Reader Caught in Childless by Marriage Dilemma

   

Readers,

I received this email from “Kristin” over the weekend. At her request, I am sharing it with you. What do you think? What would you do?–Sue

My husband and I have been married about eight months, but were together nearly eight years before we were married. To fully tell this story, I feel like I have to go back in history a little because a portion of our eight-year relationship we spent apart. That breakup was because I was sure I DID want kids and he was (and always has been) sure he did NOT. To be honest, I can’t really say how we came back together, other than we did.

He is my very best friend. I think when we got back together and decided to get married a few years later it was because I genuinely thought I could compromise. I knew he didn’t want kids, and several more years had passed where I’d seen one sibling suffer through a stillbirth and another’s infertility leading to divorce. I rationalized that both of these things were just more examples that you shouldn’t choose a mate based on a desire to have children because “there are no guarantees” in life. I wanted to marry someone because I loved him and didn’t depend on all the “extras” in life.

What I could not have predicted was that by loving someone, building a life with him, and experiencing an even deeper love in this commitment than I had before, I developed a stronger desire to have a child. All of this became very apparent when he scheduled an appointment to have a vasectomy. I felt fine with it until, I didn’t. It hit like the worst wave of depression and devastation I’ve ever felt. We talked about it, and he agreed to cancel the appointment, but ever since then, it has been brewing just under the surface. He doesn’t say it directly, but he alludes to me trying to trap him into pregnancy, frequently saying we are “playing with fire.”

I should add that we have been pregnant once—more of a chemical pregnancy than anything—enough to be positive on a pregnancy test, and then I got my period. It was actually just before we were married and was one of the worst fights we’ve ever had. I know you could say I “shouldn’t have married him” if I knew that, but it didn’t change the fact that I love him. Even the antagonistic child-hating part of him. I can’t lie and say some part of me didn’t subconsciously think that time or a miracle from the Lord would change his mind. I think I also sort of have a false hope because he didn’t go through with the vasectomy yet. Like, he loved me enough to compromise on delaying it and then more false hope came about.

Today we are arguing again—and I am depressed, again. He will list all of the logical reasons why he doesn’t and has not ever wanted a child, and I will fail to articulate my emotions—because that’s all I can say it is now, a feeling. What I guess I wonder is: Will this pass? Is my love for my spouse enough to carry me, to carry us through this “fear of missing out” and whatever else may be rolled up into my desire to have a child right now? I am thankful for the solidarity of knowing that other people experience this, too, but it feels so painful that this is undeniably such a divisive thing. I don’t know how I won’t resent him at some point if I continue to feel this way, and yet a life without him isn’t something I want either. 

HELP

–Kristin 

Well, this is the crux of our “childless by marriage” problem. She wants kids; he does not. She loves him, he loves her, but neither is likely to change their mind. What do they do now? I know many of you have been there, done that. Me too, but my situation was different because Fred was older, a father of three, and he’d already had the vasectomy. I stayed with him, and I’m not sorry. But what advice do you have for Kristin?

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Do you want to tell your story at the Childless by Marriage blog? I’m looking for personal stories, 500-750 words long, that fit our childless-by-marriage theme. You could write about infertility, second marriages, partners who don’t want children, stepchildren, feeling left out when everyone around you has kids, fear of being childless in old age, birth control, and other related issues. Tell us how you how you came to be childless “by marriage” and how it has affected your life. Or you could write about someone else. We love stories about successful childless women. We do not want to hear about your lovely relationship with your children or how happy you are to be childfree. Not all submissions will be accepted, and all are subject to editing. If interested, email me at sufalick@gmail.com.

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After more than 700 posts and with a new best-of-the-blog book coming, I am making some changes. I am using a new “header” image, but having troubles with it. The glitches will be fixed ASAP. Meanwhile, stay tuned.

What if the man has had a vasectomy?

I keep receiving comments lately from women whose male partnerns have had vasectomies–surgery to prevent them from producing sperm. A vasectomy is intended to be permanent birth control. But people don’t always see it as permanent. The guy can just have surgery to reverse it. Right?

It’s not that simple, my friends. Here’s why.

1) If a man has had a vasectomy, at some point he was sure enough that he didn’t want any children–or any more–that he was willing to have surgery to make it permanent. That’s pretty darned sure. Maybe, as in my husband Fred’s situation, he had no idea that his first marriage would end and along would come a younger wife still wanting babies. In our case, we talked about having the surgery reversed, but Fred finally admitted he really didn’t want to start over with another baby. If I had had older kids, it would have been okay with him, but he found the whole baby and toddler thing exhausting and didn’t want to do it again when he was pushing 50. Your man may be younger and more interested in having children, but never forget that at some point, he was sure he didn’t want to get anyone pregnant.

2) Reversal doesn’t always work. The surgery to reverse the vasectomy is much more complicated than the original vasectomy surgery, and it’s not always successful. There may be blockages or the man may have developed antibodies to his own sperm. The longer it has been since the vasectomy, the worse the odds. If it has been less than three years, chances of getting pregnant are better than 50 percent, but after 10 years, only about 30 percent result in pregnancy.

3) It costs a lot of money, estimated $5,000-$15,000, and most insurance companies consider it an elective procedure which they don’t cover.

I hate to bring more grief to people who are already suffering over the possibility of not having children, but we need to face reality. When you hook up with a man who has had a vasectomy, he is infertile and he may or may not be willing or able to change that. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. People do have the surgery and make babies. Talk to your doctor if you’re thinking about it.

You can find more information about vasectomy reversals at these websites.

http://www.vasectomy.com/vasectomy-reversal/faq/vasectomy-reversal-success-rates-will-it-work

http://www.webmd.com/infertility-and-reproduction/vasectomy-reversal-vasovasostomy

https://www.vasectomy.com/vasectomy/faq/is-a-vasectomy-reversible
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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 seven 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.

Would you marry someone who is infertile?

We often talk here about couples in which one partner is not willing to have children. Sometimes they discuss it before they get married. Other times it comes as a rude surprise to the partner who wants kids. But what about situations where one partner, for whatever reason, physically cannot make babies? What if you knew that going in? Would you sacrifice children for love?
I’ve been doing a little reading about marriages in which a partner is infertile. Many of the listings that come up are religious discussions. As you might expect, the Catholics dominate. The main thought is that for a marriage to be valid, the couple must have a sexual union. That means if a partner is impotent, i.e., can’t have sex, and they know it before the wedding, they can’t have a valid marriage. If it happens later, that’s okay. But if the couple is infertile, that does not invalidate the marriage. If their sexual union does not result in children, they’re still married.
Some folks are using the same arguments in their debate about gay marriage. After all, a same-sex couple cannot  procreate without outside help. But they do have a sexual union. I’m not going to get into whether or not gay marriage is a good thing. I think if people love each other, they should be allowed to be together. Period. But it does underscore the question I am asking today: Would you marry someone who is unable to provide the necessary sperm or egg to conceive a child? Or is that a deal breaker?
In my case, I knew Fred had had a vasectomy, and I knew it had taken 16 years for him and his first wife to get pregnant. But in my usual unrealistic way, I figured we could overcome all that and pop out some babies while I was still in my fertile 30s. What if I had known that there was absolutely no chance? What if instead of saying he didn’t want more children, he’d said, “I can’t.” Would I have married him? I honestly don’t know. I think I would have. I really loved him and didn’t have other prospects. But I’d have been forced to consciously choose a life without the children I always thought I’d have. (Yes, we could have had the adoption talk and I would have learned that no, he didn’t want to do that, so the result would have been the same, but that’s a whole other discussion.)
What if I were the one with the fertility problem? Would I expect a man to give up children for me? Would I be constantly afraid that no man would have me if I couldn’t give him sons and daughters? How and when would I tell the guys I dated? Would I feel guilty about depriving them of kids?
When couples disagree, that’s hard, but infertility is a whole other thing, full of sadness. It’s not a rare thing either. The U.S.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site lists statistics for infertility. The percentage of women ages 15-44 with “impaired fecundity” is 10.9 percent or 6.7 million. Stop and think about that. One in 10. On the male side in the same age group, 13.9 percent were surgically sterile (usually vasectomy), 4.2 percent sterile for other reasons and another 5.2 percent considered subfertile, meaning conception was possible but not likely. That’s a lot of guys, nearly a quarter of them.
So how do you feel about that? Would you marry someone you knew was infertile? I would love to hear what you think about this.

The Non-Mom Club

The other day at yoga class, I discovered that Nancy, who exercises next to me, never had children either. It wasn’t a long discussion. While the mom-types were talking about their kids, she muttered something about not having done that. I said, “So you didn’t have children either?” She said, “Nope,” and that was it. No more discussion needed. It was time to cross our legs and walk our hands forward, stretching out our backs and focusing on our nasal breathing. Leave everything else outside. Let it go, the teacher said. Later I discovered she’d never had children either. Same story as mine. Husband with kids, vasectomy, not wanting any more.

But now it was time for yoga. We bent, we breathed. We spoke no more. Without knowing why or what had happened to make Nancy a non-mother, I felt less lonely and realized that although I will never be an official member of the Mom Club, I am part of an ever-growing Non-Mom club, women who for whatever reason never had children. At this point, among women over 40, that’s approximately 25 percent of us. Wherever I go, aside from obvious child-centered places like schools and kiddie playgrounds, I’m going to find others like me. It was a good and comforting feeling.

All I really know about Nancy is that she’s a nurse at the local hospital, currently cross-training to work in pre-op. She has a perfect figure but uncontrollable curly hair, and she is more flexible than I am. She can get her head all the way to the floor. Oh, and she has the most beautiful flowered green yoga mat.

There’s got to be a better name for the Non-Mom club, something more mellifluous. Help me out with a name. I’m won’t accept the “Childfree Club” because some of us really wanted children and feel the loss. But the “Childless Club” sounds so sad and doesn’t include those who are just fine with not having kids.

Whatever we’re called, we didn’t have children. However we feel about it, we’re in good company.

Thanks, Nancy.

Welcome to the Childless by Marriage blog

Greetings,
I have resisted doing this blog for a while because I should be working on my book by this title, but so many women have contacted me and visited the “Childless Resources” page on my web site that it seems like a conversation that is dying to happen. People can’t wait until I get the book between covers. Plus thoughts and happenings keep coming up that don’t/won’t fit into a book or an article. So let’s blog a bit. I admit up front that I am a professional writer doing books and articles on the childless thing, and I promise I will not use your comment without your permission. That said, here’s my situation:

I have been married twice. Husband number one didn’t want children, although he didn’t tell me that until a few years in. It was always wait till he finishes college, wait till he gets a good job, wait till we buy a house. Then there came a time when I thought I might be pregnant, and his tune changed to: if you have a baby, I’m leaving. Ouch. I wasn’t pregnant, but the marriage didn’t work out anyway.

Husband number two, a wonderful older man who already had three children, didn’t want any more kids. He had had a vasectomy. I thought he might change his mind, but he didn’t. So now I have just reached menopause with no kids of my own and three stepchildren I’m not close to. I regret not having children, but at the same time I know that I have done a lot of things in my life that I could not have done if I were a mother.

So that’s the deal. Missed my chance, but maybe that’s what God had in mind for me.

I’ll be sharing stories, statistics, comments, etc., here. I welcome you to join me. Be forewarned that I don’t consider myself “childfree.” I’m “childless.” There’s a difference.
Sue