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August 15, 2012 7:48 AM   Subscribe

Rather out of the blue, my husband of 7 years brought up the baby question, about 5 years after our last conversation on the topic. I came back to him later that evening with one "neutral" (and sufficient) class of reasons why I was not interested in forming another babby: I don't want to give up my current freedoms to go back to the baby/preschooler parenting lifestyle. But behind that there is a big pile of more emotionally charged reasons that I didn't mention, and I don't know if I should.

For starters, we are in therapy. Communication issues are one of the items on menu; I have a hard time opening up about my feelings, in part because of my innately reserved nature and in part because when I have delved into deeper and more painful emotional territory with my husband I have rarely gotten a supportive or productive response.

I am 44, and this is my second marriage; I had 2 children from my first marriage, a daughter who is 14 and a son who would be 17 now if he hadn't committed suicide this spring. And that, of course, is really huge. It has been a long, hard row with both kids due to mental health issues --therapy, hospitalizations, medications, etc. for both--and it has been emotionally exhausting for me. And then to lose my son just when things were feeling like there was some payoff for all those years of turmoil...my spirit is still crushed. I go through the motions of my routines pretty well, but I still feel pretty awful on the inside much of the time. I loved my son so deeply and so purely from the very start and all that love was still not enough and...you know...no way no how can I see myself in that position again.

Then there is the issue of my husband and my marriage. When we were engaged/newlyweds, things were all happy happy joy joy between us and we had discussed possibly having a baby sometime in the first couple of years after marriage. My husband has no bio kids. I had a serious health scare within the first 6 months of being married, and this was also the period when my kids' mental health/behavioral situation went from "they're a little difficult to manage" to hospitalizations, meds, social workers, IEPs, etc. The last discussion I remember having on the topic was with a trusted social worker present, and it was basically agreed that my kids needed so much of my focus at that time that it would be a very bad idea to add a new baby to the mix, and possibly not even safe.

My husband's response to all this was to withdraw emotionally from me and the kids. His drinking amped up to drinking problem/alcoholic level, and he neglected/abandoned projects, hobbies, and most household chores. During this period I realized that not only was it a bad situation to bring a baby into, but that I did not see my husband as able to be the kind of involved father/equal parenting partner I wanted.

In the past couple of years things had calmed down to manageable levels with the kids, although there was still more tension and accommodation to mental health issues than you would expect in a "normal" household. My husband has made strides in addressing his drinking issues (but has had multiple relapses this year, after a year of sobriety, both before and after my son's suicide). He is making an effort through therapy and there is some progress in the areas of engagement with the family and household responsibilities, but I think there is still a long way to go in terms of both emotional intimacy and in terms of reforming from his former slacker/bachelor ways. I'm sticking the course for now, but while our marriage is not "on the rocks" it feels like it is still in very rough seas, to me.

In sum, there are two large areas of reasons I don't want another child that I have not shared with my husband: one concerns my unhealed emotional wounds from raising two very challenging children and losing one; the other concerns ongoing and unresolved difficulties in our marriage and my view of my husband as being still behind the curve in terms of my expectations of him as an responsible, engaged husband/partner/stepdad/homeowner. And ever since my husband raised the question of having another child, those issues have been rolling around obsessively in my head.

I don't know if I should discuss either of them with him, or how. I would file "I don't want to have a baby with you because I am worried you would leave most of the work to me and none of your pending projects would ever get done" on the list of things that could be very damaging and unproductive to tell your spouse, even if it's true. But even with the first set of issues, which is really just about me, I am worried it would come out in a way that accuses him of being so completely blind to my current emotional state and how the hell could he not even touching on the issue of Simon's suicide during the two times we talked about this on Monday (which indeed is part of the reason this keeps rolling around in my head).

This is my communication problem at work--I don't know how much to say, or how to say it, so I default to saying nothing. Is there anything to be accomplished by piling onto the very valid reason I've given him for not wanting a baby? (FWIW, I don't think he feels strongly MUST FORM BABBY, so it's not like I need to provide additional reasons to sway his position. Also, we are both aware of the health risks and probabilities of success involved, and that's not the question at issue here).
posted by drlith to Human Relations (38 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Please, print out all of your question and take it to your next therapy session.
posted by Carol Anne at 7:54 AM on August 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


I am so terribly sorry for the loss of your son.

As a third party, and as a 47-year-old woman myself, the idea that a husband would think that his 44-year-old wife who recently lost a minor child, to suicide to boot, should be going through a pregnancy (and, likely, fertility treatments) and all the emotional ups and downs concomitant with that seems, at best, disconnected from reality.

When you add the bits about his history of alcoholism, lack of engagement with the family, and general conflict within the marriage, it really seems out of whack.

I am worried it would come out in a way that accuses him of being so completely blind to my current emotional state and how the hell could he not even touching on the issue of Simon's suicide during the two times we talked about this on Monday (which indeed is part of the reason this keeps rolling around in my head)

This seems pretty accurate, based on what you're sharing with us here, and this seems like an extraordinarily strong argument for this man not having the empathy or emotional intelligence, at least at this point in his life, to be a good parent.

You don't have a responsibility to share everything in your head with your husband. But I do feel sad about the idea that someone who is grieving the death of a child is feeling like they have to be the one who is delicate about not hurting their partner's feelings.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:57 AM on August 15, 2012 [40 favorites]


so it's not like I need to provide additional reasons to sway his position

If he's okay with the truthful reasons you've given him, I don't see an need to peal off additional layers of more complex reasons. When discussing complex topics that need to be reduced to a single answer, people tend to say things like "I would say No, mostly because..." That doesn't imply that is the only reason. If your husband wants to address your Tier 1 concerns so they're resolved, you can tell him you have additional concerns as well. (At that point, though, you need to tell him all of it.)

I am very sorry about the death of your son. My condolences.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:59 AM on August 15, 2012


It's not that you can't express your feelings. You did so rather well here. It's that you can't express that to HIM.

But even without the baby issue (and, of course, you shouldn't have a baby during such chaos...that's really a non-starter from where I sit) you should still tell him your fears because they mean something to you and they should be addressed and acknowledged.
posted by inturnaround at 8:05 AM on August 15, 2012


I would file "I don't want to have a baby with you because I am worried you would leave most of the work to me and none of your pending projects would ever get done" on the list of things that could be very damaging and unproductive to tell your spouse, even if it's true.

Really? I don't think so. It sounds pretty reasonable to me, and not something that would be "very damaging". I had this conversation with my spouse before we had a baby, albeit not with the part about the projects. I think many, many people have this concern before they have a baby, and it's something they deal with by discussing it and talking about how they'd balance the workload appropriately.

It sounds like you're walking on eggshells around him because you worry that you will drive him (back) into alcoholism/drinking. True?
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:06 AM on August 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


It would be totally reasonable to express shock and offense that he would even suggest getting pregnant less than a year after the loss of a child. His bringing it up is obviously a source of pain and stress for you on top of everything else and it was insensitive of him, and I think a good husband who cares about your feelings and has even a modicum of awareness would never have done that, or would apologize for bringing up something that causes you pain. I assume he is like this in small ways all the time. Call him on it.
posted by slow graffiti at 8:07 AM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am so sorry for what has happened to your son and your family.

When two people disagree as to whether or not to have a baby, the person who wants a baby has the burden of persuasion. And you have the right to not be persuaded. Any ambivalence should augur in favor of your saying no.

I don't think you need to refer to your husband's behavior or condition in your response to him. It wouldn't make a difference if he was husband of the year: you're not ready to do this, and that's all that matters.
posted by moammargaret at 8:09 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your reasons for not wanting another baby are valid and reasonable. It seems like all the intense feelings you are having right now actually have little to do with the question of another baby, but rather, the discussion of having another baby brought up enormous and mostly unspoken issues that need to be discussed for their own reasons.

Unfortunately, ask metafilter just can't give you the kind of support you need to work out which of these issues to "work on" first, or to help you get the emotional support you must need right now.

Individual therapy, meditation, discussions with a trusted friend, a support group for people who have lost loved ones to suicide, ALANON (support and self-help group for people who love alcoholics) could all be useful tools moving forward through this very painful situation you're in.

Best to you in this difficult time.
posted by latkes at 8:09 AM on August 15, 2012


I am so sorry about the death of your son. That is a huge physical and emotional issue.

I think that in the interest of integrity and in the interest of truly healing your marriage, that you should voice ALL of your concerns. You need to be able to be 100% honest with your husband about all of your feelings, even the hurtful ones. You can even say, "I've not addressed this concern with you, because I don't want to hurt your feelings." Acknowledge that it's difficult for you to discuss with him because you value him as a partner, and partners should be able to be honest, even with the really hard stuff.

At 44 and and considering everything you've been through, I agree with you that a baby at this time would be a terrible idea.

I do caution you that your husband may want a phantom baby more than he wants to stay married to you, if you're not willing to have a baby with him.

I know a man who after decades of being childless, up and decided that he wanted to procreate. Left his wife, met and married someone who didn't mind having a couple more kids. Sometimes it happens that way.

You know what's right for you. Sometimes relationships reach impasses. Hopefully your husband will understand and you can move on from this. But as long as the door is open, even a crack, you will be nursing a false hope on his part.

Disabuse your husband of any idea that you're interested in having more babies.

I'm hoping that you can get to a place with your life and marriage where you can feel peace and happiness.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:13 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Have you ever heard of the expression "selling past the close"?

You have resoundingly important and valid reasons for not wanting another baby. For the discussion at hand, it ought to suffice. That doesn't mean that you are off the hook with regards to addressing your longer-term concerns about your husband. You can raise those in your therapy, because ongoing and unresolved difficulties in our marriage and my view of my husband as being still behind the curve in terms of my expectations of him as an responsible, engaged husband/partner/stepdad/homeowner are valid and important things to work on, even without being prefaced by "I do not want to have a baby because of"

It sounds to me like you are very angry he raised this with you without acknowledging your grief. (And I would be too, in your shoes.)

One thing therapy has taught me is that acknowledging my anger is a necessary part of being my authentic self. It's not easy but it is important.
posted by ambrosia at 8:23 AM on August 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


Take care of yourself, take care of your daughter. Both of those are full-time jobs right there. Your daughter is 14 and just lost her brother and her home life includes addiction. A new baby that requires 24/7 care from her main (only) caregiver is maybe not the best thing for her during her adolescent-to-adult transition years.
"I don't want to have a baby with you because I am worried you would leave most of the work to me and none of your pending projects would ever get done"
is completely rational and reasonable. the young rope-rider makes a good point: "It sounds like you're walking on eggshells around him because you worry that you will drive him (back) into alcoholism/drinking. True?"
But even with the first set of issues, which is really just about me, I am worried it would come out in a way that accuses him of being so completely blind to my current emotional state ...
1. none of these issues are all about you, they all profoundly affect your entire family, individually and collectively.
2. it sounds like he is being completely blind to your current emotional state!
posted by headnsouth at 8:31 AM on August 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


On second thought... although your listed reasons are completely and totally valid, your desire not to have another child doesn't have to have anything to do with your husband or your communication issues or his addiction or any other complicating factors beyond "I need to take care of myself."
posted by headnsouth at 8:38 AM on August 15, 2012


When my husband and I started counseling after breaking it off for over a month (we did the whole move out, date other people and all those horrible things) he wanted to have another child ASAP. Not even a few weeks after we started to rebuild the pieces of our lives. Why? I assume it was a way to ensure after such heartache a new child would bring us close and ensure success. I think that your husband may be on the same wave length of thinking. A child would help mend the pieces of your relationship. Logical - not at all, but we can't control our emotions.

Being timid and filled with guilt (I was the one who threw in the towel), I felt like I should have given him what he wanted - but in the end I knew I wasn't ready. I had to tell him the truth, I wasn't emotionally ready to have a child, not because I didn't love him, but the time wasn't right. He was hurt, but comforted by the fact that it wasn't because I didn't want to be with him.

I don't think your husband is being a "bad guy", I think he's just not thinking - logically. This would be ideal to bring up in therapy and share how you both feel. You also need to be honest with your thoughts and feelings. It's scary, but if you don't let him know, he won't.

The past year seems to be the absolute worst for you - the sooner you can talk to him about this, the better. Good luck and much love!
posted by Danithegirl at 8:42 AM on August 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Like someone said in another thread around here lately, the desire not to have another child should always take precedence over the desire to have one. Your reasons happen to be better than a lot of people's and I am so sorry.

Looked at from the standpoint of alcoholism and addiction I would think-- well that would seem like the one thing maybe worth bringing up. He has a drinking problem and he keeps relapsing and he wants to make this huge change? I think this is kind of a pretty typical picture and one you might want to mention to him: why is he thinking about changing things on this kind of grand scale while he is still dealing (or not) with addiction? It's kind of like the "lets have a baby to save the marriage" but with the drinking problem on top. Or it may even be another aspect of the drinking problem. So I would address it on that level, but separately.
posted by BibiRose at 8:47 AM on August 15, 2012


I'm really sorry for all the pain you've been through and I don't disagree with your reasons for not wanting to have another baby.

That said, I'm interested largely in your husband's reaction here. You're 44 now, so I'm going to guess that he's in his upper 40s, probably fast approaching 50. When you were married, you were about 37 and he was, let's call it early 40s. Either he hadn't been married before or, if he was, that relationship didn't produce any children.

So this marriage, at this stage in life, was probably what he considered his last shot at having children and raising a family before that window closed. And he has been pretty consistently in favor of having a child of his own with you all along as far as I can tell. Then, after two years of marriage, that got taken off the table for him. Again, I'm not disagreeing with the reasons for that choice, just trying to imagine his perspective on it. I really think that his withdrawal at that point was a kind of passive aggressive reaction to having that hope suddenly yanked out from under him for reasons that didn't really have much to do with him. There may be some hidden resentment that the marriage has not been what he wanted and thought he was getting.

I think Ruthless Bunny is right in saying that he may have decided that he wants a child more than he wants to be married to you, and that realization may be why he's suddenly bringing it up again now.

And one last time, let me emphasize that I don't think you've done anything wrong. It's just that your husband is looking for something in his life that doesn't line up with what you want and need. If you want to save the marriage, I think the two of you need to be communicating more fully, and looking for something that will help him fulfill that need he's feeling in a way that is more workable for both of you.
posted by Naberius at 8:51 AM on August 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


I do not intend to justify your husband's drinking, nor am I trying to deny you of the right to make an informed decision about whether to have kids. But you seem to fail to understand that men have biological clocks too, and your refusal to have kids with him (regardless of how justified) could be viewed as a Very Big Deal. You seem to be trivializing it somewhat by making this All About You. (Which is not to say that you don't have valid reasons for your desires, simply that I don't see much empathy for his point of view.)

That said, there are ways to sublimate the biological clock, or address its needs in alternate ways. For example, I strongly want to have kids someday, but depending on how my prospective S/O at the time felt, I could settle for being a sperm donor instead - since my biological clock doesn't care if I *raise* the kids, as long as I know they're floating out there somewhere. Perhaps your husband could find a similar resolution to his own needs..?

That is my attempt to address your indirect question. In regards to your direct question, I don't see the need to pile hurtful reasons onto unhurtful ones when he's already accepted your decision... unless of course you want to hurt him (which, based on your description of him, may very well be the case).

By the way, I am very sorry about the death of your son, and I hope my comment about you making it "all about yourself" doesn't make you feel like your son's death is trivial. My point is simply that while such an event encompasses your universe (and it's not at all unreasonable to expect your husband to have compassion for you) it does not encompass his, and you need to be OK with that.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 8:54 AM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


It could be possible that he's suggesting having another baby as a way to help you as well, as a sort of healing/coping method. Not venturing any thoughts on whether that's good or bad because y'all are snowflakes, etc., but just throwing out a charitable potential motivation for him.
posted by resurrexit at 9:05 AM on August 15, 2012


You seem to be trivializing it somewhat by making this All About You.

Her son just committed suicide. She's allowed to put her feelings and emotions first during her grieving process.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:08 AM on August 15, 2012 [16 favorites]


You have expressed your thoughts and feelings about this so eloquently here, and as so many above have stated, your feelings about this are completely valid. You already know, having a child is an enormous upheaval to a relationship even in the best circumstances, and with the stresses you have all faced over the past years it would be irrational not to be concerned.

I guess the question is whether it is necessary or important to share this with your husband, and if so how to do that. I think you are very empathetic and understand that these will be hard things for him to hear. I cannot give you a good answer about whether you should share these things; there are a whole host of variables that would go into that decision. You mention that you are in counseling together, though. I think this would be a perfect thing to discuss with your counselor. This decision does have a huge impact on your relationship and communicating about it in a way that is safe and validating for both of you is so, so important. Your therapist can help you figure out if what you have said already is enough and if s/he feels that more communication on the issue is important can coach the two of you through a discussion that is really difficult.

I'm so sorry for the sadness and loss that you've experienced. I am hoping for peace for all of you.
posted by goggie at 9:22 AM on August 15, 2012


Her son just committed suicide. She's allowed to put her feelings and emotions first during her grieving process.

Right, absolutely. But she has no right to expect her husband to automatically understand or share her feelings. What we're seeing here essentially is the OP being angry at her husband because "he should have known better than to even ask the question" and it's that specific attitude which I find counterproductive - the "you should have understood me well enough to know this already" mentality.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 9:22 AM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is my communication problem at work--I don't know how much to say, or how to say it, so I default to saying nothing. Is there anything to be accomplished by piling onto the very valid reason I've given him for not wanting a baby?

The answer is maybe. And therapy can help you figure it out. You say you are working with someone. You can change your goals with the therapist in light of this new development. Have you tried DBT? I really recommend it for the interpersonal skills, because it offers ways to map a conversation before you have it. What you think about beforehand is What thing do you want? How do you want to feel about yourself after? How do you want the other person to feel about you after the conversation?

There are also very specific skills for telling people no, and for hearing no when other people say it to us.

Other modules include mindfulness and emotion regulation, which may help you deal it's the anxiety that this situation seems to cause.

As a side note, when I first began this therapy, my therapist and I discussed that I was in a relationship and she made it very ear that people in relationships sometimes end them during therapy. The things your arm about yourself change your perspective. What she didn't say directly, but that I learned, was: improving my skills gave me the perception to realize that relationship was not doing me any favors, and gave me the courage to be single.

The reason I bring this up is that others above mentioned he may be more attached to the hypothetical baby than he is to the marriage. This could be for any number of reasons, but I promise that whether you tell him all the reasons or only some or add one or two more, and he leaves you or stays, whether he drops it for good or brings it up again next year, you will be able to find a way through this.

Be kind to yourself, and please know that I am so sorry for the loss of your son. That is never easy and you have every right to feel any way you feel about all of this. It hasn't even been a year and of course this is about you, which it should be. It's about your body, maternal risk evaluating, and not to mention the other challenges you've outlined.

PS you are right that a relapsing alcoholic isn't dad material, no matter how sad he might be about having forgone that path, it's not up to you to sack it up to give him the life experience of having biological kids.
posted by tulip-socks at 9:23 AM on August 15, 2012


But she has no right to expect her husband to automatically understand or share her feelings. What we're seeing here essentially is the OP being angry at her husband because "he should have known better than to even ask the question" and it's that specific attitude which I find counterproductive - the "you should have understood me well enough to know this already" mentality.

She's 44. What the hell is he expecting? Given their ages the desire for babies now seems less about babies and more a red herring for deeper issues. Given his reaction to the first conversation about not having a baby was to emotionally withdraw and blame her, bringing it up again seems less like an interest in having an open discussion on the topic of baby-making and more like an attempt to pick a fight.
posted by schroedinger at 9:43 AM on August 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


wolfdreams01, I get what you're saying. And I think it's really unfortunate that the OP doesn't share more of her feelings, and my guess is that despite what she thinks, it's actually counterproductive to her marriage working.

But I do think that "suggesting that someone who lost a child to suicide within the past three or four months should start thinking about having a baby" is actually one of those things that people really should know is inappropriate without being told.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:45 AM on August 15, 2012 [15 favorites]


There are many, many narratives about couples having another child relative shortly after the death of a child. To bring up this topic does not have to be seen as an "insensitive, out-of-touch" indication of the husband.

You have every right to your grief and concern: but you have to share the *truth* with him, so that he is fully aware and can then make his own decisions accordingly. He wants to be a father to biological kids of his own... For the last *7 years.* That's a very big deal to spouses, we should not underestimate both sides of the story.

Bringing up having a baby twice in 7 years is rather amazingly restrained when considering the subject.

If you do not share the truth behind your decisions, you will reap reactionary behavior - the OP must disclose now, though the consequences may be hard for her to face.
posted by Kruger5 at 9:58 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are many, many narratives about couples having another child relative shortly after the death of a child. To bring up this topic does not have to be seen as an "insensitive, out-of-touch" indication of the husband.

Bringing it up without any reference to his wife's loss seems insensitive and out-of-touch to me. It also seems like that's one of the things the OP found most hurtful about the conversation.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:03 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks for all the perspectives so far, including those who have offered some possibilities as to what's going on in his head, and charitable interpretations of his motives. He is a good-hearted person with good intentions, but he sometimes acts based on some generic Internet "what women want" research rather than a nuanced understanding of me or the specifics of the situation. I did ask him what got him to thinking about babies, and he said that several of his old "confirmed bachelor" friends on Facebook have had changes of heart and are now partnered up and off producing adorable babies* (he's 42, fwiw). Also, we just got back from vacation at his parents', and it's possible that they asked him about it.

Certainly, I don't mean to trivialize his interests or needs, and I am thinking about opening the next volley by asking him to talk more in depth about how he feels about not having had children and what's going on in his head there. It's possible that this is/was more important to him than is coming across, or that it has been an unspoken desire for lo these many years, despite his radio silence on the subject in the face of multiple opportunities to bring it up in recent years. If I want him to be more attuned to what's going on in my head, I could do worse than by showing an interest in what's going on in his. For what it's worth, he didn't even say anything as strong as "I'd like to have a baby"; it was more like "well, if we wanted to, we would need to do it soon" and there may have been words to the effect that he was bringing it up in case I was interested, perhaps thinking in line with what ressurexit suggests.

It sounds like you're walking on eggshells around him because you worry that you will drive him (back) into alcoholism/drinking. True?
I do try to filter myself careful when we talk about certain things, mostly because he can be sensitive and defensive to what he perceives as criticism or me being dismissive of his ideas or views. If his feelings get hurt or he feels disrespected by something I've said or the way I've said it, he gets quiet and withdraws and that is one of the patterns we're trying to alter in therapy.

*And babies ARE adorable, and if only you could just RENT a toddler for a few hours, freshly up from their nap and bounding with energy and curiosity...
posted by drlith at 10:06 AM on August 15, 2012


You seem to be trivializing it somewhat by making this All About You.

She lost her 16 year old son to suicide, she spent years raising a challenging son and daughter, she's 44 years old, and the potential father is an alcoholic. This guy can't be bothered to spend a minute putting himself in her position or be the support she needs at this time.
posted by discopolo at 10:16 AM on August 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


My husband has made strides in addressing his drinking issues (but has had multiple relapses this year, after a year of sobriety, both before and after my son's suicide). He is making an effort through therapy and there is some progress in the areas of engagement with the family and household responsibilities, but I think there is still a long way to go in terms of both emotional intimacy and in terms of reforming from his former slacker/bachelor ways. I'm sticking the course for now, but while our marriage is not "on the rocks" it feels like it is still in very rough seas, to me.

Disregarding any of the other issues you've posted, all of which are serious and part of the process, if I described my marriage in this way or heard anyone else do so I would absolutely never suggest or consider having a child with them at that time.

You are 44. You may have great difficulty getting pregnant. Your baby would have an increased risk of Down syndrome and other disorders. Your partner has demonstrated that the last time life dealt him the "no baby / stressful kids" blow, he responded by withdrawing and drinking. I think it is both appropriate and necessary, if you're going to discuss having a baby in therapy, to say "I need to know you can handle the stress of this, especially if we don't have a perfect pregnancy/baby/child".

He may also want to consider individual therapy, if he wants a biological child but has to accept that it's probably not going to work out for you.
posted by nakedmolerats at 10:17 AM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would like to preface this with three things: A) I am adamantly childfree, something that should probably be known in this context, and I am totally cool if you disregard what I say because of that B) I think that you reasons for not wanting children at this point are logical, cogent, and very much make sense based on your situation C) I am so sorry about your recent loss.

That said: I can't help but be struck by the issue of your husband wanting kids, and how that is being brushed aside (by you, by others in this thread) as insensitive, ill-timed, unrealistic, or fantasy-based. This surprises me, because, frankly, the big 'ol echo I hear, over and over, is that you cannot disregard anyone's desire for children, because wanting them is enough.

In the thread I linked to, there are perfectly eloquent arguments as to why wanting them isn't, in fact, enough, and I think your reasons for not wanting to produce a child at this point are eloquent, as well.

However, I can't help but wonder: if this question were written with the genders reversed, would everyone still be okay with ignoring his desire to have a child?

From what I can tell: he wants kids. You guys went into the marriage thinking you would be having kids fairly shortly. 2 years in, that didn't happen (for totally valid and legit reasons). BUT: then you never, ever spoke about the issue for the next five years? Really? That is what surprises me. You both knew he wanted them, you both knew you were of an age where making your own, naturally, could be coming to a close, and after having the first conversation, you didn't talk about the situation, at all.

That is...a teeny bit incomprehensible.
To be fair, he could have brought it up earlier if he knew it was a pressing matter of pressing concern. However, it is possible he was trying to respect your illness, or your relationship with your kids, or something, and was giving you space to bring it up when you started feeling better, and more comfortable. And, to be fair, you may not have brought it up because you were never comfortable with the idea.

But...this is such a huge elephant in the room, and it seems really very strange that it is not something you would have discussed in the last five years, especially since it is something you knew he wanted, and something you had both discussed going into the marriage.

There is something here that is a bit analogous to other threads you'll read on askmefi, where (typically) a woman in an 8-year relationship, or whatever, will post a sad, sad question about how her partner doesn't seem to want to marry her, even thought they talked about marriage at year two. Then after having a frank conversation, she realizes that he never wanted to, and feels strung along.

I am not saying you are stringing him along.
I am not saying that you need to have a conversation to resolve this by, like, tomorrow night.
But - this is your husband, and this is an important conversation that you both seem to have avoided for the last seven years. Stop avoiding it. This is your partner. You should be able to talk about this, with or without the help of a counselor. You can't keep avoiding it. I don't why you have for as long as you have.

Good luck.
posted by vivid postcard at 10:23 AM on August 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


P.S. I am also not saying you guys should have a kid, especially since it seems like you don't want one. But what I am saying is that now is the time to make that clear.
posted by vivid postcard at 10:25 AM on August 15, 2012


This may sound terrible, but bear with me... Any chance he doesn't know how to talk to you about Simon's suicide, and he is bringing up the baby because he thinks maybe you want another baby since you just lost your son? As if somehow that would help, and he's letting you know he is open to it?

If you can, in therapy, can you express some of your emotions to him, outside of the context of the babby issue, and framed as how you feel and not about how you feel about your husband? I am concerned that while your feelings are valid and make sense to me, these are some big things to be bringing up and given his past response may not go over well. If you could ease into it, that sounds better to me. (I'm not a therapist, so definitely don't take my advice over hers!) I apologize for missing this, I read a few times and am not picking up on whether or not you are in individual therapy - if not, I think it might be a good idea to have a place to work out things in your own head, not tied up with your husband.

I can't imagine how tough this is, hang in there.
posted by mrs. taters at 10:49 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


To me it sounds like the long and short of it all is that your husband is uncertain on how to react to, process, and support your grieving. You just lost 1 child after a long struggle with two, so I get the feeling that while both children were still alive, you were very mentally busy with caring for them that you likely didn't really get to unwind your mind much, so in addition to grieving the death of your son, you're now looking at all the struggle from the past and the reflection is compounding anxiety, guilt, and other "bad" feelings. I feel so especially after you say that his views on women can tend to be shaped by stereotypical "what women want" things - he may be grabbing in the dark trying to find something to make you feel better or help you move forward in life and unknowingly stepped on this landmine of a topic for what your are going through now. You say he seems blind to your feelings, and he may well be, and it may be because you are not being honest enough with him about how much you are hurting or it may not be expressed in a way that he can accept. Maybe try in a therapy session with him to really express how bad it is and then the therapist can assist him in realizing that he can't put a bandaid on the situation and that more than really taking some sort of action towards your grief he needs to just be passively supportive.

Deal with that and then get to the root of whether the baby desires are there for him.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:28 AM on August 15, 2012


I think that generally, in a marriage, more communication = better. You don't have to have a baby, but you have to learn to talk to each other. If you don't trust each other enough to talk about the things that are the most important to you, then that is the biggest thing wrong in your marriage. Without mutual love and support, what is the point of being married? And that can't happen without communication.

Marriage counseling might help with that.
posted by musofire at 11:37 AM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


The last discussion I remember having on the topic was with a trusted social worker present, and it was basically agreed that my kids needed so much of my focus at that time that it would be a very bad idea to add a new baby to the mix, and possibly not even safe.

I couldn't disagree more with those effectively calling the OP selfish for not recognizing or caring more about her husband's desire to have children.

This was discussed with a professional. The topic was broached head on. A decision was made based on what was felt to be good, sound advice and in light of what were extreme, irrevocable circumstances involving mental and physical illness, and later compounded by alcohol abuse.

Your husband can still want to have children despite a professional telling you in a professional context that bringing an infant child into the situation might not only be a bad idea, but might actually be unsafe. That's his right; his want is neither good nor bad, it is simply a desire and, as such, it is not really subject to judgment. It's a fact. He can't help what he wants and to try to would be folly. Yes, it's very hard to want something on the order of magnitude as a child and not be able to have it. It can be crushing. But in real world relationships, sometimes circumstances prevent us from having the things that we want and we have to make peace with it and move on. Or not. Either way, a hard reality of relationships, too, is that your partner cannot always ameliorate suffering, or make an unsafe situation safe, or change reality to make it so that your wishes can be met. We try to do that for our lovers, spouses and partners. We try to make it so that they have what they want. But this is not always possible.

Impasses happen. Obstacles present themselves. Timing can just suck. I get it - he sees his wife turning 44, his circumstances changed, and his window for acting closing fast. Well, that doesn't make broaching the discussion appropriate or sensitive. It comes across as selfish, which is unfortunately characteristic of lots of alcoholics, our love for them notwithstanding. It sucks for both of them but it is not a failing of character on her part that her husband chose to turn to alcohol rather than working through his feelings in a different way that didn't involve her agreeing to have another child she'd been advised by a professional wouldn't be entirely safe in this particular familial environment. For those saying or intimating she didn't properly discuss her husband's feelings with him, what was talking all this through with a professional about? How else was she supposed to talk this through with him? I fail to see how she could have acknowledged his feelings more.

My heart goes out to you; I'm a new mom and the rawness and completeness of my love for my child overwhelmed me from moment one. I can't imagine the loss you must feel and I'm so, so sorry you're having marital trouble on top of that kind of agony. I hope you and your husband can find a way to support each other. I think that will only be possible with the help of a professional, and if you share with him honestly what you've shared here. Personally, I think it's ok if you don't want to be opened up again to this kind of hurt. But you have to be honest about it, with yourself and with him, and a safe environment in which to do that is essential. Best of luck to you.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 12:35 PM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


On the fact that this was broached "head on," and discussed by with a professional: this was also the period when my kids' mental health/behavioral situation went from "they're a little difficult to manage" to hospitalizations, meds, social workers, IEPs, etc. The last discussion I remember having on the topic was with a trusted social worker present, and it was basically agreed that my kids needed so much of my focus at that time that it would be a very bad idea to add a new baby to the mix, and possibly not even safe. [...] In the past couple of years things had calmed down to manageable levels with the kids, although there was still more tension and accommodation to mental health issues than you would expect in a "normal" household. My husband has made strides in addressing his drinking issues.

I think what some might be pointing to is that the discussion occurred 5 years ago; it is possible that, in the time since, her husband viewed that conversation as "we are not ready right now" and, still harboring a desire for kids, thought to bring up the conversation when things looked like they might be getting better, or thought that having kids might help keep things moving on a positive note.

I can't say for sure, since I wasn't there, and am not them.
Nor do I think that her stance on the matter is wrong. At all.

But I'd like to point out that I don't think people are calling the OP selfish; I do think that some might observe that she is being avoidant, and that this avoidance of having a true, nitty gritty discussion on the issue might prevent it from ever being resolved, and might exacerbate it into being a recurring hurt.

Or: the issue might be that she thought the issue was resolved, whereas he, genuinely, did not. The only way to solve this is to, at some point, have a conversation about it. A real one.
posted by vivid postcard at 1:47 PM on August 15, 2012


My condolences for the death of your son.

Personally, even if you were in a strong position with no emotional or mental stressors and an openly communicative and understanding husband that is not on the verge of being an alcoholic, to boot, at 44 I think your crazy to consider having another child. Can you imagine the incredible stress and grief that could be dumped on you and your spouse if something should go wrong with your attempts at conception or during the pregnancy? Even if all is smooth sailing through the birth process, you will be 60 when your child is 15. There's NO WAY I personally could cope with a 15 year old, even if they were the most easy-going teenager ever in the land of make-believe, and I'm not even 60 yet. Going through the process with another troubled adolescent would be a recipe for utter insanity. Then there's the whole money/retirement issue. I have no idea what your financial situation is, but just contemplating retirement in this economy has me running a bit scared--I'm IMMENSELY grateful I don't have to contemplate orthodontist fees, teen clothes, and college (again).


Her son just committed suicide. She's allowed to put her feelings and emotions first during her grieving process.

Exactly.

Right, absolutely. But she has no right to expect her husband to automatically understand or share her feelings. What we're seeing here essentially is the OP being angry at her husband because "he should have known better than to even ask the question" and it's that specific attitude which I find counterproductive - the "you should have understood me well enough to know this already" mentality.

Sorry, she does have that right. They are in therapy, for crying out loud. Where has he been during those sessions?

Communication issues are one of the items on menu; I have a hard time opening up about my feelings, in part because of my innately reserved nature and in part because when I have delved into deeper and more painful emotional territory with my husband I have rarely gotten a supportive or productive response.

I'd say he hasn't bothered to try real hard in the past, and if there's anger, it's both residual and cumulative, as well as being thoroughly understandable.

OP, nowhere do you state that your husband stepped up to the plate and was the greatest dad evar! your other two kids. Given his lack of emotional support for you, do you truly believe in your heart that having another baby would be good for you, the child, and your marriage?
posted by BlueHorse at 5:13 PM on August 15, 2012


Another factor to consider - I don't know if this is purely anecdotal, but of the people I know who have lost a child, most of them within two years wanted to have another child, and did. Not as a replacement for the lost child, but because it became an intense desire to have new life in their family again. One woman described it to me as a deep physical need, something she couldn't rationally explain, but that was very real and strong. If your husband was involved in raising your two children, he may be feeling some of that.

It sounds very complex, with not just you and your husband, but your daughter to consider, and your son's death is so near - can you not tell your husband that this is not something that can be decided right now? At 44, frankly it's not going to be that much easier than 45 to start the fertility rollercoaster, and you really should not have to make such enormous decisions and difficult discussions right now.

You might want to schedule an individual session with your therapist where you can show her what you've written and talk about it first before having another conversation with him. There's just so much going on here in such a short span of time.

I am so sorry for your family's loss. Your son's suicide is shattering. This year, the next few years, should be about just getting back on your feet - surviving a child's suicide takes enormous courage and pain and effort.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:22 PM on August 15, 2012


Just came to express my sadness at your loss. We have a sixteen-year-old and I can't imagine what you are going through. I hope you are able to eventually heal from this trauma.
posted by mecran01 at 9:20 AM on March 26, 2013


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