Have you had the "baby" conversation with your mate?

I didn’t know my first husband didn’t want children until we were well into our marriage. He seemed good with other people’s children. I assumed he’d be great with our own. But I was wrong. He kept wanting to put it off until he finally admitted he didn’t want kids at all. By then, our marriage was shot anyway so we didn’t talk much about it. We should have talked about it before we got married, but we never did.

With my second husband, we talked around the issue of having children but never addressed it head-on. He had had a vasectomy and he told me didn’t want to add any more kids to the three he already had, but did I believe him? No. Did I stand up for my right to be a mom? I did not.

All too often, we fail to have one of the most important conversations we should have with our mates. We might not agree on whether to have children, but at least we need to be honest about it. I think if I had really pushed, I might be a mother today. But I never straight out said, “I want children. This is important to me. I will be devastated if I never become a mother.”

Sometimes we’re afraid to push, for fear our partner will get angry and break up with us. But if you can’t talk about such an important topic, how good is that relationship anyway? Now, don’t bring it up on the first date, but if you’ve been together a while, it’s time to have the baby talk.

For this conversation to succeed, we have to know what we want. Is not having children a deal-breaker, or can you live with it? How strongly does your partner feel about it? Why does he think he doesn’t want kids?

All too often, I see couples who find themselves in a miserable place because they didn’t work this out before it was too late. I know it’s hard to bring it up. But try it. Maybe you could say something like, “I always wanted to have a little girl.” See what he says, then follow up. Make sure you both are clear on this all-too-important issue. Sooner or later, it will harm your relationship if you don’t.

We’ve got to talk about it

I wound up childless because I didn’t have THE CONVERSATION with my husbands-to-be before we got married. I did not tell them I definitely wanted children and make sure they wanted them, too. I just assumed. It’s always a bad idea to assume anything. You might be wrong.

I get lots of e-mails these days from women, and a few men, who are in the same position. They thought they’d have children. They married or entered long-time partnerships, discovering later that their mates did not share their desire for offspring. I have heard stories of hidden vasectomies, forced abortions, and, most often, partners who just refused to discuss having children. My friends, if they refuse to talk about it, they are probably also going to refuse to parent–or maybe they have concerns that can be worked out. You’ll never know for sure if you don’t put it in words.

In my own situation, I have come to realize that if I had communicated how important it was for me to have children, my husband would have cooperated. Yes, he said he didn’t want more children, and I know he meant it, but I also know after all these years, that he loved me enough to do it to make me happy. I didn’t say the words. I was afraid I’d lose him.

We also need to talk about it with our friends and relatives. One man recently told me he’s afraid to say anything to his childless friends about the fact that he has children and they don’t. That’s how friendships end and the world divides into parents and non-parents. Sometimes it hurts not to have children. Let your friends know that, but know they don’t have to hide their kids from you either. Talk about it. It will make life a lot easier.