My Partner Never Wanted Parenthood, and Now He Wants to Leave


I don't want him to leave us

by Liz Moorhead, Editor, Ask APW

mom tossing her kid in the air

Q: Though my husband had expressed so many times that he wanted kids as soon as possible and encouraged me to go off the birth control that was giving me bad side effects, he seemed shocked when I actually got pregnant. He grew cold and withdrawn and participated very little in doctor appointments.

Just when he seemed to be warming up and getting excited about preparations, we got the news that we were expecting a child that would have lifelong special medical and developmental needs. He wanted to terminate, I didn’t. It’s my body, so we moved forward. He fought me on everything, preparing a nursery, throwing a shower, buying a crib for the child to sleep in. Things were not good, but I prayed that when he saw our child he would fall in love and we would somehow get through this.

Our child was born, and we both fell in love. He is the most beautiful, amazing baby. He also has serious recurring medical issues that have required surgery, hospitalizations, and lots of doctors. My husband has been an emotional mess through it all. I have had to handle everything involving our son’s health and development, in addition to so much of the childcare, myself. I cannot break down or cry to my husband because I hear only slightly gentler (and sometimes not) variants of “I told you so.” At one point, it finally got so bad that I told him to leave. I had hoped he would love us enough to fight to come back. He hasn’t. Now he says that he wants a divorce. He has not filed, he said he wants to do it collaboratively. I haven’t cooperated because I think a divorce is premature. So we’re just stuck.

I believe that my husband has a chronic, biochemical, and stress-triggered depression. Only some of this is armchair diagnosis; he is seeing a therapist and has been diagnosed with depression. But where he believes he is just depressed because of the situation—having a medically fragile child—I am realizing, in retrospect, that I have seen some glimpses of the symptoms throughout our relationship, and from stories he has told me about his growing up years.

I have only recently started reading literature on depression and partners with depression, and realize that a lot of the things I said and did when I was so angry and frustrated at not getting any emotional support while I did this very big thing—bring life into the world—were very wrong. I can’t be too hard on myself about that; I had my own prenatal and postpartum mental health shit I was dealing with. I was also sad and scared. I knew that this more-fragile-than-most baby’s life depended on me, and I had to prioritize that. Now that the baby is older and doing well, that I kind of know what I am doing as a mom and have had some space, I feel like I could do better as a wife, like we could still have a chance.

Some people have told me not to believe anything a person who is this severely depressed says, that part of the illness is fantasies of escape. But if I can’t believe what he says, I don’t know what I am supposed to believe. I can’t seem to get past my utter bewilderment that this has all happened so early into a marriage that I thought was this great love story for the ages, so many years into a friendship that had revealed I thought everything about us to one another. Maybe that misbelief is what is keeping me hoping. Maybe it’s the difficulty of facing life as a single mother of a child with labor-intensive special needs (when he was home, my husband did help a lot with the baby in very physical and concrete ways, if not emotionally). Maybe it’s love, though that love is more for the memory of who he was and belief in who he can be than anything I know right now.

Where he always talked about divorce as an option, I approached marriage as a forever thing. I think I took this for granted, so I didn’t see it coming that he would quit when it got really rough. I am not quite ready to give up. I feel like there are so many things, so many suggestions we have never tried, and I’ll always wonder, what if we had done this or that? We will have so much to work through to resolve our conflicts just to co-parent this child. I feel like we could put that work into getting healthy, both of us, and keeping the family intact. But if he has already made a decision, do I even have a choice? But if he has made a decision but won’t do anything about it without my cooperation, what am I supposed to do? Stay here in limbo, call his bluff? Give up, file, and try to move on with my life? Say no and fight for it? What would fight for it even look like with serious mental health issues involved? And looking at everything that has happened, does it even seem worth it?

—Anonymous

A:

Dear Anonymous,

This is a whole lot to handle all at once, and you’re being pretty dang gracious about it. I’m not sure that I could. You mention that you think divorce is premature. What steps would you go through first? What do you think would need to happen before you’d consider it time to throw in the towel? Are there avenues you haven’t exhausted yet?

Typically, this is where I’d suggest couples counseling, but it sounds like he won’t go for that (I mean, it sounds like he’s got divorce papers on his desk). Instead, you may want to talk to someone solo. This is a really heavy load, made heavier by the fact that you’re shouldering it alone. You’re co-parenting with a parent who never wanted to parent this specific child, which frankly, sounds nightmarish. On top of that, it sounds like you’re not in a place where you can really express your emotions, let alone process them (I don’t think I need to tell you how unhealthy that is). And motherhood alone can default to emotionally stifling, but especially when you’re caring for a child with health difficulties. There are a lot of hard things to do, and not much room to admit how hard it is without the added burden of guilt for feeling that way. Lady, you deserve some room to process all of this.

Because of your specific situation, I asked our managing editor, Stephanie, for her thoughts since she has a kid who has medical conditions and hence has a more experienced perspective. She offers:

Life with disability is a spectrum, and I think that’s something that you don’t really get until disability is intimately introduced in your own life. The second you think you have a handle on something, it all changes. So I think when you’re considering what you do and don’t want to happen with your marriage, you need to also keep in mind that your son is possibly facing long-term health concerns, and if your husband isn’t in now… he might never be.

You don’t throw out, “I told you so,” when faced with a seemingly insurmountable, definitely overwhelming parenting situation. At least, you don’t throw it out there if you’re invested in your family. There are no “I told you sos” in a parenting partnership, especially not when you’re parenting a child who is so wholly reliant on you.

The one point you make is unfortunately all too correct. If he’s decided he’s done, there’s not much else you can do about it. It’s silly (and exhausting and unfair) to try to carry on a one-sided marriage with the spouse equivalent of a flopping rag doll. You absolutely can get back on track, work through some things, figure out some issues. But both of you have to commit to that. It’s not a burden I’d advise you to carry solo. Depression is hard, conceded. That’s why there are treatments and professionals and things to help a person work through living with it. If he’s not willing to do that, there’s not much else to do. You’re a strong lady, but you can’t overcome his depression for him.

And you truly are strong. You’ve basically single-handedly raised a kid who needed so much. You’ve handled pregnancy and postpartum and figuring out how to care for a baby essentially by yourself, and while a dead weight was tied to you. Would it be hard to raise your son as a single parent? Sure, I bet it would. But as hard as being a functionally single parent who is perpetually let down by an emotionally absent parent? I’ll guess not. In light of that, I’m confident that no matter what happens, you’ll be okay.

I know you can get through this, whether he’s there with you at the end, or not.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO ASK APW A QUESTIONPLEASE DON’T BE SHY! IF YOU WOULD PREFER NOT TO 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 sons.

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  • laddibugg

    “He wanted to terminate, I didn’t. It’s my body, so we moved forward. ”

    I’m probably going to get some flack for this but….

    The baby is going to be outside your body at some point, so, unless carrying the pregnancy to term will harm the person carrying it, things should at least be up for discussion. That being said, along with talking about whether kids are on the table, couples should also talk about what their feelings are about bringing children into the world with conditions that could be abnormal.
    Honestly, I think I would leave him if it were me–and I’m normally a ‘try to work it out’ person. You’re not leaving him for you, you’re leaving him so his child won’t be stuck with a father who never wanted him—I’ve seen what that can do to people and it’s awful.

    • Amy March

      That is an attitude that will definitely be obvious to a child.

    • AF

      You know, if she was still pregnant I would give her the advice from your first paragraph.
      Since the baby exists now, I would give her the advice from your second paragraph.

    • Anonymous

      This was a very complicated situation and difficult to talk about briefly, so understand none of these letters reflect the entirety of what happened. It was definitely discussed, at length, painfully. Because of our agreement to not do invasive testing and an unawareness, until later in the pregnancy of other options, we found out pretty late term, so the procedure we were looking at was pretty horrendous, and he agreed that we couldn’t do that, but made me well aware his feelings would have been different had we found out earlier. Yes, of course, I wish we would have talked about it, but I now doubt that it would have made a difference, as we definitely talked about children more broadly then he didn’t seem to want the child even before the diagnosis. Preparation is important, but I also think its hard to truly know what your feelings will be about something until it actually happens to you. Like people asked if I thought I could single parent a child with special needs if he didn’t come around and I said I could and believed it, but now that I’m actually facing that its far beyond scary, and I imagine how I feel now is something like my husband felt when he said he would stay and we would do this together and then the reality of it hit him in the face. I definitely see your points, but consider perhaps in responding that these situations are so much more complicated then a letter can summarize, and that the writer may have already experienced a great deal of trauma around “could have should have would haves”, and is trying to move forward.

      • CMT

        It might help to think of laddibugg’s comments, and probably some others, as comments on the general situation — potentially meant as advice for other people and not specifically towards you. I think a lot of internet advice columns are like that. The comments are often frequently about applying advice to more general situations.

        • gipsygrrl

          Yes. I think the comments (mine included) about having conversations beforehand are meant for others who may be in a “thinking about having kids” situation. They’re not at all directed towards the OP, telling her she should have done things differently.

          • Anonymous

            True, and I think I sent this in mostly because I wanted to bring awareness to this kind of situation. Even on such a smart website like APW I haven’t seen the issue of genetic testing and termination in any of the pre marriage and pre baby discussion points list, and I wanted to see that conversation happen I this space. But I also think we need to keep in mind that real people do write these letters, the situations are real, they may read the responses, so we should frame them as compassionately as possible.

          • heyqueen

            Thanks for bringing up the issue of genetic counseling/testing pre-baby.its not something that’s highlighted enough.

          • Sarah

            and that the standard procedures most folks do are screenings, not tests. nothing is absolutely definitive.

          • Anonymous

            Yes, and I didn’t freak out when my second screening suggested concerns because false positives seemed to be common, and we didn’t want an amnio or CVS, which carry risk of miscarriage. I found out about Maternity 21 and other blood tests later in the pregnancy that are 99% accurate. I don’t think knowing all of this would have made much positive difference in my situation. I am still pretty sure that, without having experienced the hardest parts of having a child with medical challenges, I would not have wanted to terminate, but I would have been under much more pressure to do so had we known earlier. If I had terminated without really wanted to or gone forward under much more opposition, I think the marriage was under about equal risk of not surviving, and I might not have my son. However, I think anyone else planning to get pregnant should have all the information that they can get, whatever age they are, because this does not just happen to women over 35. That is one of the biggest misconceptions, the idea that age plays a bigger determining role than it does in chromosomal issues.

          • Anonymous

            Girl, I commented yesterday, and am the one who was in a very similar situation with a scary prenatal diagnosis. I just want to validate you times a thousand. First, on your desire to speak out about this, because YES, it’s hard to find anyone talking honestly and openly about this issue, even in a space seemingly as safe as APW. Second, absolutely NO ONE has the right to judge your decisions. People can say, “I would do this or that,” but unless they have been there, have actually faced the impossible decisions you have had to live through, they simply don’t know. I know people in my position would have chosen something different, and that is completely understandable to me. I wish for you many real-life friends and family who are supporting you as much as I am trying to do through my computer screen :)

          • Anonymous

            Thank you, that means a lot!

          • Danielle

            Hi Anonymous, I have written about this in recent Happy Hours: I was 20 weeks pregnant when we found out our baby had a fatal condition. I decided to terminate because the baby would likely not even survive the rest of the pregnancy. This is *after* I had all the prenatal screens and blood tests – I’m 38 and was very cautious of genetic conditions.

            Which is to say, I’m sorry this happened to you. And even testing (that is supposedly usually accurate) is not 100% foolproof. And I wish you all the strength and love in the world.

        • laddibugg

          yes, this. I’m not sure how other folks read and respond to these letters, but when I respond, I think about both the LW and someone who might be going through a similar situation.

      • Anonymous

        Plus, if we had that conversation, and if he had felt the way he does, and if I had made the choice he wanted me to make, I wouldn’t have this amazing baby who I love more than anything in this world, and who deserves to be in it, and wouldn’t be who he was without the parents he has, and the challenges he has. So, though I don’t believe it all the time, there are times when things, however hard they are, happen exactly as they should.

        • Green

          It sounds like this is one lucky baby in having you as a mother.

      • laddibugg

        Yeah, as I responded down thread, my responses (can’t speak for others) are a mix of ‘what I feel LW should do’ and ‘what other readers may want to look out for’.

        I had a baby less than a year ago, and we talked about special needs children quite a bit. But…I am much closer to 40 than I’d like, so it was definitely more of a chance that our baby might have had certain conditions. I don’t think I would have thought about having that conversation if I was even just 5 years younger.

        • Anonymous

          Yes, I understand, and I was under 30. Though it is now, this issue just wasn’t on the radar of anyone in my age group who was getting pregnant and no one seemed to be talking about it. So when people’s initial reactions to the news were things like “You didn’t get tested?” “You didn’t talk about that?” it was really hurtful and bewildering, as if I had been irresponsible and done something wrong on top of everything else we were dealing with, and as if the testing and the conversation would have made all the difference in the world. Yes, I’m an advocate of having accurate information about testing and having these conversations, but I think, as some of the experiences people are posting attest to, neither the tests or conversations provide a guarantee that this kind of conflict won’t happen.

  • Jane

    That’s so much all at once. I don’t have much advice about how to handle your relationship, Stephanie and Liz seem to have that covered, but just a reminder that, even if you do get divorced, that doesn’t mean he gets to just abdicate all his parenting responsibilities. He still (legally, at least) would be expected to support his child financially. So maybe he would still help in those “physical and concrete ways” you mentioned.

    Good luck! Big hugs to you and your wonderful son!

  • Amy March

    I think hard as it is to hear, a marriage takes two people and he has told you very clearly that he is not interested in making this work. You did not break this by being a bad wife or not reacting perfectly to a tough situation, and you cannot fix it by trying every good idea to save your marriage you can think of or getting him treatment for a mental health issue he may or may not have.

    I think it’s time to start thinking about where you will live, and how you will share custody, and how child support or any alimony will factor in, and talk to a lawyer about how best to protect yourself and your child. By and large men come out of divorce financially better than women and children, and it sounds like your child will have particularly great needs to take care of. Even if you do ultimately reconcile, having the information you need to best take care of yourself and your kid will just be good to know.

    • I agree with Amy March here and with the advice in the post.

      LW, it is impossible to make a marriage work if one partner has already checked out. And that is as painful as hell to accept, and it takes a long time to let go of your dreams for your life and marriage and what would have been possible….what you know could have been possible if only the other person where willing to try. But there just isn’t really anything you can do when he’s decided he’s done. I’m so sorry you are going through this.

      I’m not a parent, and I have no experience with children with special medical and developmental needs, but I agree with Liz and I feel strongly that as hard as it will be to do this solo, it would be more difficult to do it with the “dead-weight” of an uninvolved, unsupportive and even hostile spouse. Living with that dark cloud would multiply the difficulties and smother the joys. It sounds like you are already a single-parent in your day-to-day reality.

      And, this may or may not be accurate (and I apologize if I am assuming things too much and coming to wrong conclusions), but for the little that I can deduce from this letter, I am wondering if he has a sort of Peter Pan approach to life? It sounds like the responsibility of having a child (once it was a reality and you were pregnant and it wasn’t just some fantasy) turned out to be something he didn’t want. Maybe he’s unwilling to do the “un-fun” adult tasks of life? Maybe he doesn’t want to set aside his own desires and interests to place his child’s needs above his own? Maybe this is a part of a long-term pattern, and you’ve always been the one doing most of the un-fun, “adult” responsibilities in your relationship? Or maybe I’m completely wrong about this, and I am reading into things too much based on my own experiences and stories I’ve heard from people of “Peter/Petra Pans” in their life…

      In any case, LW, you are already demonstrating incredible strength. You are going to be okay, however things go. And please follow Amy March’s advice to protect yourself and your child and see a lawyer. At least that’ll help you make informed decisions for you and your child, whatever it is you decide.

  • gipsygrrl

    This sounds like a nightmare.

    One thought I have as a takeaway is that, before you have kids, you should have that conversation with your spouse. The “what will we do if tests determine that the baby will have problems – or if the baby is born with a disability?” Because I feel like the answers could be all over the map for lots of couples. Not everyone will say “yes, of course – I will do anything and everything to keep and raise that baby.” And this is not in any way a judgement or call for debate on that issue. But it’s a pretty important thing to discuss before trying to get pregnant.

    Not to say that discussion before pregnancy is always an option! Or that things always go according to the plans one makes. I’m just thinking that this is one of those hard, kinda awful conversations you should have (if possible) with your person to see if you’re on the same page before having kids – and then try to plan (or rework your life plan) accordingly.

    • Lisa

      This was what I took away as well. Even without all of the information, it’s an important conversation to have.

    • Amy March

      I think it’s something you can discuss all you want, and should, but you can’t do anything to make sure you really will react the same way when faced with something like this, whether it’s a child with challenges or any other major life issue. I almost think it doesn’t matter what the answers are to these hypotheticals, it only matters if you are comfortable with how the discussion goes.

      • gipsygrrl

        No, you definitely can’t know for SURE how you and your partner will react to a life event like this. But through conversation beforehand, you can probably find out if you’re at least in the same ballpark. If you haven’t had the conversation, you’re just assuming you’ll know what your partner thinks… but do you, really?

        Totally agreed, however, that how the discussion goes is just as important as the outcome.

        • Amy March

          Maybe. But I just don’t think people really know what ballpark they themselves are in. There’s no insurance policy on this stuff.

        • rg223

          Yeah, I have to agree with Amy here, because you might THINK you are in one ballpark beforehand, but once it actually happens, you might completely change your mind. Speaking from personal experience… when I was pregnant, I had abnormal test results that pointed towards a possible disability, and NEITHER of my husband or I had the reaction we expected to have prior to getting pregnant (which I know, because we DID have the discussion beforehand). I think it’s more about setting the foundation for talking about the hard stuff and working it out together – that’s where the conversation prior is helpful.

      • Ashlah

        Right, you can (and should) get to an understanding of, say, “I will never terminate for any reason” versus “I would be willing to terminate if there are x level of issues,” but to get into the nitty gritty of exactly which issues cross your hypothetical line? There are just so many variables, and you’ll never really know until you’re there. The idea of getting a diagnosis we end up having opposing feelings about is absolutely something that’s been on my mind, and I’m so sorry the letter writer is living it.

        • idkmybffjill

          Same here – it’s scary business. I can’t imagine being in a situation where we didn’t agree on a course of action. The choices are to terminate a pregnancy one person wants, or to have a child one person doesn’t. It’s awful.

    • heyqueen

      This is such an important conversation to have. I think it should be had in tandem with the “do you want kids” and “are we ready to start trying” conversations. Like Amy March said, it’s also tough because the nuanced hypothetical answers we give don’t always match up with how we act in the heat of the moment. Still, it’s important to talk about it so you at least have an idea where that person stands.

      This is a very difficult situation for the LW, and I can’t imagine how she feels. I sympathize with her, heavily. Even though I’ll get heat for this, I feel compassion for the husband as well. It’s shitty of him to just decide that “he can’t handle this” when LW doesn’t have the luxury of feeling that way. However, I can sympathize with how he feels too.

      • Eenie

        Eh, maybe? It really doesn’t matter until you’re done with the “do you want kids discussion” and the answer is yes, we want biologically related children. We weren’t done with that conversation before marriage. We had only finalized yes, we want a child/children before marriage. Having this conversation in tandem would not have been helpful or relevant to figuring out that question for us.

        • idkmybffjill

          I also would want to chime in that it might feel different when actually pregnant as well. I am pregnant and want screening done, which is something we agree upon. We also agree upon how we would respond if something was abnormal – but I could see thinking you’d want one thing, and then changing your mind when it’s real. It’s all very difficult.

    • GotMarried!

      I agree completely, and would take it a step further – “will we accept testing to determine if the baby will have problems?”

    • Eh

      That is such an important conversation, and how it is handled can change from pregnancy to pregnancy for the same woman/couple. A friend had all the recommended testing done with her first pregnancy. By the end she felt she had too much testing done and was bombarded with information that was more confusing than useful. She got pregnant again and decided to skip the screening that happens around 12 weeks. That pregnancy ended in a missed-miscarriage which they would have seen at the 12 week ultrasound if she had it, but wasn’t caught until weeks later. When she got pregnant for a third time her doctor recommended that she have the screening done at 12 weeks because she had a miscarriage (btw there is no evidence to support this that I’ve seen). So she had the test done at 12 weeks and it came back as “normal risk”. Then at the anatomy scan around 20 weeks they found out that something was wrong with the baby. They were sent for more tests (though they refused the amniocentesis due to the risk of miscarriage). At one appointment they had to make an immediate decision about terminating (without a firm explanation as to what was wrong with the baby). For the rest of the pregnancy the baby was considered high risk and my friend had frequent ultrasounds to monitor the progress of the baby. The prognosis for the baby improved but they still did not have a firm explanation as to what was wrong. They were told that the baby might need to have surgery shortly after she was born. Then the baby was born and she had down syndrome. They were prepared for something much, much worse (and on the spectrum of DS she does not have severe medical issues). As a result of her experience she does not have any confidence in the 12 week screening test. She is pregnant again and has refused it. None of her doctors have ever offered her the Non-invasive Prenatal Test (which is just a blood test, sometimes called Panorama or other names) so I have told her about it because she qualifies to have it paid for by our provincial health insurance. She is undecided about having it done because she has so little faith in the results of tests.

      I have a stats background so I understand why false negatives happen. When I was pregnant with my daughter I knew that if my daughter screened positive at the 12 week test that we wouldn’t terminate. I saw the test as a chance to see my baby (since the test includes an ultrasound) at a time in my pregnancy when I couldn’t feel her and was pretty anxious (the rate of miscarriage is very low if a heart beat is confirmed around 12 weeks). Also, if possible, I wouldn’t want to find out that something was wrong when the baby was born. If I could, I would want to be prepared and do research before hand. Obviously this is not always possible and its not how all people deal with things.

      • rg223

        Just to add to a couple of your thoughts, for anyone pregnant or planning to be and wondering about this stuff:

        – what test you get at 12 weeks vary a lot, depending on insurance and where you are located (Canada, USA, etc). For example, I had a blood test and they measured the nuchal fold at 12 weeks, both of which are screeners and not diagnostic. The NIPT is ALSO a screener, but it is far more sensitive than the two tests I initially had (this is what the genetic counselor told me). Some people’s insurance/areas pays for the NIPT in the first place. So, the type of screener you have also determines whether the follow screeners are worth doing (and of course, amnio and the CVS are diagnostic, so if the risk of an abnormality is greater than the miscarriage risk, the genetic counselor might recommend getting that done).

        – I just want to distinguish between “false positives” and “the screener came back as high-risk and my baby was born typical.” If you are talking about a screener like the NIPT, your results are something like “You have a one in 50 chance of the baby having DS.” A false positive in that situation would be, for example, they messed up the test somehow in the lab and you in reality DON’T have a one in 50 chance of the baby having DS. BUT, you can also NOT have a “false positive” and STILL end up with a typical baby, because your chances were 49 out of 50 that the kid is typical. So, in general, there are more people who have a “high-risk” test result and have typical kids than the false positive percentage would suggest. As a stats person, you probably knew this, but I did not understand this at all, and trying to figure it out while I was also waiting for test results added unnecessary stress.

        – I do agree with your friend sometimes the tests overwhelm you with information. Doctors want and I suppose are required to tell you everything they see, and hearing about a lot of potential issues that turned out to be nothing definitely added to my stress. Ack, I love my son but pregnancy is something else!

        • Eh

          I think that the way the tests results are presented are really confusing to people who don’t have stats backgrounds. I’m pretty sure that my results were given in a 1 in X chance but there is a cut off and a lot of doctors just use that cut off and say the results “screen negative” or “screen positive” (my local children’s hospital, where my friend went for genetic counselling, uses this language on their website when discussing the results of IPS/FTS). Screening tests are used to determine if further testing is warranted which is also something people don’t understand (I know people refuse IPS/FTS because they won’t have an amniocentesis due to the risk of miscarriage and terminating is also out of the question). My friend refused IPS with her current pregnancy because her impression was that her only option was an amniocentesis if the results were screen positive and she wouldn’t trust the results if she screen negative since her results with her daughter were negative (yet she has DS).

          Although NIPT is a screening test it is way more accurate than most screening tests (for many results it’s over 99% accurate – IPS/FTS only catches 85-90% of DS cases and the vase majority that screen positive have babies without DS) and since it does not have risk of miscarriage it is becoming a more popular option than amniocentesis. The genetics counselling department at the local children’s hospital is now recommending it over amniocentesis or CVS (note: my friend has now moved and is dealing with totally different care providers this time). Where I live, the government will pay for it right off the bat if the mother is over 40, has a child with a chromosomal abnormality already or if IPS or FTS come back as high risk (if the mother is seeing a genetic counselor there are additional reasons the government would pay for it), unfortunately a lot of doctors (especially family doctors) do not know about this.

          • rg223

            Oh yeah, I totally agree with the test results being presented in a way that’s confusing to non-stats people – and how interesting that the doctor just does a cut-off of “high risk” without the numbers. I think the numbers are actually very helpful to know. There’s a big difference between a one in five chance and a one in 50 chance (not saying that’s the cut-off by any means, just picking numbers that would both be “high risk” for my age).

          • Eh

            For FTS the cut off for screening positive for DS is 1 in 350 (and for Trisomy 18 or Trisomy 13 the cut off is 1 in 100). That’s a very high chance of having a baby who does not have DS even though you are classified as high risk.

            Generally the way cut offs for screening tests are set by balancing the Sensitivity (true positive rate) and the Specificity (true negative rate). The Sensitivity of FTS is between 85-90% – that is 85-90% of babies with DS will be correctly identified by the screening test and 10-15% will screen negative (like my friend). The trade off is that lots of babies screen positive that don’t have DS (that’s why decisions about terminating should not be made based on IPS/FTS). If the cut off was changed so more babies with DS were identified by the screening test then a lot more babies who did not have DS would screen positive (resulting in increased stress for the mother and more testing, potentially aborting healthy babies). If the cut off was moved so fewer babies without DS screened positive (e.g., increasing the Specificity of the test) then more babies with DS would screen negative and their parents might not found out until the baby was born that they had DS.

            For some people (even of some non-stats people) the numbers might be helpful, but for others they are not. My friend is very against numbers (and she is a very logical and rational person normally). She had less than a 1 in 350 chance of having a baby with DS but had a baby with DS (I don’t know her actual IPS results from her last pregancy). I’m not sure she will get NIPT but I presented it as an option. That said, I think the NIPT results will also be overwhelming to her. I think if something screens positive she it would probably be helpful to her (as the Sensitivity is very high so she would trust the result), but if everything screens negative then she will be suspicious of the results because IPS was negative last time so there is the chance that something is wrong even though the test says everything is ok.

          • rg223

            And thanks for the additional info!

  • Angela’s Back

    No advice, I just want to say I’m so sorry you’re going through this :(

  • Abby

    You’re so strong LW and you’re going to get through this no matter what.

    What I hear in Liz’s letter that stands out as SO important is to just stop and take some time for yourself (and child). When a relationship is going badly, it’s so easy to want to make a change RIGHT NOW. But talk to someone, figure out if you really want him back or if you want what he was back. Depression changes people and it’s so hard to make your brain understand. (especially when you have a tiny baby occupying most of your waking energy)

    You’ve got this (and then positive energy of this APW Community of readers behind you)

  • eas56

    I second the “start couples counseling alone” idea. You seem like you need emotional support, and a place to start parsing this complicated situation out. You can’t do that alone. Couple’s counseling is there precisely to determine whether the relationship is ultimately salvageable. Wether you decide that you would want to give the marriage another shot (regardless of if that happends), or that, despite wanting to end it, you are afraid of what letting go of your marriage, this step is important.

    I think divorce is inevitable if husband has decided that is his course, BUT I also think you need to process how you feel about this relationship before you can move forward. You’ve been so immersed in this relationship, I don’t think you can see the forest through the trees.

  • Lisa

    It’s not particularly helpful, but the quote that keeps coming to my mind is Robin Williams saying, “I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.”

    You’re carrying around his dead weight right now. Maybe you don’t have to move straight into divorce, but it sounds like it’s time for you to get your own emotional support instead of acting as your husband’s all of the time. You have needs that have to be met, too.

    • sofar

      Agreed. This whole post had me thinking, “Wow. I can’t imagine. This would kill me. I have no advice.”

      But I like your take.

      LW already has one child who requires special care. Her husband is trying to be a second child who needs special treatment, even though he’s an adult.

    • Lisa, I hadn’t heard that quote before, but I totally agree.

  • AP

    “Would it be hard to raise your son as a single parent? Sure, I bet it would. But as hard as being a functionally single parent who is perpetually let down by an emotionally absent parent? I’ll guess not. In light of that, I’m confident that no matter what happens, you’ll be okay.”

    This is one of the major lessons I learned through my divorce. Even in my marriage I was facing the world alone, and that realization was the final push I needed to leave. I couldn’t count on my husband, but I can *always* count on me.

    I am so sorry you’re going through this. No one deserves to be let down this way. Like Liz says, you can and you will get through this, whether you stay or go.

  • Jessica

    “Some people have told me not to believe anything a person who is this severely depressed says, that part of the illness is fantasies of escape. But if I can’t believe what he says, I don’t know what I am supposed to believe. I can’t seem to get past my utter bewilderment that this has all happened so early into a marriage that I thought was this great love story for the ages, so many years into a friendship that had revealed I thought everything about us to one another. Maybe that misbelief is what is keeping me hoping.”

    I feel you so hard on this. Solidarity, my friend. It’s hard to look at the long term when the now is so blurry and the path feels like quicksand.

  • Anonymous

    Thank everyone for their support. My husband is coming across as such an ass here (which he is, sometimes) but I also want to post an update that in the time since I wrote this, which was at a very desperate and confused and chaotic point, things are better. We are not together and I am still thinking about how to move forward but we are coparenting well and he is a great father. I am upset about his inability to be there for me in the ways that I wanted him to, but I admire that he in spite of his sadness and his difficulty with accepting our son’s condition, he is there for him.

    • JC

      You are an incredibly strong, kind, and compassionate woman, as evidenced by both your letter and this update. We’re here with you.

    • sofar

      Thanks for updating!

      Glad to hear the co-parenting is going well, even though he wasn’t capable of being there for you when you needed him more than ever. Your attitude shows how strong you are, but even strong people need their partners to step up in situations like these.

      On another note, I didn’t realize stress-triggered depression was a thing, and you’ve inspired me to learn more about it. It’s explaining a lot about some of my loved ones.

      Best of luck.

    • AmandaBee

      That’s fantastic – I’m glad that he’s been able to step up for your son. Even if things don’t work out between the two of you, it sounds like he’s committed at least to some extent to being a dad, and that’s ultimately what will matter most for your kid.

    • Lisa

      No advice. Just wanted to send you love and support. We’re all rooting for you and here as an outlet when you need it.

    • rg223

      Hugs to you. I’m glad things are improving for you and your family!

    • macrain

      Hugs. <3

    • Deirdre

      My situation is not exactly the same, but similar in many ways. It’s very hard to be gracious and kind when your partner isn’t willing to do the same, but yes, life can still be OK even if it’s not exactly how you pictured it. I’m sure you are doing a wonderful job.

    • Jess

      Thank you for the update. I hope you continue to coparent well together!

  • Rose

    It’s a bit hard to tell from your letter, how dedicated he is to getting better control over his depression. Some of what’s happening and what he’s saying may well come from the illness–but if he’s not going to get better, does that matter? If he’s making progress with his therapist, then yes, some of it probably will get better. But if he’s not? The effects of the illness may be pretty permanent. Just one thing to consider, maybe, if you’re hoping that things will change.

  • Abigail Jacob

    I urge you to get solo counseling RIGHT AWAY for yourself. You have been through some huge trauma – birth of a healthy child into a somewhat dysfunctional relationship is hard enough, let alone birth of a child with enormous medical needs. You need someone to talk to, to cry to, to rage at.

    Secondly, if you do pursue a divorce, I urge you to pursue, through an attorney, all the child support you are entitled to. You will need it, and you deserve it. You are owed that money, by his signing of your marriage license and the laws of your state.

    As someone currently going through a divorce in a remarkably similar set of circumstances, prioritize yourself, not the relationship, and not him. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t care for either your marriage (if there still is one) or more importantly, your child. It’s not your job to worry about his mental health issues and push him to get care and/or medication. That’s his job.

    • Lawyerette510

      100x to getting your own attorney. When the person who is not initiating the divorce and still processing whether or not they want to be divorced doesn’t seek representation, it puts them in a very vulnerable position. Add in a special needs kid, and it’s even more important.

  • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

    Some people have told me not to believe anything a person who is this severely depressed says, that part of the illness is fantasies of escape.“Can we talk about this a bit? There is truth to it — mental illness can be a bitch to deal with, depression can really mess with the person experiencing it, and there is absolutely a time to be understanding of that. I am absolutely not of the opinion that mental illness a leper makes, or that you can’t make a relationship work when one or both of you lives with it.But! I also come from the experience of spending years dating someone who was a) clinically depressed most of the time and b) controlling, manipulative, and emotionally abusive. I made a lot of excuses for the way he behaved and the way he treated me, because he wasn’t always in a great place, because his brain chemistry was shit, because, because, because… But with or without the depression factor, he was abusive. He treated me like shit. It was incredibly damaging to me, and I still deal with the damage he inflicted on me. Ultimately, how he treated me meant that I had to leave, to protect myself. I really hope he found treatment and peace, but at some point, it couldn’t be my problem anymore. He showed me his true self pretty early on, and I wish I’d believed him way sooner.TL;DR: Mental illness does not give anyone carte blanche to be an asshole, and there’s a limit to the amount of pain and abuse you can be expected to endure as the partner in that situation.

    • Eenie

      Yes, I absolutely agree. I think where I draw the line: is this person seeking treatment? Is the treatment making progress? Can I still see a future with this person despite what he/she has done to me?
      When the answer to any of those questions are no, you have to stop making excuses for the person and consider ending the relationship. Speaking as someone who ended a relationship with a person struggling with depression. We are both better off now.

      • AP

        Everything you said also applies to being with someone dealing with addiction, speaking from my experience.

    • BSM

      I think this is true of everything in life. The motivations for our actions are incredibly complex and mostly worthy of some leeway and understanding, but, at the end of the day, the consequences of those actions still stand, and the feelings of those hurt by them are still valid.

    • Jess

      As a person who suffers from depression, I completely agree that it does not give me permission to be an asshole.

      I may say or do things I regret. I may push people away because it seems like it would hurt them less than to be involved in my life.

      But those are actions I 100% have to own. I have to monitor for them, I have to find the right (typically professional) person to state them to and work through, I have to tell myself that tonight, I need to be alone instead of be aggressive at my friends. Sure, it’s nice that certain people in my life forgive me and understand, but it’s not something I expect.

      Things I say are things I say. They don’t hurt less because I was under a black cloud when I said them.

  • Anonymous

    Dear Anonymous. I just want to give you a hug and let you know that I am sending you positive vibes through the internet. My husband and I were recently in basically the same situation with a devastating prenatal diagnosis and an impossibly heart-wrenching decision. I’m not here to talk about what decision we made, but rather just to give you huge kudos from one person who has been in your shoes. I don’t pretend to know exactly what you’re experiencing, of course, but I really just wanted to know that someone — anyone! — understood what I was going through. I found the whole process to be incredibly lonely, as it’s both intensely personal and also something a lot of people just don’t talk about.

    All of that to say, I second Liz’s thoughts: You have already gone through SO MUCH and are one strong, badass lady. No one deserves what you’ve already had to endure. I am so glad to see the update that your husband is being more of a helpful, positive presence. You, your sweet boy, and your husband are in my thoughts and my heart.

  • KitBee

    I’m so heartbroken for you, LW. Wishing you strength and hope during this difficult time! Several commenters have mentioned therapy (which, yes), but I’d also encourage you to seek a broader support system. Are you near family or friends who can help with childcare? Can you seek help (whether financial or emotional) from, for example, a faith-based community? Can you join a support group of other people who have children with the same condition(s) as your son? Hopefully you will find that you don’t have to deal with this difficult situation alone!

  • EF

    I’ve said this before on APW and want to repeat it: do not have a kid that is unwanted. If one party did not want it, the kid will know (though in this case, we don’t know what the disability is, so perhaps not?). Assuming the mental capabilities to understand, though, it is devastating to find out you weren’t/aren’t wanted.

    Now the LW wants the kid, and the father does not. People talk about staying together for the sake of kids, but so often, it’s actually terrible to grow up in those households. If the father can’t be supportive or trusted to be glad the kid is, you know, alive, then the father shouldn’t be around.

    Finally, I see the LW has commented about genetic testing pre-baby etc. I agree: it’s a good idea to do that if possible. I also agree that people need to talk about what they would do if X kind of pregnancy/baby comes along. And still be prepared for things that doctors don’t catch. But all that comes from a very basic principle: deciding you want this child to be born or not.

  • Another Anon

    My heart goes out to you. My husband has severe depression and ever since his therapist told him over a year ago that he couldn’t help him anymore (!) my husband has been in the deepest depression since I’ve known him. He now refuses treatment and I’m moving rapidly towards a breaking point. We have a two year old healthy child and it’s been incredibly hard. So to some degree I can understand what you may be feeling and you are in my thoughts and in my heart.

    If anyone can recommenced any good books or resources for partners of depressed people I’d love to know about them.

  • Christine Fallabel

    leave.