We Made It Through Another Mother’s Day!


We survived Mother’s Day. Congratulations to all of us. I was all set to cruise through this one by keeping busy and not thinking about it. But I don’t live in the desert or alone on an island, and neither do you. All the prayers for moms at church, the moms being taken out to brunch by their loving families, the Facebook posts, the TV shows, and the friends talking about visiting their mothers and bragging about what their children had done for them took their toll. I didn’t weep. I wished a few friends happy Mother’s Day, and I had a good time playing music with friends in the afternoon, but by bedtime, I felt profoundly sad. I missed my mother, my husband, my stepchildren and the biological children I never had. I lay awake in bed, watching the digital clock tick through the numbers until midnight, then breathed a sigh of relief. Mother’s Day was over. Thank God.
I don’t think other people understand how we feel, especially on days like Mother’s Day or at baby showers or when our friends obsess about their children. It’s like we come from another country and speak another language. The thing to try to remember is that there’s nothing wrong with our country and our language. They’re different but just as good.Our lives just took a different path.
I need your help with something. In the last week, several people have posted comments about situations where one partner wants children and the other doesn’t, and they’re considering breaking up. They love each other and don’t know if they’ll ever find someone else as good, but the baby issue has come between them. It’s hard to know what to say except I’m sorry and I hope they make the right decision. If you have a minute, visit the post If You Disagree About Children, Is Your Relationship Doomed? and add your two cents.
How did you do on Mother’s Day? Tell us how it went.  

 

Advertisements

Annulment offers comfort in childless divorce

Is a marriage doomed if one partner wants children and the other doesn’t? That’s the question we talked about in last week’s blog. I want to pursue the subject a little farther.
As most of you know, I was married twice. The first marriage ended in divorce, and my second husband died in 2011. I didn’t have children with either husband.
My first husband never said anything about not wanting children until well into the marriage. As we prepared for marriage in the Catholic church, we signed papers saying we would welcome children. But once we were married, he kept saying, “Not yet.” Then, when I thought I might be pregnant, he showed his true colors. “If you’re pregnant, I’m leaving,” he told me. Well, I wasn’t pregnant, and the marriage fell apart about a year later for other reasons. About six months after the divorce, I filed for an annulment in the Catholic church. That annulment was granted on the grounds that my ex refused to have children with me. In the eyes of the church, it was not a valid marriage.
The annulment process was relatively easy compared to the divorce. I paid $300 and submitted written testimony, backed up with testimony from my parents and my brother, gave it all to my priest and eventually received a letter in the mail from the archdiocesan tribunal in San Francisco giving me the verdict. My ex was given the opportunity to give his side of the story, but he declined. I shed a few tears when I saw our full real names in that letter saying our marriage was invalid, but now I was free to marry again. The annulment process gave me validation that my desire to have children was right and good, that I did not have to suffer for my husband’s sin.
So now I could start over. I could marry someone else and have children. But it didn’t work out that way. My second husband, Fred, told me up front that the three kids he had from his first marriage were enough. He had had a vasectomy because he didn’t want to have any more babies. Although I suffered from a bit of denial—surely a miracle will happen and I’ll still have kids—I married him. He was not Catholic, and because he was divorced, we were not allowed to get married in the Catholic Church. There would be no annulment to rescue me if I regretted my choice.
Over the years, I often wished I could have children, but I never wanted to trade Fred for someone else. I didn’t have children with him, but I did get the support I needed to pursue my writing and music, and I did become a stepmother to his three children. He loved me like no one had ever loved me. Those are important things, huge gifts. He gave me a wonderful life. There was no breach of promise with Fred. No surprise.
In reading comments from men and women who declare themselves childfree, I find that many would end a relationship if their loved one wanted children. To them, it is worse to be saddled with an unwanted child than to lose their partner or spouse. What if Fred had said, “You want babies, so we’re going to have to break up?” Or if I had said, “Sorry, I’m going to look for somebody else.” What a loss that would have been for both of us.
What if my first husband had been honest about not wanting children? Our relationship was always troubled. But would I have had the sense to go find someone else? I was only 20 when we met. My whole life could have been different. But I wouldn’t have met Fred.
We don’t know what this life is going to bring, but when God sends us someone wonderful, should we send them away?
I would love to hear your thoughts.

If you disagree about children, is your relationship doomed?

Is it possible for a relationship to work when one partner wants children and the other doesn’t? This is the question that is still resonating in my head days after I finished reading Kidfree & Lovin’ It (reviewed Jan. 2). The opinion of most of the people author Kaye D. Walters surveyed is that this is a deal-breaker, that compromise is impossible, that the relationship is doomed. They say it is better to break up than to have a child you don’t want—or force a child on someone who doesn’t want to have children. Don’t date, don’t marry, don’t pretend it’s okay; it won’t work.

Walters urges couples to think it through and be sure of what they want. “Don’t just end a perfectly good relationship without first examining your means and motivations on the kid issue.” She offers lists of reasons to procreate and suggests that some of them are pretty shaky and perhaps one might not be a good parent after all. But in the end, like the people she surveyed, she seems to lean toward ending the relationship.
This issue is at the heart of my Childless by Marriage blog and book. It’s an issue that most books about childlessness (see my resource list) pay minimal attention to. But it’s a big one. If my first husband had been willing and ready to have children, I’d be a grandmother now. If my second had been willing to add more children to the three he already had and if he had not had a vasectomy, I’d have grown children and maybe grandchildren now. If I had dumped either one because I wanted to have children and they didn’t, my life would have been completely different.
I am childless because I married these men and stayed with them. The first marriage ended for other reasons, but the second husband was a keeper. We lasted three weeks shy of 26 years. If Fred hadn’t died, we’d still be together. He was the perfect mate for me in every other way. And maybe, if I truthfully answer all of Walters’ soul-searching questions, I would find I was too devoted to my career to add motherhood to the mix. I wanted children, and I wish I’d had them. BUT I loved Fred and knew I would never find a better husband. Should I have left him and hoped to find someone else, maybe someone not as good but who was willing to have babies with me? Am I a fool because I sacrificed motherhood for these men?
That’s the big question that many of the people who comment here are facing: stay with the partner or spouse who doesn’t want kids or try to find someone else? What do you think? Is a relationship doomed if you disagree on this issue? Is it all right to sacrifice something this big for the one you love? There are always compromises in a relationship. People give up their careers, move far away from home, or take care of disabled spouses, but is this too much to ask?
I really want to know what you think.