How do I feel better about an unplanned pregnancy?
January 22, 2011 9:11 AM   Subscribe

How do I feel better about an unplanned pregnancy?

I feel like this has been covered pretty extensively for women, post birth here on ask.mefi. But I'm male, and this is happening to me, 8 months before the birth, and I'm running out of options of what to do and how to deal with my feelings surrounding this pregnancy. It feels like I'm describing PPD, 8 months early....for a dude.

Just over a month ago, I found out my wife's pregnant. We were not planning on having any little ones right now. This was a completely unplanned, capital A, Accident. The minute I found out that my wife was pregnant, I was pretty much devastated. That moment I instantly felt like I did not want children, even though before this happened I honestly thought that having kids was a great idea someday. My heart instantly sunk, and I've felt horrible about the entire situation from that moment onward. My wife is, on a whole, pretty stoked.

I'm feeling loads of resentment, anger, dread and vomit inducing fear towards this drastic, impending change. I really feel like we've made a terrible mistake, and this is not what i want. We've only been married a short time, and I feel like I'm being robbed of time that my wife and I were just, us. I've struggled with depression and anxiety for years, and for the first time in about 10 years felt at ease, content and pretty damn happy... and now it feels like all that has a 8 month time bomb tacked on to it. Our long term plans involved me starting a small business, and that dream seems completely shot to hell, because while it's no more risky than any other business, it's not a sure bet for taking care of a family.

My wife is the primary bread-winner and I have a tendency to worry about money (a lot) already, and the year that i moved in with my wife (then girlfriend), was the first time I've been able to move out of the 'working poor' zone and into some semblance of security and savings, which is going to be nearly depleted by her taking maternity leave, and my wages aren't nearly enough to cover the household's expense (not even including any increases a freaking baby has on that). We're ludicrously frugal, saving more money isn't something we can really do. Paying for child-care is also something that seems wildly out of the question from the prices i've been seeing. I don't mind being frugal, but I really hated being poor, and I'm terrified that that's where we're heading (again).

I'm already talking to my regular therapist about this, but I go away from each session really upset even talking about it. It took several weeks for me to even admit to my wife how unhappy I was about the situation even with her calling me out on it. She has been oscillating between trying to understand how I feel, and being upset with how unhappy I am about it...I'm trying incredibly hard not to let this influence my day to day life, but it's nearly impossible to hide how upset/sad/everythingi'mfeeling right now. I don't want to talk about this with a therapist, or my wife, or my friends. I have not told my close friends. It feels completely inappropriate to say "Holy shit, this was a mistake. Not a happy accident; a mistake. I don't want this." It also feels inappropriate to say "Wow, now I have complete sympathy for dudes who take off and leave their families" (not that i would do that, I just feel a great deal of sympathy for how they feel). I feel like i have emotional Tourettes or something...I just can't control these totally inappropriate emotions from leaping into my brain.

On top of all this, I'm feeling guilty for feeling this way, because it doesn't feel typical, and it feels selfish. I feel like i should be having a completely different reaction, and i'm not.

What on earth can I do to even gain a neutral perspective on this?* I'm not looking to feel 100% awesome about it, I'd settle for finding ways to feel ambivalent. I'm just trying to find ways to not be angry or resentful towards this kid, as I'm guessing resenting your child works wonders for your marriage in the long run. I just don't know what to do, or how to alter how I feel about this, especially because it's not how I expected to react to such news.

Throwaway email:

*Please don't suggest medication as a solution to this particular problem, even temporarily; I've been on numerous meds, and rarely have a good reaction to them. It's not a feasible option for me, but I respect that it very well may be for other people.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think you need to feel guilty for feeling this way. It sounds like a pretty reasonable response to your life-plans being upended. And you can't control your feelings. What you can control are your actions. You would need to feel guilty if you let your feelings keep you from being a responsible, loving parent toward the child. In terms of how not to resent the kid, I'd say you should remind yourself over and over that it's not the kid's fault that his/her conception came at a difficult time for you.

Have you and your wife considered placing the baby for adoption? The kid might be better off with a family that wholeheartedly wants a child.
posted by zahava at 9:24 AM on January 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

It's not much, but many, maybe even most people are the result of unplanned pregnancies. Maybe even you! Lots of good people came into the world at inopportune times and were a lot of trouble, but worth it in the end.
Also, give yourself a chance to meet the kid - a lot of my friends were completely uninvolved in their kids-to-be until they saw them, at which point they went melty gaga.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 9:27 AM on January 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Have you and your wife considered placing the baby for adoption? The kid might be better off with a family that wholeheartedly wants a child. That's an absurd suggestion. The wife is excited about and wants the child.

I would try to put into perspective how your life plans are not necessarily ruined by this baby. Babies are expensive, yes, but not as expensive as some like to make it seem. You don't need to buy every little doodad they make for babies, like some people do. People without huge incomes raise kids all the time. Your wife will likely have some paid time she can use for her maternity leave, so it won't be completely draining. She's the primary breadwinner, you say. I know the economy sucks, but can you look for a higher-paying job or make extra money with some sort of side-work? Or, if you make significantly less than her, would it be cheaper for you to stay home with the baby (that is, if you don't resent the baby once it's born and would actually like to spend time with the child).
posted by elpea at 9:29 AM on January 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

With any great life change that comes suddenly, you need to give yourself time to grieve the plans and the life you once had. Do you have a good relationship with your dad or your wife's dad? Could you maybe go on a weekend trip with them, or other dads that you know? Talk out your feelings with people who have been there before. You're not the first father who has felt this--and building a support system might just help you get through it. Plus, time.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:29 AM on January 22, 2011 [6 favorites]

*Datapoint: I was an unplanned baby of 2 newly-married poor, barely-employed 20-year-olds and I turned out okay. My family did fine. My dad even was able to go back to school to get a better-paying job, etc. Once the kids start going to school, in many places now free public ed starts at age 4, it frees up a lot of time and money.
posted by elpea at 9:31 AM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Why can't your wife get paid maternity leave t disability?
posted by k8t at 9:32 AM on January 22, 2011

I think you're actually scared to death, which is pretty normal. Your language seems a bit extreme, though (time-bomb, etc..)
How to get through this? If "industry cures melancholy", maybe working more, harder, better is the answer. If you don't want to be poor, then get in gear. Yes, I know the economy sucks, but work is a great distraction, and I think that in our culture, men internalize the message "man = provider".

Rather than catastrophize so much, I think you'd be better served by figuring out how you can make this all work--even if you can't earn extra $$, you could mastermind ways to barter for baby needs, trade your skills for necessities, and so on. I truly believe the universe rewards action.

Starting a small business is usually a more family-friendly option, so I wouldn't automatically decide that those dreams are dashed forever.

And while admitting your feelings and apprehensions to your therapist might be beneficial, I really doubt that your wife is going to want to hear this stuff more than once. She's probably well aware that you're freaking out.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:36 AM on January 22, 2011 [8 favorites]

If youre that close to being poor it is possible that there is subsidized daycare in your area.

If you didnt seem so upset, I'd suggest you stay home with the baby.

Can you get a parttime job?
posted by k8t at 9:37 AM on January 22, 2011

whenever i start to get down/overwhelmed with any re: children - i try to keep in mind that billions and billions of other dudes before me have felt the same etc.
posted by mrmarley at 9:39 AM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

One thing stands out:

I feel like I'm being robbed of time that my wife and I were just, us

...time with kids really flies. You'll be "empty nesters" pretty quickly. Look at this in the context of your whole life, not just the next few years. More time to enjoy grandchildren!
posted by kmennie at 9:42 AM on January 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

I felt the same way before our second son was born, although I was (and still am) concerned primarily about money.

However, life does not always go according to plan. When you are feeling afraid about the future, remember that the future can and will always change. It's reasonable to predict and plan for 3 or 5 years in the future, but no one can predict 10 years in the future.

What this means is things can get worse, or they can get better.

The issue here is not your kid. The issue here is your sense of resiliency. Resiliency is something that helps us all deal with obstacles and changes in plan. Because there will always be changes in plan.

While you cannot control the future, you can influence it. Instead of giving up now, set some goals about your income, and then figure out how you are going to meet those goals.

You're entrepreneurial - you want to start your own business. Can't you do it on the side, so you will have multiple revenue streams?

You've got time ahead of you. Lots of it. Take advantage of this resource - time - to make plans, and then over time, to execute them.

Anticipate that money will be tight for a couple of years. But figure out how to do something about it. It's called being an adult, being a parent, and being a father. It's what we have got to do.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:54 AM on January 22, 2011 [13 favorites]

You seem to be certain of all the worst-case scenarios: that you will be poor, that you will resent it for time with wife, that you will be depressed....
Calm down, none of the above is going to happen. They just might. Thank goodness you still have several months to process this change. Some of the best things that ever happened to me were things that I was seriously pissed off about at first. Just remember, "change is inevitable, growth is optional."

And about all the resentment: do not forget that this child did not ask to be born. It is not its fault that it exists. Do NOT transfer your annoyance at yourself for being a very active participant in The Accident. That baby is the result or product of your actions. None of your feelings is the baby's fault, at all.
posted by Neekee at 10:07 AM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't mean this as an accusation, but is it possible that you are somewhat worried about being displaced in your family? You mention financial security and lost time- does the marriage include a care taking element that makes you uncomfortable at the idea of sharing limited resources that include you wife's time and affection?

Reproduction is lopsided- if the woman decides to keep a womb tenant, it's out of the man's control. That's pretty anxiety making in and of itself. It's not necessarily a disaster that you are reproducing, financially or otherwise. Your wife probably isn't in a position to sympathize, since she's already got her hands full with her own emotions, but it's okay to feel terror and anger.
posted by Phalene at 10:08 AM on January 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

> Our long term plans involved me starting a small business,

Being an entrepreneur /startup guy, I found nothing made me more motivated / smart about how I did things than after our first baby was born. It's easy to piss time away on "plans" and "some days" but having a little kid has a way of making things a lot more crystal clear.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 10:11 AM on January 22, 2011 [8 favorites]

I'm sorry you're going through this. It sounds like you have really had your world turned upside-down and you're struggling to deal with that. Above, the mention of resiliency was a good one - that may be something to work through. I'm glad you're working with a counsellor.

I wonder if you could talk to some other parents and get a sense of what it's like to have a child. I run a business and I have two children. I even started a second business after the birth of my first child. It's meant financial stability, more opportunities for me, personal growth and satisfaction, family friendly schedule and more. In many of the families in my circle, parents run businesses. In fact, many of them started them during pregnancy or shortly after having the baby. Maybe you'd like to take this time to start building toward a business that can support your life's dreams. That doesn't mean you should quit your dayjob. It just means that you can start taking small steps.
posted by acoutu at 10:45 AM on January 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

It sounds like you have about a year and a half to get your business running (pregnancy plus maternity leave). Or, you take care of the kid for the first few years, and then 4-5 years down the road you start your business. I'm not sure why all your plans have to change.
posted by creasy boy at 10:48 AM on January 22, 2011

Life doesn't stop just because you have kids. In fact, AFTER the kid is born and you get used to him you will wonder what you would ever do without him. I think your anxiety is getting the best of you. Relax, take a breath, and realize that if this is the "worst" thing that happens to you in life, you will be lucky. Plenty of people have kids and also have amazing lives! Try changing your attitude--even if you have to fake your happiness and excitement at first--and act as if you are looking forward to a wonderful life with your wife and kid(s). What would your ideal life look like? Plan for/do that.
posted by MsKim at 11:12 AM on January 22, 2011

I know this isn't the root of the problems you're having with this, but as far as the financial aspects, being pretty low income plus having a kid may qualify you for a fair amount of different kinds of government assistance, including subsidized child care, health insurance (very likely for the kid, possibly for you guys too), food stamps, etc plus various tax credits and other tax benefits. Obviously this is a tough time for funding for these programs so there may be waiting lists or eligibility cutbacks, but it's worth really looking into it to figure out whether you can both still work if you both want to, what your finances could look like if she stayed home with the baby, what your finances could look like if you stayed home, etc.

(Have you thought about/talked about other changes to save money? Are you near family who could do child care? Could you move near family/somewhere with a cheaper cost of living/somewhere with better job options for you?)

And you probably don't have to give up on your dreams of starting a business forever, just maybe in the short term, but you said it was a long-term plan anyway. If "it's not a sure bet for taking care of a family" that just means you and your wife would need to be in a place financially where your income does not need to be a sure bet for taking care of a family... which should be fine as long as, between your wife's income and/or the savings you're able to accumulate beforehand, you have enough to supplement your business income for a sufficient length of time. Even if your wife did stay home with the baby while it was young, that's only 5 years until your child's in school and you both can work without having to worry about (much) child care. Might even be earlier since child care gets cheaper as the child gets older, sometimes free or nearly free at 3 or 4 in some states (government-funded Pre-K, sometimes with income cutoffs and sometimes not.) Would it help if you tried to talk concretely with your wife about making plans to try to keep your dream on track? About your earning potential and her earning potential and whether/how long she wants to stay home with the kid and whether there are career changes either of you could make to make this more feasible sooner? It seems like since she really wants the kid and you don't, that it's not reasonable for her to also insist that you have to be the primary bread-winner now so she can stay home with the kid as long as she wants, unless you both agree that's best. Instead you should be working together to figure out how to even out the sacrifices that are part of having a kid, and ideally she should be taking on more of them than you since it's her choice to have the baby now.

Maybe try making yourself a long list of every single thing that's floating around in your head that will be "ruined" by the baby coming, and then really try to be realistic about how bad it will actually be and what can be done to make things better. Hopefully if you take some time to talk with your wife about what specifically and concretely makes you feel scared/upset/resentful about having a baby and how you can work as a team to minimize them-- your short-term financial situation, your long-term dream about your business, your concern about spending quality time together (which naturally is inevitably going to go way down, but that doesn't mean you can't commit to weekly date nights or whatever), etc-- you will feel better and you both will feel closer.

I am not a parent. But I am a person who gets anxious and depressed and tends to catastrophize. So I know that when it feels like the sky is falling, it helps me to get specific about what exactly I think is going to be so terrible, and make plans about what I can do to prevent or minimize it.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 11:30 AM on January 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

I think you should tell your wife asap that you are not ready for a child. Be direct.

If she is hurt and explodes, that's OK. The truth is you are not ready. She needs to know. Hell, she already knows. Stop pretending.

She's pregnant. She needs the heads up. Your marriage won't survive and this will not go well if you are attempting to hide the unhideable.

Datapoint: even super happy couples experience extreme amounts of stress before the baby is born. My husband and I are expecting our first child in April, and we just spent 4 days arguing about a living situation snafu that really isn't a big deal and wasn't caused by either of us. We're stressed! If you hide this now, IT WILL ONLY GET WORSE AS THE DUE DATE GETS CLOSER.

If you let this get that far without being open and honest with your wife, expect real problems. Like, she may never forgive you for being so fucked up and unsupportive-type problems. You can't afford that.

Tell your wife how you are feeling. You need to deal with this TOGETHER.
posted by jbenben at 11:34 AM on January 22, 2011 [14 favorites]

It's VERY NORMAL for fathers to freak out even with a PLANNED pregnancy. It's normal for men to have a lot of anxieties over money and changes, even with a planned pregnancy. For some men, the switch to looking forward to it comes when they can start feeling the baby kick ... then the baby starts to seem like a real person they're eager to meet. For some, not until the baby is born. For some, not until the first six weeks are survived and the baby starts to smile.

You should look at some books on impending fatherhood -- even "what to expect when you're expecting" has a chapter for dads that I'm fairly sure covers "OMG I'M FREAKING THE FUCK OUT."

I think you'll find you have more options than you think you do -- you could be a stay-at-home dad starting a business, depending on what kind of business it is. You could wait a couple years until school starts. Depending on your income level there are subsidies. There are tax-subsidized early childhood programs that start at 2 or 3 instead of 5. You could even stay home for a year and then set up a "care trade" with another at-home parent, where you watch two kids two days a week and the other parent watches them two days a week, so you have a completely free two days to work on your start-up.

As for your relationship with your wife, yeah, it will change. But I can tell you I love my husband SO MUCH MORE now that he's a dad. I get to see so much more of his tender side as he cares for our toddler. We don't get as much solo time, it's true, but babies nap a lot and toddlers go to bed early. We get some time together every evening, and it's more QUALITY time since we have less of it. We're less likely to waste it. Plus, we've been to the zoo as a family like 12 times this year. We never went to the zoo as a couple before. It's a whole new realm of things to talk about! We do more hiking, more parks, more picnics ... all really nice things to do as a couple OR a family. Fewer concerts, but that's okay.

Also, my husband freaked out a bit when I got pregnant with baby #2 (which I am pregnant with as I type). Our TOTALLY PLANNED baby #2. With baby #1 thriving and healthy and all his great experience as an awesome dad. He just needed some time to get used to the idea. (He did not freak out with #1 at all, so his reaction threw me a bit.) And I was totally aggravated with him that he wasn't being all, "this is awesome! I'm so excited!" Why? Because even though this baby is totally planned and I'm super-excited and everything, I'M KIND-OF FREAKING OUT A LITTLE BIT, and it was helpful to have him reassuring me that this was definitely awesome and I did not need to freak out. Your wife may not be sailing quite as smoothly as she seems to be.

Definitely express these feelings to your close friends who already have kids. You will be surprised how many had similar feelings. Say, "I love Angie and I've always wanted to have kids with her, but I just thought it would be farther in the future and I'm KIND OF FREAKING OUT. Especially about the finances." (IOW, lead with the very true part where it's not the IDEA of kids you're against ... it's the reality of it in this moment that's scaring the shit out of you.) A lot of them will say to you, "I feel you, man, I was totally off the deep end before Kermit was born, but once he arrived it was a lot better than I thought," and they can talk you through what helped them and what was hard for them and what changed and what didn't.

You are so not alone. This is SO normal. Even other moms you talk to, who are not your wife and who are not are not currently hopped up on the hormone cocktail of pregnancy that your wife is, will sympathize with your fears.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:48 AM on January 22, 2011 [9 favorites]

(BTW, one of the miracles of having children for me has been finding out how incredibly generous and supportive my friends are, especially with the practical and emotional aspects of parenting. People are amazingly willing to sympathize with, support, and mentor you. People are incredibly willing to share their own vulnerabilities, fears, and failures w/r/t parenting and how it worked out okay. You as yet have no idea how INCREDIBLY AWESOME your friends are. They are six times as awesome as you knew before. Start talking to them.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:57 AM on January 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't know if this the right suggestion for you, since you are obviously very serious, but here is a light-hearted book about ambivalent guy having a baby.
posted by leigh1 at 12:08 PM on January 22, 2011

I'm thinking that this is depression/anxiety talking more than anything else. You said yourself that kids were on the table "someday." It is perfectly NORMAL to freak out about any sudden unexpected major life change, and this IS one.

First, don't worry about money right now. Worst case scenario is that little bundle makes you eligible for a lot of help if you guys really do wind up broke (but that is WORST case.)

It's okay to mourn the lost time alone with your wife. I myself had my first child about 15 months after my husband and I were married. But as a mother of three (and now grandmother) let me reassure you that after the initial adjustment period, one child is actually very portable and easy to fit into an adult lifestyle. As to baby needs, that is what baby showers are for. People will GIVE you things. And you won't need as many things as you'd think, besides.

One thing that may help you is to start reading up on pregnancy, childbirth and infant care. Get yourself informed. Research. Start choosing to think of all the positives, and trust me, there are some. This is not to minimize your very real and very honest angst, but what it WILL do is give you something to focus on and at some point you might actually find yourself a little or even a lot excited to meet this little one. But be kind to yourself. You are not a bad person for feeling the way you are feeling.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:14 PM on January 22, 2011

I would caution you, if you do discuss this with your wife, to choose your words carefully. I think many women could never forgive their husbands for suggesting they abort or give up their children.

If you do bring it up, bring it up in concrete, useful terms, like "I'm feeling anxious about the money aspect, let's research the likely scenarios for subsidized health insurance for this little one."

You will probably also start feeling less overwhelmed once you actually know what the numbers look like, how much help you could get, etc.

As far as feeling resentful of the change, I truly am sympathetic. As a parent who'd had several blissful years of "just us" before our first kid came along, I do recall feeling very angry that that chapter had ended. It might help to consider that Stuff Happens, and this is far from the worst thing that can happen to a young healthy married couple. It could have been cancer, or being rendered paraplegic in a car wreck, or a house fire, or an affair leading to divorce. Babies are hard, but there's nothing more fulfilling. There's a reason most people consider babies to be a joy and a blessing, despite how much of a pain in the ass they are.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:48 PM on January 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

I think it's a fairly normal/common reaction for fathers-to-be to just FREAK OUT a bit, especially in the first trimester when the baby itself is pretty abstract. This is one of the few situations in life where you, personally, have exactly zero control. It's pretty easy to feel overwhelmed and upset by that. You can't grow the baby yourself, you're just a bystander waiting for it to be born, which makes it easy to skip over the whole process of pregnancy and focus on "SHIT BABIES COST MONEY AND NEED STUFF!"

Absolutely talk to your wife honestly about this. Make sure she knows how much you love her, you're just totally stressed and having some issues getting your head around how much your lives are going to change. She might have suggestions about budgeting herself. Believe me, speaking as a certified pregnant lady, she's thinking about that stuff too. It'll be best for the baby in every way if you two parent as a team, starting now. Get her in on what you feel overwhelmed by and she very well may be able to help you figure it out. You will not have to have everything under control by yourself - she'll be every bit as committed to making sure that you two and your little one are taken care of as you are.

Worst case scenario, and I do mean WORST CASE, you really can't do it and you decide that you need to leave the relationship. If you end up taking that path, do so as soon as humanly possible. I'm not saying that you should (it sounds like it's not something you're seriously considering anyway, which is for the best as you obviously still love your wife and whatever your feelings about your pending child, your wife absolutely will benefit from your help as a father), but that if you do, do so ASAP so that she can adjust her plans accordingly.

Have you been to any OB appointments with her? Do you have any ultrasound pictures yet? Those things can absolutely help you to really create a picture of having a baby as opposed to just this huge disruption. (Though in all honesty, very early ultrasounds look more like "Congrats! It's a sea monkey!" but hey! It's YOUR sea monkey!) Over the course of the pregnancy, it absolutely will become more real to you and you will become excited about meeting this brand new human. For now, just focus on doing what's actually in your power to do and bring your wife onboard with how you're feeling. One step at a time.
posted by sonika at 1:39 PM on January 22, 2011

I have a tendency to catastophise and seriously, it sucks. You need to try and find a way to stop doing that. I try and think of the positive things, the cool things. So I'd start thinking of awesome things to do with children and babies. The fun stuff. I'd start some actual concrete planning if you want to start a business and a lot more concrete planning on managing money and leave when it comes to the crunch.

What you need to do is accept the feelings then move on. Stop wallowing in them, stop letting them make this harder than it already is. Every moment you spend imagining the worst, mourning time lost, all that stuff is time you are not spending helping this situation. In fact, you make it worse and worse for yourself. Please stop?
posted by geek anachronism at 1:58 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

You said you have anxiety issues and continue to be in treatment for it. If that's the case, would I be completely off-base suggesting that what you are feeling is [perfectly normal *COMPLETE* freakout about the situation] X [Anxiety Death Spiral Freakout]?

How do you cope with your anxiety when it comes up? What are the strategies you use? I think you need to step back from the OMG this is REAL aspect, and apply some of the things you've learned about dealing with anxiety to this situation as well. Just because there really IS an emergency doesn't mean that your brain's given up on playing silly buggers with your emotions.

As you try to get your head in order & wrap your mind around the new Roadmap to Your Future, would it help to shift into Caretaker mode for a while? Myself, I always cope better if I can get wrapped up in some type of support role function to a degree that takes my mind off those things my brain plagues me with. God knows your wife could probably use an extra three hands right now & a shoulder to cry on. Maybe you and your brain could agree to get overfocused on something else right now.

On a lighter note: here's Darryl Worley's "Sounds Like Life to Me." Toast to you & your little one on the way. Now it's time to Man Up and work with what life has served you.
posted by Ys at 2:33 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I got married at 24 and found out eight months later I was pregnant. We just thought... I don't know what we thought--that surely you get a freebie or two; that conception is difficult even when planned?

Anyway, we were poor and living in Brooklyn. I worked from home; my husband took primary care of the baby. Over the years, we've traded back and forth on who was the primary breadwinner, with my husband winning out by a long shot, so I eventually quit work. In the meantime, we rolled with the situation and divvied up responsibilities according to whatever was going on at the time. Point being, you don't need to have a Single Plan for how this will work out. You need to be open to varying your work/childcare setup over the next few years, and your wife does too.

The financial burden of kids is WAY overstated. With a little forethought, they really do not have to cost that much. Well, I should say, daycare and private school are expensive, if you go that route. Hopefully you will be able to avoid the daycare.

I will say that, at 40yo and a few kids later, I still regret and somewhat resent how my life was derailed, in a way, at 25. However, I would not trade the kids for anything. That is just how it is (I think, usually) when children come into your life. I don't feel guilty about my regrets, and neither should you. Anyone's life could go one way, or it could go another, and there's nothing wrong with thinking about missed potential. But your life can be very, very good, and you will manage. Take it a day at a time.

Congratulations on the upcoming baby, and good luck to you and your wife.
posted by torticat at 2:38 PM on January 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm not exactly neutral in responding due to the fact that my significant other is having our first kid in a week, but I think you need to take a major chill pill. You're married and wanted to have kids someday and you got surprised.

I'm pro-choice, so I don't think having an abortion is a bad option (family planning is called that for a reason), especially with some of the language you use, but you're also married and were planning on having kids. You talk like this is the end of your life. My parents had me and my sibling when they were pretty young (early twenties) and financially poor and they both went on to have very successful careers. They're not an isolated case; a lot of people have kids and are successful.

I read all this guilt in your question. I don't think you should feel guilty, but it's not like this was a random hook-up that went awry: your wife is pregnant. It sounds like the issue isn't really the pregnancy: the issue is you feeling boxed in and worried about money. This I can identify with, I'm always worried about money, but there's no magic wand, no silver bullet. Unless you win the lottery, economic anxiety will probably be around in some form or another until long after you physically can't have kids anymore (and probably until we all get nailed in boxes). But you can't live your life guided by fear and anxiety, you make informed decisions, you make a plan, you re-work the plan when things go crazy, and if you're lucky enough to have a partner with a head on their shoulders, you do it all together. That doesn't just apply to reproduction, but to your work life and your dreams, everything. And if you can't apply that to this because of a paralyzing anxiety, you need to be honest with yourself, with her, and figure out what you should do. But, and I don't say this to be mean (I'm just a stranger on the internet and if we can't be honest with you, who can?), if you can't handle something like this, who's to say you can handle those other dreams you feel boxed in about?
posted by history is a weapon at 7:36 PM on January 22, 2011 [6 favorites]

Just because you don't like your emotions/feelings right now doesn't mean they're completely inappropriate. A baby is a game changer, true enough. Don't make it worse than it is, though, by obsessing.

When I had my first positive pregnancy test I was excited and terrified in equal measures. We were in the midst of moving to another state, selling our house and figuring out where to live next. And let's not get into being a pregnant woman on a job hunt. My second pregnancy happened so freaking fast compared to the length of time it took to get pregnant with kid #1 that I was shocked again. Seems even when you're trying and planning for it, it's still a surprise.

So I decided that there's a good reason that it takes 40 weeks to gestate a baby, as it took me about that long (both times) to wrap my brain around becoming a mom. I'm pretty sure dad felt much the same. Don't knock the next 8 months - a LOT can happen in 8 months.

It may help for now to focus on your wife, her changing body, and the baby's growth. Go to the drs appointments and ask questions. Read the stupid week-by-week books. Pay attention to parents and babies you see out and about. Take care of your wife for now and let the future take care of itself. Babies really don't need that much, there are lots of ways to handle child care if you're creative and flexible, seeing my husband evolve into a great Dad has made me love him more, and my best friend's husband runs his own business and "supports his family" just fine. Parents are still individuals with their own lives and goals, we just belong to a rather demanding private club. I'm sorry you're not feeling good about it right now -- hopefully you'll feel good about it in time.
posted by hms71 at 9:05 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Not reading all replies, so I am sorry if that ends up obvious. But wow. I am SO SO SORRY this is happening to you.

I just ended an unplanned pregnancy last week, with the consent of my husband. If for some reason we had decided to keep it, I would be just as scared and unhappy as you are now (with the added benefit of crazy, crazy hormones). But in my case, my husband is the one who makes the real money that pulled me out of insurance-less near-starvation. I know how destabilizing it can be, if you really think about that fact, even if you're not about to have a potentially significant interruption. This is a SCARY SITUATION for you. Do not feel guilty about that. I'm far too close to my own version of the same not to react pretty viscerally to that fear in someone else.

The difference, though, is that you previously thought, and your wife apparently still thinks, that having a child is something you want to do. I never have, hence my decision to abort. I don't regret it. But I don't think it's the right decision for you guys.

I am sure this was suggested above. But it's clear that you really need to talk to your wife, and make her aware of your reservations, and the really good reasons for them. Because they ARE good reasons. If she is happy and excited, then she probably has a very different idea of how financial matters are going to go in your future. You guys need to get on the same page with that. If you're like me, you may tend to be a great deal more gloom-and-doom about money than your spouse. Discuss. It's the only way for you to become okay with this.

Good luck. Oh man, GOOD LUCK. I hope this turns out all right for you. And remember, most people seem to feel that their kids are the most amazing thing ever to happen in their lives. I hope you get there too.

MeMail if you need sympathy. I'm not useful for practical matters, because my decision was not the expensive or life-altering one. But I'm there if you want to rant.
posted by Because at 6:21 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

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