Thinking of Leaving a Childless Marriage? Read This

Dear readers,

I received this email from Victoria last week. It’s such a great story I asked if I could share it with you. Many of you agonize over whether to leave a partner who doesn’t want to have children. Faced with that situation, here is what Victoria did and how it turned out.

I met the love of my life in 2012. I was 30, and he was 37. We didn’t really discuss children too much, but six months after we met, over lunch with friends in France, he casually mentioned he did not want them. At that point, I was devastated. I knew I wanted children, but I had also not ever felt this way about anyone before. We discussed things at length, and he said he would think about whether he might change his mind. The years rolled by. We were so happy, and I couldn’t countenance leaving him.  It seemed so wrong to give up someone I loved so much for the potential of a child that might never exist. The issue came up a few times, though it was always in the back of my mind.  We ended up having some therapy together to try to get some sense of how to navigate life without resentment and guilt building up. Eventually after four years I decided that I could accept and embrace a childfree life if it meant keeping the man I loved.

I read your blog many times, often seeing the same theme: Should you leave the person you love in the hopes that you’ll find someone you love just as much, who also wants children, and you’re both able to have them? That could be a needle in a haystack. I thought I was quite at ease with my decision.

In 2017, we went on a holiday with a group of friends. One of the couples had a one-year-old baby. Watching them together was quite hard, and seeing how my partner reacted to the baby was equally as difficult. He just did not want to be around the baby at all, and it seemed to ruin his holiday. At this point, I had just turned 35. By now, the thought of being childless forever was in my mind every time I went to sleep. I thought about it all the time. Would I regret it? Did I even have any viable eggs left? I’d read so many forums, talked to friends, talked to my own therapist, and I just didn’t know what the right answer was.

One Sunday morning, after quite an emotional night, I made a snap decision to end the relationship at that moment. My desire to have children and my fear about how I would end up hating the man I loved over time became too much. I decided to leave. He understood. There were a lot of tears. Many days, I almost went back, but I didn’t. I thought I would look into having a baby alone. I had lots of tests, and I was lucky that at 35, I had a good ovarian reserve. I decided to give it a year and see if I met anyone. If not, I would go it alone. To be honest, at 35, wanting to meet a single man who was of a similar age who didn’t already have children but wanted them seemed a long shot.

Six months later, I happened to meet a lovely man. He was 36, single, no children, but he mentioned on our first date how much he regretted not having children. Eight months later, he proposed. Two months after that, we decided that as I was now 36 we should consider stopping birth control. A few months after that, I was pregnant. I honestly could not believe it. I spoke to my previous partner to let him know (he was now in a new relationship with someone who did not want children.) He was so happy for me, and said he felt a weight lifted off his shoulders, which was amazing.

In January of this year, I gave birth to my son. He is nearly six months old, and he is so perfect. I look at him every day and can’t quite believe that after all the years of agonizing, I finally have him. Admittedly, motherhood is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I struggled after a very traumatic labor and then dealing with a young baby and the COVID-19 lockdown has not been easy, but everything I went through was worth it for him.

I wondered if my story might help others who are struggling with the stay or go question.  I am not suggesting go is always the right answer, as I think for many people it isn’t, but for me it was.–Victoria

In a followup email, she added:

You reach a point where all of your friends are having kids, pregnant women or people with babies seem to be everywhere and I could hardly stand to look at them. I used to constantly imagine being pregnant, holding my baby etc. It became too much for me, and honestly I think the guilt became too much for him. We are both happier apart, I think, although I will always love him dearly.

We are undecided about another child at the moment after such a traumatic labor and being on the older side. Certainly not until next year if we do decide to but I won’t feel too bad if we don’t or can’t.

Good story, isn’t it? I welcome your comments.

 

Childless by Marriage Blog Book Coming

Dear friends,

This is the 697th post since I started this blog in 2007. Why didn’t I wait for 700? Impatient. Plus, I have finally gotten the first draft of “the Best of the Childless by Marriage blog” put together. It’s 700 pages! Serious editing will be needed to cut it to a reasonable 300. I don’t care so much about my posts as about the wonderful comments you all have contributed over the years. I just can’t include them all, so I’ll be pruning heavily.

Meanwhile, I have some questions for you.

* What should I title this thing? I can’t call it Childless by Marriage because I have already published a book by that name. I was going to title it “Stay or Go” because so much of the discussion here is about whether to leave a partner who won’t do parenthood with you, but that has been used recently by someone else (and it sounds like a good book). I assume whatever the title is, there will be a subtitle identifying it as the best of the Childless by Marriage blog. But I welcome your suggestions.

* I was thinking I would use the puppy picture on the cover to match the blog. Is that dumb or a good idea?

* Judging by the number of comments, the posts about whether or not to leave your partner and the ones about step-parenting draw the most heat, but what topics do you most want to read about? Which ones just don’t do it for you?

* Do you mind if I use your comments with no full real names, just whatever you called yourself, whether it’s Anonymous or R2D2? If you object, please let me know at sufalick@gmail.com.

* If you commented before, could you look back and see if you can give us an update so we know how things turned out? I suppose if you’re now busy with your babies, you won’t be reading this anymore, but if you are, is there any news to share?

A lot has certainly changed in our lives and in the world since I started this blog. I suspect the 2020 census will show that more and more people are delaying marriage and children well into their 30s and 40s and that more are not having children at all.

When I started this blog, very few people were publishing anything about childlessness, and most of the books were about infertility. Now we’ve got numerous wonderful authors with books and blogs on childlessness [see my resource list], and the conversation is opening up. But we have been having this conversation here for years. Do you realize that if we had had babies the year I started the Childless by Marriage blog, they would be teenagers now?

As I approach 700 posts, rest assured that I have no plans to stop blogging. The blog was originally designed to promote my book, but it has taken on a life of its own. Whenever I think everything has been said, something else comes along. So stick around. See you next Wednesday. Thank you for being here.

I welcome your comments.

 

Babies? Today yes, tomorrow no, the next day ?

I have been editing past posts in preparation for compiling them into a “Best of Childless by Marriage” ebook (maybe a paperback, too). It’s slow work because I’m checking almost 700 posts and thousands of comments for typos and bad links. We have some serious disagreements about commas, periods and capital letters, but I’m surprised at how many of my own errors slipped by in my responses to your comments.

I am not changing the content of your comments, even though every now and then someone blasts me for my opinion or for seeming to contradict myself. They’re probably right. I may very well have said X in one post and Z in another. My feelings and opinions change with time and circumstance. Not everything. Murder is always bad, love is always good. But what about abortion, birth control, marriage, and babies? Depends on when you ask.

For example, someone scolded me back in 2014 for saying I was grateful for my stepchildren when I said the opposite in a previous post. Ask me again, and I’ll give you another answer. Today I regret that Fred’s kids and grandkids are not in my life anymore. I feel guilty for not reaching out when I could. Another day, I might turn it around and ask why they didn’t reach out to me while I was taking care of their father. Depends on the day.

I’m not the only wishy-washy one. Many readers have commented about how they or their partners changed their minds about having babies. They wanted them before; now they don’t. They had no interest in being parents; now they do. This is rarely a black and white question (physical problems aside). You see someone loving their children and think I want that. You see a couple having a miserable time trying to control their screaming, food-throwing offspring in a restaurant and think I do not want that.

Maybe a loved one dies, or you suffer a health scare, and everything suddenly looks different. You realize that you really must have children—or that you never will.

It doesn’t even need to be a big moment, just a sudden stirring of regret.

Sometimes getting pregnant is part of a conscious plan, but I wonder how often it happens that couples are cuddling in bed, full of hormonal happiness, and one says, “Let’s have a baby.” The other says, “Okay!” In the morning, when egg and sperm might have already gotten together, one of them thinks, Wait, what happened? I’m not sure . . . .

For some couples, it’s not so easy to get pregnant, so they have to decide whether they want to try fertility treatments, use donor sperm, or try to adopt. Again, they may change their minds every other day. It’s difficult and expensive, and the child would not be biologically related, but oh, they want a baby. Don’t they?

I have said before that things were less complicated before the 1960s, when people had fewer choices. No birth control, no legal abortions, fewer career opportunities for women. They grew up, got married (once) and had babies if they could. And they probably did it in their 20s when they were most fertile. Did people have doubts before? Did husbands and wives want different things? I’m sure they did.

Our thoughts are not like the ones and zeros that run computers. People don’t run on microchips; they change their minds.

I know this for sure: I’m glad you are here. Also, we all need to proofread what we write.

As I read through past posts, I see a lot of good stuff, especially in the comments, and I see some readers who have continued at Childless by Marriage for years. Their comments are as good as any of my posts, and I thank you all.

The ebook won’t include every post, just the ones that sparked the most interest. Some have gotten more than 250 comments! Top topics include: couples disagreeing about having children, abortion, grief over never having children, worrying about old age, and pets as child substitutes.

Keep reading, keep writing, and I’ll keep editing. If you or your partner change your mind from day to day, don’t panic. It’s normal.

Should she leave her childless marriage?

Dear readers,

In response to last week’s post regarding regret if we choose our mate over having children, Heavy Heart wrote:

“First of all, thank you for posting this as I would like to hear advice from the ladies who remained childless past their child bearing age. I am going to be 36 years old very soon, married to a man who has a 10 year old son. We agreed on having our own child when we first started our serious relationship five years ago. Fast forward five years. Now married for 3 years, bio mom drama subsided, financials are more stable. My husband says his life is finally ‘good.’ um…can we now start planning for our child?? My husband has been avoiding the conversation as much as he can. Excuses, excuses, and excuses. I am very close to asking him “YES or NO” and if the NO is the final answer, leaving him, but I can’t get to that final answer and I don’t want to hear that final answer. He says he is on the fence because of the financial burden of having two children because he has to take care of his son first before having his second. He knows it’s ‘unfair’ if he said no and he knows that I will probably leave him so he is avoiding the conversation altogether.”

In responding to Heavy Heart, something suddenly clicked in my head. If they had the kind of relationship meant to last forever, she wouldn’t think about leaving. I know that for me, leaving Fred was not an option. He was my person, period.

So I ask you: Is the marriage already too shaky to last if one of the partners is thinking about leaving for any reason, especially if they’re giving their spouse an ultimatum: Say yes, I stay; say no, and I’m gone? And what about the husband in this case? People do change their minds, but they had a deal. Does he not love her enough to stick with that deal?

Heavy Heart, if you’re reading this, I hope it’s okay that I’m sharing your comment more widely. You are not alone in this situation. I hear variations of the same story all the time. One of the partners balks at having children, despite having agreed to them earlier, and now the other is thinking about leaving, wondering if they can find someone else who is more willing before it’s too late.

Me, I want to scream at Heavy Heart’s husband, and I want to go back to simpler times. I have asked my father about deciding to have children. His answer is always that, “You just did.” In those years shortly after World War II before birth control was easy to get, people got married and had babies, period.

So what do you think? What is your advice for Heavy Heart?

***

My dog Annie had her knee surgery last Thursday. I have been in full caregiver mode since then, doling out pills, watching to make sure she doesn’t tear up her incision, taking her on short, careful walks, and just sitting with her. Right now, she’s snoring beside my desk. You can read more about her situation at my Unleashed in Oregon blog.

 

 

 

They stayed in a childless marriage

Last week I asked the question “Did They Go or Stay?” Several readers responded. In general, they stayed. The one who left her marriage indicated that the marriage was not good in other ways.

Are they happy?

Kat: “Stayed in a very happy relationship. Found out last year that I couldn’t have had kids anyway, and needed surgery. Phew, glad I stayed.”

Tamara: “I knew that he was special and that I would never find someone that I loved as much as I love him. I still wish we had a child, but in the end I know that an unknown child could not give me the feeling of love nor could it complete me as much as my marriage does.”

M2L: “I have stayed, for now, and have watched my ‘childbearing years’ disappear. It is hard not to be resentful of a man who is now enjoying a grandchild. We shall see how it all works out!”

Jay: “I stayed, believing that God wouldn’t bless my leaving.
“We’d both wanted children before we got married. A few years in he changed his mind.
“My yearning has been powerful.
“I’ve forgiven him — over and over, as I continue to grieve unchosen childlessness.
“Now it’s too late for me to have children. I struggle with anger toward myself for staying. Anger towards his unkindness in expressing enthusiasm for other women’s pregnancies, his being baffled at why this could be troubling for me.
“His lack of concern for my lost dream compounds the pain.
“I often wish I had left, as the refusal to have children was only one part of the unhealthiness in our marriage. Still continuing to evaluate whether to stay in this marriage.”

Please keep the responses coming. We’d really like to know what happened, especially if you decided to leave.

I think most of us will not leave a marriage that is otherwise good. When I divorced my first husband, it was not because of his refusal to have children. I still believed we could work that out eventually. No, I had found out he was cheating on me and had been for most of the six years we were married. That’s what I found intolerable.

The men I dated between marriages were all willing to father my children, but none of them would have been good husbands. In fact, they would have been terrible. Then I met Fred, and he was so wonderful I was willing to spend my life with him, no matter what. I wanted children but not at the sacrifice of a good relationship. And I did get a sort of “motherhood lite” with the stepchildren and step-grandchildren.

Which is more important, finding the right partner or having children? That seems to be the essential question. We shouldn’t have to choose, but if we do, which way would you go? I look forward to your comments.

***

Update: Two weeks ago, I wrote about rushing to California to help my father, who broke his leg. His leg is still unusable, and he spends most of his time in bed. It was a bad break, above the knee, and he will be 95 on May 1. Except for the leg, he’s in surprisingly good shape, but we don’t know when the care home where he’s staying will decide to discharge him and force us to find another facility or full-time care for him at home (could be this week!) or if he will ever be able to walk normally again. So keep him in your prayers, and thank you for the kind words so many have sent.

Stay or Go? No Easy Answers

 

Dear readers,

My life recently has been blessedly free of childless drama, so I’m going to let some of you talk today. Whenever I post about deciding whether or not to stay in a childless relationship, readers comment at length. (See Stay in a Relationship Without Kids or Go?) That’s the key question for so many. Do I stay or go? Do I accept a childless marriage with the person I love or take a chance on finding someone else? And sometimes the question comes from the other direction. The person writing is the one who doesn’t want to have children and worries about ruining the other person’s life. All the while, the biological clock is ticking. Listen here to Amanda, Kathy with a K and Cathy with a C. Their comments have been shortened a bit.

Amanda:

Dear Sue, I need help with my thought process and how I actually REALLY feel about the potential of being a parent. I’m very confused, and quite honestly I could go either way with it, but the fact that I won’t have forever to decide leaves me feeling a little anxious and maybe even feeling some sadness, for what reason I have no idea why! I have been with my husband for six years and we just got married last year. He is quite literally my best friend, soulmate and partner in life. We have an amazing connection on so many levels in our relationship, but I will say we have a lot of ups and downs. The passion and love is intense at times and I can’t imagine my life without him. Even when we are in the midst of a heated argument, I know it will blow over and we will soon be back on the right page together in each other’s arms smiling and laughing once again.

When I first met my husband, I told him the idea of getting married and/or having kids was not appealing to me. Obviously when he proposed, two years later, I said yes, and we planned a beautiful dream-come-true wedding in Hawaii. My husband is 53, and I am approaching 30 (aka: biological clock-ticking age). I say this only because at 53 my husband is in no place with his age to want or need to be a new father. He has a son who is currently 20 and at the state university to become a pharmacist. Lee and his son are very close, he is a loving, caring and nurturing father, and his son is such a great “kid.”

Recently I noticed a sudden curiosity around motherhood. I think it began when I was 10 days late with my last period and a couple of the months prior it had been very light. I wondered if I was pregnant, and I procrastinated taking a test because I was too afraid to find out. During that time of waiting, I found myself thinking about what it might be like or could be like to have a mini-me/Lee running around, making us smile and laugh and bringing such joy and blessing to our lives. How my stepson would potentially love having a little brother/sister.

I cannot believe my thoughts have headed in this direction. One thing that recently hit me was the fact that my husband will likely be a grandfather someday very soon–maybe in the next 10 years. My stepson is with an amazing, beautiful, smart, energetic and good girl and I could see them getting married and having a beautiful family. I guess it freaks me out in a way because how would that feel being a step-grandma without ever having had any little ones of my own?

I still cannot fathom having kids of my own AT THIS POINT…. BUT WHAT IF in 3-5 years when I’m in my mid-30’s that urge kicks into full force?! What then? Start over? On my own. Single. Divorced. For what? The POSSIBILITY of meeting a great guy, who wants marriage and kids… And maybe doesn’t already have an ex, and kids already?! Shit. Seems like a lot to leave my husband–the loving, kind, devoted, beautiful soul of a man– to give him up for something that might not even happen, like you said, “the gamble,” not to mention AM I EVEN FERTILE? I know he will not change his mind. Even though he laughs and giggles when I tease him with “let’s make a baby” or “put a bun in my oven,” he laughs because he knows I am kidding about wanting to make love.

My husband is much older and could literally die first and leave me all alone with nothing and nobody! I feel so torn. I do NOT know what to do. The only thing I can do at this point is rely on the small tiny chance that somewhere down the road my husband will not pull out in time, and as a result we will be pregnant. He has already told me he clearly does NOT want more children (understandably so) and that he would understand if I did, and he would allow me to go on and pursue that dream. Of course he understands that if I got pregnant he would not leave me, he would stay by my side as husband and be the good father he already is, but he will not willingly give up his sperm to purposefully make a mother out of me.

It seems unfair that if the day ever came that I was truly willing, ready and able to procreate, that I would suddenly ditch and divorce such a loyal, faithful, devoted man, (especially because he wouldn’t divorce me if I got pregnant) but what I can’t wrap my head around is why he would be OK with me leaving him to go off and make a baby?! He told me that he knew that was a risk falling in love with & marrying a younger woman, that I might want to leave him for babies someday. I know I’ll never change his mind. So what the eff is my problem? Why am I worried about this now? Maybe I should not worry until IF the time actually ever does come THEN stress about this… Just worried it will be too late by then. I’ve always been the last to show up to the party, the chronic procrastinator. This is something you can’t really wait around on, right? HELP!

Kathy:

Amanda, I’m in a similar situation as you, only I’m 10 years older than you. My husband is 15 years older than I am. He has a 20-year-old from a previous marriage. We’ve been together for 14 years. We are the best of friends and still passionately in love. And I’m quite close to his daughter.

BUT… Before we got married, he always said he wanted more kids and then got cold feet after we got married. So slightly different situation than yours, but I was ambivalent about having kids just like you are, so I just kind of shrugged it off. But I will always regret letting someone else make a life-altering decision for me.

Now that I’m 43, I’m broken-hearted, and I feel like I wasted my life. And I keep thinking about the fact that my husband had a child with someone who was awful to him and then denied me the right to have children, even though I’ve been nothing but good to him. This is a tough pill to swallow. This is the same pill you will eventually have to swallow. Take a second to make sure you can emotionally handle that.

My advice to you is to “talk” to future you. Look around and ask yourself if you’re completely OK with being alone as you age. Will you be able to find meaning in your life if you don’t have children? Only you can answer that.

In my situation, I just kept kind of living day to day – having a good time with my husband, but not planning for my emotional future. I had a real wake-up call a few months ago when I started skipping periods and realized it’s the start of menopause. Even though I’m an athlete who is still in top shape, my fertile years are over just like that.

Now when I look in the mirror, I see someone who wasted her life needlessly. I didn’t examine whether I really wanted children because I wanted to be with my husband. Now I look back at the person I was and want to scream “RUN” to her. Even though I love my husband. Even though my life is perfect in every other way. I still feel like I am not a whole person. And being a stepparent or step-grandparent is not the same, even in the best of scenarios, like mine.

My advice is that only you know yourself, but if you have even the slightest fear that you’ll end up like I feel, RUN. You can learn to love someone else, but you can’t go back in time to have children when you’re older. My cousin found himself in a marriage with someone who realized she didn’t want kids, and he left. That was 25 years ago. He now has a wonderful family with three happy, successful kids. So it can happen for you if that’s what you want.

I can’t tell you if you’ll be filled with regret. Some people aren’t. You might be perfectly fine with not having kids, and that’s a very valid choice. I’m not you. But I desperately hope you’ll make a decision that sits well with future you. Because once it’s over, it’s over.

I know this probably isn’t what you want to hear. It’s not what 29-year-old me would have wanted to hear. But nobody took the time to tell me this might be a possible outcome, so I’m taking the time to tell you.

Cathy:

Wow. I’m on the opposite side of the coin. I had my son at 20. I’m now 36. I met my husband at 21 and have been with him ever since. He has wanted kids since we got married in 2008. I don’t want any more kids.

When I was in my early 20’s, I was able to go to school, work, and raise a baby. At 36, I can barely stay awake past 10. My son is going to graduate high school next year (a year ahead) and we’ll be free to travel and enjoy life- no diapers, formula, sleepless nights, teething, crankiness, etc. etc. We can spend money on luxury items whereas most of our friends spend all they earn on daycare and the baby.

I’m one of the lucky ones–no stretch marks, veins, weight gain, no gray hairs (my sis had gray hair right after birth at 28) etc. I bounced right back within four months ( I didn’t breastfeed though, so I calorie restricted). I feel like if I had a baby at 36 I would never be that lucky. It would destroy my body.

My husband doesn’t agree. Having his own kid means everything to him. I’m not sure what to do. I don’t want to lose him, but I don’t want to resent the baby or my husband either. It’s not easy on either side.

*****************

Now it’s your turn. Feel free to join the conversation.

 

 

The Big Gamble: Should You End the Relationship to Have Babies?

Should I leave my otherwise good relationship in the hope of finding someone else I can make babies with? That’s the question people ask the most in the comments at this blog. I can’t answer that question. There are so many other questions to be answered first. How bad do you want to have children? Are you 100 percent sure it will never happen in your current relationship? Are you otherwise happy with your partner or would it end between you anyway? What if you never find someone and you end up alone?

I can’t answer any of these questions either. I know what happened with me. The first marriage without children was doomed from the start because my husband cheated on me and the only place we got along was in bed. By the time I got to the second marriage, after a couple more failed relationships, I was sure I was going to spend the rest of my life alone. I wouldn’t even have cats because I was allergic. So when Fred came along, we were such a good match, I accepted that we wouldn’t have children together and was glad to be a pseudo mom with his kids. A close friend has a similar story except that her first husband was abusive. Her second husband, Roy, had three kids, and my friend was content not to have any of her own. But our first marriages were bad to begin with, and not everybody finds a Fred or a Roy.

What if the relationship you’re in now is good, really good, except for this one issue of having children? Let’s look at it from the view of my mother’s generation. If one’s partner turned out to be infertile, one did not leave. If one of the people was infertile, then the couple was infertile. They adopted or accepted their childless status together. They didn’t dump the first spouse as a defective model and find a new one. As for someone declaring he or she didn’t want to have children? We didn’t hear much about that. If they were having sex, they were probably going to have kids because birth control was not nearly as easy to get.

Being older than most of you, I was sort of on the cusp of the old way. A certain family member urged me to get pregnant “by accident” and then everything would fall into place. Not likely, but life seemed so much less complicated then. Marriage, babies, the house with the picket fence . . . okay, I know it was probably not that simple, but I’m trying to make a point. Are we too ready to bail on our relationships now? Or should we get out quickly, before it’s too late to have babies? Which bring us back to our original question, to which I do not have the answers.

Here are some articles to read that might offer some answers or raise more questions.

“The High Failure Rate of Second and Third Marriages,” Psychology Today. Sobering facts to ponder before you dump your partner.

“8 Tough Truths to Consider When Your Partner Doesn’t Want Kids,” Huffington Post. This writer really does give you some answers or at least a path to finding them. Read this and do some soul-searching.

“I left the husband I loved because he refused to have children (and had IVF twins alone)” There’s another way to go, as this Daily Mail piece describes. Would you be willing to have children on your own if you don’t find the ideal partner?

This subject is too big for one post. I know many of you are in pain over this issue and agonizing over what to do. Please read and comment and we’ll come back to this next time. Thank you all for being here.

How do you answer those nosy questions about babies?

A Facebook rant by Emily Bingham  about people who ask her when she’s going to have a baby went viral last month. She wants all those who keep asking to know, “It’s none of your business.” Read all about it here.

We’ve all heard the questions. The second you get married, people want to know when you’re going to have a baby. If you’re pushing 30, they start warning that you’re running out of time. Your parents rag on you about giving them grandchildren. Well-meaning friends who have children urge you to get busy and start making babies so you can raise them together. These days, even if you’re single, people may encourage you to adopt or get pregnant with a donor.

But Bingham is right. It’s none of their freaking business.

The questions don’t stop after you reach menopause. People assume that you, like most folks, have children. They want to know how many, how old, where do they live, are you a grandparent yet, etc. Yes, I’m sorry, but it never stops.

The worst time for these questions is when you’re still trying to figure it all out. As Bingham writes, you may be struggling with infertility, having marital problems, or aren’t sure whether you both want children. Just asking the question may trigger a wave of grief or anger.

And how do you answer? Have you ever said, “That’s none of your business?” Or do you dodge around the question. “Well, we aren’t quite ready yet.” Do you blame your partner? “I want kids, but Joe says he doesn’t.” Do you make a joke, maybe saying, “We’ve decided dogs are easier.”

In my fertile days, I used the “not ready” answer for a long time. Sometimes I implied that I had health problems. Sometimes I blamed my lousy husband for not wanting kids. Now that it’s a done deal, I have better answers. With my churchy friends, I can say, “God had other plans for me.” With others, I answer honestly, then change the subject. “Nope. No kids. So, you have four, huh?”

Some people claim their pets as children. Some say they’re too busy to have kids. Some say they don’t have room in their lives for both their work and children. And of course there’s the “childfree” crowd who proudly state that they never wanted children.

But how many of us say, “You know, that’s kind of private. Let’s talk about something else.” Or, “That’s none of your damned business.”

What do you say when people start getting nosy? One of the people I interviewed for my book, when asked why she didn’t have children, answered, “Because I’ve seen yours.” Let’s build a list of good comebacks in the comments.

Wanting babies but using birth control

Shortly after my boyfriend introduced me to sex, I found myself in the stirrups at the college health center getting my first prescription for birth control pills. I was still living at home, so I couldn’t possibly tell my parents about having sex or needing contraception. When my first prescription led to my first yeast infection, I had no idea what was going on and let it go way too long. That was the first of three different pills and some terrible side effects. It turned out The Pill and I were not compatible, so I switched to condoms and diaphragms, those rubber disks you fill with spermicidal jelly and slip up your vagina just before intercourse.

I wanted babies, but I didn’t want to be an “unwed mother,” as they were called in the days when it was a scandal. When I was married, my first husband kept saying not yet, not yet, not yet, until he just said no. He made sure I had my diaphragm in before we had sex. No accidental babies allowed. Divorce followed, for other reasons. Single again, I put that diaphragm to good use with other men. On my first date with Fred, who became my second husband, we were doubly covered because I used my diaphragm and he had his vasectomy, which I didn’t know about yet.

I wanted babies but avoided the chance of having them, except for a couple slips with one boyfriend, after which I prayed for my period to start. Birth control wasn’t so easy in my early days of adulthood. A lot of things we can buy over the counter now required getting a prescription and facing a certain amount of disapproval. Now they sell condoms at the grocery store.

Looking back, It seems crazy. All those years of pills, condoms and jelly to prevent something I really wanted and expected to have in my life. It was also against my religion, but I didn’t even know that then. Nobody spelled out the rules, and even if they had, religion did not speak as loudly as the parents who told me my life would be ruined if I got pregnant outside of marriage and the men who wanted to have sex but not babies.

I got to thinking about this because my subscription to wedmd.com recently brought a fascinating link to my attention. It’s a slide show that looks at birth control through the ages. This is all back before most modern methods existed. They seem kind of crazy now. Take a look.

I would love to know about your relationships with birth control. What have you used? How faithfully have you used it? Have you ever tried to sneak in some unprotected sex in the hope of getting pregnant? Men are welcome to offer their point of view, too. You can be anonymous. Your mother will never know.