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Yes / No / Maybe: Baby


I changed my mind. My partner maybe didn't.

This week, as we’ve discussed the range of decisions around having a kid—choosing to be child free and the emotional complexities of choosing motherhood—it also seemed right to talk about the middle ground. What happens when you’re not sure? What happens when one of you is sure and the other isn’t? What happens when one of you considers changing your mind? And while this post is talking about moving from not wanting a kid to possibly wanting a kid, it’s just as important to discuss and acknowledge the flip side of the coin. What happens if you go into your partnership with the idea that you will have kids, and then one of you changes your mind. How do you balance this? How do you talk about it?

Yes / No / Maybe: Baby | A Practical Wedding

I have always said that I never wanted to have kids. I was an only child, never felt very comfortable around children, and thought that, at most, I would make a good auntie to friends’ children and that would be just enough kiddie-dom for my life. And then I met a man who I fell head-over-heels in love with, who already had a two-year-old little boy. Ooh boy, step-mommy-hood. It freaked me out at first, and then I thought, what a perfect compromise! I get to enjoy the good parts of parenthood that everyone raves about, without the painful labor or the sleepless nights or the poopy diapers. I could watch this little dude grow up and be a part of his life and get a taste of being a mom, without having to give up my selfish desire for time to myself and the freedom to take off somewhere for the weekend whenever I damn well felt like it. So, I’d be a stepmom, and I’d like it. And since the love of my life was adamant about not having any more kids—so adamant, he’d already gotten a vasectomy—we were both on the “no more kids” boat, and we were fine with it.

Right?

Then, one day, I realized I wasn’t so fine. I loved my little stepson like he was my own, and it killed me to not spend more time with him. So I convinced myself that the feeling I had, way deep down, was just my sadness at not getting to spend more time with the little guy. I told myself, If we can just spend more time with him, I’ll be happy. I don’t need a baby of my own; I just need to get enough of this guy to satisfy that little niggling ache. And I decided that I would put all my effort into fighting the ugly legal battle that, if we could just win, would mean we got to see him more. Because that would be enough.

Right?

Then the seesaw feelings of I think I want a baby—wait—Oh my god, what am I thinking? started. Some moments, all I could think of was how wonderful having a child would be. And then I’d remember the other stuff—the sleepless nights, the loss of freedom, the financial strains—and I’d wonder what the hell I was thinking. I’d blame it on all the babies popping up around me—at one point, I had four friends all due within two months of each other. Who doesn’t want a baby when you’re wandering the aisles at the baby store staring at all of the adorable clothes and nursery décor? That’s got to be it.

Right??

Then the seesaw stopped moving so much. And it was definitely settling on the “want a baby” side of the scale. And this really, really scared me. I mean, didn’t I always say I never wanted to be a mom? Wasn’t I engaged to be married to a man who didn’t want to have any more kids? I tried to do the “adult” thing and talk to him about it, but it didn’t make me feel much better. He did the verbal pat-on-the-head and told me we could talk about it in the future, if we were ever in a place in our lives where another kid would be feasible. He mentioned he might be willing to consider adoption, “or something.” But every time I overheard someone asking him about having another kid, he’d still say, “Definitely not! One is enough. We’re done,” and that hurt. And when it hurt, it made me realize just how much I might want this. Now, when we’re in some social situation and someone asks me about having another kid, I shrug it off with a non-committal answer like, “We’ve got our hands full—we can’t even think about that right now!” I can’t bring myself to lie and parrot what he says, even though that was my go-to answer two years ago. I can’t very well say, “Well, I always said I didn’t want to have kids, but now I’m seriously thinking that I want to have a baby, but my future husband has had a vasectomy and doesn’t want any more kids, so now I’m sad.” Uhm… awkward much?

As much as I question my decision not to have kids, I have never questioned the man or the life I’ve chosen. I’m not even considering leaving him, because as much as this feeling aches at times, leaving the wonderful life that we have and the amazing person I have found would hurt SO. MUCH. WORSE. So. That’s out. But I also don’t want to carry around this secret resentment that I wanted a baby and never got to have one. So what to do? I’ve tried talking to close friends about it (in private moments, not those awkward social situations mentioned above), and everyone keeps brushing it off with a, “One thing at a time, hun.” And I know what they’re trying to say. We’ve got so much going on—money concerns, legal troubles, an impending wedding—it seems like the last thing that we need to be thinking about right now is having a baby. But, I’m not saying I want to have the baby right now, or even decide to have a baby someday right now, I just want to feel like the topic is truly open for discussion.

Right now, I feel all sorts of things. Guilt—for being the one in the relationship to change my mind. Sadness—at the prospect of having to give up something I love (or the idea of it) in order to keep something else I love very much. Confusion—because for all of this, I’m still not sure another child is what I want; I’m just sure it’s something I might want someday. And fear—of not knowing if I get to control my own future.

And with all those mixed-up feelings, I’m very slowly learning that my future isn’t about just me anymore. It’s about this partnership that I’m committing to and the life that we will choose to live together. So, for the time being, I’m going to focus on the parts we’ve already decided, like our wedding next fall. If the time comes when we are in a place we could have a baby, and if I still think I might want one, then I will just have to trust in my partner to be open-minded and honest with me about how he feels. The future isn’t always clear, but I have faith that whatever we decide, we will make a good life together.

Photo by APW Sponsor Kara Schultz

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  • http://www.stofnsara.com Sartjie

    Wow. That is a brave and beautiful piece of writing. I can only imagine that the process of transferring your thoughts to paper (screen?) has brought things into more perspective. Good luck with the wedding and with finding the path you and your partner will walk in the future: ultimately marriage is a journey you have to take together.

    • meg

      OH HELLO! Someone is back from sailing around the world…. !!!

      • http://www.stofnsara.com Sartjie

        Back :) Woo hoo! And it’s so grand to be back reading APW…

        • meg

          Someone owes us a STORY! Achem.

  • b.

    Thank you for this. I am in a similar place, and it is so, so hard.

    I am with you, in particular, with having to police the way you talk about your future in public, because it is both such an intimate and such a heavy question. But I wish I could, because I really need to fuel my reflection with opinions more nuanced than “the kid issue is a dealbreaker”.

    I have talked about it with a few trusted friends and the answers so far have been: “oh he’ll come around” (but even if he does, how long am I willing to gamble?) “I would leave ASAP” (an option I am nowhere near ready to consider) or “I would get off birth control, once you’re pregnant he’ll have to make a choice and either way you’ll have your baby”(which… is the diametrical opposite of how my partnership works).

    I have read up on the childfree movement and it’s only strengthened my opinion that it is not for me. Intellectually, I can totally appreciate how someone, anyone, might be happy to remain childfree… except for my partner. I cannot comprehend how someone who is so great for me in so many ways and who wants to marry me could want something so radically different than me in that field. And then I feel guilty for failing to see him as the person he really is.

    • KB

      I love those reactions (note: sarcasm) – why can’t people just be normal and say, “I’m sorry to hear that, that sounds really difficult, I hope you are okay.”

    • meg

      Oooo, “I would get off birth control, once you’re pregnant he’ll have to make a choice and either way you’ll have your baby.”

      People have such GOOD ideas.

      Headdesk.

      • SomeOther Hilary

        You’d be shocked how frequently I get this advice being with a man who is unsure about our future for starters, and children as well.

      • b.

        Right?? I got that from several people, too. The most headdesk-worthy of which was my *mother*. I had no words.

        • meg

          No.

          I love when that happens. WHAT?

      • http://landlockedlove.blogspot.com Kelly

        Just chiming in to say, yes. So common to hear this line of “reasoning.” And so disturbing. So many people have told me to just chuck the birth control. When my prescription was recently mixed-up by my pharmacist, a friend of mine told me it was “a sign” and that I should just pretend everything was normal and not tell my husband I was temporarily off the pill until things got straightened out by my doctor…

        • Marisa-Andrea

          This is probably one of the most dishonest, horrible, sneaky things I could do to my husband. I would divorce myself.

      • http://www.xwebseries.com Cali

        People actually give this as advice? Like, legitimate advice? Not being sarcastic, or accompanied by a jokey eye roll? I don’t… I can’t… what?

        • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

          The worst example of it was when my friend’s pregnant-through-such-means girlfriend told our recently-left-by-her-fiance friend that she should just get pregnant and that way he’d stay, after all, she said, it worked for her! And then she looked at my friend and smiled, and he said nothing.

          It’s been 3 years and I’m still mad.

          • ItsyBitsy

            Dude. I think my eyebrows just hit my hairline. I’m mad on your / your friend’s behalf. YIKES.

        • SomeOther Hilary

          Exactly, Cali. I usually respond by saying things like, “I could never do that to DBF.” I’d be pretty angry if boys I dated had ever told me that we were protected and had punched holes in the condoms.

          Just saying.

          • Jeannine

            Exactly this. Having worked with women who were subjected to domestic violence, partners who control someone’s reproductive future are abusing them and its a particularly terrifying form of trying to exert control.

          • Senorita

            There is a name for this. It’s called reproductive coercion, and it’s wrong no matter what gender the person is.

  • Margi

    I am in the same situation, except it is me who doesn’t want to have children and my boyfriend does. It has been 4 years of dating, and I always have not wanted children but thought that one day I might change my mind if I met the right guy. I have now met the right guy and still don’t want kids. But he has moved from maybe to yes. We have been through couples therapy and nothing has helped. We are in the midst of possibly ending out relationship over this issue. Thank you for sharing your difficult story.

    • http://www.lilpets.wordpress.com Sandy

      As KB said above: “I’m sorry to hear that. That must be very difficult. I hope you are okay.”

      I’m so sorry to hear that you are struggling with this. It is tragic when love becomes complicated in this way. I wish you strength and hope, and I’ll continue to send good wishes your way.

    • Martha

      Had a conversation recently with a dear friend who is in this situation. It’s incredibly hard when there are no good choices.

    • Michelle

      Margi,
      I saw your comment about this on Monday. I’m sorry to hear that counseling hasn’t helped resolve this issue.

      My spiritual advisor said to me, when I was struggling with this, “You can compromise between 1 and 4 kids, but you can’t compromise between 0 and 1.” It is really difficult, and I’m sorry you’re going through this.

    • MDBethann

      Margi, I’m really sorry you’re struggling with this.

      A very dear friend went through something similar 4-5 years ago when she and her guy were talking engagement. The thing was, she’d known for a very, very long time that she was not interested in being a mom – she just didn’t feel it was right for her (auntie yes, mom no). But her guy had envisioned himself as a dad one day. But they loved each other so much they couldn’t imagine not being together either. She didn’t know what to do. And we talked a lot about it. At the time, she worked with her city’s foster care system, and I asked her how she’d feel about fostering some day – her guy would get the chance to be a dad and she would have kids who weren’t babies, which didn’t bother her so much. So the compromise became “maybe someday they’d foster” and he was okay with that (didn’t hurt that his siblings plan on lots of kids). She recently told me that, 3 years into their marriage, he’s really adjusted to the “no kids” thing and all the spontaneous things they can do because they don’t have kids.

      By no means am I saying this works for everyone – this was their particular case, but it is an option that might be worthy of consideration if the only other options are (a) kids or (b) break up. There can be an in-between answer though it means both parties have to compromise in some way, hopefully without resentment.

      I wish you much strength as you move forward.

  • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

    This whole post made me want to give you a giant hug. It must be hard having such conflicting views on something when you’re already in a position where the issue seems to almost be decided already when you still need space to discuss it and think it through.

    This line really struck me, and not just in the context of babies, but in the context of any major decision in a relationship:

    “I’m not saying I want to have the baby right now, or even decide to have a baby someday right now, I just want to feel like the topic is truly open for discussion.”

    • KB

      Word, this part also struck a chord with me. This is such a difficult issue to deal with because it’s a zero-sum game – like, you may not believe in marriage or want one, but if you can also make the marriage something to fit you and your partner, from uber-traditional gender role divisions to an amorphous, open commitment. But with kids, you either have them or you don’t, and it’s not something you can really compromise on. I hope you get to the point where you can talk openly and come to a resolution that both of you can make peace with.

      • ElisabethJoanne

        Well, I have a middle-way approach, but I’m not sure it’s a really a compromise. I am open to children, but not open to putting effort into making/obtaining children. That is, if we can have children without special infertility treatment or having to adopt, great, but I can’t see myself going through infertility treatments or the windings of adoptions in the U.S. If he’s the one who needs medical treatment, we can cross that bridge when we get there.

        • http://www.empapers.com Eleanor

          Just want to say thanks for this. This is my attitude and I so rarely hear it voiced.

          My husband and I are ambivalent, and old (when it comes to procreatin’) and things aren’t happening the natural way. I feel all this pressure to DO SOMETHING!!!!

          However if someone gave me the options ‘kids or no kids’ I wouldn’t pick ‘no kids’ but I’m also not going to go fucking nuts (pump myself full of hormones, drain our bank account) trying to have one if it’s just not happening.

          There are moments when I’m very sad when I face the reality that we very likely won’t have a child, and other moments when I’m very glad.

          Three cheers for ambivalence and leaving it in mama nature’s hands!

          • Susie

            Hi ladies, just a quick reply to reassure you that the “only if it happend naturally” approach is not so unique. In my fairly ambivalent social circle anyway. Though I sometimes joke that I’m just avoiding actively making the decision by having nature make it for me, I think its more that I accept I’d be happy with either alternative.

    • SomeOther Hilary

      This is such a hard thing to communicate, and you’ve said it so well, Sheryl. I just had this discussion with DBF — I know I want children and I know I want to start trying for them, whether I have a partner in life or not, by the time I’m 35 (which is 5 years from now), and I’m currently with DBF, who is a little bit lost when it comes to thinking about a) the future in general, b) a future partner, and c) a future partner being me. Oh and D) is applying for graduate school programs 2500 miles away that may require up to 6 years to complete.
      We recently had this discussion, in which I tried to explain, “Look so I know we don’t know where we’re going… but I want you to know that choosing me as a future life partner, however that looks, will include X. I’m not asking you to decide now. But I want you to know that me + kids in the five year plan is a package deal.” It took several iterations for him to understand I wasn’t pressuring him for a decsion RIGHT THIS SECOND.

  • Bethany

    Agreed that this is a tremendously brave piece of writing. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I started reading APW when my boyfriend and I first started discussing marriage and he told me that he never wanted to get married. I’ve struggled a lot with that issue, but I think I’m finally starting to be okay with it. Right now, neither of us want children, but I do worry every so often that I may want them in the future and I know he absolutely will not.

    I’ve been in relationships that were emotionally abusive and I have to say that being in this kind of situation is worse. Being with someone who you know makes you so happy but who does not want the same things that you do (or don’t) is so painful.

    • sarahmrose

      This seems harsh…

      People in loving, healthy, and wonderful relationships can (and often do) still disagree on fundamental issues. It’s not a dealbreaker for everyone even if might make them sad, and it’s certainly not necessarily emotional abuse.

      • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

        If someone’s partner was using procreation to control them that would be emotional abuse. Having very differing opinions about whether or not children (or marriage) are part of their future plans, that’s just life and relationship in all their complicatedness.

        It’s a crummy situation, but the pressure goes in reverse too. It would be incredibly hard to be the partner who knows for a fact that marriage and kids are not part of the future that will make you happy when your loved one desperately wants them.

    • Hannah

      I just want to say…I don’t know you personally, but even if I did, I don’t know that I would be able to say what is the right decision for you. I hope and pray that those close to you are loving and supportive to matter what. May your relationship grow more and more healthy, loving, and communicative for as long as you are together; and may you personally find joy and meaning and truth.

  • http://minnesota-chic.com PA

    I’ve tried talking to close friends about it (in private moments, not those awkward social situations mentioned above), and everyone keeps brushing it off with a, “One thing at a time, hun.” And I know what they’re trying to say. We’ve got so much going on—money concerns, legal troubles, an impending wedding—it seems like the last thing that we need to be thinking about right now is having a baby.

    I’ve always found a very unique clarity in writing about issues like this. I write about how I am feeling, and why, and not only does the intense emotion start to bleed away, but I usually come to more solid conclusions about my feelings. Given that you wrote this out, perhaps you already do this, too! If not, I might suggest keeping a journal through the next year or so. It may provide you with good clarity around the progression of your feelings, and also provide an outlet during an incredibly intense time.

    Best of luck to your family as you navigate this time and plan your wedding!

  • Rachel

    Wow. You’ve shared your story so eloquently here, thank you so much for sharing.

    Both my partner and I have entered into marriage pretty gung-ho and confident about the fact that we want kids in a few years, so I’m fairly confident that we’re unlikely to ever have to face such a difficult dilemma personally (although it could happen, never say never) – but I have a lot of friends who have entered their marriages with both of them feeling kind of ambivalent about kids. It’s a very real possibility for a lot of them that down the line, one of them could swing one way (yes! I definitely want kids now!) and the other could swing the other way (oh god, I definitely don’t ever want kids…) – and I can’t even imagine how difficult that would be to reconcile.

    Thank you for sharing.

  • http://www.elopeusa.com Maureen

    You didn’t ask for advice, but I’m going to throw some at you anyway (cuz I’m older, have been married more than once, and I CAN!)

    Don’t let anyone pressure you to “not keep the discussion open” because you’re supposed to be handling “one thing at a time.” That’s crap! Yes, you have a lot on your plate right now, but that doesn’t mean that you should be patted on the head and told “let’s worry about that when the time comes.”

    As you so clearly state, you don’t want to have a baby TODAY–or perhaps at all. But it’s your right to talk about your feelings until the proverbial cows come home if need be.

    Actually, I’d insist on it. The time to explore all the options is now–not five years down the road. Talking doesn’t etch anything in stone, it simply brings the issue into the light of day and allows it to be explored by all parties and from all angles. That can only be a good thing!

    Good luck to you. It’s a difficult situation to be in.

    • CarbonGirl

      I agree with Maureen. You do not have to make the baby decision now, but you should discuss it openly with your partner. He needs to really know how you are feeling and mentioning it once is likely not enough (My husband usually does not take me seriously the first time about big decisions because I am notoriously indecisive). Pushing it off until the wedding seems like a bad idea because this will eat you up inside. It is just too much to hold in.

      I would give your partner this beautiful piece you wrote and use it as the starting point of your conversation.

      • Zeph

        I agree with Maureen and Carbon!
        One of the most important things about the engagement period (I think), is that it is time for you to both reflect on the nitty gritty of how your marriage is going to work. There are posts on APW all the time about how planning a wedding is prep work for a marriage and it is so true. Part of that is having tough conversations, like how do we handle blending our families or our religions, but talks about what kind of family you want to be are just as important.
        Yes, you guys have a lot on your plate right now, but it also sounds like you have a pretty strong partnership and it can handle the weight of this discussion. If you do want children, even if you are maybe, kinda, sorta thinking of wanting children, that is important. Marriage is about supporting each other in becoming the people you want to be and if being a mom might be part of that for you….you need to share that with him. You don’t have to decide anything concrete about when and how, but it is a conversation that should be started.

        This is a beautifully written piece. I think you did a fabulous job articulating the indecision you are feeling and the sadness that this situation is causing. I think that Carbongirl’s idea about sharing this writing with him is excellent and something you should consider.

      • meg

        Agreed. We also had LOTS of conversations about how we would support each other if we wanted different things, mostly before, but also right after the marriage. I was sort of shocked to see how far we were both able and willing to stretch to accommodate each other… often both people would give a whole lot on both sides if it was needed. It turned out we had deal-breakers, but they were SO few I was shocked, once we really started getting into it. Stuff I thought would be a dealbreaker for him… wasn’t, exactly. What? People are complicated.

        Those conversations, no matter how they turn out, are so important to have. And have. And have. Because they are not one time conversations, for sure.

        • SomeOther Hilary

          Meg, I hope one day I can say things about my (as yet non-existent) partner like the things you say about your partnership and marriage with David. I feel blessed to “know” you.

          • meg

            Awwww. That’s possibly the nicest thing anyone’s said to me all week.

            Except the nice man at the bank being really kind about my pregnancy, maybe ;)

        • AnotherCourtney

          Same here! Kids have always been a big part of our discussions. Him, in the I-can’t-wait-to-be-a-dad way. Me, in the definitely-not-right-now-but-hopefully-someday way.

          The only problem is that I’m still in the not-right-now phase, and there’s a small part of me that is afraid I will always feel that way. I finally voiced my worries, and my super sweet, supportive husband shrugged and said “then we won’t have kids.” Just like that. I’ve never felt more loved.

          • meg

            I love partners sometimes. SIGH.

    • http://themoderngal.com The Modern Gal

      I agree with this times a million, but not just because this is the time to explore all the options now. It’s also the time to build the foundation of honest communication with one another. Do it now so that it becomes habit down the road.

  • Laura

    What a beautiful piece of writing! It gave me much food for thought, especially the idea that we’re allowed to change our minds about things.

    I hope you don’t mind me saying this, as I’m not saying it to try to impose my own opinions on you, but perhaps this is something you want to discuss with your partner now rather than waiting until the wedding? It is obviously troubling you deeply. I think wondering for a long period of time could become an even heavier burden than knowing for sure one way or another how your FH will respond to the thought of more children. Your desires are equally as important as his, and regardless of what actually ends up happening, you have just as much right to articulate what you want as he does. This desire to have children might be new and unexpected, but it is no less legitimate because of that. All the best of luck!

  • Mrs May

    Wow, thank you for writing about being ambivalent about this! It is not always so clear as some make it out to be.
    With my spouse when we married we both definitely wanted children but now I’m not so sure. I like our relationship and I’m not so sure I want to change it that much. We are not that young and I feel pressured to feel sure…. But I just don’t. I keep thinking, “but then I’ll be tired and never have a vacation again and we’ll never have sex again and why would I want to do that to our perfectly lovely relationship? Was I crazy to want that?” of course, she feels the same as she always did and wants kids. I am confident we’ll work it out but I have no idea what the conclusion will be!

    • Rose in SA

      This is me exactly. I’d always assumed we’d follow the conventional route of dating, marriage, babies and I was quite happy about it. Now that it’s a decision I have to actively make, I am not so sure about the kids thing and it’s hard. I feel I’m letting my husband down by ‘changing the rules of the game’, but at the same time, I need the space to discuss this and figure out what to do from here.

    • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

      I’ll say it again – kids doesn’t equal the end of sex and vacations and sleep, if you don’t let them be the end of sex and vacations and sleep. Even little babies have naps, making room for 1and 3, and kids under two fly for free, which helps with 2.

      I’m not saying you have to have kids, of course. I’m just saying that the message the world tells you isn’t the whole truth. And while I am sure there are people who use babies as an excuse to opt out of things, it’s not a requirement. Promise.

      • MDBethann

        And there is also having grandparents/aunts/uncles babysit for a few days to a week so parents can have some vacation time of their own. My sister, cousins, and I used to spend a week at our grandmother’s house together every summer, without our parents. We LOVED it and I have absolutely no clue what my parents did while I was gone, nor do I care. Those are fantastic memories for us, especially now that our grandmother is battling dementia. I know society likes to make it seem like you are a terrible parent if you go somewhere without your kids, but that’s bull.

        When we eventually have kids, DH and I have talked about taking an anniversary trip each year and asking the grandparents to babysit. Since we don’t live in the same state as both sets of grandparents, I have a feeling this idea might pan out really well for us, since I’m sure our parents will always feel like they don’t see our kids enough. I just don’t want to put off doing things that aren’t necessarily child-friendly (i.e. Manchu Pichu) until later in life when we maybe have more money but don’t have the health or stamina to do that kind of walking/hiking.

      • Mrs May

        You are so right, Morgan. The REAL issue is that I already never go on vacation and don’t sleep well, and don’t have as much sex as I wish I had…. And I worry that having kids would put the nails in those coffins. Which may be a total lie. I definitely should own up to that! It’s more the thought, if I can’t do it now…. How the hell will I with a baby?! But in reality, what do I know? I appreciate your comment and I need to keep thinking on this.

  • K

    What stood out to me in this post was where you say, “And with all those mixed-up feelings, I’m very slowly learning that my future isn’t about just me anymore. It’s about this partnership that I’m committing to and the life that we will choose to live together.” I wonder if your mixed up feelings about having/not having a baby with this man is tied into the reality of merging your two lives together as a whole, and that is just the point you’re fixating on at the moment.

    The realization that “my future isn’t just about me anymore” really weighed on me the first year or so of being married. Maybe it’s not like this for everybody, but it was hard for me to come to terms with the fact that my life and decisions were all tied up with this other person now. Duh, right? Logically, I knew this going in, but I didn’t fully grasp what this meant until I was on the other wide of the wedding and back to real life. Suddenly, my word alone was not final in regards to my own life, as it had always been, because my life had become part of a partnership, and his word mattered just as much as mine. This sounds kind of dumb, but I realized I wasn’t going to get my way all the time, or even most of the time (of course), and it was difficult to (actually, in reality, not just in my daydreams of what marriage would be like) make room in my life for the thoughts and feelings of another person, even though I loved that person, because sometimes our thoughts and feelings about an issue are very different. It’s hard to make room for that, and to step back and let the other person have their way sometimes, even when you feel strongly about an issue. Sometimes you just agree to disagree, but usually I would just break up with a guy when we’d gotten to that point. It’s harder to go on living together and loving each other and sharing your lives anyway after a serious disagreement.

    So, the most important thing, always, is to talk to each other, and just be honest about what you’re thinking and feeling. You won’t make any headway or feel any better until you share what’s going on inside with your partner. You made a great point when you said you “just want to feel like the topic is truly open for discussion.” You don’t always have to start a discussion with the intent of making a decision at the end. After 3 years of marriage, I’m learning that issues we had previously decided and closed sometimes open back up again, over and over, and things that I never thought would be an issue suddenly are. It’s a life long conversation you’re starting, really, and as long as your’e both open and honest and willing to discuss anything, I think that’s a healthy place to start your lives together.

  • margo

    If a friend came to me with this issue, I would tell her that she needed to either end the relationship or, at the very least, agree to pre-marital counseling. And I’m commenting to say that because I have a close family member who was in your situation ten years ago and who has told me multiple times that she wished she had done one or the other when she had the chance. She loves her husband and her twin step-kids, but is currently in a trial separation. She said it just became too much for her and the issue started to seep into all areas of her marriage. Any time he refuses to compromise (on where to go at Christmas or even which movie to see on a date night) it ends up dragging up a lot of resentment for her. Ten years of fighting just to be taken seriously has worn her down, and it’s something my family has noticed even beyond what she has confided to me.

    Also, I think your partner has been honest with you. REALLY honest. It’s just the “open mindedness” that you’re missing. What could he do to show you that he’s open minded? In what scenario will you feel heard, considered and validated and also come to the conclusion not to have kids?

    • http://www.lilpets.wordpress.com Sandy

      I second the idea of pre-marital counseling. It was a wonderful experience for my husband and I; we both enjoyed it and learned so much about each other. It is also a cornerstone that is advocated by APW (lots of archive articles talking about it). It was a safe, comfortable environment in which to discuss things like children, home, and careers. Excellent and valuable.

      • meg

        Pre-marital, post-marital, couples counseling is the BEST for working on issues (especially specific issues) you guys. Too many people wait and go when really, it’s too late, instead of going to work on specific things when they are otherwise happy.

        • Em

          Could APW possibly put out a call for excellent premarital counselors (or programs?) to add to the vendor directory? We are having a terrible time finding someone where we live, and google hasn’t been working so well…

          • NF

            IN terms of finding someone, primary care (or other) doctors can be a good place to get a first recommendation (and it’s much less awkward to ask them than to try to get a recommendation through a social connection). There’s guarantee that you’ll like who they recommend, but it might be a good way to get started.

          • meg

            We have, but you know.

            Don’t start with google, start with doctors, as NF says. And friends. If you start asking around, you’ll be shocked by the number of people that can recommend good therapists. Often they also do couple work, and if they don’t, they’ll give you referrals.

          • Laura

            We went through our EAP (Employee Assistance Program) at work to find a counselor. They were happy to provide a referral for us AND one that takes our insurance! Googling got me nowhere as well! Good luck!

          • Gillian

            If reading/self-couples counselling is your thing, I recommend:

            Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work – John Gottmann.

            He’s a psychologist who’s done the research to back up his claims/approach to couples therapy :)

            My husband and I did the book during a rough patch and it definitely helped.

            http://www.gottman.com/

          • Em

            thank you all. you are awesome :)

    • Laura

      I think Margo is right. If this uncertainty you’re feeling does end up turning into a full-blown desire for kids, that will only become more pronounced, not less, as the years pass.

    • Alexandra

      I so hate that “Should end the relationship” answer… That used to be my go to answer for a lot of relationships, but really, relationships just don’t work that way. They end when the people involved realize that they’re done, and that’s about it. I’m in a similar situation to the post here, and just like her, ending the relationship isn’t really an option. I mean, kids or no kids, it’s a huge decision, and one that’s a huge impact on the rest of my life. But to just walk away from the man I want to marry now? I’ll put that hypothetical tomorrow at risk for having him today.

      Pre-martial counseling, though, that’s a solid “probably”.

  • anon

    I agree that you need to talk about this sooner rather than later. My sister was always ambivalent about having babies, but married a guy who definitely wants them. They were very young when they met, and she kind of thought it was so far in the future, she didn’t need to think about it then. But now they’ve been together over 12 years, and she’s coming to an age when she needs to decide, and she’s struggling.

  • http://byjacki.com Jacki

    This post makes my heart ache so bad for you. It’s so beautifully written and so painfully honest and I just want to hug you. I have gone through a very similar process. Never wanted children. Fell in love with the dad of a 2-year-old boy. Slowly began to realize I did want a child. My partner hasn’t had a vasectomy, and isn’t set against another child, but I think he would be okay with just his son, and I sometimes worry he’ll change his mind about being open to another child.

    The crux of your situation, from my view on what you’ve shared with us anyway, is “But I also don’t want to carry around this secret resentment that I wanted a baby and never got to have one. So what to do?”

    … and I don’t know what you should do, because I don’t know what I would do if Matt suddenly announced that he was DONE having kids and we would never have one together. The loss of that relationship would be devastating. But would the loss of having a baby be just as devastating in the long run? I’m not sure. There is no easy answer, but I’m proud of you for acknowledging what you’re wrestling with, and I wish you nothing but peace and joy as you figure out how to proceed.

    • Barbra

      This is exactly where we are. Except my partner’s daughter is ten. And he does not like planning ahead, so it’s hard to even talk about it. This is just not a position I ever thought I would find myself in!

  • http://themoderngal.com The Modern Gal

    Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sending you a million hugs. This is definitely a safe place to talk about your feelings on maybe baby/maybe not, especially when it seems like you don’t have that place among your personal relationships. I would urge you to continue to try to talk to your fiance — not in an “I want a baby” approach, but in more of a “I might want a baby at some point and I need to be able to talk to you about this as we commit to spending the rest of our lives together” kind of way. I think the important thing is that you feel comfortable sharing what you’re going through emotionally with him and that he’s able to respect your feelings and emotions — regardless of what the end result is. It’s also important to be fully honest with each other from the get go.

  • One More Sara

    I know that everyone who has commented with advice above has done so with the best intentions possible, but I can’t help thinking to myself that this isn’t an Ask Team Practical post. While I personally agree that most of the advice given is spot on, I think it takes away from the main point of the post. Sometimes we change our minds, and the feelings that come with that change of heart can be complicated. We need to trust that the author knows (knew) what is (was) right for her and her family and is taking (took) proper actions to get things back to a good place.

    • meg

      I think everyone is being very respectful about discussing, sharing experiences, but not bossing the poster around (we tend to take those comments down if we feel like they are not emotionally safe for the writer, but no worries today). The original, submitted title of the post was “I need to talk about something,” so I think talking is a good thing, today. I know the poster isn’t the only one who needs to talk about this.

      Just a note to make sure you all know that we are and do covering the backs of posters and their emotional needs, to the best extent we can.

    • http://themoderngal.com The Modern Gal

      I’m really just trying to show my support for the author and encourage her to recognize her feelings are valid and ask that everyone treat her feelings with the respect they deserve. Sometimes when you’re struggling with an emotion, it’s nice to hear that there’s nothing wrong with what you’re feeling, and that you shouldn’t have to hide it from your loved ones. I know I’ve needed that validation before.

  • Class of 1980

    NOW is the exact time to be talking about this. No other time could ever be more appropriate than before you marry.

    I have a cousin who married a man she thought was on the same page. They wanted to have two children. He was a doctor and was going to establish his practice first. Establishing the practice proved to take longer and be more difficult than they thought, and in the meantime, he took up acting in plays as a hobby. After a while, he told her he decided he didn’t really want children. He was enamored with his acting gigs and didn’t want anything to disrupt the life he had built for himself.

    They were married four years and were in counseling three years out of the four. In the end, there was too much discrepancy between the life she wanted and the life he wanted. They had an amicable divorce and he gave her a puppy before they parted.

    I think the trick is knowing yourself. My cousin knew she didn’t want to settle for not having children. She ended up happily married to someone else and now has those two kids she wanted. But your mileage may vary. Maybe you really can forgo children because the life you have with your fiance is worth the sacrifice to you.

    You have to really look inside yourself and then talk to your fiance about whatever you see there.

    • Kayla

      Divorce puppy! That should be mandatory! (I mean, unless you don’t want one, I guess.)

      I used to work for a divorce attorney who gave couples celebratory champagne when they signed the final documents, but he clearly missed the boat on the best idea ever.

  • NF

    Yesterday I was thinking “I really hope APW includes a post about one partner changing their mind and the other not”. So thank you for writing this, I’m sorry you are struggling with this but am very grateful that you shared it with us.

    Whenever people talk about “the things that you need to talk about before getting married”, having kids or not correctly makes it onto that list. But what gets left off that list so often is the discussion Meg says she and David had, about what to do if they wanted different things. And the related but different discussion of what to do if you change your mind about something you agree to. Because agreeing before being married doesn’t guarantee that you will agree forever, circumstances changes, peoples minds change, life and marriage are not static, and being married doesn’t guarantee that you will change in the same ways. In the end, I think that all of the agreements in the world before engagement/marriage (while important) don’t help if you don’t have a framework for how to deal with change, and with disagreement.

    • meg

      Totally. It’s surprising how many things you can change on (just three years in). And I think establishing that framework for flexibility, and growing with each other, and just trying to understand each other’s changes, is so important. Also, agreeing to go to couples counseling when these issues come up (before they come up) can be super helpful. You don’t want to have to sacrifice your partnership over changing (even on big things) because we change a LOT in our lifetimes, so in theory marriage is about accommodating that growth together. But you DO need someone to help you talk about it when it happens, I think.

  • http://Www.rebel-healing.com Amy Elizabeth

    This post is fantastic – well written, so insightful and courageously brave . I agree 100% with the statement that all things should truly be open for discussion and the more I experience that from my own partnership the happier I am and the safer I feel about making this gigantic lifelong commitment we are headed for… I guess the one thing that I didn’t read in the above comments* is this: Is there any chance you’ll change your mind back to where it was when you didn’t want kids in the first place? One thing I’ve noticed about the child conversation is that people seem to assume that you might change your mind about not wanting them, but once you feel that pull on your heart strings there is no going back. I’m not entirely sure this is true…

    *With the exception of class of 1980’s cousin.

    • meg

      Oh. I think this is a VERY good point, and you’re right. It’s not something people discuss much (and something I’ve seen happen).

    • OP

      Original Poster here-

      You are absolutely right! I could go back to that not-wanting-kids feeling. I guess that just doesn’t worry me so much because then I’m not changing my mind, or switching up what we agreed on, and we could go right back to us being on the same page about the kids thing.

      Since I could still go either way, that’s part of the difficulty. I guess if I woke up tomorrow morning and all of the sudden KNEW I HAD to have kids RIGHT F*IN NOW, then I would be feeling a lot different. It would become that deal-breaker conversation where he needs to get on board or I need to make a hard decision. But since I don’t feel that way, and it’s all very up in the air, I have to just sit with this feeling of not knowing what I want and being afraid to be the one to change things.

  • Mandy

    Can I just say that I’m frustrated by how many people (in the world and even here!) say that wanting or not wanting kids is absolutely always a dealbreaker that must be addressed before you get married, preferably through therapy.

    Here’s the thing: it’s not a dealbreaker for everybody.

    I don’t know whether or not I want kids. Neither does my boyfriend. Right now, we’re leaning towards “no,” but that could change. And that’s okay! If one of us changes our minds, we’ll figure it out. Together.

    Having kids is a lifestyle choice, like any other. There are some universal dealbreakers in relationships – physical or emotional abuse, totally incompatible communication styles – and lots of personal dealbreakers. Wanting kids is a dealbreaker for some couples, I’m sure, just like voting Republican would be a dealbreaker for me. Of course if I really wanted babies, I’d choose someone who wanted them. But our mutual ambivalence is something I am totally okay with. We know that either of us could feel differently in the future, but our relationship is the priority.

    At the end of the day, the guy that I’m marrying is more important to me than a person who doesn’t exist yet. He is not just an avenue toward babymaking – he’s not a means to an end. He IS the end. I am going to be with him for the rest of my life. If we have a kid, they’ll be around for 18 years – 22 if the economy is bad – and then they will be grown-ups who do their own thing. I see how much our parents (both sets are unhappily divorced) rely on us, and I love them, but it’s not really fair for them to expect my adult life to revolve around them. I expect that my future husband will be there for me when I am old, but I can’t expect that of our hypothetical kids, who would grow up and lead their own lives. So of course I will choose him over the kids I may or may not want. I will always choose him – over kids, over a job, over a house or a hobby or a dog or a friend, if it came to it (and I hope it never does). For us, that’s the whole point. We have chosen each other, come what may.

    • meg

      Yup. I don’t think it’s always a deal-breaker (hence posts about ambivalence this week). One of the reasons I really liked this post is that it didn’t set it up as a deal-breaker, it just set it up as HARD. Which it can be.

      That said, I do think it’s a conversation you need to have (before, after, during) marriage, even if you don’t come to clear cut answers (which is totally fine). And if it becomes a pain point in your relationship, I think therapy is very wise. Therapy and discussion are not JUST for deal-breakers (I don’t even have a lot of deal-breakers, voting Republican isn’t one of them, though I might think my husband had had some sort of psychological break or been replaced by someone else). Therapy is for working through tough parts of your relationship that you’re having a hard time sorting through on your own. And this post is a great example of a time when having someone to mediate and guide your discussion might be helpful. The final conclusion may be: We’re not deciding now. Or no kids. Who knows. The point is the journey.

      • SomeOther Hilary

        One of the most important things about all of this (original post + comments) is to remember that deciding to talk about XYZ does not mean that we, as a couple, have to resolve it in one sitting. Knowing that takes so much pressure off of individual conversations, counseling sessions, and crying jags (ahem, that might just be me?) I resist the terminology “deal-breakers” because I’m not here to make deals. My practitioner taught me the language of “non-negotiable” aspects of a relationship without which the relationship cannot flourish and thrive over time.
        But yeah! Talking =/= resolving it now. Sometimes we have to abide in the discomfort of uncertainty and indecision. It’s tough.

        • ItsyBitsy

          Talking =/= resolving it now = lesson I need to learn. You’re definitely not alone in the crying jags as a result of OMG FIX IT NOOOOOW mentality, hah. Solidarity!

    • Not Sarah

      I’m with you on this. I am ambivalent about having children and for me, someone wanting to have children in the next three years is probably a deal breaker. Someone who absolutely knows that he wants children probably is one too. But someone who is ambivalent or doesn’t want children? At my age (24), that’s probably okay. I’m not going to get married super soon, but being ambivalent about children or not wanting children isn’t a dating dealbreaker, while someone who absolutely wants them (especially ASAP) probably is.

      That said, my current boyfriend and I are both ambivalent. He’s brought up once or twice the question “Have you ever thought about not having children? What would that look like?” Honestly, we’ve talked about not having them more than having them.

    • Anon

      I think the deal breaker comes when one person vehemently wants children and one doesn’t. That’s a pretty hard thing to overcome, I think. Ambivalence or not knowing is different.

      • meg

        Again. It’s complicated, and not always true (well, I suppose if we’re using the word vehement, then it might be true, but!). Quoting a commenter above:

        “Kids have always been a big part of our discussions. Him, in the I-can’t-wait-to-be-a-dad way. Me, in the definitely-not-right-now-but-hopefully-someday way. The only problem is that I’m still in the not-right-now phase, and there’s a small part of me that is afraid I will always feel that way. I finally voiced my worries, and my super sweet, supportive husband shrugged and said “then we won’t have kids.” Just like that. I’ve never felt more loved.”

        Now, that can’t always happen, but the cultural conversation tells us that it can NEVER happen. And I don’t think that’s true. One of you can really want kids, and the other can change their mind (for example, or vice versa), and you can decide to be ok with it.

        • Anon

          Yeah but all this week you and others have said in different ways that you should believe people when they tell you who they are.

  • L

    This is a really lovely post. I’m also the person in our partnership who has changed my mind on the kids front. When we first got together, we both were on the “no” side. Now, I’m on the “maybe? someday?” side, whereas my husband still leans firmly on the “no” fence.

    We’ve had discussions about it–many. And I think we’re working towards more mutual ground on it. But it’s still easy to feel like the bad guy for “going back” on a previous agreement, even though logically I tell myself this isn’t the case.

  • Alice in Boston

    As many above have noted, so much of this seems to be as much about the conversation around having children as the actual decision- or at least having a partnership where those choices are discussed as a team (when feelings change in a committed relationship, can those decisions be made as part of a team or is there inevitably a sense that one desire is more worthy/weighty than another?) Having recently, shockingly, realized that I may want to have children, I feel like my desire is seen by my husband as more valid than his ambivalence (I have mixed feelings about this, guilt mixed with the desire to get what I want). Clearly the writer is experiencing a different dynamic, and it does seem like this post may be a good starting point for a discussion.
    On a separate note, I wonder if this week will cover times when the decision to have children makes you the odd one out among your friends/community…

    • meg

      We didn’t have a post submitted on that, but if you write one, it sounds like something we’d love to run any old week!

      • Alice in Boston

        Hah! Well, I’m only beginning the process and seeing the initial unease among my friends/coworkers… but maybe once I’m on the other side!

    • Stacey

      Interesting. I’m way late to responding to this article, but I went through the same thing – deciding I wanted to have kids while my long-term boyfriend remained against. I refused to marry him while we had such divergent opinions on the matter, but the idea of leaving him hurt more than the idea of never having children, as the OP states. So we dated for 9 years of baby-limbo. When he became ambivalent, acknowledging that if it was important to me it was important to him, I decided to marry him. We figured we would just “stop preventing” pregnancy but not really try for a baby – and with the high rates of loss and infertility among my friends (I’m of “advanced maternal age”) we weren’t sure it would happen anyway. Well, we got pregnant less than 2 months after our wedding – and you know what? It’s still complicated. We’re BOTH afraid, and both excited in our own ways. And we do feel like we’re the odd ones out sometimes – most of his friends are childless bachelors in their 40’s, and most of my friends are done having children or unable to have children. I’m feeling lonely despite the joy, and seeking new mom friends in our new city.

  • E

    I just went through this. Advice? He’s not going to change his mind and suddenly decide he wants kids. The pat on the head, saying he might consider adoption or “something”? He’s blowing you off, hoping the whole thing will just go away. I can’t say what you will feel years from now, but I can tell you that for me, my desire to have children has only increased and there is a lot of resentment starting to brew. Mostly, I’m just mad at myself for going through with a marriage to a man who told me he doesn’t want kids. What was I thinking? it should have been a deal-breaker for me. Because he had said he might be ok with adoption, I thought everything would be alright. Now he says he’s fine with adoption as long as he doesn’t have to sign any papers saying he’s legally responsible for the kid. Huh? When I met him, I had just turned 40 and had a very slim chance of getting pregnant anyway…a few years later and now it’s too late. I had put off having kids until I found the “right guy” and now feel like i waited for nothing. Don’t wait until it’s too late. There’s nothing worse than feeling like a decision this big was made for you, by someone else.

    • http://riverdragonceramics.blogspot.com riverdragon

      Hugs. Lots of hugs.

    • meg

      Well, while I want to honor the fact that CAN be true, and is painfully true for you, I also want to open up the idea that it’s not always true.

      As we’ve discussed elsewhere on this thread, kids are not always, and don’t always have to be a deal-breaker. Sometimes we can find a way to allow our partnership to shift and grow with our changing needs (and sometimes we can’t! and that’s fine and normal too!) We have a cultural idea that if you think you want kids, you have to have kids or your life will be ruined, but that isn’t always be true. Life is long, partnerships are complex, we don’t always get what we want, we can grieve and move on, people can change their minds. And sometimes we can’t, also normal, also really important to discuss. But it’s important to consider both options.

      But as always: TALK TALK TALK. And when people tell you who they are, believe them.

    • MDBethann

      E, I’m so sorry you are going through this.

      The part that got me about your situation is that “he’s fine with adoption as long as he doesn’t have to sign any papers saying he’s legally responsible for the kid.” Whether he’s legally responsible or not, the child will be living under your shared roof and asking for love and affection from both of you. I’m concerned for both you and the future (?) child that he might use the “I’m not legally responsible, so I don’t have to do X for the child” card, which would be hurtful for everyone and leave you a de facto single mom. Or maybe he won’t and once you have a child he’ll love it and treat it as his own and he’ll be willing to sign the adoption papers – I hope this will be the case. But that comment of his seemed to give you pause too, and I think you should explore it further with him and, hopefully, an impartial third party (adoption specialist, counselor, pastor, etc) who can help you individually and together figure out what your options are.

      I hope you can find something that makes you feel like you had a say in your decision about children, instead of feeling that it was made for you.

  • Anon

    This must be heart breakingly hard.

    Are you guys in the process of doing or will be doing pre marital counselling? Maybe that could be a safe place to talk about it. Although maybe that’s putting him in a really awkward spot.

    My advice counts for naught, really, but I really hope you can talk to him about this before you get married. And I hope you can find a solution, I really do.

    Good luck xx

  • ElisabethJoanne

    I’ll throw this out there as another possibly relevant, helpful experience:

    Part of my ambivalence about kids stems from the huge disparity of knowledge of parenthood between myself and my future husband. I’m the oldest of 3. My mother is an OB-GYN. She struggled with infertility for decades. I worked at her office for 7 years. My future husband is an only child who just knows what he reads in the papers, so to speak. He’s not going to catch up to me in relevant knowledge.

    I’ll be more comfortable having children with him when he knows what an episiotomy is, that newborns can’t hold up their heads, that babies usually start walking around 12 months old, and on and on. In short, when the intellectual aspect isn’t all on me, in addition to the pregnancy aspect.

  • Kristin

    Thank you so much for writing this. When I saw the post, I knew it was super important for me to read today. I don’t know if I want kids, but my partner definitely does. He helped raise his brother (he’s 26 and his brother is almost 8) and is amazing with kids. Watching him interact with his little brother makes me want to see him interact with our kid/s if we decided to do that. But another ENOURMOUS part of me doesn’t want to be pregnant AT ALL. I take psych meds and when I forget to take them, I can’t even function the next day…not even drive. I’m terrified that I would have to be on them while pregnant and I would totally f*ck the kid up…I have talked to my doctor about changing meds in case I get pregnant and I choose to keep it but the meds didn’t work out and I’m scared to keep exploring different meds.

    My partner and I have discussed parenting and pregnancy and he has said he doesn’t want to talk about it until I’m absolutely sure one way or another…absolutely sure I want kids or not want kids. He doesn’t really take the medication thing into consideration and says when you want a kid, you’ll do anything to have it. But I don’t feel that way. I feel like if I chose to have a kid, I would still have fears and concerns about everything in parenthood but be excited too.

    I think talking about it in pre-marital counseling would be really good for us, especially me…and I know that in the end, it’s my decision on whether or not we have biological kids. I’m more career oriented and he wants to be a stay at home dad while I go off to work, which is fine with me…except I’m scared to deprive him of kids and I’m scared to have kids. I guess the pregnancy thing is the most scary for me. I’m not opposed to foster parenting or adoption but it would be amazing to see a combination of us in one little person.
    I think this is more me working through the idea of it but being incredibly grateful this post was writen. Best wishes to you.

    • NF

      I’m so so sorry you are having to struggle with this. Without going into details I’m in a similar (in some ways) position. You and your partner need to talk about this, either on your own or (even better) with a therapist. And you should talk, either with a doctor or a therapist about your specific concerns about medicines, your condition, and what your options for managing your condition during pregnancy would be. While waiting to talk about it with your partner until you’re certain one way or another is NOT a good plan, it might be good to enter the discussion with concrete information, so your partner can hopefully have a more clear understanding of how the medicines relate to your decision, and know what “you’ll do anything” would actually mean.

    • meg

      Agree with NF. Also, it’s not true that you can never take meds during pregnancy. You have to look at risks, but you work that out with your doctor, and you can start that now. In fact, you HAVE started, you just need to keep going (be brave!)

      And you have to talk now, you can’t possibly wait till you know for sure. How will you know for sure if you can’t talk about it?

      Also, recommended reading: Love Works Like This.

  • Kina

    Thank you so much for this post. I am in a similar position, and it’s such a hard space to exist in. I just want you to know that I’m right there with you. I sometimes ache thinking about how unfair it all it is that this one thing could come between my partner and I and destroy what is such a loving, wonderful relationship. I don’t have any answers, but your post and the comments have just reminded me how important it is to keep talking, and to keep hoping for the best, and to not just assume that something will be the end of us because it’s a dealbreaker for others. As Meg so rightly said, change comes in all shape and forms, and I know both my partner and I want a relationship where we can work together to confront and deal with those challenges, no matter what the topic.

  • OP

    Hi everyone, Original Poster here. First of all, thank you SO MUCH for all of the support and internet hugs. I have done a lot of journaling in my life, but this is the first time I have shared something so intimate in a public place. It speaks to the wonderful group we have here that I got just the reaction I really needed- a lot of support, some wonderful advice, and just enough different views to make me really look at the situation from all sides.

    This was originally written a couple months ago, so I’ve had a little more time to reflect on the situation since then. I should clarify that my partner and I have talked about this on a few occasions, there just has never really been a decision so it feels very unresolved to me. It feels like the same conversation 5 times over since it doesn’t change. And what I originally took as his dismissiveness, I think was really just his way of saying “well, I know how I feel, for Now. You don’t know how you feel, for Now. So, let’s talk about it later. There’s nothing we can decide Now.” Again, as I’m slowly learning, this is not MY decision, or MY future. It is ours, and we can’t figure it all out today. When it comes time, we will do it together.

    You all are absolutely right about the counseling suggestion- I think every couple needs help communicating about something, sometime. We have been to couples counseling off and on throughtout our relationship, and fully support going together or separately when/if we ever have something we can’t muddle through on our own. And, if this really gets to a point where one or both of us wants to say something but can’t find the words, we’ll be right back on that couch talking it all out.

    Thank you again, everyone. It makes me feel better to know that I’m not alone, and I hope maybe I’ve helped others realize the same.

    • Victwa

      Hi Original Poster–

      First, yay for writing this. As someone who is marrying a man with two kids already (well, now we have another one, but he didn’t when I met him), this has another level of feeling that I would like to just send you a big internet hug with. This isn’t JUST about wanting/not wanting kids with your partner, or changing your mind about having kids– although clearly it IS about those things as well. Your partner already HAS a kid. He’s not making the decision to be a parent for the first time. And I love my stepkids, and think they’re wonderful human beings and all, but they HAVE a mother and a father. I think the feeling of wanting to be someone’s mother or father when you’re with someone who already has that in their life is different. I know that for me, if my fiancé had not been willing to consider having another child, and I had wanted one (which I knew I did), being around a child that was not mine every day would have been even harder. And by harder, I mean sometimes heart-wrenching. I hope it is not that way for you.

      I’m glad you and your partner are talking about this. I hope you come to a decision that works well for BOTH of you, and I send you many stepmom hugs in the meantime.

  • tirzahrene

    This is me coming in late as usual.

    I was married for ten years to a guy with five kids of his own who changed his mind about having kids together after we got together and when I was way too wrapped up in him and way too new to my adult self to have any idea what I wanted or to hold onto that if it meant losing him. For ten years we both worked to convince me that it was okay for me to not have kids, that my (super fabulous and still much-loved) stepkids would fill that need for me, that somehow this meant I got the best of both worlds.

    It wasn’t, and it didn’t. Having stepkids was amazing and challenging and truly to this day my proudest accomplishment, and it is NOT the same thing. They’re family, no question about that, and even though I’m not married to their dad anymore there is no doubt that I have their back and they have mine. And there is no doubt that they are not the same thing as having kids that I am the mom to. Stepkids can be wonderful. I love mine. And I have to love them every day with open hands, because they have a mom and I’m not her; because no matter how much we love each other, other people are making the decisions for their lives; other people have the Parent roles with them, not me.

    You have enormous empathy from me. The women I know who didn’t have kids because of their husbands have nearly unanimously regretted it, which is not to say that you will too; just to say, keep this conversation wide open, because feeling okay about it now does not mean you will feel okay about it as you come to the end of your childbearing years, and this needs to be negotiable.

    I have lots to say on this topic, but this isn’t the venue; feel free to contact me if you’d like. I’ll just say that when I went to see a therapist as I was struggling with a lot of marital issues (I want to have kids, but retrospectively I’m SO thankful I didn’t have kids with my now-ex), I left that first appointment FURIOUS because with just a couple well-placed questions she laid bare the painful fact that all my efforts to believe that I was fine with not having my own kids was just so much BS I’d been feeding myself. It wasn’t okay with me, it was a giant hole in everything I want out of life. Which may not be the same case for you.

    The fact that my then-husband had firmly shut the door on that possibility and wasn’t even a good father to his own kids was a big contributor to our eventual divorce. I’m just thankful that marriage broke before I got too old to have kids; I have many friends for whom that lack of children became their deepest and unfixable regret.

    Go forth, and love, and pursue all your dreams. Together if possible, and on your own if necessary. There are many possible soul mates in this world, although none of them are interchangeable or substitutionary, and I wish you all your heart desires. XO

  • http://irvingplace.net Kayjayoh

    I am finally joining a comment thread only *months* after it ended, rather than *years.* I feel this is a bit of an accomplishment. (I’m catching up to current.)

    I grew up always assuming I’d have kids, because that’s just what you do. Then I reached the point in my life where the first of my friends (as grown-ups, rather than the few who got pregnant in high school and disappeared from view) got pregnant, and it was a sobering experience. She had a difficult pregnancy, and it also highlighted for me the months and months of not having control over your body and not being able to do the things you used to do, eat and drink the way you did before…

    After that, the more pregnancy became a DO NOT WANT. For me. The more I knew, the more friends who had kids, the less it appealed to me. And then the idea of giving birth…oh good lord, no!

    Yet, I love kids. I would happily raise one form infancy to adulthood if one landed in my arms. I always thought about how I would raise my kids. I kind of figured that, at some point, I’d find a guy who wanted to have kids, and I’d be talked into it. (Adoption wasn’t an option I wanted to consider, either, for a host of personal reasons.) I was open to being talked into it.

    I’d also been an educator for Planned Parenthood. I know the stats and percentages and rates for pregnancy while using some method of birth control. (Several of the women around me who got pregnant did so while using some form of protection.) I started to decide that if it were “meant to be” I would get pregnant, even if I never went off birth control. I could leave it to fate! No regrets if it never happened, because it wasn’t meant to be.

    And then I met my current fiance. I learned *very* early on in our relationship, at the “I can walk away, no harm, no foul” point, that he really, really did not want kids. Not his own, not adopted, not fostered. He said it was his worst nightmare. I told him about my desire for kids that combined with a desire to not take the steps to have kids. (Well, aside from the sexing point.) It was strange. I’d basically been asking the universe for a sign, an answer, and then I meet this guy…

    We did talk about it specifically when I turned 34, and had been together for a few years. He mentioned getting a vasectomy. I asked him to hold off for one year. I was *not* going to do anything to sabotage, but I felt that I needed one more year with a 0.01% chance of pregnancy to really feel like I’d kept up my half of the bargain with the Universe for no regrets. He wasn’t excited by this, but all he had to do was no do anything about it for a year, so he said fine.

    Fast forward: we are now 37 and engaged to be married next year. He still doesn’t want kids. I still don’t want to be pregnant. (He still hasn’t gotten that vasectomy, though I have given it my blessing and endorsement.)

    Do I still wish I had kids? Yes. I wish I could be part of that experience…that I wasn’t so vehemently freaked out by the idea. But I am probably not going to change on that. He isn’t going to change, either. But I know this: it wasn’t meant to be. It’s pretty clear. However, I do get to be an amazing aunt for my nephew, who I have been helping my sister to raise and who I love as fiercely as if he had been my own. I get to be an auntie for all my friends’ kids, including my darling, goblin god-daughter and her older brother. My life isn’t devoid of children, just because they haven’t come out of me. And so while I may mourn the choice I did not make, I don’t regret not making it.

    And that, my friends, is a super-long comment for a months-old thread. :)

  • NC

    I have just recently discovered APW and I’m really enjoying reading through all the posts and comments. A lot of the discussions on this site speak directly to my internal dialogue and heart. This post in particular struck a cord. I have been with my boyfriend for 6 years (in February) and love him with everything in me. He is not an easy man to love and I have had my moments where I’ve questioned our relationship. But in the end, he helps me to be a better person, challenges me and supports me in everything I do. We are totally and completely committed to each other. But here is our situation. Within the first few months of our relationship, my bf told me that, due to a surgery he had as a toddler, he may not be able to have kids. That was a bit of a shock to me since I’ve always wanted kids…3 to be exact. He confessed a couple months later that he was not sure if he wanted kids at all. The relationship was so new and we were struggling with a long distance relationship, that it was more important to me to figure out if/how the relationship would work then to focus on the ‘kids’ issue. I was 22 at the time so it seemed like kids were so far off anyway. Our relationship bloomed and grew over the next 5 years. Last year, two of my bf’s close friends ended long term (4-5 year) relationships with women that definitely wanted kids, because these guys definitely did not.
    This sparked our own conversations. At no point did my bf ever say that he definitely didn’t/doesn’t want kids. He just doesn’t know. This has been a challenge for me as I’ve always wanted kids and struggle with the thought that one day his answer may be no. Like several other comments posted here I have made the decision that no matter what my relationship with him is worth more to me than the possibility (or not) of a future child. We talk often about kids, what we would name them, how we would raise them, what we would do in various situations, and why I want kids, and why he may not. The conversations are often hard but we work through them together. In the end, like someone else here has said, the child is with you for 18-22 years then you are alone with your partner. My relationship with my bf has to be number one.
    I struggle with his uncertainty but I know that we can work through anything together and that the ultimate decision to have kids or not will be made together; and that brings me comfort.