I married Fred, I was 33, and he was 48. He had three children from his first marriage and he’d had a vasectomy. We talked about having the vasectomy reversed. We talked about adoption. But he finally told me he just did not want any more kids. I wanted babies. I cried over it, I drank over it, I got mad over it, and I fantasized that somehow I’d get pregnant anyway. Of course I didn’t.
Like the readers described above, I had unreasonable expectations. I married an older man who had already done the baby thing. He had barely finished his divorce before our wedding day. His kids were in all kinds of trouble. His financial security had just been demolished. Finding and falling in love with each other was like a gift from God. To demand children on top of that was asking too much. If I really wanted kids, I should have found a man my own age who was aching to be a dad. I chose Fred.
Readers, I know how much it hurts not having the babies you always wanted. I still cry over it.  It kills me to see families with their children and grandchildren and realize I’m alone. Add active hormones and people having babies all around you, and it can be brutally hard walking around with an empty womb. It’s hard to see clearly when you’re in the thick of it. But sometimes you have to be realistic. If you really love someone, consider their side of the situation. Instead of browbeating them, love them and do your best to understand.
Say the serenity prayer. It helps: God, please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
I welcome your comments.

Can a magic spell end your childless woes?


My life was a disaster. My husband didn’t love me. He would not give me children. I was unable to conceive. We were headed for divorce. And then I met Dr. X, a spellcaster. In no time, our problems were solved. Now we have a happy loving family with three children, and I owe it all to Dr. X.
Crazy? Perhaps. But I get one or more of these comments almost every day. You don’t see them because I mark them as spam and get rid of them. They are spam, right? Usually the grammar errors and unnatural language give them away as not having been written by real people. But some of these comments sound so logical that I’m tempted to publish them. What if they were real?
If somebody offered you a magic spell that would solve your problems with your partner and enable you to have all the children you wanted, wouldn’t you try it? Don’t we all wish someone would wave a magic wand and take all of our troubles away?
When I was still fertile, there were times I hoped to become magically pregnant, despite birth control and reluctant husbands, but it didn’t happen. The Virgin Mary is the only one who got pregnant without sperm meeting egg. As a Christian, the closest I can get is asking God for a miracle. Is that the same thing? I can hear God up in heaven echoing what my mother used to say: “I don’t do miracles on demand. Figure it out yourself.”
The truth is, we have to work out our own lives. Instead of a magic spell, we have to do the work to make our dreams come true. Sometimes that means making the difficult decision to leave someone we love. Sometimes it means staying with that person even if we disagree on important issues, like children, and loving them anyway. Sometimes it means talking out a resolution, even though the hardest thing in the world is talking about it. And sometimes it means looking around and realizing that you are surrounded by wonderful children you can love, even though you didn’t give birth to them and even though it hurts sometimes.
If only someone could cast a magic spell and fix all our problems. Do you believe it’s possible? What would you ask for if you could? And what miracles can you work all by yourself?