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 If Your Mate Says No to Kids?

Last week, I wrote about how important it is to have The Conversation with our mates about whether or not we want to have children. It can be a tough conversation to have, especially for women. Sometimes men are like fish. We don’t want to speak too loudly for fear of scaring them away. I know that’s how it was with me. I lacked the self-esteem to say I wanted children and would do whatever it took to have them. With my first husband, by the time I found out he didn’t want to have children, our marriage was already going badly. It didn’t matter what I said; it wasn’t going to happen. But what if we had had that conversation before we got married? Maybe we would have avoided a troubled marriage.

With Fred, well, I suspect he was actually worth sacrificing children for. We had such a love, the kind they make movies about. He was the best husband a woman could want. He did not want to have more children, but I think if I really insisted that I had to have kids to be happy, he would have gone along with it. I didn’t insist. I just moped. I think part of me believed I had already lost my chance with my first marriage, and I was lucky just to have another husband. Also, to be honest, I wonder if my desire was not as strong as my desire to do other things in life, but I’ll never know. We avoided the conversation.

So what does one do if one’s mate says, “Absolutely not. I refuse to have children.” A lot of people who comment here are dealing with that problem right now. Do they push to the point of destroying the relationship? Do they risk abandoning the love they have in the hope of finding someone else who will welcome children? Do they give up their dream in order to stay together? How do you make such a decision?

I wish I had all the answers to these questions. We each have to find them for ourselves through soul-searching and prayer and being alert to those moments when everything becomes very clear.

What do you think? What do you do if he/she says, “No kids. No way.”