Should I try to get pregnant?
February 13, 2012 9:07 PM   Subscribe

1 - Is it a good idea to get pregnant when a close loved one is dying? 2 - If I decide to do it, how can I get my husband off the fence?

My question is two parts. I am 35 years old, married and want to get pregnant. My mom has terminal cancer and was diagnosed in May 2010. At that time we thought she had only a few months so we took having a baby off the table. Now it's almost two years later and she is still with us (so grateful). I want to start trying but I am so scare we will lose her when I am pregnant and am so torn as to whether that would be too much to handle. Has anyone experienced something like this?

So part two is this, even if I decided to have a baby, I am having a hard time convincing my husband to commit to it. He is convinced there will be a right time to do it and that it's not now. I am not getting any younger and I don't want to wait. His parents had him by accident in their fifties and I think he believes it's possible to wait that long. He is so freaked out by the prospect of having a baby that we are not having sex anymore. I don't know what to do, it seems the more we talk about it the further apart we get.
posted by thelastgirl to Health & Fitness (59 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have a good friend, the oldest of 5 children, whose mother was very ill with cancer when my friend met her future husband. They got married only a few weeks before her mother passed. The joy brought by the marriage gave her mother a great deal of comfort. Personally, I think my friend would have regretted it terribly if they had waited to get married until her mother passed. Bringing a child into the world is a joy, and I'd wager that your mother would be thrilled to see you get pregnant while she's still around to appreciate it.

As for your husband... are you sure that he really wants a kid at all? I don't really know how you can convince him not to wait, other than showing him the medical risks that come with having a child when you're older. Also remind him that it often takes a while to get pregnant once you start trying, and that the older you get, the harder it is.
posted by DoubleLune at 9:22 PM on February 13, 2012 [10 favorites]

I think the bigger issue is that your husband isn't on board, and that by itself is a huge reason to wait a bit longer before trying to get pregnant. Trying to push him on the issue is likely to damage your relationship, especially if he is so against the idea of having a baby right now that he doesn't even want to have sex.

Spend time with your mom, work on the relationship with your husband while making it clear that you'd like to revisit the topic of conversation again this time next year.
posted by myShanon at 9:31 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

It doesn't sound like your husband is on the fence, it sounds like he's on the other side of the fence and doesn't want to piss you off or add stress because of your ill mother.
posted by fenriq at 9:32 PM on February 13, 2012 [23 favorites]

Um, very gently... If your marriage is such that you and your husband are no longer intimate, then you have no business bringing a child into a relationship in that state. I know about your mother, and I'm so very sorry, but what are you thinking here??

Hon. He could use protection if he wanted to be sure not to get you pregnant.

Deal with the trust issues between you and your husband before having children. It's not fair to bring a child into a relationship that is already so at risk.

His reasons for not wanting to have sex with you sound bizarre. The way you're playing down the seriousness of the situation is unhealthy, as well.

Maybe therapy and/or couples therapy to help you process all this?

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 9:37 PM on February 13, 2012 [11 favorites]

Response by poster: jbenben...

I promise I am not downplaying anything. I know it's hard to believe but what we have is unlike anything I have ever experienced with another person. He is the love of my life and I am grateful for him everyday. We love our life together, and express that to each other daily. Sex is not the foundation of a relationship, love is.
posted by thelastgirl at 9:39 PM on February 13, 2012

He is convinced there will be a right time to do it and that it's not now. I am not getting any younger and I don't want to wait. This is the problem, and it doesn't have anything to do with your mom. Talk to your husband frankly: his parents may have had him by accident while in their fifties but this is not common.

I think that whether your mom has a few months or many years, having a grandchild would bring a lot of joy to her life (even if she doesn't make it through the entire pregnancy). Also, the concept of you needing to wait for someone to die before living your life is very morbid, stressful, and, dare I say, "too much to handle."
posted by sfkiddo at 9:40 PM on February 13, 2012 [8 favorites]

He is convinced there will be a right time to do it and that it's not now.

Has he explained why - is it because of your mother or something else?
posted by mleigh at 9:44 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

It sounds like your husband is looking for an excuse not to have a kid yet.

I'm sorry about your mother, truly, but as a reason to not get pregnant? That's bizarre. Being pregnant with a wanted child is a joy that will help you and her through the upcoming grief. The idea of waiting to get pregnant so that your mother dies first is extremely weird.

But if your husband isn't into it, well... that is really the only issue.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:47 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I am surprised by people labeling my fear of getting pregnant as bizarre and morbid. I am concerned that the stress would hurt the baby. What is bizarre or morbid about that?
posted by thelastgirl at 9:49 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with others above that I don't think it's your mother's cancer that's the issue here - go ahead and have a baby and I'm sure your mother would be happy for you. Also, losing a loved one is so hard anyway, that I don't think being pregnant would add noticeably to that burden.

But your husband's beliefs about waiting longer are much more serious.If you really think that he is interested in having children "one day", you might be able to convince him by showing him the statistics on maternal age and complications; maternal age and disabilities; and the increase of infertility with maternal age. The fact that "some people" can still have healthy pregnancies easily after the age of 35 does not mean that you will be able to.

Stats I've seen suggest that in the age-group 40-45, around 35% will no longer be able to conceive in a year of trying. In the age group 45-50, this rises to 70%. This means there are still reasonable chances that you would be able to get pregnant, but also a high risk that you would not. it sounds like your husband might be okay with that risk/outcome - but are you?

If you want to ensure that you have children, you want to be trying sooner rather than later. If you are willing to wait and see and take it as it comes, then delaying is fine. The concern is that you might be in the former mindset, and your husband in the latter.
posted by lollusc at 9:49 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am concerned that the stress would hurt the baby.

Fetuses are super resilient. I don't think studies have shown that stress has measurable effects on pregnancy outcomes.

And honestly, you will probably be stressed about your mother's death for year(s) afterwards too. But it doesn't mean you should delay pregnancy that long.
posted by lollusc at 9:50 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @lollusc I wouldn't know I have never been pregnant which is why I am asking for advice :)

I am not asking to have my marriage criticized and my sex life analyzed. I am sharing a small fragment of a large life that I live, with it's own history and meaning. I asked two questions because I asked questions here before and was moved and inspired by the answers. Not so much this time, is there a delete button anywhere? :)
posted by thelastgirl at 9:57 PM on February 13, 2012 [6 favorites]

I am surprised by people labeling my fear of getting pregnant as bizarre and morbid. I am concerned that the stress would hurt the baby. What is bizarre or morbid about that?

I didn't mean my comment to label your fear as morbid; I meant that you are, in effect, waiting to live until your mother dies. Look, you're not going to be able to guard against all stress when you're pregnant: it might not be your mother dying, but it might be job loss, health issues, general panic, etc. My point was don't wait because something bad might happen... In fact, that's the best reason NOT to wait to live.
posted by sfkiddo at 9:59 PM on February 13, 2012 [9 favorites]

You're not getting the answers you want because there's a bigger flag on the play and you don't want to address it.
posted by june made him a gemini at 10:00 PM on February 13, 2012 [33 favorites]

I'm so sorry about your mother. Is your concern that you might miscarry from stress or grief? I suppose it's possible, but pregnant women unfortunately go through horrible events all the time and things turn out ok with the baby and pregnancy, while miscarriages for biological or unknown reasons are really common. My non-medical but vaguely informed (and recently pregnant) understanding is that there's no tangible lasting harm stress can do to a baby if the mother stays physically healthy. I guess the unavailability of some things that might help you cope could be an issue, whether that's prescription meds, alcohol, or intense exercise.

While I totally understand wanting to plan around tough things that you know are coming, the trouble with trying to plan a pregnancy is that life is really unknown. Being morbid, healthy people die every day. Being less morbid with a personal example, I got laid off right when I got pregnant, no way would I have tried to get pregnant if I had known I would lose my job. I thought it was a disaster, but then I was struck by horrible morning sickness, it was a total blessing to be home, and I'm sure if I still had my job I would have been fired or pushed to quit.

Like everyone else, i think your husband is the real issue. The vagueness of his "later" is really concerning. I urge you to sit down and sort this out now, however that plays out, unless you're willing to forgo ever having a biological child.
posted by crabintheocean at 10:01 PM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Fetuses are super resilient. I don't think studies have shown that stress has measurable effects on pregnancy outcomes.

No idea what studies have shown or not shown, but I am convinced that my own miscarriage was due to emotional stress.

Stress causes all kinds of hormone levels to change, I don't know why it *wouldn't* affect a pregnancy.

With that said, I nth what everyone else has said about the biggest issue here being that your husband may not really want to have a child.
posted by parrot_person at 10:03 PM on February 13, 2012

Response by poster: June, I think there is partial truth in what you are saying. I think I should have phrased the question differently for sure, provided some more detail, background etc...

There is nothing I don't want to address. We have a great sex life, my mom is dying of cancer, my dad had two heart attacks last year, we are stressed out, tired and not having as much sex right now. If anyone here can honestly say to me you are having hot sex with your spouse all day long, everyday of the week you should write a book and publish it. We are in a slump. Me wanting to be pregnant is making it worse. I need to back off, there is some good advice here, I'll take it.

How's that?
posted by thelastgirl at 10:04 PM on February 13, 2012

You and your husband need to be on the same page. Couples therapy can help with that.

You can also talk with your OB/GYN about your concerns about being pregnant during a time when you're (quite reasonably) expecting to be under emotional stress. I've honestly never heard of anyone else having this specific concern, but your OB/GYN may have. In any case, she will have specific, relevant info that will help guide you.

But the first step has to be working things out between you and your husband, I would think.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:07 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

One more aspect to consider - what if you hadn't stopped trying when your mother got sick, and now had a six month old baby she could see? What if she lives another two years?
posted by jacalata at 10:09 PM on February 13, 2012 [9 favorites]

Here's the flag everyone is referring to...

"He is so freaked out by the prospect of having a baby that we are not having sex anymore."

And also...

"I don't know what to do, it seems the more we talk about it the further apart we get."

Those two sentences were written honestly, and you should stand behind them.

I agree with someone above that you're unhappy with the thread because you're not getting the answers you want. I'm sorry.

I still recommend counseling. I know you might be really really scared to delve deeper into your husband's reluctance, but I think you gotta go there.

Don't put off living was mentioned above, I support that suggestion whole heartedly.

Best of luck.
posted by jbenben at 10:17 PM on February 13, 2012 [14 favorites]

He is convinced there will be a right time to do it and that it's not now. I am not getting any younger and I don't want to wait.

Before we had our first child, I was the first sentence of the above quote, and my wife was the second. Our first child turns 11 at the end of the month, and I would still be waiting for "the right time" if she hadn't sat me down one day and told me bluntly, "What is it going to take to make you understand how badly I want a child? I WANT A CHILD NOW. Waiting time is over, it's time to act. I have no idea how hard or easy it will be to get pregnant, but every month we wait I feel my window of optimum fertility closes a bit. I am not interested in waiting any longer. I do not want to squander any more of this precious time." my case, forcing me to make a decision was a good thing -- in retrospect, a truly wonderful thing. But until she spoke with me frankly and bluntly I was pretty clueless as to just how badly she wanted a child, and it was easy for me to find excuses to delay things. We talked about it, but it seemed very abstract, and I think because she was afraid of pushing me too hard she downplayed just how much this meant to her, and how eager she was to get started. Out of ignorance and selfishness I would have been content to wait a very long time, and I would have regretted it.
posted by mosk at 10:18 PM on February 13, 2012 [28 favorites]

"Not being on the same page about whether or not to have a baby" is cited by every marriage and relationships expert as a huge reason why het couples have sexual hiatuses. I'm not sure why folks are getting on the OP's case about what seems likely to be an effect of this question being currently unresolved between her and her husband, not a cause of same.

Plus all the stress from the family medical crises, of course. Which, alas, they probably can't do anything about. But the baby making schedule, that they can work on!

Of course, finding the time and energy for couples therapy when you're also coping with family medical emergencies is no easy task. You have all my sympathy and best wishes, thelastgirl. I would still encourage you guys to try to get this resolved ASAP, just because it seems to be getting to you at a time when you're already stressed.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:18 PM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

My brother-in-law and his wife conceived my nephew shortly after my mother-in-law's cancer diagnosis. I can honestly say it was the single thing that did the most to keep her going through her first round of chemo. Thankfully, she had a good year's remission after that, so she got to see him grow a bit as well.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:22 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

My heart goes out to you, thelastgirl. I am so sorry for your loss.

Your situation is unique and I am not 100% aware of your own, private circumstances. I can tell you, though, that my own family has been dealing with some very scary parental health issues this year, and I know first-hand how hard it is. I also know that it's a difficult thing to balance that kind of sustained, daily grief with trying to plan out normal stuff like starting a family. I think your priorities right now should be this, in this order:

1) Take care of yourself and stay healthy and sane while coping with the loss of your mother. This will take more out of you than you realize. Don't press yourself to make big decisions right now while you're hurting and in emotional distress. It's okay to take everything one day at a time for awhile. If you aren't taking care of yourself first, you will not be well-equipped to make clear-headed choices.


2) Get on the same page with your husband about your desire to have a child--one way or another. Tell him honestly and frankly how you feel and explain your reasons for why you don't want to wait any longer. There are good reasons. If you guys have the loving, healthy relationship you describe, I'm hopeful that you can come to a mutual understanding that will satisfy both of your needs. If not, and if your husband will not consider your point of view, or if he is unprepared to name a mutually-agreeable date at which he will be ready to be a dad, I think it's time to consider how you feel about the prospect of not having a child. Is that something that is an acceptable tradeoff for remaining married to your husband, who you love? This is a very personal decision that no internet strangers can make for you.

No matter what happens, I wish you the best right now.
posted by anonnymoose at 10:32 PM on February 13, 2012

Hi thelastgirl. This sounds like such a stressful decision-making time and I get that it's going to impact your sex life. I lost my mother after a longer-than-expected cancer journey and, although I wasn't in the throes of baby-making decisions like you are, I was in the middle of trying to make up my mind about other serious things [my own health story actually]. It's a hard thing to juggle especially if you believe, as I do, that our emotional state and our health state often correlate. Is your concern about the health of a foetus if you go through a profound loss during a pregnancy? That's a reasonable concern for you and your partner. Are you worried about a child being conceived in the midst of a grief period and the impact that might have on psychologically bonding freely with your baby? That's a reasonable thing to worry about too. Attachment is a tricky enough thing without this 'complication'. [I believe my mother's profound grief when I was conceived impacted deeply upon my relationship with her, and her lack of ability to attune to me. She was able to achieve this with my siblings born later.]

I believe you can do several other big things in life whilst you are holding a big thing like your mother's cancer in mind, but don't underestimate what energy and need her situation requires of you. It's like the adage about the frogs in the slowly warming water - you get acclimated to increasing demands without realising that it's actually a major drain on you. I don't know exactly how to advise you but my gut says it wouldn't hurt to wait a bit. Getting through the palliative experience is a major thing and, being blunt [sorry!] so much stuff came up for me after my mother's death, that I needed to really take care of myself. It was hard enough to have a relationship with my partner, let alone a newborn. I don't know what stage your mother is at though.

On the husband/sex/child desire aspect, I think if your husband's parents have died already, his response to the emotional legacy of being a carer and mourner might be the underlying tension. Maybe something is being activated around this situation that resonates deeply with him that may be tangentially linked to this baby-making equation. I had this experience when my partner had to nurse his dying father, even though my mother had died many years prior to this. Something to explore perhaps?
posted by honey-barbara at 10:38 PM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

P.S. If your husband has stopped having sex with you because of his fear that you will get pregnant, this sounds like a very good time for him--or both of you--to try counseling. I do not mean to sound judgmental at all, but that sounds like a coping behavior that could really hurt your relationship, and maybe it would help to talk to a neutral third party who can help him to work through his anxiety in a more constructive way.
posted by anonnymoose at 10:38 PM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't think most people are trying to criticize your whole marriage. But there is no language in your original post that sounds like your husband actually wants to have a baby. "I want to get pregnant...I want to start trying...if I decide to do it." These are statements that should be we's (and in the last case, needs to be a we to even happen). If they are not, then we're not trying to criticize your whole marriage, but your marriage has a big problem with the particular issue of children.

Has he ever expressly told you that he does want to have kids? How long have you been discussing it? How long has he been saying "maybe someday"? Will you stay with him if it turns out that he really doesn't want to have kids? Will you be happy? Are you willing to wait until you're 40 or older, knowing that he still might not think it's the right time, or that you may not be able to conceive then?

From this question we can't tell whether he doesn't want to be a parent now, or ever. You need to figure out which it is from him. And you need to decide whether you are willing to give up being a (biological) mother, or establish at least some window of reasonable time that he needs to be willing to try.
posted by nakedmolerats at 10:39 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am pregnant. My mother is in terrible health. Between osteoporosis and post-polio, she has extremely limited mobility and needs to get a home health aide in so that she can bathe. Except she hasn't quite set up the home health aide yet, so she basically doesn't bathe. I gave her a shower the last time I visited, and worry that I'll give her the next shower too. I live across the country.

Oh, and her lung cancer has metastasized to her brain.

Is this awesome? No. Dear god no. Do I wish it weren't happening? Dear god yes. I wish she were hale and hearty and happy. But I don't wish that I weren't pregnant. The pregnancy makes it easier to handle the situation with mom, more than the situation with mom makes the pregnancy harder. The circle of life, and all that.......
posted by kestrel251 at 10:41 PM on February 13, 2012 [7 favorites]

I don't have any advice for what to do about a husband who does not want a baby now (or whether or not he is being completely honest about not wanting a baby now vs ever). However, what if your mother continues to live for a few more years? You'll have definitely wanted a baby by then, right? So don't wait because of her.

Just figure out whether your husband has normal guy fears about having a baby where, like mosk, he just need a good kick in the behind to understand the situation, or whether for some reason he really does not want a baby, and is using this whole situation as an excuse to put it off for now.
posted by at 10:46 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

My sister and I had babies while/right before our mom had/died of cancer. These grankids were her greatest joy and they are the only thing that made her loss bearable. Don't wait. Bring some joy into this time; celebrate the cycle of life by being it. Don't let fear and sorrow guide your decisions.

Nthing everyone that the situation with your spouse is very important and that you need to figure out what is going on with him
posted by zia at 10:46 PM on February 13, 2012 [7 favorites]

There's always a chance that your mother may have more even time than you think, which would be an incredible gift. And you could have pictures and video for your child to treasure in the future, of them as a baby (or even a bump) with their grandmother beside them.
posted by Addlepated at 10:50 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry you're going through this. I am so grateful my mom was still around when we had our baby, and is still with us now that she's almost three, even though my mom is in her eighties. I haven't had to deal with cancer or anything like that. I would imagine it would be terrible to lose your mom in the middle of your pregnancy. My emotions were all over the place during my pregnancy, and that is fairly normal, so I imagine the amplification that pregnancy hormones would have on the emotions from a mom's passing would be just awful. So I don't think you're wrong to worry over the effect it could have on you and your fetus, and I think the advice about asking your obgyn is good.

If you come through this wanting to proceed, here are a few potential talking points to put before your husband:

1. Honey, your mom and dad may have had you in their fifties, so you've got great genes for waiting, but since I've got the eggs it's my genes we've got to be worried about and I don't have that kind of history. (btw, do you track your fertility? Are your periods regular etc? Read "taking charge of your fertility" to get a handle on how fertile you still are now.)

2. I know you feel like there will be a better time, but I am the one with the sick mom, and I am starting to feel uneasy about what we have been doing, as though we are waiting for my mom to die to take this next step in our lives. I really, really want to have a baby, and this waiting almost puts me in the position of needing to want my mom to die so that can happen. I don't want to live that way, it's terrible. Let's be brave instead.

3. Babies and talk of babies bring happiness to sick people, and even The news that I was pregnant might bring my mom joy.

Just to be clear, don't get pregnant for your mom, of course. I understood your question to mean that you and your husband both wanted to have kids before your mom got sick and put things on hold for her illness, but if your husband has bigger problems with having kids than that then these points don't address them.

Good luck to you. I hope things work out!
posted by onlyconnect at 10:57 PM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

I discovered I was pregnant with my second child literally days after my grandmother suffered a nearly-fatal heart attack. I spent the entire pregnancy worried sick about her -- she had a very difficult time of it -- and about my mother, who was caretaking for her and under an extreme amount of stress of her own. My baby was born happy and healthy and none the worse for wear. Everyone involved in my grandmother's health was very grateful that I was pregnant; it was a welcome and pleasant distraction.
posted by KathrynT at 12:36 AM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

So sorry for the stress you're under, OP.

My husband and I were in the process of trying for a child when my father had a heart attack and needed bypass surgery. Shortly after his surgery I got pregnant. In the aftermath of the surgery, he went through renal failure, months of dialysis, and then renal recovery. When bardophileJr was born, my father had just come off of dialysis. And when bardophileJr was six weeks old, my father died.

Did my pregnancy make providing support for my father harder? In some ways, yes, because I had very little energy, much of the time. But in that time where he was so sick, the fact that my baby was on the way also meant that I had a built in reason for hope. And I can't begin to tell you how grateful I am that my father saw my child, and had the opportunity to play with him. My advice, much like the majority here, would be not to put off trying to get pregnant because of your mother's illness.

As to the other obstacle, it sounds like you and your husband really need to have a clear conversation. I know my husband's ideas about the biological timelines of female fertility were pretty fuzzy, which you seem to indicate may be an issue for your husband, too. For what it's worth, there are probably really bad times to try for pregnancy, but there really isn't ever a right time, from what I've seen around me. The advent of a child is ALWAYS going to complicate your life. That is simply the reality. So the issue is more whether the two of you really want a child at all or not. Get on the same page about it, because this is not an area where either of you is going to be happy if you haven't reached a joint, mutually acceptable decision.

Good luck! And may you and your family know peace in this most stressful time.
posted by bardophile at 12:48 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

There is no "right time". Planning a pregnancy is next to impossible. However, there is "too late", as several of my friends and colleagues have found to their great sadness. 35 is getting towards the late end of the spectrum, as many others have commented above. You should impress upon him that no time will feel ideal, for you it should be soon, and in any case it can easily take several years of trying (it did for us).
posted by FrereKhan at 1:36 AM on February 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

1- This depends on your age, but unless you're really hitting the limit to your fertility, no, it is a bad idea. Maternal anxiety and depression absolutely affect fetuses and babies negatively. There is also the possibility that you will be debilitated by your pregnancy due to hyperemesis, extreme fatigue, preeclampsia...and be unable to help care for your mother should she need your help.

I don't understand people don't understand your concerns. Pregnancy is a major life stressor that, for most people, makes everything harder.

Finally, in terms of it helping your mother-I think it is unfair to a baby for it to be born with a job to do.

2- Trying to convince him to have a baby is not something I can help you with, both because I think that it's generally a bad idea to have a baby unless you desperately want one (and even then..) and because I already think it's poor timing and he's probably right to want to hold off.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:18 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, for your sake, you really don't want your partner in caring for a baby to be on the fence or ambiguous about it. It's hard enough when there are two people who really wanted it, no resentment, no blame.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:20 AM on February 14, 2012

He is convinced there will be a right time to do it and that it's not now.

This seems like a really modern attitude some people have, and I'm sure this is the reality for some people and that's great that so many people seem to have these orderly lives, but for a lot of us the answer is there is no right time and so all times have something about them that makes it 'not a good time' to varying degrees. Life is highly unpredictable and you can put off having a kid until after this stressful time which may or may not be followed by someone being laid off or another family member being ill.

So my take is that 'it's always bad timing to be woken every half hour for six weeks' followed by like a year straight of varying degrees of stress. Which means, short of being trapped in a cage with a bear or living on Skittles and poems, it's generally a good enough time to go ahead and do it.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:19 AM on February 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

So every relationship has three components: You, Partner and The Relationship. It may well be the right time for you to try to get pregnant - I don't think your mother dying makes it a bad time at all, and no mentally well adjusted parent would prefer you put your life on hold for a natural if premature course of events.

The fact that your partner, however, does not want to try to get pregnant right now probably means that a pregnancy would be bad for both Partner and The Relationship. Now, he may well not currently be reasonable about this - he may be waiting for some perfect alignment of circumstances that may never happen, or may not happen until it is too late.

My approach would be two-fold:

1) Find out from him, very concretely, what The Right Time would consist of for him. Is it better jobs? Owning a house? Living in a different city? Having more savings? Figure out what the list is, without arguing with him about the items on it.

2) Get a fertility workup. Find out how everything looks, like your FSH and LH levels. This will give you a good idea where you are on the fertility bell curve, and give you and your husband much more data to go back and look at his list with.

If after all of that, you don't have a lot of time and he isn't budging, that's when the really hard decisions start.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:33 AM on February 14, 2012 [9 favorites]

There is no "right time".

...but for a lot of us the answer is there is no right time and so all times have something about them that makes it 'not a good time' to varying degrees.

This sentiment has been expressed by several people in this thread. Let me just say: ok, so there may not be a "right time" but there are DEFINITELY wrong times. One of these very wrong times is when your husband does not want to have a child. If that's his position, then you should respect it - having a child is a decision that must be made with consent of both parties. Perhaps you are getting further apart as you talk about it because he feels you do not respect his position.

Maybe it would help if you mutually decide to set a date to talk about it and reconsider - for instance, in a year - and you don't bring it up until then.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 5:34 AM on February 14, 2012

I was more emotional during my pregnancy, but I also felt stronger. There's nothing like booting into a trash can at work and then going right back to what you were doing a moment before to make you feel like Superwoman.

One of the biggest impacts having a baby has had on me is that it makes me worry less about the deaths of my loved ones. I used to dread that all the time, and now it feels like something I can and will handle because I have my son. Motherhood makes you stronger.

At least, that's been my experience. Everyone's experience is different.
posted by gentian at 6:23 AM on February 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

He is convinced there will be a right time to do it and that it's not now.

Don't be so sure you'll be able to wait forever to have children and you'll just be able to snap your fingers and have one. Even at your current ages, it's not necessarily a given that it will be so easy to get pregnant. Sure there are the extremely rare cases where a 50 year old woman gets pregnant and successfully delivers a healthy child, but one thing your husband should understand is that just because his parents had him in their 50s doesn't mean that you will be able to do so. Not by a long shot. Frankly, in your mid-to-late 30s it's not necessarily a given.

I speak from experience here. My wife and I were in relationships in which we didn't want to have children from our late 20s until our late 30s. And both of us figured that there was all the time in the world to have children if we ever found ourselves in a situation where it felt right. Well, those old relationships broke up, after which we found each other and got married in our late 30s. Right from the start we decided we'd like to try to have a baby, but weren't willing or interested in putting ourselves through the expense and trauma of fertility treatments. After 5 years of no birth control there is no baby and we've more or less resigned ourselves to not having children.

All of which is to say that one thing your husband's particular life history may blind him to is the fact that the clock is ticking. The "right time" might be 2 or 3 years from now. But don't be so sure the clock won't have run out by then. It's not like you're having this discussion at 25 instead of 35. My advice would be: If you both want to have children "some day" then there is no time like the present. Meanwhile, who is to say that your wouldn't brighten your mother's final days by showing her that you're starting a family? As for stress over your mother's health negatively impacting the fetus: pregnancy and parenting is pretty damn stressful already. I have plenty of friends who were beatific throughout their pregnancy, but I also have plenty who were raging balls of emotions, endured serious discomfort and were highly stressed out about whether they would be able to carry to term. You know what? All the kids turned out just fine.
posted by slkinsey at 6:53 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have you spoken to your mother about your concerns? My mother has been struggling with cancer for the past five years or so. I find that actually talking to her about my concerns gives me a great deal of perspective.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:08 AM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

My mother was diagnosed with (swiftly progressing) ALS in July and I turned 36 in December. These are two of a number reasons that my significant other and I decided not to wait any longer to try to get pregnant.

I want my mom to be able to see, and maybe hold, a grandchild before she can't anymore. Knowing that I may be able to give that to her actually relieves some of the stress of her illness. So no, for me it's not too much to handle.

As for your husband's lack of enthusiasm, I can't speak to that - I am lucky to be on the same page with my SO about kids.
posted by amro at 7:22 AM on February 14, 2012

Also, I don't mean to sound callous because I realize that everyone is different, but you've had a couple of years now to get used to the idea that your mom is going to pass away sooner rather than later. I suspect that you've already dealt with a lot of the stress of the diagnosis. While I know that my mother's death will be awful and sad, it will not be sudden or unexpected and I think that changes the stress level a bit.
posted by amro at 7:31 AM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am not getting any younger and I don't want to wait. His parents had him by accident in their fifties and I think he believes it's possible to wait that long. He is so freaked out by the prospect of having a baby that we are not having sex anymore.

This is the only part of your question that's important at the moment. Before you can decide to have a baby now, your husband needs to decide that he wants to have a baby at all. Did you talk about wanting to have a baby before you got married? Does your husband understand that the risks to the baby start to go up after the mother is about 35 years old? There's no decision more important in a marriage than whether to have kids - it's the only thing you really can't compromise on. If your husband and you don't agree on this - and I can't tell if you do - then you need to have a serious talk with him about your life plans together.
posted by Dasein at 7:51 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

So much good advice in the thread. The only thing I feel hasn't been mentioned is the role of stress in conception - there have been studies that absolutely tie increased stress levels with increased difficulty conceiving. Which is to say - if you start trying now while your mother is ill and you're both worried about it, you might not have an easy go of it.

Getting pregnant is a weird thing. You have no idea if you can do it at all or how long it will take until it's done. You write assuming that it would happen reasonably quickly - but what if it doesn't? If it takes a year or more, do you want to be trying all that time while caring for your mother? If you can't get pregnant, do you want to be going through IVF in that scenario? The best case scenario, of course, is getting pregnant soon and having your mother around for the pregnancy (if not for the baby on the outside)... but there are any number of complications that can happen when trying to conceive and it might be an extra wrench in things to not be able to get pregnant AND have a terminally ill parent.

OTOH, the older you get, the more age will factor in to your chances of getting pregnant. Putting it off only means that it will *probably* (there are no definites - some 38 year old women get pregnant on the first try while 20somethings go through IVF - it's a random, random thing) be harder to conceive, and when you do, you're at higher risk for chromosomal abnormalities. Waiting for an indefinite amount of time may mean that your window of opportunity to get pregnant at all will be vanishingly small.

Think about what you'll do if you start trying and don't get pregnant. Will it be better to be trying than not?
posted by sonika at 8:29 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Last year, my partner and I took a walk on a Saturday afternoon. We'd been talking about having a baby for a couple of years and yet we weren't having a baby and hadn't even stopped using birth control. We weren't making concrete plans for our future with a child and we hadn't even seriously discussed the matter in many, many months. Meanwhile, my eggs nor I were getting any younger and the anxiety that both of us felt about losing our freedom, relative autonomy and peace and quiet lingered. Basically, we'd both just stopped talking about it and were waiting around for the other person to make the next move. Obviously, this is not a workable strategy for a task that requires two people to be in sync at just the right moment.

So I brought it up to him during our walk. I told him that I loved him and that I wanted to be a mother, something that I never thought I would want, but was, in fact, an overwhelming feeling that hit me like a truck unexpectedly when I turned 36. I told him that we were stagnating and that I felt both of us had put our head in the sand, hoping that the other would take responsibility and step up to make our "plan" (such as it was) a reality. I told him that I didn't see the point in dancing around it anymore; we either had to decide not to be parents or we had to start trying. And then I asked him to talk to me about his vision of himself as a father and to talk to me about some of his reservations. We ended up having an illuminating, lovely, honest, long-overdue conversation that laid the foundation for the real feeling of symmetry and resonance we both wanted to feel with the other before we put aside our deeply ingrained fears of inadequacy to the task of parenting and got busy making a baby.

My grandfather died horribly and unexpectedly when my mother was four months pregnant with me. I have often wondered if what my mother went through contributed to my neurosis or made it somehow more difficult for her to bond with me. I once asked my mother if she wished she'd not been pregnant when her father died so that she and my grandmother could have been able to grieve without having a baby to take care of. And she looked at me with a look of complete shock and non-understanding, and managed to say just, "I just can't even imagine not having you with me through all of that." That was an incredibly poignant and confusing moment for me. I've decided that no one can fully know what the trauma of that did to any of us. But we are all here and I have a partner who loves me, and whom I love so dearly, and we are now pregnant with a baby that decided to settle in for the long haul the very first month of our "Alright, here goes nothing...." trying. Our baby looks like an actual baby; we've seen pictures. The tests reveal our baby's chances of birth defects are as statistically low as they can be. My partner is ecstatic and ready to be a father. I'm overjoyed at the thought of being a mother. I'm 38 and he's 39. Come to find out, we're the luckiest people.

You never know what is going to happen in your life. Anyone who guarantees you a strife, conflict and obstacle free life is lying to you. There is also love and joy and beauty and complete humility in the face of the mysterious and awesome.

I'm sorry you're scared. I'm sorry about your mom and I'm really sorry your husband is trying to control his life by not being close to you. That happens, I really understand it, and I just want to reassure you that you can find a way to talk about it, and there's hope for finding your way. The only real way to do that, though, is to get clear on what you want, lay it out for your husband honestly, and start listening to how he feels. If he can't give voice to it, you guys need to see a counselor sooner rather than later who can help him find the courage to own his own feelings. But most importantly, I think it's important to accept that life is imperfect and unpredictable, and ever has it been and ever will it be so. If no one had taken a chance, none of us would be here. The exact right time for my mother's pregnancy with me turned into a nightmare. The only certain thing is that hanging back and doing nothing will guarantee an outcome of more of the same. You have some time but you don't have the time any of us had ten years ago.

Lastly, you don't know that your mother won't be here to see you have a healthy baby. Given the way my mother has taken the news of our impending little one, I can say that you that if you do conceive while she is here, you will come to understand your mother in a way that you haven't before, you will enjoy a renewed closeness with her, and likely see her joyful in a way you never have. I'm with PhoBWanKenobi on this - talk to your mom about this. She can help offer a perspective no one else can. Best of luck.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 8:41 AM on February 14, 2012 [19 favorites]

3 things.

I lost my father two years ago, it was a very stressful time. It's hard to imagine that kind of stress until you are under it. It makes your mind go wacky. I fought a lot with my mom about craaaaazy stuff because of the amount of stress she was under. It was a time of emotional highs and lows.

I got pregnant the year following my dad's death. Looking back, while it would not have been a picnic doing both at the same time, I had some pregnancy fuck-it hormones going on that allowed me to let lots of stuff roll off my back. You never know what kind of hormones you will have but there's a certain amount of quiet focus that I think comes with being pregnant that could actually make things better.

Third thing: your husband. I think everyone can understand his feelings. However, not everyone can understand how a woman feels when she's ready to undertake this big task and when time is starting to feel scarce. I think you two need to have an open and frank discussion about your desires. He needs to be heard but he needs to hear you, too, and acknowledge that what happened with his parents has no bearing on how you want to live your life. Just because it might be possible at 50 doesn't mean that is how you want to do it. And that is very valid reasoning.

If you can, plan a long weekend away that is just about relaxing and reconnecting. The baby question is adding to the stress of your mother's long illness. Think about not what you can get from him but about your 100%. If you could be given everything you want right now, what would be your desire? Too often we ask for what we think we can get not for what we want. I feel like you are both operating out of fear. Imagine what to you is your ideal outcome and ask for it. I think you'd both be surprised at where you find common ground. Imagine 5 years out. What's your 100%? What's his? Is his really having a baby at age 50 when most people are starting to imagine retirement? I don't really think so.

When hubby and I were making a go at getting pregnant, it took about 6 months with one "chemical pregnancy" along the way. I started to get antsy, worried that I, at 35, was going to be one of those people with a fertility battle. One morning, I turned to my husband, and said, "So what do you think about this? Are you worried?" He looked surprised and said, no, not at all! I asked if he thought about if we couldn't get pregnant and he said, no. I told him, "I think and worry and wonder about it every single day." He was shocked and to his unending credit said, "Well, you can't do that alone, I'll think about it, too." My final point being, that some guys just don't really internalize this the way women do. I'm not saying they can't but it's probably generally different. So, getting this out there and being raw in your emotions and desires will probably help you two.

Best of luck!
posted by amanda at 8:43 AM on February 14, 2012 [7 favorites]

I don't think studies have shown that stress has measurable effects on pregnancy outcomes.

Seriously? I'll just leave these here.
posted by Mrs.Spiffy at 9:20 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

When my mother's cancer came back I was dead set dying to move overseas... I got very strong advice from people I very much respected that I should go for it- that she would want me to live my life, as the people here suggest. I didn't, I stayed, and I went later (she passed away a year and a half later)... and I don't regret it at all.

But this particular desire is different, doesn't just include you- it includes the unborn child and your husband, and in that regard I would think twice, your husband sounds like its not the right time for him and that he doesn't have the emotional resources to be doing this right now and I would respect this for your own sake... the last thing you want would be to jeapodize his ability to emotionally support you through the loss you are preparing to deal with because you pressured him... (he is very capable of getting mad)

Finally, I think that for the comments that suggested having a child would be a source of inspiration and comfort to your mother- I think if mum knew that your husband was against it she would give you a really big hug, tell you to wait, and that it will be okay.

Also, a little Freudian ps: putting this on the table might be a way of coping- ie- instead of fully processing "the now" which is childless and all about someone you love inevitably slipping away and a future you can't see- planning a child could be a way of exerting control (that you don't currently have) over a future that currently you're scared of... (no mom is always scary) And it would solve your problem of never getting to have your mother see you as a mother (that was a source of deep sadness for me)... but there will always be things she won't have gotten to see and that is a loss you can't escape.
posted by misspony at 10:49 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just to clarify- if your husband was up for it my answer would have been different, because that would change the nature of your "now"
posted by misspony at 10:51 AM on February 14, 2012

Your mother is still a person. She is still a mother who probably would love to have a grandchild (guessing). She's not just her cancer. She's a part of a growing family. To take that away, to keep life on hold because she has a disease, even terminal, just doesn't sit right with me. Her joys aren't invalid now. What if you have a child before she dies and she gets to hold it? Sounds like that progress of life would be a gift. And I don't think she would want you to stop living.

Yes, it may be stressful, but you know it's coming and you will be able to deal with it. I promise.
posted by Vaike at 11:16 AM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry that your mother is dying, and that you have so much on your plate.

I'm not going to address the husband aspect of things, because it's been covered. Looking just at the "is this a good time for me" aspect: there's no predicting such things. Your mom might live for years more. You might take a decade to get pregnant. You might have some other horrible stressful thing happen while you're pregnant, even if you wait. There are so many unknown things, given what you've said I don't see why now is any worse than some unspecified time in the future.

I had two traumatically bad things happen while I was pregnant. One event was definitely made more difficult because I was 10 months pregnant, but the other would've sucked just as much were I not pregnant at the time.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:22 PM on February 14, 2012

Seems that I was not clear, and should have stated that I was only addressing part one of the question.
posted by Vaike at 5:09 PM on February 14, 2012

I'm sorry you are in stress and that your mother is sick.

One of the things that you might discuss with your husband is that having a baby is HARD WORK even when you're 25, let alone when you're older. When you're 65, your darling will be 15, and if you thought infants were tough at 50, you'll be a complete frazzle with a teen at 65. You are also banking on your health, for both of you. What happens if there are health problems, or heaven forbid, one of you should die. It's tough enough for a single young parent, but someone at 55 trying to raise a youngster and continue working would really have a tough time of it. Not to mention putting a young child through the trauma and stress of major illness or death of a parent. As you know, it's tough enough when you're older to deal with a parent's illness.

There's a reason your most fertile period is when you're younger!
posted by BlueHorse at 8:49 PM on February 14, 2012

Hi op,

Just to be clear, three questions: do you think that the reason your partner doesn't think that this is a good time to have child is because your mother is ill? Do you feel that you understand what "a better" time means to him? Is your intention just to have one child? Because I can totally get how the difference of opinion is messing with your sex life. I also imagine it might be messing with your head even more, if you didn't know his definition of a better time was, or if it was in any way associated with your mom's passing.

I do think you need to decide if having a child is a relationship deal breaker for you. I can only imagine how frightening this could be to do, particularly if the answer is yes. But if it is, you need to honor that in the sense that you are aware of what it feels like the stakes are for you when you discuss this. Also, I think if you are truly uncertain of your mom's prognosis, then you need to take it out of consideration that you can time this. It could take you up to a yeAr to get pregnant. If you plan to have more kids that is something to think about as well. Perhaps couples therapy or a doctor can discuss fertility and just how special his birth is. But one question becomes how you would feel, and how he would feel if you did wait until later and could not get pregnant. Because it's not clear from your post that you know how he would feel about that or he knows how you would feel about it.

All to say: is the better time situation because of your mom, or do you think it's something else? Regardless of what it is, do you think that a discussion with a medical professional about fertility might help, or do you think he will use his one data point as the norm even with a preponderance of evidence to the contrary? It would seem as if your approach with him would differ based on what the answer to these questions were.
posted by anitanita at 9:27 PM on February 14, 2012

I commented above. I just wanted to come back to this old thread and say that my mom died about two weeks ago, when I was 36.5 weeks pregnant.

The experience was wretched, of course, and made more so by worrying about whether it was OK for me to travel across the country, and then whether it was OK to stay a few more days, and... (I have a background health problem that makes my pregnancy high risk, and my husband and I didn't really agree on how dangerous it was for us to stay out there.)

It is sad. This would have been her first grandchild. I'm crying right now about the fact that she didn't make it long enough to meet my daughter. And I'm wasn't even all that close to my mom, who was in many ways a very, very difficult woman. But, still, all in all I stand by what I said before. In a week or so, I'll produce a big distraction, not only for me, but for my dad and brother as well.

It's better to have a death and a birth than just a death.
posted by kestrel251 at 1:45 PM on May 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

kestrel251, so sorry. kestrel251's comment brought this back up into my "Recent Comments," and reminded me that since I commented, my parents and I met with a palliative care doctor and my mom basically said that meeting this baby is her reason for wanting to live. That doesn't mean, of course, that she will be able to. But it does give her a reason to look forward and something to be excited about. My dad says that this baby is what's keeping her going. My mom is in an acute rehab facility at the moment and every one of the nurses seems to know I am pregnant (and it's not obvious yet). They call my mom "Gram." It is clear that she is so excited to share this news with everyone.

I think your pregnancy would be a wonderful gift to give your mother, IF your husband is on board.
posted by amro at 10:06 AM on May 7, 2012

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