How Much Would You Give to Have Children?

How far would you go to have children? What would you be willing to sacrifice? A reader who is calling himself Anonymous Max has commented several times on my Sept. 27 post “Are You Ready to Accept Childlessness?” For him, the answer is clearly no.

AMax has two stepchildren, but he does not feel like a father to them.  He has tried mentoring and working with other people’s kids, but it’s the not same. He will not be happy until he has his own biological child. Following a miscarriage and years of trying, he and his wife have realized they won’t be able to have children in the usual way, but he’s not giving up. He plans to hire a surrogate to bear their child, implanting sperm and egg into another woman’s body. To afford it, he is working three jobs and investing as much money as he can.

The cost of surrogacy varies. Estimates online range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Insurance is unlikely to cover it. A lot of emotions become involved when you’re asking someone else to carry your baby and give it up when the pregnancy is over. AMax says his wife was hesitant at first, but is “on board” now. It’s a difficult path, but they’re determined to take it. I hope AMax will keep us informed about what happens.

Most often here, people ask about whether or not to leave their partner to find someone who will have children with them. Leaving someone you love is a huge sacrifice and an equally huge risk. What if you never find a new partner? What if it’s too late to get pregnant when you do?

“Lifeasitisbyme” reported recently  that her husband is divorcing her so she can go have children with someone else. She says, “I’m completely heartbroken as I still love him. He doesn’t feel it’s fair that he’s holding me back on having a family and doesn’t feel he’s been fair to me. At this point I’m confused. I love him dearly and I’ve started to wonder if having children is more important than losing my soulmate.”

What if your spouse or partner suddenly said, “I’m letting you go. You need to have children and I can’t give them to you.” What would you do?

Is your need to have children so strong that you will sacrifice anything to be a mom or dad? Do you want it as bad as AMax? Do you feel guilty if a voice inside says, “I’m not sure.”

Think about it, friends. Perhaps it will answer some questions for you.

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In the wake of the NotMom Summit, I have added some new books and websites to the resource page. Clink on the link at the top of the page to check it out.

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m childless, but my life is full of blessings

Last night I had pizza for dinner. Just pizza. No salad, no veggies, no dessert, no wine or beer. No meat. Just half of a homemade mushroom and olive pizza. I ate it while reading a book. Nearby the dog crunched on her kibble. After dinner, I would decide whether or not to wash my dishes—not—and go off to church choir practice. Later I would grab a cookie and settle in to watch whatever I wanted on TV (Have you seen the new show “This is Us”? Watch it.) In the commercials, I would check email, and when I ran out of email, I would play solitaire on my phone. Then I’d turn off the lights, give the dog a Milk-Bone and go to sleep, undisturbed by man, child or dog (unless we had another thunderstorm).

This is the selfish, self-contained life of a woman in her 60s with no children and no husband. I don’t have to share, I don’t have to plan balanced meals, and I don’t have to coordinate my activities with anyone else. Do I get lonely? Do I turn to the emptiness on the other side of the bed and remember early morning kisses and smiles? Do I wish my phone would ring and a voice would say, “Hi Mom, how are you?” Do I feel like I blew it when I realize that I’m this old and I never had kids? Of course.

But we can’t change what happened before; we can only go on from here. And for those of you who are terrified you’re end up alone like me, “here” is not terrible. In fact, most of the time, I like it.

Advising people to count their blessings is such a cliché, but it helps. Right now, at 7:30 a.m., it’s just getting light here on the Oregon coast. An hour ago, I could see the moon through the kitchen skylight. Now the sky is quilted with gray clouds that are slowly turning pink over the pine trees. It’s going to be a beautiful day. For the first time in over a week, no rain is predicted. I am alive, I am healthy, and I have work that I love. I have a good house and just enough money to pay for it. I have friends and family to cherish. I have Annie, the sweetest dog in the world.

No, I don’t have children, and my husband died. That sucks, but I can’t change it. I look at the sky getting lighter every minute, and I go on.

I know that many of you are half my age or younger and still trying to figure out what to do in relationships where your partner is reluctant or unable to have children. Stay or go? Accept being childless or fight against it? Now is the time in your life when you can still change things. I remember the turmoil of those days, the feeling that I had to do something but not knowing what to do.

You have to face reality. When you marry someone who has been married before and who has already had children, they’re finished with that stage of life. You come in as the second course (or third, or dessert), and they’re just not ready to start over. They might be willing, but it’s understandable if they’re not. It’s a cold way to look at it, but it’s true. Can their children make up for the ones you might never have? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It’s worth a try.

However, if you started out together thinking you’d have children, then you have every right to demand that your partner stick to the original plan. You do not have to hide your tears or your anger. Make it known that their refusal to have children or their refusal to make a decision about it is not fair.

I got an annulment in the Catholic church because my first husband refused to have kids. The archdiocesan tribunal in San Francisco ruled that it was never a valid marriage. To be honest, that marriage was doomed anyway, but the church ruled in my favor against my baby-refusing husband. Now on his third marriage, he never did have any children. I loved him. I thought we’d have children and a long, happy life together. I had no way of predicting how things would turn out.

Where am I going with this? In a valid marriage, in a genuine loving partnership, you agree on important things like having children. You’re open to talking about it. And you don’t deny something so essential to someone you want to spend your life with. On the other hand, if one of you is physically unable to have children, then both of you are unable to have children. You’re in it together.

Take a look at your life and your relationship. Is it worth keeping just as it is? Do you wake up happy every morning that he or she is there? Can you count your blessings? Or do you need to take another path before it’s too late so that when you get to my age, you can wake up and say, “Life is good”?

The pink clouds have faded to white against a pale blue sky. The dog is asleep in her chair. It’s time to get dressed and brew another cup of tea. Life is good.

What do you think? I treasure your comments.

 

Is adoption an option for you? Why not?

We haven’t spoken much about adoption here. Perhaps it’s irrelevant in cases where one partner doesn’t want to have children for whatever reason. A baby is a baby, a child is a child, and they don’t want one. But for couples who don’t have children because of infertility or a health problem, adoption would seem to be an option. I’m betting many of us have been asked: “Why don’t you adopt?”

Fred and I considered it before he decided he didn’t want to do kids with me at all. His older two children from his first marriage were both adopted. Fred and his first wife thought they could not conceive. Then, surprise, when she was 38 and he was 40, she got pregnant, and Michael was born. After which Fred got a vasectomy.

The older two children were adopted as infants from government agencies in the 1960s. Fred and Annette were give only the most basic information: nationality and health, no names or background. An effort was made in those days to match parents to children in terms of looks and ethnicity. Overall, it worked pretty well. When Michael came along in the ‘70s, his siblings were jealous. He looked just like his dad, and they felt that he got all the goodies. Of course by then their parents were older and financially better off.

When we got together, the older kids were in their teens and Michael was turning 7. We looked into adopting the way Fred and Annette had done before. We discovered that Fred, in his late 40s, was too old. Although we had friends who were adopting from other countries or by private agencies, we didn’t pursue it any further.

Fred wasn’t anxious to start over with a new baby. But for me, it was something else. I wanted children who were biologically connected to me and my family through all the generations. I wanted them to share my ethnicity and my physical characteristics combined with Fred’s. I wanted people to look at us and see the connection. I wanted a child who was part of me. If I couldn’t have that, well, never mind. I didn’t want just any babies; I wanted my babies.

Selfish? Perhaps. I know there are children who need parents, and I’m glad there are people willing to take them into their homes. Right now my niece is going through the process to become a foster mother. She’s single, 29, and braver than I will ever be.

Adoption is not easy or inexpensive. Couples who have spent years trying to get pregnant may already be drained of hope and cash. Prospective parents have to jump through a lot of hoops to be approved. Adoptions fall through, sometimes several times before parents get to bring home a child. Adopted children always have that other family out there somewhere, and they come with a big set of unknowns about their physical and mental background that may surface later. They’re yours but not quite.

And yet, it can be wonderful. I have seen beautiful adoptive families in which biology doesn’t make a bit of difference. But it would for me.

What about you? Have you thought about adoption? Would you do it? Why or why not? Does it matter if they’re not biologically yours?

Additional reading:

This post from loribeth, who blogs at The Road Less Traveled, got me thinking about adoption:  March 15, 2015: “The A word: Why we didn’t adopt”

General information about adoption: National Adoption Center (promotes adoption from foster)

Adoption Fact Sheet offers lots of good into. Adopting from China costs $20,000 or more!

Statistics about abortion: https://www.americanadoptions.com/pregnant/adoption_stats

“What Does It Take to Adopt a Child in Britain?” Stories of three adoptive families in the UK

What secrets are you afraid to tell your partner?

On June 30, Anonymous wrote:

“I am a 25 year old female. Recently started reconnecting with an old family friend who is 38 years old. He is divorced. He openly told me he couldn’t have kids which was the main reason for his divorce. What’s funny is that I had a crush on him since I was 14, and I never thought he would be interested in me. We lost contact for around 7 years and a lot has happened in both our lives.

“I’ve been reading a lot about how infertility would affect one’s life, and it’s almost the same for someone with an STD (sexually transmitted disease). Which I have. Genital herpes. I was diagnosed around 5 years ago. I was young and didn’t know how to handle it. I went through the toughest years of my life and I’m not quite over it yet. After my experiences informing guys about it before any potential relationship or sexual interaction, I’m afraid of his reaction. I’m afraid of rejection. I’m afraid of going through everything I’ve been through before, which is why I’ve been single for a while now.

“I want to talk to him about what he feels about his infertility. I don’t know if I want kids or not. The idea of childbirth terrifies me! He said that he has cut out the idea of ever having kids. He doesn’t want them. (After reading a lot about it, is he just saying that because he’s upset and I don’t ask to try? I would try if he wants to…) I can feel that he would give anything and everything to make me happy … I’m just afraid it would change once he finds out about me… I know I’m writing on an infertility blog not an STD one but I’d like to know what someone in his position would think of this whole situation. A reader recently wrote that she was afraid to tell her husband about the STDs she suffered in the past that might affect her fertility. Would he be disgusted with her? Would he leave her? What if they could never get pregnant?”

Dear readers, we have not talked about STDs here before, but they happen. I understand why Anonymous is afraid to talk about it, why she’s afraid her boyfriend might go ballistic and leave her. There’s such a stigma, as if a woman who gets herpes is a slut. But most people have had previous partners, and perfectly nice people can get STDs. I told her she has to tell him. If they’re having sex, he definitely needs to know. What would you do if it were you? How would you feel if your partner told you they had an STD?

What about other kinds of secrets people hold back for fear their partner will break up with them? Things like abortions, infertility, babies they gave up for adoption, eggs or sperm they donated, previous relationships, or gender identity issues? When, how, why should you tell them? What happens if you never do?

Let’s talk about our secrets. You don’t have to share anything with the world that you don’t want to, but let’s have a discussion. What should Anonymous do?

People Assume Crazy Things About Childlessness

Is your home perfectly clean because you don’t have children? Do you dare to buy white sofas? Is your schedule wide open? Do you have lots of money to spend?

Somehow parent-type people seem to think those of us without children luxuriate in quiet, neatness, freedom and money. Ha. Not me. How about you?

I just spent a few minutes standing in front of the pellet stove looking around my living room. What a mess. Dog blankets. Laundry waiting to be carried to the laundry room. Grocery bags I didn’t put away last week. Books and sheet music everywhere. The carpet is stained, the old green furniture is coated with dog fur, and this pellet stove I depend on for heat needs cleaning and servicing. Ashes fall out when I open the door.

I do display pieces of my antique glass collection where a child might be able to reach it, but there are many things I don’t dare leave lying around because my dog will eat them: Eyeglasses, pencils, paper, food, paper clips, or anything small and plastic.

Lots of spare time? Nope. Why do you think my house is such a mess? Work takes priority over cleaning.

I’m rich, so I can afford a maid, right? Well, way back in San Jose when my husband was alive and working, we paid someone to clean, but we weren’t childless then. His son lived with us full-time. So what am I saying? I’m trying to say that people assume things about childless folks, most of which are not true.

Have you heard that people who decide not to have children are selfish, career driven, strange, or immature? That they’re no good with kids, so you wouldn’t dare let them babysit? That they don’t want to be around children? Otherwise they’d have them or they’d adopt some kids.

That if there’s a fertility problem, it’s always the woman whose parts don’t work.

Here’s a good one: If you really wanted children, you would have tried harder and made it happen, so you must not have wanted them that bad.

For more ideas about the annoying things people assume, check out these articles. You might find a few things you identify with.

Melanie Notkin: 4 Unfair Assumptions About Childless Women

Ruth Sunderland: Childless is Not a Synonym for Weird

Charlotte Latvala: Ten Things Never to Say to Childless Friends

What about you? What do people assume about you that makes you nuts? Please share in the comments.

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.

He forgot to mention his vasectomy?

Dear friends,

Have you ever been tempted to lie to get your way in the baby debate? When I was young and fertile, some of my older relatives suggested I simply stop using birth control without telling my husband. He would come around once I got pregnant. I’ll bet some of you have heard that advice, too. Leave out the diaphragm or don’t take the pill and pretty soon, oops we’re pregnant, I just don’t know how that could have happened. I always argued that that wasn’t fair, that you didn’t deceive someone you loved like that, but I suspect that quite a few women have done it.

What about you? Have you been tempted to secretly skip the birth control so you could “accidentally” get pregnant? Or have you gone the other way, not telling your partner you’re on the pill because you didn’t want to have a baby?

If you’re a guy, have you ever lied one way or the other about having a vasectomy in the hope of either making a baby or preventing a pregnancy you didn’t want?

Men and women, have you been the victim of this kind of secrecy? You thought you could or could not get pregnant, but your partner was not telling you the truth?

I received this comment at the old site today:

Anonymous said…

I am in my mid-30s and my husband is mid-50s. We have been married 8 years. Before we decided to get married, we agreed to have at least one child together (he has two adult children). We have never prevented pregnancy. I thought something was wrong with me! Why couldn’t I get pregnant when everyone else around me were popping out babies left and right?

Just before our 2nd anniversary, he casually referred to the vasectomy he had over 15 years before, after the birth of his last child. What? All the time we had talked about and planned to have a baby, he had not once mentioned a vasectomy. We even had baby names and schools picked out for our future child!

To say that I was (am) devastated is a true understatement. Six years have passed since then, and I still have not come to terms or in any way accepted this “forced” childlessness. My heart hurts so much sometimes that I don’t feel like I have the strength to take a shower or brush my teeth. The only thing I ever really wanted to “achieve” in life was being a mom! I know that adoption or IVF are out there, but I sure don’t have the money.

I try to tell myself that having a good relationship with my husband and no kids is better than having a poor relationship with him and lots of kids. This doesn’t heal or even soothe my ache; I just hope if I repeat it enough, I will start to believe it someday.
I wish I knew what to say to all us suffering from childlessness. My hat is off to you Sue for trying to help.

Oh, by the way, I had a vasectomy 15 years ago?!! I don’t know what I would have done. The thought makes me so angry I want to punch something.

I think this kind of deception goes way beyond “little white lies.” What do you think?