Ask Team Practical: Anxiety and Kids


He did, now he doesn't

by Liz Moorhead, Ask Team Practical

Ask Team Practical: Anxiety and Kids | A Practical Wedding

Q: Last November I married a wonderful man who struggles with grief and anxiety. His mother was killed in an accident when he was twelve, and in 2012, just after we got engaged, his father was diagnosed with lung cancer. Our engagement was a tough time because my husband struggled with the idea of getting married; he didn’t know if he’d be a good husband or if he could make me happy. I knew that life together would sometimes be difficult due to his struggles but that I could handle it.

I’m now thirty-four and ready to have a baby. Here’s the heart of the issue—my husband is no longer sure that he wants children. Again it comes back to him not being sure that he can deal with the pressure of having children and a family, both emotionally and financially. Since pressure and stress are the last things that people who have anxiety need, then the whole idea of having a baby is causing real issues between us, from our sex life disappearing to the strain of having emotionally draining discussions. I have been reassuring my husband that his fears are normal, that we will support each other and if we need help, we can always ask family and friends. He is confused and feels overwhelmed by the fact that there is a timeline to this decision.

I’ve realized in all this that having children is really important to me, and while we agreed we would have kids, now that it’s crunch time it might not happen. Selfishly, I feel robbed of an experience and don’t know what comes next. Sometimes I imagine myself walking away, then never having the opportunity for children and ending up alone. I love my husband, and while our relationship is sometimes hard work, is a baby worth throwing it all away?

Signed,

Tick tock goes the clock

A: Dear TTGC,

Not yet.

Well, clearly I can’t decide for you which is more important to you, husband or children. But I think you can do a little bit more before you’re forced to make that decision. Namely: counseling. (More on that here.)

That’s the pat answer when it comes to “Should we have kids?” isn’t it? But, I’m not even talking about the kids decision. In fact, set that aside completely right now (which, I know, can be hard with that clock ticking in your ear).

The bigger issue is this anxiety that’s so infiltrated your lives that it’s impacting the big life choices. That’s what you need to see someone about. These big decisions aren’t handled well when they’re addressed from a place of fear. Ideally, you want to make big plans by looking ahead and determining, “Here’s what I think I want for my life,” and then picking a path that seems likely to get you there. That’s completely different than looking ahead and saying, “I’m too afraid to see what happens if…” Find a professional to talk to about this anxiety so your husband can make decisions that first way rather than the second.

Maddie adds:

Your husband lost his mom at the same age that I lost my sister. It might have been a long time ago, but those wounds take a long time to heal. (Actually, they don’t ever really heal fully. You just learn to live with and manage the pain.) When you’ve had a tough childhood, people expect you to move on after a certain amount of time, so it becomes essential for the purpose of functioning in society that you mask that pain and pretend it’s not there any more. If you don’t take the time to face your issues as an adult, or if you bury them for long enough, it’s possible to even forget you have those issues, and then they end up manifesting later in life in places that are loosely related to the trauma you experienced as a kid.

My guess is that has a little, or a lot, to do with what’s happening here. If you had a kind of shitty childhood (which my guess, losing your mom at twelve is probably really shitty), the idea of having kids of your own brings up a lot of issues. What if you also abandon your kids? What if you just perpetuate the cycle and give your kids the same kind of shitty childhood you had? How can you bring children into this world when life is uncertain and cancer is a thing and you might just ruin their lives so why even bother?

Being someone who has similar anxieties, I can say that things get worse when change is right on the horizon rather than just being some dream in the far-off future. Your husband might still want children, while being simultaneously paralyzed with fear about what having children means (the potential for the utmost joy and the utmost heartache, in short). So Liz isn’t wrong. Counseling, counseling. In large part, because I think there is a lot more going on under the surface than you may even realize. And because if your husband is like me, the anxiety is probably the worst of it. This same cycle perpetuates in my own life any time I’m about to take a big emotional risk (getting married, getting a dog, moving away from home), but once I’m on the other side, I can’t imagine life any other way.

So give yourselves space to explore what’s going on inside his head and his heart. If for no other reason than because if he does decide he wants kids after all, for the sake of your children, you want these issues resolved before they’re in the picture, or they’ll end up bearing the burden of his childhood too.

Meg also adds:

As someone who had similar anxiety issues around kids as your husband (and as Maddie), the best thing David did for me was to remove as much pressure as possible. While he really wanted kids and knew there was a timeline in play, he told me that he was in it for life, even if I decided I couldn’t go through with it. You might not be able to go that far, but the more pressure you can take off the better. Perhaps counterintuitively, it was knowing that I didn’t HAVE to have kids to save my marriage that made me able to make the move. Without that, anxiety would have frozen me, or I would have made the right choice for the wrong reason.

There’s a possibility that, even still, he won’t want kids, and you’ll need to choose between this person you love and the family you envisioned. But chasing down the life you want for yourself always involves a bit of a riskthat goes for you as much as your husband.

Team Practical, how do you and your partner face these big decisions (and the sometimes accompanying anxiety)?

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!

Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her son.

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  • Rogue Wife

    I have no answers to offer because I too am struggling with deep anxiety about having kids (husband wants them, I’m petrified at the thought). I want to want kids. I don’t. The physical process hits every anxiety trigger I have, and then afterwards you give up your life on the alter of the infant (or at least, in my mind, you should be ready to do that). I love my life without kids. I love my husband and want him to be happy. I’m not sure I can be happy and have a kid, and it’s not like you can take a gamble and cross your fingers. There’s no return policy on those suckers. I’m trying to see if time will change things and I hope it will. Maybe one day I’ll wake up and think, “Gee, I want to have a kid today.” Pray for me ladies, because that would be really nice.

    • Guest4this

      Same. Same X 100000000. Pregnancy looks horrible. Infants are cute, but I don’t really go gaga over them. For most of my teens, twenties, and early 30s, kids were entirely off the table for me.

      But husband wants kids (plural).
      And I like kids older than ~9 months.
      And I’d be GREAT with fussy teen girls.
      And I’m almost 36.

      I’m still anxious/terrified/nauseated about parenting, but we’re moving forward. He knows I’m scared and has struggled with anxiety himself, so he understands it’s not a condemnation of him or us (or the future kids), but a generalized fear of the unknown.

      I think it links back to my mom being one of those lifetime MOMS, if you know what I mean. She’s kind and gentle and nurturing and wonderful with children of all ages. I had a great childhood, but can’t envision being a SAHP like she was. I idealize her way of doing things, but it’s hard for me to imagine ME being like HER as parent.

      I don’t know if that’s helpful at all. Just know that you aren’t alone in the fear echoplex.

      • http://www.emilyaltphotography.com/ emily alt

        Right there with you guys. No desire ever, ever, ever to have children (I’m also a high school English teacher, so I feel I have 150 of my own who go home after 8 hours and I never have to wipe their noses…well, almost never). I’ve never wanted one and I always thought there was something wrong with me as a woman because I never had the desire…it was only recently that I started to actually think that maybe I have it all figured out. I also am reading Two is Enough, which is a HUGE supportive read and I highly recommend it (I also caught my husband reading it last night and he was loving it!)

        Luckily, my husband is even more kid shy than I am. The only real issue we have is having to constantly (read 3-4 times a week) explain to anyone and everyone that we probably aren’t going to have kids ever and that’s just fine with us thank you very much (please stop asking seriously why is it even your business oh wait it’s not but in West Michigan everyone thinks it is as well as what church we go to). I’m not 100% sure on where our mutual desire not to birth children comes from–probably fairly weird childhoods, fears of abandonment, not quite feeling old enough to do so, not wanting to lose our regular lives we have now, etc, etc.

        Either way, I am sending you a virtual fist bump of solidarity–sometimes kids makes sense and sometimes it doesn’t–and no matter how many times you make that decision, I think there will always be a little nagging voice asking “What if…?” Xoxo.

      • Rogue Wife

        That really helps actually. My mom was the same way – amazing, sacrificed every second of her day for me. It’s a high standard to live up to, and I like having the luxury to be a little selfish. But I see the harm that selfish parenting does to other children (my half sister from my father’s second marriage is severely depressed and in therapy thanks to selfish parenting). I keep wondering if the anxiety part, the fear part, the Eww-that’s-gross-what-insane-person-would-want-to-do-that-to-themselves hysteria part, were gone, if maybe then I could work into the rest of it. Knowing I’m not alone in those fears is incredibly valuable, and I thank you.

        • Guest4this

          Something that does help me here is remembering that there’s big giant Grand Canyon sized gulf between “our Moms” and “being a shitty parent.” My mom was awesome, but her kids are both pretty damn selfish, after all ;)

        • Glen

          There’s a huge difference between not wanting to be a SAHP or needing some “me” time and being a shitty parent. I don’t think my choices to incorporate both of those things in my life make me “selfish” or a shitty parent.

          As for Guest4this’s specific fears, I was there too. I’m a very anxious person, moderated somewhat by years of counseling. What it all ended up being like for me: Pregnancy was not my favorite time of life (and I had a relatively easy pregnancy). My daughter’s birth was a medically-necessary c-section (she was breech, and didn’t turn or drop), so I didn’t really experience labor or a vaginal birth. Infant care was overwhelming, and thank goodness my husband was (and still is) an equal partner in all of that. I think I survived those first few months by using Meg’s (?) mantra of “this too shall pass”. So far, it’s been beyond worth it. My daughter is freaking amazing, and I’m so glad I took that leap of faith, as terrifying as it was on the other side.

        • Meg Keene

          Yeah. I gotta step in and say that the difference between giving up everything for your kid and being totally selfish and ruining your kid is like… a universe lives in between there. And you get to decide what parent you are, you really do.

          I’m selfish sometimes, not because I’m giving into something that I think is bad, but because I think it’s HUGELY important that I take time to put myself first. That’s what makes me a good mom, and wife, and self.

          Also, the fact that I work (which is great for me) and he goes to school (which is great for him) means our relationship is really… great. We’re so overjoyed to be together when we’re together, and we’re doing the right thing for OUR relationship, not some outside idealized relationship.

          • Bets

            I think it’s extremely important to be an independent human being beyond the role of a parent. My mom tells me that she sacrificed everything for me, and that comes with a LOT of guilt in our relationship as adults. For years she didn’t nurture any of her interests outside of being a mom, so she’s very dependent on me now. Although we’re close, I’ve never seen her be anything other than a parent so I feel like she can’t relate to my life right now (career-building etc.), and that we won’t have much in common until I’m a mom myself.

            I would want my own children to see me being myself and doing things that I’m passionate about.

          • anonforthis

            This is just one aspect of what I worry about. I have spent a lot of time living for others and in just the last year tried to rekindle my sense of self and creativity. But now that I’m pregnant, I have no energy for that, I have no energy for anything, and I worry that by choosing this, I have given up everything that I have worked for, that I have given up everything for this baby. And maybe loving a baby is good enough, but it’s not a very good example.

            I want to believe that I have the strength to be “selfish” in the way that Meg is, to take care of myself first to better take care of my baby, my family, but I’ve spent my life just scraping by, doing anything to keep myself above water, giving up my creativity to be what others expect of me. With a family, and the additional financial and time burdens of a family, what time will be left for me?

            I spent the last year working part time while trying to find a better job, a more true to myself job, and I finally get at least full time, just when I find out I’m pregnant. Now all I want is to have a little extra time to myself if only to hurl in private and take a nap, but I’ve been told no. Now that I’m pregnant, I can’t even look for another job, one that might give me more time, who would hire me? I don’t even have the energy to look.

          • Bets

            I definitely hear ya. I spend a lot of time worrying about everything you’ve described, and I’m not even married or pregnant yet. But I do find myself making my career plans around my timeline for having a baby, well aware that things may not go according to plan. I think it’s really hard to escape the cultural narrative of career/independence vs. mom.

            *hugs*

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            Thank you for clarifying this: selfishness in and of itself is not bad. Sometimes selfishness is bad, sometimes it’s good.

      • Meg Keene

        The pregnancy thing is only 9 months. Even if it sucks with every fiber of your being (mine). The baby thing is short. In all it’s wonderfulness and horribleness, it’s short. The mom gig though, that’s forever. So assuming you’re into the rest of it, you get through the first part of it. (And frankly, literally almost ALL of my favorite parents were the dubious ones or the accidental ones. They love their kids, but their lives are not their kids alone, and they are still them.)

        And you know what? You’re not a parent like your parent. Not that it doesn’t sometimes take a lot of therapy to get there, but you’re just not. You’re you. With a new human. And that relationship shapes the parent you become.

        • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com/ Basketcase

          Definitely agree.
          My mother worked full-time from when I was really little, and I had a nanny (her best friend). I thought this was the norm, but it turns out it was really rare, because childcare just wasn’t so available when I was little – certainly there weren’t daycare centres like we have now. My friends parents spent their days going to tupperware parties, volunteering at kindy and the like. They all went back to work when the kids were at school, and my shift-working parents wound up being the ones who attended everything.
          And all of this? I have only just realised.
          Myself, I’m a SAHM at the moment. And its not something I’m enjoying – its hard work, and socially isolating, now that most of my mum-friends are going back to work. I’m off to uni next semester for some grad study, and I cant wait.
          Anyway, that was a lot of covering other topics…

          I hated pregnancy. It was hard. I was devastated by it. And the first few months of LJs life were dominated by post-partum depression (which is a wonderful form of hell on earth). But now he is 1, he is in daycare 2 days a week, and we are getting along pretty well all told. I was doubtful about having kids too, and those 18 months I spent a lot of time telling myself “I told you so”. But its settled now, and I’m ok. I’ve got through that and now I’m having fun :)

    • Mama-to-be

      I 100% didn’t want kids for the longest time. And then, one day, I kinda did. Only just a little bit, but it grew over time, from “definitely not” to “maybe, I think I could be happy either way” to “yeah, someday” to, eventually but in an all-of-a-sudden-I-woke-up-and-it-was-different way, “yay babies!!! let’s have them NOW.” That’s certainly not to say it’ll be that way for you, just that it’s possible for us to change (completely) our wants/opinions over time.

      • anonforthis

        I’m 37 and for the first 30 years I DID NOT WANT KIDS. And then I eased up a bit and thought, sure, someday. And then I got married at 33 and thought, someday. And as each year ticks by it got a little more urgent, more because I have limited time to do it, not because I ever felt ready. I am now 10 weeks pregnant and I am still not really ready. And so far, being pregnant sucks ass. I have more anxiety now than I ever had. Despite all the stress I feel, my husband is very excited and totally on board. I’m sure it’s because of the symptoms of the pregnancy that I feel worse than ever and that I have now already given up my whole life to be a vessel for this child and then to be it’s feeder and provider. I assume that I will love it when it comes out because I’m generally a compassionate, patient, motherly person, but right now it’s just a parasite that has completely drained my energy, my creativity, my hope for life.
        I just keep trying to think of the Dear Sugar article on choosing whether to have kids, and trusting that I will have this kid and won’t ever look back. I’m crossing my fingers.

        • ElisabethJoanne

          Thank you for your honesty.

        • Dacia E.

          Ditto what ElisabethJoanne said – thank you.You describe how I feel perfectly. I’m saying “someday” to my partner, but I internally vacillate between “maybe it would be fun” and “oh god no, NEVER.” And a significant part of me is worried that I’ll get pregnant still feeling like this, and that it won’t go away after the baby is born.

        • Jess

          THANK YOU. I really appreciate hearing sides of the coin that are something other than, “I decided to do this because I changed my mind and it’s amazing” It’s good to hear that you can decide to have kids and still be anxious, still be concerned, and still doubt that it was the right call.

        • anonforthistoo

          Seriously. Yes. Thank you for your honesty. I sincerely hope that it stops sucking soon—and if it doesn’t, I would like to throw out there into the universe that just because pregnancy sucks (or, this particular one, at this particular moment in time) does not mean that you are any less the awesome you that you were pre-pregnant.

          Also of note: Pregnancy can sometimes exacerbate anxiety symptoms in we anxious souls (for an awesome perspective on this, get thee to Amy Storch’s blog, at http://www.amalah.com, and http://alphamom.com/pregnancy/baby-products/week-twenty-three/ , also authored by Amy, who is my spirit animal). Being pregnant can be mind-bending and hard (physically and mentally and chemically and socially). If your anxiety starts to feel scary and unmanageable, it is 100% appropriate to get yourself into a doctor’s or therapist’s office and demand that they help fix it, just like you would if you weren’t pregnant. (Maybe you already have! Or, maybe you’ve decided you don’t need to. In which case: PSA for the rest of the world.)

          For realz, though, I’m sorry things are all mergley and anxiety-provoking right now. I hope, soon, that they improve.

      • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com/ Basketcase

        I never quite got to “I want them NOW”, but I sure know the rest of those feelings!

    • NB

      “The physical process hits every anxiety trigger I have, and then afterwards you give up your life on the alter of the infant (or at least, in my mind, you should be ready to do that). I love my life without kids.”

      DUDE. THIS. The physical process, the emotional process, the what-if-I’m-not-still-me, the immutable impending changey-ness of it all, how uncomfortably public the process of bringing a child into the world seems to be. Etc. These things have sent me on hysterical, anxiety-ridden crying jags, because: my life without kids is awesome. My partner is awesome. Those things all look significantly un-awesome.

      But also, fwiw: I eventually decided that I did want kids. And, it turned out that I got that…a little sooner than I was 100% prepared for, and will shortly have a real, live kid around the house. And, with the caveat that everyone’s experience is different, I’d like to offer the reassurance: Pregnancy thus far has not been the life-altering experience of otherness and anxiety and freakish body morphing that I had expected. I’m just…me, pregnant. My partner is still my partner. We’re slowly sorting this weirdness out together (read: discovered a jar of peanut butter that will expire a month after our due date in the cabinet this morning, looked at each other and said: Oh, shit. We’ve probably got to start figuring this parenting thing out, huh?).
      I’m still pretty damn freaked out about what happens tomorrow, and the tomorrows after that. And, I think that anxiety is totally valid (as is yours!). But, in the event that you decide that you want to dip a toe in the having-kids-pool, I wanted to wave a friendly hello from a like-minded spirit out here. No sharks so far! The margaritas kind of suck, but it hasn’t been as scary as advertised! (Other experiences may differ). So, I’m not exactly cheerleading for the experience out here, but I did want to offer: even for we anxious souls, it doesn’t always turn out to be awful. (So far. Keep your fingers crossed for me, yes?).

      • KC

        I love peanut butter expiration date epiphanies. That’s hilarious. :-)

        • AB

          I am having similar “peanut butter expiration date epiphanies” except about getting married instead of giving birth. I try not to think about everything as “before wedding” and “after wedding” because we know life will pretty much be the same after the wedding as before, just we will be married. That is not really the case with having a baby though I guess.

          • ElisabethJoanne

            I have a combination of the 2. That is, I’m finding things in my freezer and cupboards from before I even met my husband.

            Hmm, maybe we should mark all the cans we move this fall, and then, after we’ve been there a year, toss/donate anything with a mark.

          • NB

            Yes. Wise. I am embarrassed to say that we moved 2300 miles, three years and two apartments ago, and I just found a store-brand box of mac & cheese that is only sold in a local grocery back at home. It’s a remnant of the starving student phase? I really have no idea how it made it this long, but I almost feel like we should save it as a memento. Plucky little traveling box of dry goods.

            (I promise we aren’t scarfing expired products, guys—just discovering them in the cabinets and wondering about them).

          • Amy March

            Maybe just don’t move any cans! If they don’t get eaten between now and fall they can find a new home.

      • Meg Keene

        And all that said. My pregnancy was a life-altering experience of otherness and anxiety and freakish body morphing, plus awful other shit. No way around it, it was the worst. More than balanced out but SHITTT.

        Having a kid is great though. It just is what it is. Your life, with a little person that you love and less sleep (for now). It really TRULY is what you make it, plus another human that you love, who changes things, but in a great way.

        • NB

          I really wish that you hadn’t had to have such a sucky experience, because I wouldn’t wish that awfulness on anyone, but: I’m awfully glad that you, Meg (and others!) are so willing to be upfront when plays out like that. There’s so much social pressure to embrace pregnancy as this magical-time-of-being-a-lady, and maybe it is for some people. It is not for me. Kind of like the experience of being engaged and planning a wedding is all sweetness and light for some people. Who are also not me.

          My experience has not been terrible, and I’m feeling really lucky about that so far (there’s still time!). Still, anything where even the “easy” experiences include symptoms include constipation, nausea, skin tags, repeated kicks to the ribs, and a miscellany of other strange indignities, followed by birth, oh-holy-shit: Yeah, I think it’s pretty normal to give that experience a giant side-eye. Even on the really good days.

          What I’m trying to say is: Pregnancy is a weird beast, and it eases my anxiety about what is to come to hear from people who’ve had a range of experiences with it. It was awful for Jane! It was fine for Jill! Kate loved being pregnant, found her newborn terrifying and weird at first! …and none of that is a reflection of who they are as women, or parents, or really much that any of them could have controlled or known when they got on that train for the first time. Which, you know, is helpful to remember when the shitty parts do come: pregnancy is not who I am—it’s an experience that I’m going through. It can be painful and shitty or wonderful and glowy or weird and embarrassing, possibly all in one day, and sometimes your only option is to just keep on rolling along and keep your fingers crossed that the worst bits pass you by.

          But, when the worst bits lurk, either in reality or in your mind, it’s also really, really, good to hear from someone who’s been through to the other side and can confirm that yep, you survived, and having a kid is pretty awesome. So, thanks, Meg & others, for (once again!) being our online big sisters about this whole “having a kid” deal.

    • lady brett

      whew, yes. having come through that to having kids now, i have a few thoughts:

      the physical process of pregnancy was a 100% deal-breaker for me. once i got through (or over/around) all the other anxieties and issues, that’s where i landed: “i think i can handle us having kids, but me being pregnant is so off the table that i have physical difficulty talking about it, and i really don’t know if i can emotionally handle you being pregnant, but it’s your body, so we can discuss it if it’s really important”. we talked adoption, we decided on fostering. clearly not right for everyone, but know that if you need to you can discuss having kids without pregnancy.

      the thing about “the altar of the infant” is that kids grow up, things change. this is something i didn’t really learn ’till after we took the plunge, but if having an infant sucks (the life out of you) – hey, they’ll only be an infant for about a year! of course, other ages have other difficulties (i’ve found toddlers to be much more detrimental to my social life than a baby, but much more enjoyable also), so that’s not a cure-all for kid anxiety, just a reminder – because when folks start talking about having a baby, it’s really easy to get so caught up in the idea of, well, having a baby, that you forget that those things you’re worrying about are only the beginning (in both good and bad ways) and later they’ll be a kid (and then an adult. that part still freaks me out a lot).

      anyhow, all the best. i don’t think there’s any solidly good way to deal with such hard decisions. and the farthest down that path i ever got was “gee, i think i’ll be okay if we have a kid today.” (plus, we foster, so there’s totally a return policy…’till there’s not).

      • Katherine

        I have always wanted kids, but I also was VERY worried about the prospect of physically being pregnant. I have health issues that manifest themselves in ways that are almost identical to typical pregnancy symptoms, and I assumed that pregnancy would just make my everyday existence worse. I’m currently 5.5 months pregnant, and it’s been so much better than I expected. Not actually enjoyable, but either I’m really lucky pregnancy-wise, or my extensive experience dealing with similar symptoms meant that I was well-prepared to deal with them during pregnancy.

        I guess my point is that it’s impossible to know how you (or your body) or your spouse will actually react when the change comes, whether it’s pregnancy, child raising, or marriage itself. That undoubtedly increases anxiety for the anxiety-prone, but it may also be helpful to realize that the actual experience is sometimes (not always) better than we imagine.

      • Aubry

        See, the issue for me isn’t the baby part, it’s the child part. Pregnancy is also high on the list of “NO THANK YOU” right now.

        Babies are babies, sure they demand your attention but then they grow and start sleeping and your friends all want you to bring them over anyway. But then there are kids. Like, 3 – 9ish scares the daylights out of me.Temper tantrums everywhere, nothing but kid related TV, outings, activities, etc etc just isn’t my bag. Plus the whole looming fear that you are secretly raising a sociopath or destroying some poor human their sanity with your parenting screw ups. Of what if you have a disabled child? I’m almost guaranteed one with ADHD (highly genetically inheritable) which adds another can of worms.

        I also am a dance teacher, and I really have a hard time connecting with young children. 10 and over is super, I am good at that. Teenagers? come at me, I’ve seen it all! But that young child age is just so scary. I have 200 semi-children, why do I need any more!?

        The issue is that I think that C and I would actually make great parents. He has a daughter already and she is totally awesome (and has ADHD, maybe debunking that. But I didn’t know her under 10). We would also make some very tall beautiful kids. Maybe adoption could cure some of the body fears and fears of inheritable conditions and many genetic disabilities that can be detected in utero. However it can be expensive, take a long time and can be potentially heartbreaking. And I would feel as if I was stealing a baby/child from a potentially infertile or same-sex couple who wasn’t able to go the “traditional route.” Ag the feels!

        • Meg Keene

          Erm. Kids 3-9 do not have to involve nothing but kid related TV, outings, and activities. That’s the delicious part about being the parent. You’re the adult, and you make decisions about how you want your lives together to look.

        • lizperk23

          Totally understand about feeling like you can connect with 10 and ups, but harder with the younger set. as someone who hires teaching artists for drama programs, I always ask about preferred ages (and sometimes an artist’s preferences change from year to year). But I think it’s quite different when you are one-on-one with a kid, vs. wrangling 10 or 20 at a time.

          My brother always wanted kids, but wasn’t one who spent that much time with really little ones. I knew he’d be an awesome dad, when they were bigger and reading, playing soccer, doing math and playing piano. but watching him navigate his kids as infants and now toddlers has been amazing. I guess I share that because – just because someone doesn’t have a lot of experience with kid-at-certain-age (or even like kids-of-certain-age) – doesn’t mean they can’t and won’t rock it out parenting a kid through that age, in a way that makes sense for them. I think it is different when it’s your kid, because you get to figure out what life looks like. (like Meg said)

          • Bets

            I taught art, and I loved working with the 9+ group but wanted to cry if I had to be in a roomful of kindergarteners. At family gatherings I tend to keep a safe distance from my boyfriend’s many tiny nephews and nieces.

            The thing is, I think it IS different one-on-one. My best friend had a baby last year, and all of her stories about what her baby’s up to – pulling himself up, dancing, his vocabulary of big words – actually makes me think that parenting a little one is something I’d be interested in. I guess there’s a difference between meeting someone else’s babbling four-year-old, and actually getting to know your own kid and watching how their personality develops day by day.

      • Meg Keene

        My motto is “this too shall pass.” And fast too.

        Every phase has HUGE drawbacks and HUGE joys, and just like that it’s GONE. That’s what powers me through the weeks he thinks 4am is a wakeup time, say. It’s living hell, but other parts are heaven on earth, and next week we’ll be on to something else.

      • Kayjayoh

        This is/was me. I always knew I’d be great with kids and would love having them, but I was always dreading the idea of *having* them. And with every friend who went through a pregnancy, the less I wanted it. But I figured that someday I’d meet a guy who wanted a family and would convince me to do it (and/or my birth control would be less than perfect and I’d have to make a choice).

        And then I fell in love with a guy who 100% did not want to have kids ever. Not born, not adopted, not fostered. And then I realized that I was in my late thirties and had never had a pregnancy scare even once. Ever. And so I relaxed a bit and figured that it was ok.

        Sure I’d probably be a great mom if it came to it, but I’m also a kick-ass aunt and auntie and godmother to the children of my family and friends. My life is *full* of children to love and help raise and parents who I can help keep sane and balanced. And that’s good, too. :)

    • CH

      I told my husband before we got married that he will probably have to someday push me into baby-making, because I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready. He 100% knows he wants to be a parent. I am willing to be a parent with him. But would I want it if I wasn’t with him, or if I was with a partner who didn’t, or if I was single? I doubt it.

      I do *like* kids, and I’m slowly starting to see that it’s possible a kid could fit into our lives…but honestly, I don’t know that I’ll ever be “ready” to pull the trigger. We agreed to revisit on our first anniversary, and we just got married, so I have a cushion but…damn, the idea of *actually trying* to get pregnant kind of makes me want to hurl.

      • ElisabethJoanne

        For everyone who feels like the kids/no kids decision is years down the line, it’s important to recognize that there’s a difference between the question in the abstract and the question in the particular. It’s one thing for a single woman to ask, “Do I ever want to be a mother?” and for a married woman to ask, “Do I want to become a parent with my spouse?”

      • Gina

        Oh god, I feel ya. There seems to be such a huge divide between “yeah, I can see that someday” and “time to toss out the birth control!” I’m in the first stage but can’t imagine how I’m going to get to the second stage.

      • Acres_Wild

        Right there with you! Especially “I am willing to be a parent with him” – exactly how I feel. I was 100% against being a parent for a long time, when I was with a different partner who would not have made a good parent. But now, I’m getting used to the idea. It feels like something I shouldn’t be wishy-washy about, but here we are.

        It’s so reassuring to hear that other people are at this place too, and that we will probably someday have kids without ever feeling totally ready for it, and that it’s ok.

      • flyingOlive

        I spent many years on the “someday but not today train” and honestly when it switched… it just switched. I woke up one day (about a year ago) and was like, yup, any time now. My partner has taken the last year to kind of process that but he’s ready to start giving it a whirl … I had some good friends as role models, but a lot of it I think is biological.

    • Bashfully

      I’m here to give you the friendly reminder that it’s 100% okay to not want kids. My husband and I came to terms with not really wanting kids before we got married (fwiw, it was during the Deep Horizon oil spill and pretty awful news about climate change, cost of university, etc.). For a long time, we planned to have kids until we realized that neither of us actually *wanted* them, it was just the thing you’re expected to do. In my experience, my friends who decided to have kids wanted it more than anything– even if realizing how much they wanted it happened as the process took over.

      For me, once I had the epiphany that I didn’t HAVE to pop out a kid, it was like “oh God this feels so much better.” Owning that I don’t/didn’t want kids has actually made it a lot easier. None of the hedging and “maybe one day” or “we’ll see” or “if it’s important to my husband.” Honestly, if it’d become a deal breaker for my husband I think our relationship would’ve ended. It’s been hard on my parents and his. My GOD do they want a grandchild (I suggest they should volunteer at childcare centers, it doesn’t go over well).

      Seriously, though, if you don’t want to do it. Don’t. Especially for women, there’s really no way to go half-in on having a kid.

  • Amy March

    So, he’s right. Kids are hard emotionally and financially. But have you explained to him that *not kids* is hard, emotionally, on you? Not in a pressure-you-must-decide way, but in a partners-share-their-truths way. He needs to know, as he works through this, that you’re also working through it, and that you don’t know if you can do life without kids. It’s not an ultimatum ( how could it be when you haven’t decided) but it is a factor he should know about.

    Carolyn Hax has written several columns of whether/when to have kids and dealing with uncertainty that might be a good jumping off point for discussion for both of you.

    • Anon

      I agree that explaining the struggle of *not kinds* is crucial. With the kids question specifically, the focus is usually on the spouse who isn’t ready and how difficult things are for them. That person is also granted all of the power in the relationship automatically in many cases. this leaves the ready partner trapped trying to not apply pressure while likely freaking out. The ready spouse is also facing major difficulties, especially in a case like this one, in which the couple had previously thought they had agreed to have children.

      More generally, the non-anxious spouse’s needs and perspective and emotions must be acknowledged consciously by both spouses. Yes, the anxious spouse has particular challenges. But being the spouse of an anxious spouse is also extremely difficult. The strain of accommodating the anxiety of the anxious spouse is not to be underestimated, especially when the anxiety is having such a fundamental impact on the couple’s life.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Also, the *not kids* issue can be one of gender privilege. I’ve never seen a church make as big a deal of Fathers Day as of Mothers Day, for example, and my husband hasn’t been cornered by strangers who press about when he’ll have kids, but I have.

      One of the great things about marriage is getting that other view of the world, and so I share these things with my husband, ’cause I think it makes him a better person.

    • Meg Keene

      Yeah. I really like this.

  • http://www.rachellerawlingsphotography.com/ Rachelle

    I think counseling is definitely the right path with this. As I read the question, I found myself wondering what it was that the husband is worried about more specifically – many people worry about the infant stage (no sleep, so dependent), the money, changes in your life, changes in your marriage, etc. I think it would be really beneficial for him to work through what things he is specifically worried about and then figure out together if those are things that can be overcome. This could all be about something much broader than having a baby and the baby is the just the thing he’s latched on to. It could be very specific concerns he has related to his past and your future. I don’t think it’s going to go away though, even if you don’t have children, without working through it.

  • macrain

    I am ready to start trying as soon as we get hitched. My fiance’s views on children have evolved and changed a lot- I think he probably just didn’t give it a ton of thought before it was really time to talk about it. At one point he told me “I could imagine a future without kids more than you could,” and not even a few months later he said, “Obviously if we can’t have our own kids, we’ll adopt.” I think Meg’s advice about giving your partner space is spot on, and it’s actually exactly what my therapist said when I had a meltdown about it to her. It has been difficult because the need to figure this stuff out (as in, I need to know when we will have kids NOW) was causing me a good deal of anxiety, but giving him space allowed him to figure out his feelings. I am still trying to give him space, even though his thoughts seem to be more sorted then they were before.
    This stuff is hard. It’s especially hard for women when you know you want kids and you can feel in your bones that now is the time. It’s hard to feel like wanting to give your partner space when you feel an urgency to get this done yesterday.
    Send you big, big hugs TTGC. Know that you are not alone.

    • Anon

      OP here- thank you macrain for your comments! I feel like taking myself off the marriage/children timeline is the best thing I can do for my own sanity as well as giving my husband and I space to figure out what’s right for both of us.

  • ElisabethJoanne

    I often wish I didn’t know so much about pregnancy, childbirth, and infertility. My mother’s an obstetrician; I’ve always been interested in her work; she also struggled with infertility when I was at an age to sort of understand. I have lots of second-hand experience of most aspects of baby-making, and it’s really hard to think about choosing to go through with that.

    My original plan was to use unreliable birth control. There’s a difference between an unplanned pregnancy and an unwanted pregnancy (or unwanted parenthood). But now we we’re dealing with delayed ejaculation and dyspareunia. We have to plan intercourse, let alone baby-making intercourse.

    I don’t really know where we go from here. I’m very much a planner and rule-follower. Babies are the next step after marriage. I have no idea what the next step is if we take babies off the table.

  • Mikala

    My husband and I are having similar conversations right now (I want kids, he may not). In a nutshell, he’s very afraid that I will no longer be “his” anymore and that kids will change us because he thinks that kids will be more important to me than him and our marriage (this is what happened with his parents). I have done a lot of soul searching and realized that before I can have kids with him, I need to be okay with not having kids with him. If you think about it, when you vow to love someone for better or worse, that should be “with or without children”. I need to know that I’m so secure in our relationship that no matter what, I will be happy. And he needs to feel that too. I don’t want to have kids if it means straining and possibly ending our marriage. Once he feels that, I think kids will most likely follow. If not, I know that I will be content and happy with just him.

    • MC

      This is really, really interesting to think about. Before my fiance and I got engaged, his mom recommended that we be absolutely on the same page regarding whether or not we have kids. The problem was, neither of us were 100% sure either way. He was leaning toward wanting kids, I was leaning toward not wanting kids, and we kind of said, “Well, our relationship is the most important thing, and we trust each other enough that we think we’ll figure it out.”

      But I know LOTS of people that would not marry someone who said they didn’t want kids, because it’s that important to them. Some of my married friends even talked about having kids in their VOWS. And with the OP, it sounds like since they had agreed on having a baby before getting married, it feels like a betrayal of their implicit or explicit vows to each other. And that is tough.

      • Anon

        That would be me… I ended an amazing relationship because I know him being a father was more important than him being my husband. Now we’re both happily married to other people. He has a child, and I have a husband who shares my values, lifestyle and desire not to have kids.

      • Meg Keene

        This is true. But we had decided that too, and then still had to work through coming to the place where we could not have kids together before we could make any decisions.

        Not that everyone can do that. But my point is, you can still do that even if you had a firm decision that suddenly became not firm.

    • Acres_Wild

      I have the same concerns as your husband, which is what’s holding me back. What if it causes my partner and I to grow apart? I don’t want kids to be the most important thing in our lives (or is that selfish? gah). My worst fear is having kids, having it cause a rift in our relationship, and resenting the kids for it. Would that actually happen, in the context of our actual relationship? Probably not. But I think we’re going to do some couples therapy and talk those issues out before we start trying for kids. I know it would make me feel better to go into it with a solid foundation and some strategies for making each other feel supported and grounded.

      • Violet

        Ugh, I feel you on the not wanting to grow apart thing. As far as it being selfish to keep your partner as the most important part of your life, I’m gonna offer a no on that one. It’s a relatively recent medical reality that kids survive at the rate they do. It’s great now, but before that, couples knew to brace themselves that the child may not make it. The offshoot was they tended to keep their partner first priority because it was just a more stable relationship. So this idea of putting your kids first is pretty new (according to Jessica Valenti et al.; I’m not an anthropologist!).

        My parents divorced. I wish like heck they had been each other’s number one. Kids weren’t why they grew apart (they were never really “together,” to be honest), but our family would still be in tact if they had been each other’s number one. It actually really grates on me when they say, “Well, the marriage was still worth it because we got you girls!” Yeah, and what did we get out of it? I mean, to me, effing up their marriage and getting to have us kids as their consolation prize is pretty selfish. (I love my parents to death by the way, but this is the lingering bitterness of a child of divorce you’re seeing here.)

        • Acres_Wild

          Thanks for your perspective! My parents aren’t divorced (although there was a time when they probably should have) and I’ve wondered what this issue would be like through that lens. Sorry you had to go through that, it sounds awful :(

    • Meg Keene

      YUP. We actually had to come to this place too, before we could move on.

      And you know what? I’m so glad we did. Because there are days now where the kid does come first in one or both of our hearts (much as we vowed that would never happen). So knowing that we decided we could not have kids together is pretty crucial for our foundation.

  • Dom

    I’m pretty sure that I want my future to be one with a family that includes children (and dogs and cats). My fiance never really has seen himself as being a father. But he knows how much it means to me to be a mother one day and in his words “he is resigned to the inevitable.”

    Now, I don’t know about you, but that someone is “resigned” to having kids is not the nicest thing to hear and doesn’t fill my heart with joy – because I want him to be happy to be a father. On the other hand, he doesn’t want me to feel like I’m missing something in my life and he is putting my happiness over his own.

    The compromise we’ve come to is that we will only have kids naturally. We wont monitor my dates or organize our lives around conception, and if we don’t end up with a pregnancy then that has to be okay with me and if we do then that has to be okay with him.

    • guest4this

      Fwiw, my brother was the same way. Enter my niece and he’s over the moon in love with her. Never seen him happier, more at ease, goofier, you name it.

    • Linzenberg

      My fiance and I are living this same situation, only with the roles reversed. He wants kids; I’m ambivalent at best. And, yes, your fiance’s words, that he’s “resigned to the inevitable,” echoes my feelings. One way I’ve turned my attitude around on this is that a child (I’ve talked him down to one) is not something I’m saddled with, but rather a gift I’m giving him. It makes me feel like I have a little more agency in the decision, and less like I’ll be “losing” and he’ll be “winning.”

      I like your compromise re: conception. I’ll have to remember it when we next revisit the conversation.

  • http://www.therewm.com/ Rachel W. Miller

    My question is…is the husband necessarily *wrong* in his anxiety? Because anxiety and depression IS often tough to manage, and now that he’s older, he could be coming to the realization that he really couldn’t/can’t handle the emotional or financial pressure of having a child. You said you’ve reassured him that you’ll support each other and that you can turn to family and friends, but does he feel confident in that? And if not, are there are specific reasons he doesn’t?

    Sometimes anxiety and fear is completely irrational but…sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s completely logical, or at least pretty reasonable. So I guess I’d encourage you to talk to him (perhaps within the safe space of therapy as suggested) about what his specific fears are and determine whether they are things that can be eased with specific solutions/compromises. And I think you also have to honestly consider the worst-case scenarios he’s envisioning and how you would both deal with those i.e. *can* he really handle the pressure of being a parent and *could* you really be OK if it turned out that his anxiety made him…not the kind of father/partner you want and expect him to be?

    • enfp

      I think this is good advice. My partner is dying to have kids, and he initially brushed off my anxieties and fears around having kids. Not surprisingly this made me feel more anxious. When my partner took my concerns seriously, and talked through the specific scenarios that I feared, and how we might cope with them, it helped ease my anxiety and reaffirmed that we’re a team. Which is not to say that talking things through will make the OP’s husband’s fears disappear, but just that the process of honestly working through his worst-case scenarios with him is important and valuable, whatever the outcome.

      • http://werewritingabook.com/ Breck

        Just feeling heard and that your feelings are valid can help so, so much.

      • V

        Yes, this, definitely. I have some usually mild anxiety/depression issues that have been exacerbated by recent life (since our wedding in summer of 2012, we’ve lost my brother, his mom, and our baby who was born 4 months early – asking “what’s the worst that could happen?” now makes me feel like breaking down). We were both on the fence about kids when we got married with him leaning more towards ‘yes’ and me leaning more towards ‘no’. A big part of the push that got me off the fence was honestly and respectfully discussing my biggest fears about pregnancy and child-raising and how specifically we would deal with it if those fears came true.

        Those fears are real, they have real consequences, and I wasn’t willing to jump into getting pregnant without talking through how exactly we would handle them. As it turned out, it was a very valuable discussion. One of my biggest fears was feeling that pregnancy might be physically difficult for me. It was. I spent a week on complete bed rest in the hospital and months during and after unable to do anything without assistance. Had my husband and I not had a real conversation about what would happen if I literally could not walk for months, that time would have been disastrous. Knowing that we had a real plan for how to deal with something like that made me willing to get pregnant in the first place and better able to handle a bad scenario when it did play out because I knew that my hubby and I were on the same page.

        We’re trying again right now and I’m almost less anxious about this time because I know that we’ve got a plan for every worst case scenario you could imagine. Sometimes, for those of us with anxiety, having a well thought out emergency response plan is just enough to take the pressure off of a scary decision.

        • Meg Keene

          Yeah. What’s the worst that can happen is pretty fucking awful with pregnancy and childbirth and adoption and all of it. It’s actually the very worst.

          I think maybe the question to ask with kids is “what’s the best that could happen?” Because the best is so good, even if it looks totally different than you expected.

          It’s just all THE VERY WORST and THE VERY BEST, parenting. Fuck.

          I’m so so sorry for your loss.

          • V

            No kidding. Since my anxiety triggers are losing control of my body and my space, getting real acknowledgement that those fears wouldn’t be ignored was important. Ultimately, though, it wouldn’t be worth it if there weren’t also a “best that could happen.”

          • Meg Keene

            Slow nodding over here.

            What I learned post pregnancy is that the amazing part doesn’t make the bad part go away. They somehow balance. But during my hell scape of a pregnancy it felt like people were really missing the boat when they said “don’t worry it will all be worth it.”I can’t put my finger on why that’s wrong, because on a logical level it’s right. But… the good doesn’t make the bad go away. The good is just way huger than the bad… as huge as the bad is.

      • Meg Keene

        Also, as I mentioned in the piece, you can’t move anxiety (particularly with an anxiety disorder) while under pressure.

    • Anon

      OP here- Rachel your point here is a great one and I think these questions are ones that my mind finds it hard to process properly because they are the really hard ones that makes us both have to face up to the problem and the need to try and find a solution/compromise that works.

    • Meg Keene

      As someone with pretty severe anxiety, these are my thoughts. Anxiety ISN’T actually the right way to make decisions. You can be anxious about something, and then once you’ve healed the anxiety, decide it’s still not something you want to do, and not the right decision to make. But when anxiety is making the decision, or screaming in your ear, you’re just not able to make the decision as yourself. So it’s not that having kids or not having kids might not be right (for this person or anyone with anxiety). It’s that you have to try to get to a place where you’re not making the decision because of anxiety. Because anxiety just isn’t truth. It’s mental illness. Which doesn’t mean that we be anxious about X and then decide X isn’t right for us. It’s that ANXIETY isn’t the truth.

      So, what I’m saying here is: we have to separate normal anxiety from the anxiety of those of us with anxiety disorders, because they’re actually pretty different animals.

      • Celesta Torok

        THIS.

      • http://www.therewm.com/ Rachel W. Miller

        Right but in this case his fears seem to be centered around his anxiety (the only thing to fear is fear itself?) so I’m saying that that might be a logical fear to have. As you said, his kind of anxiety is mental illness…so I think it’s fair for him to say “I’m worried about having kids because of how my mental illness might affect me as a parent” (which is how I read the OP). His general anxieties may not be the truth, but it may well be the truth that his mental illness (whether it’s logical or not) COULD prevent him from being the kind of parent he wants to be or that the LW wants him to be.

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      Hmm. I would tweak this a bit to ask how well does the husband manage his anxiety and does he think he can’t manage his anxiety coupled with a child? As opposed to is the anxiety itself wrong. I agree with Meg in that there is the mental health condition of anxiety which is beyond the normal and usual anxiety one would experience when faced with situations that generate stress or anxiety. Just like there are times when we feel down or blue and then there’s the clinical disorder of depression, which is very different. So with that framework in mind, my earlier question posed is a legitimate one. I am someone with a severe anxiety condition as well (GAD and panic disorder with agoraphobia) that is pretty well managed at the moment. But I am also extremely familiar with my condition and I know what I can and cannot handle. I know what’s going to exacerbate it and what isn’t. And sometimes I need treatment or a different kind of treatment and sometimes I don’t. So I would encourage the writer to encourage her husband to seek treatment so that he can feel like he is managing his anxiety better. And then he might feel more comfortable with making some of these huge life altering decisions that definitely can make anxiety disorder worse, depending on how well it is managed at the time.

  • Anon

    I have some questions, less about the kids-or-no-kids thing, and more about the anxiety thing. For those of you that either have anxiety or are close with someone who has anxiety, at what point do you say “Ok, you need to go into counseling.” Until I met my fiance, I had never known someone who has a real diagnosed anxiety disorder, and I really was not well prepared in the beginning to witness it or be anything helpful. He went through counseling, and was even medicated for a year or so, but that was probably 7ish years ago (before I knew him). Right now he has mostly good days, but they are interspersed with day when his anxiety is so high that it is difficult for him to function. Unsurprisingly, wedding planning didn’t make that any better! The bad days are really only like once every other month, but that’s been consistent over the last two years.

    I have gone back and forth between deciding that I would insist he go back to counseling or go back on medication, and deciding that it really isn’t a big deal and we can just deal with it. And I know, probably this is more of a question for an actual medical professional! But I know there are lots of people out there who have an idea of what is “normal anxiety” that you live with, and anxiety worth going back on medication for. I just don’t know where that line is because I’ve never dealt with it before this specific person.

    Thanks guys :)

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I might have untreated anxiety. My husband has thoroughly treated depression. He volunteers extensively for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (more on them in a bit) and has taken their free classes.

      Here’s how he handles me, based on his study and experience: You never “make” someone get treatment. Even ultimatums, which I think have their place in relationships, don’t work. Part of this is the nature of mental illness makes it all the harder to seek treatment, so it’s unfair to put that kind of pressure on the relationship. Part of this is that the diagnosis and treatment for mental illness is inexact. Say he gets me to a psychologist or psychiatrist, and it’s a bad fit. Then I’ll be all, “I did what you asked, and it only made things worse.” Even if he makes me commit to, say, 6 therapy sessions, there’s no guarantee we’ll be better off at the end, and it could lead to more resentment.

      What he does do is give me information and options. He tells me what appointments are like. He tells me how medications work. He explains the different kinds of mental healthcare professionals. He offers to find a provider who can work around my work schedule. He researches my specific concerns (could a record of mental illness affect my ability to get health insurance? impact renewal of my professional license?).

      I’d recommend finding a NAMI support group and/or a NAMI Family-to-Family and/or Basics class. It’ll give you information on what symptoms merit professional evaluation and how to encourage a family member to get evaluated. nami.org

    • allieem

      So, I just finally went to see someone after years of dealing with varying levels of anxiety/depression. After my last bad bout over the summer, my partner suggested I get help. I should have but I wasn’t ready to, but we made a promise if I got that bad again, I would. And so last month, when I had a horrible bout, we held me to that promise and I saw someone.

      I don’t think I’m in the right place to know what a “normal anxiety” is. All I know is that I let it fester for way too long, and I’m glad he was there to make sure I got help. If/when he decides to go back, find out how you can help make it easier. Sometimes, when you’re in the pit of it, even the simple things are overwhelming. Offer to do the dirty work of researching counselors that take his insurance, or drive him to the appt. if figuring out how to get there would be too much, or walk him into the building if he needs that accountability to show up. These are just examples, ymmv, but they’re things that may have gotten me in to see someone sooner.

    • Cee

      I had an enormous breakdown two years ago when my anxiety went through the roof, to the point where I sometimes asked that my partner come to my summer class with me (we’re both college instructors) so I wouldn’t worry she was dead. That was what I needed to get on meds, but I wish I’d done it earlier, when my bad days were less frequent. Looking back now, I realize that the things that I’d just assumed were normal, like waking up with a fast heartbeat, being sick and terrified before meetings, chest pain from anxiety, etc. etc. were not actually things that people dealt with on a regular basis. I think it helps to establish a baseline: it’s normal to be anxious before an interview, but is he anxious during everyday life? Does it seem to be situational or does it happen at random?

  • Chelsea

    My fiance and I initially shuddered at the idea of kids. But after a year of being together it’s something we can’t stop talking about but it still absolutely terrifies me. Is anyone ever truly ready to have a kid? Financially, emotionally, physically.. What if I’m ready at 28 but we don’t have stable jobs with insurance? I’m always torn between the timelessness of birth and the intense anxiety that goes along with it.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Physically, there are definitely better and worse times to have a baby. A doctor can explain the factors. But millions of healthy babies are born each year to mothers who were not in the ideal circumstances to have a baby.

      Financially, I’ve decided that “can afford it” has 0 objective meaning for anything with respect to anyone. We keep our grocery budget equivalent to SNAP for spiritual reasons, which means we “can’t afford” fish. But we’re putting a good bit of money away each month towards an emergency fund/new car/kids. “Can’t afford fish” is our own choice.

      In fact, we’re putting away the $15,000/year that the USDA says it costs middle-class parents to raise a kid in our area. Does that mean we “can afford” a baby? Well, we don’t have $15,000/year PLUS 15% of our pre-tax income for retirement, and “experts” say we should be saving that much.

      Meg’s attitude really resonates with me. It used to be that becoming a parent was just something that happened to you, and you dealt with it when it happened. (“She fell pregnant.”) You didn’t worry if you were ready for a baby any more than you worried if you were ready to fall in love or get in a car accident.

      • Violet

        I love how Brits say “fell pregnant.” It seems so… correct to me. (Not that it’s always the case, I know many couples have to try really hard, but still.)

        • Kayjayoh

          I was *just* talking to my fiance about that phrase yesterday. “Fell pregnant” and also “came up pregnant,” which is another thing I hear people say. Like it’s just something that happens: you just fall/come up pregnant. Like catching a cold.

          • Sarah E

            Reminds me of the Adem beliefs about pregnancy in “A Wise Man’s Fear” by Patrick Rothfuss. A woman just “ripened” in her time.

      • AnonToday

        As someone who was trying for a year and a half, did 3 rounds of IUI, took a break for one month, and got pregnant while on the 1 month break from IUI, sometimes I really feel like I “fell pregnant.” Though my fertility clinic called it a “spontaneous pregnancy.”

  • EF

    I feel like this related to things I’ve said on here before, but please don’t have kids when one partner doesn’t want them. The kid will know they aren’t wanted as they grow up, and it is a terrible, terrible feeling.

    There’s nothing wrong with wanting kids, or not wanting kids, but do think of the environment in which they will be raised.

  • beelitenotfab

    Both my fiance and me had epically shitty childhoods, and we’ve decided that to have kids. We decided that for a lot of reasons but there are two pertinant here. 1) We didn’t want to bring life into the world unless it under ideal circumstances because we didn’t want to continue to have children like our parents did, despite very serious problems. Fortunately we both had the education to think that through 2) We are both really tired. We had to raise our siblings and feel like after many decades of suffering that we just want to take naps. It is possible that your husband doesn’t feel like he can be the best father he can be and it is also possibly that he feels like having kids is going to be painfully stressful for him.

  • Penny7b

    If it helps, my father also suffers from severe anxiety and has done all my life. While it is definitely something I have noticed, it has not stopped him being a seriously awesome father. Like, saved me from my abusive mother and raised my sister and I as a single parent level of awesome. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it might help your husband to know that it is possible to raise children, and raise them well, with anxiety – if that’s something he wants to do.

    • Anon

      OP here- that’s really great to know Penny7b. My husband has such a gentle, calm soul and I’ve seen him around his nieces so I can see that with time and space to work through the anxiety, he would be a great father.

  • Holly S

    This is maybe slightly off topic – but to take some anxiety off of the “35 is the age when I MUST have a baby” angle – I read an article in The Atlantic called “How Long Can You Wait to Have a Baby” a little while ago saying, among other things, “The widely cited statistic that one in three women ages 35 to 39 will not be pregnant after a year of trying, for instance, is based on an article published in 2004 in the journal Human Reproduction. Rarely mentioned is the source of the data: French birth records from 1670 to 1830. The chance of remaining childless—30 percent—was also calculated based on historical populations. In other words, millions of women are being told when to get pregnant based on statistics from a time before electricity, antibiotics, or fertility treatment.”

    Regarding the letter writer’s actual concerns, I agree, definitely yes counseling, and if you want to have a baby sooner rather than later for your own reasons, then there is a time crunch. But I guess I think that this message that I believe a lot of us have picked up on of “If you want a kid, you have to get knocked up by 35 or you’re SCREWED. Have a baby NOW NOW NOW!” – might be overstated or at least not fully researched. Maybe looking into this angle can help take some of the stress off both you and your husband while you work things out together?

    I know I personally want to research this issue more rather than just relying on stuff I’ve come across on the internet, but since I think that’s where I got the “baby by 35 or you’re probably screwed” info. in the first place, I personally am kind of leaning toward the slightly less fear-mongering perspective for now.

    • Anon

      OP here- Thanks for this idea, I actually saw an article the other day about women being able to have children naturally until the age of 40. So biologically, there’s time which is great because now we can focus on the counseling and the deeper emotions at play.

    • Hannah B

      My grandmother had 8 kids and 3 of them after 35. It just varies!

  • a puzzled pixing

    THANK YOU TO EVERYONE ON HERE EXPRESSING MIXED FEELINGS ABOUT KIDS!! No, I really mean it! Ever since I was able to produce children, my mother has been on my back about having a child. If you would have asked me when I was in my 20s, I kind of expected that I would have kids, saw myself as a mom with a family and the whole nine yards (of course, I saw myself with a job I loved and that I made a difference in, and a shadowy husband figure (I never really dated a lot)). Fast forward to recent times, I am now 31, I still have a job that is not what I envisioned, I just got married last October, and my husband has two daughters of his own from his previous marraige (ages 9 and 12). His daughters are great, we have a good relationship, they are coming over next week and will be staying with us for the next 6 weeks, I remember last summer, I couldn’t wait for them to go back home (yes, I am completly aware of how entirely shitty that sounds, and it’s not that I don’t love or like them, I do, just in small doses). Neither could my husband really for that matter, we missed our us time, our ability to do what ever the hell we wanted when we wanted with out having to worry about little people. We have talked about the kids issue, I thought we were both on the fence about it pretty equally, we both like our us time, we like sleeping in in the mornings we are off, and staying up late if we don’t have to work the next day, we like not having to have our lives dictated by the needs of little people, we like our freedom, the ability to ride our motorcyle when ever the hell we want to go to the winery (or where ever).
    At least I thought we were equally on the fence, we had been discussing the kids issue, and my husband said that he would like for us to have a kid, a little us running around terrorizing everyone. Wait, what? After some discussion, we realized that while we like us as we are, many of our reasons for not wanting kids are purely selfish. Soooo… yeah. I stopped taking my birth control this week. I’m terrified. I’m afraid I won’t be me any more. I’m afraid fo losing my self (I already feel like getting married may have changed that a little, I guess I’m still coming to terms with things… My favorite question, “So, how does it feel to be married?” “Um, doesn’t really feel any different…”). Plain and simple, the entirety of pregnancy scares the hell out of me. From carrying, to delivering, to raising. I had a very mixed child hood, I feel like I have all of the great what not to dos in my head, but what if I am just not enough. I am afraid that I will stop ceasing to be me and doing the things I enjoy, that my husband and I will be different somehow (even though we are in it together). I’m afraid that the child will be a soul sucking parasite that will slowly drain me of, me. Is this realistic, probably not, but it’s what’s in my mind. I know that I will love our child, but the fear of what if I screw it all up and what if I cease to be me (I still have things I want to do, I still want to figure out what that awesome life changing job is, I want to travel, learn, explore etc…).
    Please don’t judge me too harshly. I think I may have missed something in the female school. I am not a wicked step-mother, I promise (I do actually love them and like having them around)! I am not against kids, they’re great (especially when you can give them back!), I just have very mixed feelings about kids now that I am older and am enjoying life with a husband by my side.
    So, here’s to my first week in taking a step for the kids team. Wish me luck, or at least keep providing articles and discussions that don’t make me feel like an alien for being on the fence about kids and that help to reassure that you can still be you in the new identity of mother hood. And here’s to all of our expired reminders that life is moving on, even when maybe we aren’t ready for it.

    • a puzzled pixing

      and for the record, our biggest complaint about his daughters is that they are being raised completly differently than how we would choose to raise them, and how we want to raise our little one. Their mum is a bit, money hungry and materialistic, where as we are not. at all. we want to raise our little one (if it happens) to play out side, go with the flow, not be afraid of what’s out there, not live so regimented or defined by what you have. so, that is probably where we feel some stress and strain on the kids issue too. given the chance to raise our own in a way that reflects us and our lives, value and morals, i suspect i will have a different view towards kids as well.
      To the person in the article above, there is not an easy answer and I’m sorry for what you are going through. It has to be tough, but hang in there. You have support and friends here. I think there are some really great people on here that may be able to help you find the answer you are searching for.

      • H

        I’m SURE you didn’t mean this, but “our biggest complaint about his daughters is that they are being raised completly differently than how we would choose to raise them” sounds kind of harsh. They’re 9 and 12. I just hope you and your husband see that they are their own persons outside of their upbringing and aren’t blaming them for that. They deserve unconditional love from both of you, despite how their mom is raising them, just like your new lovely baby will. Again, sure you get this – that statement just struck a chord with me.

        • a puzzled pixing

          I realize that I didn’t exactly express what I was trying to say. We do love them and respect them for the people that they are. We do realize that they are still young and finding their way. We do love them unconditionally and don’t hold how their mom chooses to raise them in any way against them or over them, we are fortunately (despite how it may sound) decent people that are able to see the multiple sides of things. I think our concerns are more on a moral/values level that they are learning and developing. They are being taught to value money over people, things over the living, over experiences. Do we hold that against them, certainly not. We try to steer them towards a more middle ground, but that wouldn’t make us love them any less for that.
          I know that maybe I don’t sound like a great person, or a great step-mom. I’m still new to it, my husband is still recently new to being more active in the kids lives (which I encouraged a lot when we first got together (he had many feelings of failure and was often not allowed to see his daughters)). The thing is, I’m trying. I’m still trying to figure out my place in their lives as they are still trying to figure out where I fit. I know that they don’t really consider me their step-mom, nor do I push it. I would prefer them to come to terms as to who I am in their lives and let them feel comfortable with that identity. I certainly won’t nor don’t push my role on them. My step mother did that to me when I was a kid and it was not pleasant. We are trying our best to find our way. We are still working towards family middle ground. We are trying to do things that the little ones enjoy that we can enjoy with them, we are trying. We have concerns about how having a little one will affect them. We don’t want to hurt them or make them feel like they are being replaced. We are dealing with our own crap child hoods. We are trying, maybe that is the most important thing. I know that the kids love us, enjoy coming to our house, we have the typical family disagreements (food, activities, etc..).
          I was hesitant to post my above comments because I realize how they sound. I also know that they are only part of what is going through my mind, most of it much more positive than the above, I guess I just needed a place to express my concerns and fears about my own personal failings, because I am supposed to be the kid person. I get along great with all kids of all ages and I feel like I am some how failing with my two step daughters and am trying to sort it out in my mind. I don’t think I am a bad person, nor a bad step-mom, I think I am scared. I think I don’t want to be the bad step-mom, I don’t want to be like my step-mom. I want the kids to think of me as a friend, a mentor and some one who cares for them deeply. I also don’t think I am like many step-moms out there that resent their step-kids or have to go on a step-parent forum to vent frustrations. I am trying. We are trying. We love them and see them independent of their mother. We respsect them for who they are while trying to steer them onto the path of being well rounded and adjusted adults. We aren’t perfect, we may not win any parenting awards (though I never hear any complaints from them about how we do, unless it comes to food. For the life of me I can’t seem to get the food thing right), but we are trying.

          • Lala

            Thank you for sharing this. I am a step mom to a 3.5 year old little girl. I have been in her life since she was 16 months old. Man being a blended family is hard! We have her every weekend because her mom likes to drink a lot and we are sober and I feel really resentful about it. I actually feel so many feelings about being a step parent and some of it is great and some of it isn’t so great. I’m always glad when she goes back to her mothers house. My fiancé works out of town so for the most part our “us” time is family time. I feel guilty that I wish we could have more us time. I feel guilty that I am relieved when she goes back to her mothers.

            We have been trying to conceive for a year and a half and I’m worried that I’ll be a bad mom because I feel like a bad step mom most of the time. I tell myself with my own baby I will have a new normal so it won’t feel like an interruption of responsibilities like being a step parent can be.

            Anyways I could go on and on but I don’t even really know how to articulate these feelings. Everyone just thinks I love my step daughter unconditionally and I don’t know if I do.

    • KH_Tas

      I don’t judge you at all. Feeling conflicted about big things is totally normal

  • Eh

    Just before we met, my husband decided that he wanted to be married and have a family. He was in his late twenties and his brother and cousin were getting married and having kids and he decided that that’s what he wanted for his life too. Shortly after that a friend set us up. He had never really dated so being in a relationship was a huge step for him. A year later he proposed. A year later we got married. We’ve been married six months and a number of people in his family are pressuring us to have kids (in contrast, no one in my family is pressuring us). We agreed that we wouldn’t start trying to conceive until around our first anniversary. Both of us have anxiety issues. I’ve always known that I wanted kids. My husband does too, though he worries that he’s not going to be a good father and that he won’t put diapers on right or he’s going to drop the baby (two years ago he wouldn’t hold a baby but now he regularly holds them, he even held one of our nieces when she was a week old). His brother and his cousin (who both do a large amount of the childcare) have reassured him that he will figure it out. A few weeks ago he told me that he’s ready to have kids. I’m not anxious about being a mother. I know I will do the best that I can do (and I know my husband will be the best father he can be too). What I’m worried about is that my mom died of cancer when I was 18 (when my sister was 15); her mom died of cancer around the same age when my mom was 14 (she was the youngest in her family). My mom had children in her twenties and I will be in my thirties having kids. If I die around the same age my children will be even younger. I know it’s a risk that ever parent takes but when you’ve lived it is makes it extra hard.

    As Maddie said, “What if you also abandon your kids? What if you just perpetuate the cycle and give your kids the same kind of shitty childhood you had? How can you bring children into this world when life is uncertain and cancer is a thing and you might just ruin their lives so why even bother?” I wouldn’t say that I had a shitty childhood but losing your mom is pretty shitty (especially when you are just getting through those high school years and moving away from home for university – my mom was sick during my last semester of high school and died a month before I started university when everyone is telling you that it’s supposed to be the best time of your life). Being a young woman, trying to navigate the world without a mom is pretty shitty too. People have tried to be rational with me on this subject (I’m generally a rational person) pointing out that my mother and both of my grandmothers were smokers (my other grandmother also died young) and I’ve never smoked but cancer is just so unpredictable (not to mention other uncertainties like car accidents or aneurysms). This has been on my mind for the last few weeks. My husband’s cousin and his wife asked us to be their children’s guardians if anything happened to them. Then I was missing my mom around mothers’ day and my birthday (the last day my mom was at home was my birthday), and then the other day a coworkers BIL, who is a father of two young children, passed away suddenly.

  • Celesta Torok

    This post is the epitome of what my husband and are going thru/concerned about. He also deals with anxiety (and panic attacks) and is horribly fearful of not only how it will affect him, but also of passing his condition on to a child. We haven’t made a decision and are still discussing and deciding what we want. I want children (most days), but I am in this for life either way.

    • StevenPortland

      Hi. Here’s just my 2 cents. I have anxiety as well and as others have noted earlier, anxiety is often about a general future, but once something really happens then the anxiety isn’t an issue. So even though he’s anxious about the idea of kids, once the kid arrives he may not have the same type of anxiety. Trying to explain how kids will affect your life is rather like trying to explain colors to someone who is blind. It really is impossible. Yes, it will cause some anxiety. But it will be *different* than what you guys think it is. For example, strangely enough, I can handle 98% of anything that happens with kids without any anxiety. But if one of the kids wakes up in the middle of the night vomiting, for some weird reason that sends my anxiety in overdrive even though rationally I know it is no big deal. So while I thought I would be affected by my anxiety with the kids, there is only this one small trigger point that actually happens. My other thought is that DNA is crazy. There are so many worse things that you 2 could potentially pass along to your kids than a predisposition to anxiety. Maybe it helps to put it in perspective. Having a healthy, fun loving, amazing child who has anxiety issues is in the big scheme of life not such a bad thing.