I Finally Stopped Blaming My Husband

Readers: Today we have a guest post by Sharilee Swaity who has published a new book about second marriages. See the link at the end of this post. I already ordered my copy. I think you’ll like this post and you’ll probably have few things to say about it. Enjoy.–Sue

me -- purple shirtFirst, I just wanted to thank Sue so much for allowing me space on her blog to share my story. I have been reading “Childless by Marriage” for a few years now and it was the only place that seemed to understand my feelings on this topic. This is the story of how I came to a greater place of acceptance regarding my spouse’s decision to not have children again.

He was Sorry

One sweltering summer evening, not too long ago, I looked over at my macho husband as he lay quietly on our bed.  With tears in his eyes, he told me he was sorry. That he loved me and knew I deserved children but he just couldn’t do it. This time I listened and finally believed him.

The “having kids argument” had been a constant in our marriage, pulled out of the closet once every two or three months, a battle with no winners and sure tears, hurt feelings and harsh words.

My tirade was sometimes triggered by the sight of a friend with eight kids bragging about their latest escapades. Or the changes in my body that signaled I was getting closer and closer to that time when having children would no longer be an option. Sometimes it was brought on by the difficulties of step parenting his children, a reminder of the lack of my own.

I would come to him, irate, pleading with him, “Don’t you love me? Don’t I deserve children, like every other woman?” My husband would look sad, avoiding my gaze and sitting quietly, his head hanging in shame.

Despite the hurt I saw on his face, the words would always spill out, the darkest thoughts of my heart, that were usually kept tucked safely away.

I am Childless By Marriage

You see, my husband has kids. I do not. I am, as the title of this blog so aptly describes, “childless by marriage.” I have stepchildren, whom I have taken as my own, but they are not mine. I love them dearly but they are their mom’s. And their Dad’s.

When my husband and I got married nine years ago, it was with the understanding that my husband was not able to have any more children because he was not physically able. It was a second marriage for both of us and he came into the marriage with children and a vasectomy.

When I found out about reversal surgery and came to an understanding that it would be theoretically possible for him to maybe have children, I asked him to undertake the procedure. He refused and I felt hurt and angry. Even though the chances of a successful reversal were almost nil and it would have cost $10,000 we did not have, I could not let it go, until that night.

What I came to realize in those few seconds that my husband pleaded with me, with pain in his gaze, is that not only is he physically unable to have children, but he is emotionally unable.

As a child, my husband went through a traumatic inter-racial adoption. He was ripped away from his biological mother at the point when he should have done his strongest bonding. After losing her at one year old, he did not meet her again until he was eighteen years old. He was adopted into a nice family, but he never felt quite connected with either family in the way that most of us take for granted.

Years later, he went through a divorce where he felt ripped away from his own children. Twice he lost a connection that should have been fundamental. Twice his heart was torn out of his chest. And he couldn’t do it again. For him, the thought of having children was irrevocably linked with certain loss.

His Pain Was Real

The moment I believed him, something changed in me and I saw beyond my own pain to see that his pain was devastatingly real, too. And I heard a still, small voice telling me to love him, embrace him. He was the one right in front of me that needed my love. There was no child–but there was him.

I saw with fresh eyes that his fear was just too strong. Just as I could never walk along the ledge of a vertical cliff, or enter a cave filled with bats, he can never again risk losing the most precious thing in his life.

I knew that I had to stop. Stop pushing him to do something that he couldn’t. Stop wishing for something that I didn’t have while ignoring the man that God had placed in my life.

What I saw in that moment of epiphany was that loving this man meant embracing him, fears and all. It meant accepting him, as he accepted me. I looked at him with eyes of compassion and felt a deep sense of connection with this man who loved me.

Does it mean I will never long for a child again or feel a wave of sadness when another acquaintance pops out a baby? Probably not. My own grief about missing out on children is complex and will probably still take time to work out. What it does mean, though, is that I intend to stop blaming him for my state. Blaming him for his brokenness. Blaming him for my own brokenness.

About the Author

Sharilee Swaity has been married to her husband for nine years now. She has two adult stepchildren and two cats. She spends her days writing and marketing her writing. Her book, “Second Marriage: An Insider’s Guide to Hope, Healing & Love” was published in April 2017, and is on sale this week on Amazon for $0.99. The book focuses on helping couples who are in a second marriage work through some of the common issues such as healing from the past, accepting their situation and loving their spouse. Sharilee also writes at her blog, Second Chance Love.

To get her free mini eBook for connecting with your spouse when you have no time, sign up here.

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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.

 

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?

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 recently. 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.

Are we defying nature by not making babies?

Women’s bodies are baby factories. It’s not all we are, of course, but if you look at our bodies, they are definitely designed to produce babies. Our breasts give milk, our vagina is designed to take in sperm, the ovaries to produce eggs which unite with the sperm, and the uterus to provide a nest for the resulting embryo to grow into a baby. Somehow, when it’s time, the body knows how to send the baby out through wide hips and a cervix that expands tremendously. Women carry extra fat reserves to help nourish the babies they carry. Hormones flood our bodies to keep the process going.

Every month of our fertile years, our uteruses prepare a cushy space for a baby then flush it away through our periods. That monthly flow of blood is the reminder of what’s not happening in our bodies, that we’re not making babies. I had periods for 40 years. Mostly it was a nuisance, messy, painful, and embarrassing. I didn’t think much about how it meant I was not pregnant because I wasn’t trying to get pregnant. I was using birth control with my first husband, and my second husband had had a vasectomy. Between marriages, I was trying NOT to get pregnant, so the arrival of my period was a relief. But think about how amazing this whole system is and how different from men’s bodies, for whom it’s all about sex.

Of course, we’re not JUST baby machines. We think, we love, we create, we dance. We’re CEOs, doctors, lawyers, teachers, ministers, artists, actors, bakers, gardeners, and so much more. But we do it all with bodies designed for motherhood. In modern times, we can decide we don’t want to be mothers. Sometimes our partners make the choice for us. Sometimes something goes wrong and we can’t get pregnant or carry a baby to term. But four out of five women still have children. Why not us?

Every other animal reproduces without questioning whether or not to do it. But we humans with our fancy brains sometimes say, “No, I’d rather do something else.” Not to get all Catholic on you, but is this right? I would love to know what you think about all this. Women’s bodies are designed to have babies. What does it mean when we choose not to use those parts or let someone make that choice for us?