Not enthused about wife's 3rd pregnancy
April 27, 2012 8:07 AM   Subscribe

Wife is pregnant with 3rd while we're considering adoption. I'm freaking out. What's wrong with me?

My wife and I have been married for nearly 11 years. We have two boys (nearly 9 and 6) and I've generally felt like a good dad and husband.

We were foster parents the last year for 5 different kids, 2 of whom we thought we'd adopt (mixed-race boy and maybe his brother and a teenager). Neither of those worked out, and we started looking into adoption.

In the last two months or so, I've been freaking out and anxious. I've struggled with anxiety in my life before (usually before big decisions like getting engaged, career change, etc), but this is new; like nothing is right and everything seems surreal. I'm having difficulty feeling alive and real, and went through a freaky bout of solipsism a few months ago.

Now my wife is pregnant (apparently we're ├╝ber-fertile) and we're presented some adoption options for kids < 1 year old. When I'm not feeling crazy, that sounds ideal as our 3rd child will have a peer-aged sibling and we wouldn't be wondering about another kid a few years from now (when we're a little older). We've got the financial resources to deal with this and loving, supportive family nearby.

Why am I feeling this way? I should want our kid and don't understand why adoption (which seemed really appealing last year) now freaks me out. My wife realized the other night that I wasn't excited about this, and she got really upset. Her dream is to adopt (and write a good story with our lives) and she thought I might be happy about our kid, so she's doubly-disappointed and hurt.

In my mind, I try to think of what it would be like if there were no kids involved, but I don't feel any better with that thought. And I don't have any big dreams or plans that I feel a kid(s) would change.
posted by melancholy_okie to Human Relations (19 answers total)
Raising infants takes a lot of time and work so I don't think it's really a surprise that you're a little freaked out. You've done it twice already but it's a unique challenge every time.

Even an adopted infant will induce changes in your brain that will bond you to the child if you spend a lot of time caring for him/her. If you like being a parent and have the resources to deal with 2 more very young children, why not go for it? I am pretty certain your anxiety will vanish the first time you hold him/her in your arms. I think the fact that he/she isn't your biological offspring will quickly be forgotten/set aside.
posted by imagineerit at 8:12 AM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

You would be a very unusual person if you were not extremely anxious at the prospect of adopting and having a natural kid at the same time.
posted by empath at 8:15 AM on April 27, 2012 [17 favorites]

It sounds like you've been letting your life be shaped by your wife's dream, because you don't currently have any big dreams of your own. Or maybe you do have some dreams, but you habitually dismiss them as unrealistic because the life trajectory you're on makes them seem impossible. That you're talking in terms of what you should feel ("I should want our kid") and being critical of how you actually feel ("When I'm not feeling crazy") suggests that this is all happening faster than it should, and that you and your wife have some serious talking to do.
posted by jon1270 at 8:18 AM on April 27, 2012 [7 favorites]

I think quite a high level of anxiety over something so major is perfectly understandable and not something you should feel guilty about.

I also wonder whether you might be losing touch slightly with the distinction between what you want and what you think you ought to want: maybe not, but I've known good-hearted people who were prone to that.
posted by Segundus at 8:20 AM on April 27, 2012 [9 favorites]

"I should want our kid"

That speaks to me of you not quite being in touch with your actual feelings. Why don't you spend a little time this weekend putting away things like your wife's feelings, and your concepts about how you should be, and spend some time writing or just thinking about how YOU really DO feel about all this?

I think it's really natural that your wife was upset with you when you brought this up, but also it's not really fair that you don't get this time to look at your desires and feelings. So you need to do that on your own.

The good news is that, if you DO zero in on what you're feeling, the anxiety may dissipate, and the excitement may return.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:39 AM on April 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Twinning is usually frowned on - most agencies would want you to wait until your third child is born and settled. I know families with adopted twins, and some seem to work out well and some clearly have issues from it. With biological twins, you've got one pregnancy impact and some genetic similarity. With adoption twinning, your chances are way higher that the kids will not have overlapping milestones or personalities.

I'm not surprised you're anxious. It sounds like you had two serious blows with the foster adoptions falling through, and now you have a third pregnancy - why the rush? Why not continue to do short-term fostering which is so in need as well, and wait for an adoption. You might consider adopting within the birth order when your baby is say six months old, bringing in a 2-3 year old could make sense. A newly adopted child is a *lot* of work in bonding, and a newborn - that's a lot of stress to volunteer for.

Did you want this third pregnancy or was it unplanned? We were thinking of adopting again (we have four older adopted kids) when I got pregnant unexpectedly, and at one point we thought we might end up fostering or adopting another baby, and I was terrified *and* excited because it does seem very romantic and a wonderful adventure. But in hindsight - it would have been so crazily stressful, and we were very lucky not to go any further. It's definitely an option in a year or two when our new baby is more stable.

Your family would be shortchanging the kids you definitely do have, and not able to help the child coming in as much as you could in another year. Unless you have a specific child already in mind to adopt, ask your wife to wait a year. If she really insists, you can separately talk to your agency and ask them to stall - there is no way they could place a child when one parent is unwilling right then.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:53 AM on April 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

There's nothing wrong with you. You're presented with an anxiety-ridden situation, and your wife's disappointment can't be helping anything.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:55 AM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This pregnancy was not planned. We just found out a week ago. I was feeling unsettled enough about life that I wouldn't have wanted her to be pregnant.

The adoption agency knows she is pregnant and came to us with this situation. There's some appeal with having a 5-month-old (who's already through early, sleepless months) who will be a year old when our baby's born rather than waiting a year or two for another one, but I also appreciate the advice on the potential craziness of it all.

If I were to be honest with my feelings, I don't feel like having any more kids right now, but I'm hoping (wanting?) that to just be nerves. The thought of this keeps me up. This is strange because I did a few months ago and I initiated some of the fostering. It's also inevitable since my wife is pregnant whether we adopt or not.
posted by melancholy_okie at 9:01 AM on April 27, 2012

I usually think it sucks when AskMeFites give the answer: "I don't know -- you should see a therapist!", especially when what the person is going through sounds completely reasonable. But that's my answer, because:
(a) therapists usually know a lot about parent-child issues. It's the kind of thing the people who trained them are obsessed with. So odds are they'll have useful tools in their insight-toolbox.
(b) you want to know why you're feeling what you're feeling. See above.
(c) you're labeling yourself in stigmatizing psychiatric ways. Someone with actual expertise in this area can differentiate between actual solipsism/craziness and what it sounds like you're going through. This in itself will bring your anxiety level down.
(d) you're financially able.
(e) you have urgent emotional responsibilities to others (your wife is pregnant, and decisions need to be made). So you want to get sorted out quick.
posted by feral_goldfish at 9:06 AM on April 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

Having two new children simultaneously while also dealing with two elementary school aged kids sounds like a huge new set of responsibilities. What's not daunting about this? How's your wife feeling about it all? It sounds like adopting is something of a dream of hers but I wonder if you two are communicating honestly about your feelings. You don't need to be a martyr here. Both of your lives are about to change significantly.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 9:13 AM on April 27, 2012

I would think that raising a small infant while dealing with being pregnant would be incredibly stressful. And suppose something goes wrong, and your wife has to be on bed rest? With a 9 month old?

I haven't adopted, but I have been pregnant.
posted by leahwrenn at 9:15 AM on April 27, 2012

What I'm hearing is: you're not enthused about your wife's third pregnancy, and you don't feel like having any more kids right now.

I tend to prefer to take on new relationships when I am feeling emotionally healthy. You know you aren't feeling emotionally at your finest right now, and that could be contributing to these feelings.

I've noticed in myself that I tend to be more likely to want kids when I don't have any other big dreams or plans that I feel like a kid would change. I could see still fantasizing like that even if I already had two kids, because I didn't know what my other options were.

It isn't all or nothing. Children don't necessarily need peer-aged siblings, especially if they have peer-aged community activities to participate in, and friends to play with.
posted by aniola at 9:28 AM on April 27, 2012

I have two kiddos. One was adopted from foster case. When the adoption was finalized a couple of months ago, my husband said an emphatic "No More!" He was done. We tried to close our license but somehow, that paperwork was magically never completed. One month after the adoption, we got a call asking if we would be open to taking the half-sibling to my kiddo should the child come into care. We're on-hold knowing that we could receive the baby at anytime if the interventions currently in place fail. I cannot even imagine what would happen if I turned up pregnant unexpectedly. It would potentially cause everything to come to a screeching halt.

I empathize with you and the current situation you are facing. Change is scary. With the previous potential adoptions, you sound like you were engaged and expressing a vote. They didn't pan out. You may actually need time to heal from those experiences. With your wife's unexpected pregnancy, you're probably caught quite off-guard. Just because you're feeling ambivalent now does not mean you don't want the pregnancy to continue or that you don't love and support your wife. It means you're feeling ambivalent and need time to think things through. If this is true, please let your wife know that.

Twinning may or may not be the best for your family. That's not for us to recommend for or against. What I will recommend is a family meeting when you tell your older children about the pregnancy. Lay out the options to everyone and let everyone speak their feelings. Weigh everyone's thoughts and feelings into the family decision to move forward or not on the adoption front. When we went into fostering, we spoke with our eldest (then just 5) and factored kiddo's feelings into our decisions. After our first set of foster children were reunited, kiddo said "don't do two at once again." It was such a clear statement that we listened. Kiddo#1 was engaged in the conversations about kiddo#2's adoption and was deeply relieved to learn when the judge ruled for TPR and we were allowed to adopt. My point is that your children are members of your family and their thoughts and feelings also play a role in the success of a potential adoption.

Recognize that the current pregnancy could end in miscarriage. The situation you face today has a potential to be very different in 4 months. Evaluate all scenarios and know your options. You could come out of this with your family composed of 2 parents and either 2, 3 or 4 children. That's a TON of variables. What are is the comfort level of each of you?

Finally, no matter what you decide as a family, no matter what changes happen, know that the craziness of your transition period into that new normal will settle down and you will adjust. Yes, life will be different, potentially dramatically so, but it will become your normal.
posted by onhazier at 10:09 AM on April 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

Fostering 5 kids in a year sounds really stressful. On top of that it sounds like you might have bonded pretty closely with at least two of them. Even without having two kids of your own and other on the way it sounds like you've had an emotionally intensive year. Sometimes the stress accumulates and falls on you all at once, and it can take a long time to leave.

To "write a good story with your lives" is a good goal, but it's not like it's a goal you haven't yet begun. You have two kids and a relationship between you and your wife. Those are good stories and they need care and maintenance. Maybe ideally you wouldn't have another child right now, but you're going to, so let that be the next chapter, take it slowly, and do it well. It's tempting to do a lot at once, but to spread yourself thin is not a way to write a good story for anyone. Better to take steps from a strong foundation, and to keep investing in that foundation in between.

At least, that's the way I'd feel and try to frame it.
posted by trig at 10:13 AM on April 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

If I were to be honest with my feelings, I don't feel like having any more kids right now, but I'm hoping (wanting?) that to just be nerves.

Did you feel this way at all with either of your other two kids? If so, then maybe that's just how you react when faced with big, life-changing news. But if not, you really should put the adoption thoughts on hold until you can work through this (in your own head and with your wife).

The pregnancy will probably (but not certainly) result in another child for you ... your first concern should be to make sure you are comfortable with this addition to your family before you think about adding another child in the mix.
posted by jshort at 11:17 AM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wow. This is a lot to take on. I really feel for you. Losing kids you've committed to must be devastating and you might not really be over that. Then to have the pendulum swing in a whole other direction with a surprise pregnancy. Please try to give yourself a break, here. Kids are a huge commitment and life change, as you know. I would urge you to make a date with your wife to relax and reconnect and put your feelings on the table. Discuss your what-ifs and your hopes and desires. You cannot know the future and that is super tough. You can only be honest with yourselves and with each other. In this family, the bedrock is your relationship with your wife. Priority must be to that and not to bringing kids into the family.

I don't know the circumstances around this potential adoptee but I know that there are many wonderful families out there ready and willing to take on a child. This child will go to a good family even if it's not with you.

Best of luck - this is a problem of an overabundance of blessings! Just don't give your feelings short shrift here. They are valid.
posted by amanda at 11:47 AM on April 27, 2012

It's perfectly reasonable to be anxious about having a third child and to feel pretty negative about adding a fourth child to the mix simultaneously. Do you want to have four children? Does your wife want to have four children?

Obviously this is something you and she have to work out (and I totally recommend having at least a couple of sessions with a marriage and family therapist to talk about this) but there isn't anything a priori odd about thinking that three kids is plenty.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:05 PM on April 27, 2012

I agree, your anxiety is completely appropriate. A new baby or maybe two new babies is a lot to wrap one's head around.

I second the motion for some counseling, either with a therapist or a member of the clergy. No matter what your wife feels and wants, your feelings and desires are just as valid.

Before you adopt, get your head straight about this.

And while anxiety is perfectly natural in this situation, you may want to see a medical professional to see if there may be a medical cause apart from the environmental stressors.

I've got an anxiety disorder and man, if someone piled real anxiety on top of'd see the explosion from space!

Hang in there, whatever decisions you and your wife come to, they'll be right for you and for your family.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:14 PM on April 27, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the feedback y'all. It has been helpful to read your responses.

(and for those wondering about the integrity of the agency, there will be more than a year between the potential adopted child and our 3rd).
posted by melancholy_okie at 6:39 AM on April 30, 2012

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