I'm pregnant and my husband is having a breakdown
December 30, 2020 12:29 AM   Subscribe

I found out three days ago that I was pregnant. I thought this was a mostly wanted pregnancy, but my husband is having a breakdown and now says that he never wanted kids. He's also talking about leaving me for good. I don't know what to do.

My husband and I have been married for three years (together for seven) and have been trying for kids for about sixteen months. We are both in our early 30s. At this point, we thought it wasn't going to happen naturally and had booked an appointment with a fertility specialist - but I got a surprise positive test three days ago, after missing my period the day earlier.

For what it's worth, we are relatively well prepared for a baby in logistical terms (we have the space and enough money, I have a good job (I don't love it but would stay in it if needed), and we are living in a pretty good area to raise a child for the first couple years). My initial thinking was that he could be a stay-at-home dad for a year or so since his work contract will be up a couple months before the baby is born, but if he finds something else, we could put the kid in daycare.

Since we found out, my husband has been having what I guess is a breakdown. He says that he's been in a pit of nausea and can't see any positive future. He talks about how he could be a horrendous father and how he's afraid that climate change will destroy our child's future. (I have my own fears about the latter, so I don't think they're really unwarranted.) Last night he told me that he doesn't think he wants to have children. He confessed that he had an idea of this before I tested positive, but that the reality of the situation just hit him over the past few days.

My immediate response was that I can't bring an unwanted child into the world. I agreed to schedule an abortion if that was how he felt, and I've set up the initial appointment, but now I'm having second thoughts. If we go through with the abortion and stay together, it seems like we are committing to never having kids.

I think it's also worth noting that I have had my own serious doubts about this pregnancy since I tested positive. I am also hugely afraid for my child's future, and also (selfishly) for my own - pregnancy sounds terrifying/will this destroy my career/will I ever get any sleep/what about all the books I wanted to read? Part of me thought that it would be very convenient if we were infertile or if I were to miscarry. I guess that's why I'm not absolutely furious with my husband for having these thoughts.

It seems like this opened the floodgates, as my husband is also now talking about how unhappy he feels in general, including with our relationship, and how much he wants to go home. (We are from different countries and live in a third country that is relatively foreign to both of us.) I am also not happy here and we had been talking about moving to be closer to my family, but he was talking about just divorcing me and packing up to leave. This has really blindsided me as I thought we were pretty OK despite the horrors of 2020. I think we are going to seek therapy but am not sure how fixable this is.

I guess my questions are: How do I process this? What do I do? How do I make these decisions in the short period of time I have? How do I get my husband the help that he clearly needs?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (40 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, anon, I wish I could give you such a big hug.

Can you give it a few days or a couple of weeks? Can you seek some therapy both individually and together?

It sounds like a lot of external pressure is informing his response, which can be worked through -- but it doesn't make it any less hurtful for you! Please don't disregard your feelings of hurt and betrayal here.

I have a standing offer to help anybody find therapy -- you have to be willing to let me know your approx location and insurance, and general needs, but otherwise, whatever part of finding a therapist is hard for you, I will do it. Some people have a hard time doing the initial search, or even knowing where or how to do the search. Some people have a hard time winnowing the search results. Some people have a hard time writing the script for the first phone call. Whichever part may be hard for you -- even if it's not something I listed here -- I will help you with it!
posted by librarina at 1:32 AM on December 30, 2020 [110 favorites]

Breathe. It sounds like it’s very early on in the pregnancy and you have a fair amount of time up your sleeve to process this and your feelings, both apart and together. It’s natural to feel shocked about a pregnancy - even about a planned one! And to be honest, no one is ever really ready so what you’re feeling is completely normal re sleep, your career etc. Both of you could benefit talking to a councillor, both separately and together to figure out what you want.

If he decides he doesn’t want to have this baby, are you prepared to do it alone? It sounds like regardless of whether you have a baby or not, your husband is struggling with some fairly major issues with where he lives and the relationship in general. I don’t know if he’s just catastrophising as it sounds like everything was fine before this. Again, a question for a counsellor. But either way, don’t make any sudden decisions.

From what you said about where both of you are in terms of your jobs and how he could stay at home, you actually sound very well set up from a practical point of view to handle a child, much better than most. And who knows, once you get past the shock of it, it could be amazing. But that only works if you’re both on board. Just take some time to let it sink in. This is normal. You’ll both be fine, whatever you decide.
posted by Jubey at 1:36 AM on December 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

To me, it sounds like you are trying to talk yourself into wanting an abortion only because your husband is acting like a child.

I mean, you have been actively trying to get pregnant for over a year, and were just about to seek additional help from a fertility specialist.

I’m as Pro-Choice as they come, but how will you feel if you have an abortion for your husband and then he leaves you anyway—it happens, and with the childish/deceitful/irresponsible way he is acting, it's not totally out of the realm of possibility.
posted by blueberry at 1:42 AM on December 30, 2020 [106 favorites]

I would say that this is absolutely the exact kind of thing you should seek therapy for. You both need frameworks and a third party to help step you through this crisis moment. You can talk to a therapist on your own right now (due to the pandemic teletherapy has taken off, though access varies widely by location) to help you with your first issues of processing and making quick decisions, while working on helping your husband in the slightly longer term.

It seems like you have a positive relationship with your family. Pregnancy and kids can be really fraught, but do you have a family member you can reach out to for support? Not your parents because the idea of grandkids can be such a strong influence, but maybe a cousin or aunt? Somebody who, no matter what happens with your marriage, will be your family always, can be a great steadying factor when navigating a crisis. Also of course, chosen family and long term friends can be invaluable. Reach out and call in support for yourself.

Very gently, I would like to say that being a parent should be something a person is actively excited about. I myself am not a parent for just this reason. It’s been very stressful this year and anxiety and fear can override excitement so maybe that’s a big part of what’s happening here, along with all the upheaval about moving and jobs and so-on. But your concerns are not selfish, they are perfectly acceptable feelings to have, they just lead to a different conclusion than you might have been envisioning. You have choices and there isn’t really a wrong one to make, just ones that have different consequences. It seems like even putting your husband’s role in this aside, you will be responsible and kind going forward.

Again, gather support around you however you can. Talk to a counselor or therapist on your own, work on finding similar for your husband, perhaps someone who works with couples, reach out to family and friends. Block out time to think about your own needs and priorities. You are worth the consideration.
posted by Mizu at 1:43 AM on December 30, 2020 [7 favorites]

I also want to say, and I hope therapy would say this better and in a way that could be meaningful for both of you, that it's not a given that not carrying this pregnancy to term does not mean that you will not ever happily carry any pregnancy to term while partnered with him.

That is, this decision doesn't necessarily impact future decisions.

There is SO MUCH in the world right now and it is understandable that his and your decisions may not be clearcut.

That said -- again -- if his negative response to this DOES dictate your future responses in that you don't have a secure enough connection to him anymore, then that is completely valid and you needn't seek anybody's input but your own. If you need to move on from him for your own emotional safety, you can and should.

Not trying to say you should DTMFA -- just that I hope you heed your own feelings about this and what you feel comfortable with in a longer term. Sending you so much support and like, cookies? I have so many here. Can I mentally send you cookies?
posted by librarina at 1:54 AM on December 30, 2020 [6 favorites]

Mod note: From the OP:
To add: since I initially submitted this question, my husband's symptoms have got worse. Last night he had what seemed like an absolute mental breakdown: sobbing for hours with his head in his hands about how much he wanted to die. He has an appointment today with his GP. I don't believe he is actively suicidal but I am keeping a close eye on him.
posted by taz (staff) at 2:27 AM on December 30, 2020 [29 favorites]

I don't know if this will help you, but if I were in your shoes I would isolate the issues. For the sake of making your decision less complicated can you assume from this point on that your husband will not be part of the equation? At least then you can decide how you alone feel about the baby and also be prepared for all possible scenarios.

The way this internet stranger sees it, you have two problems right now: your SO is having a breakdown and you need to decide if you want to continue this pregnancy as a single mother. Breaking it into two pieces would help me decide which problem takes precedence, as that's a lot for any one person to handle all at once.
posted by marimeko at 3:20 AM on December 30, 2020 [53 favorites]

Dear OP, this is such a terrible thing for you to go through. And it must be more difficult as you are far from your family. You need all the hugs. Have you got friends who can support you? Maybe someone who can move in?

Unfortunately, I have been through something similar. It's not well known that men can go through depressions related to childbirth, just the same as women. I hope your husband's doctor has the relevant knowledge. When my ex went through a severe depression while I was pregnant, and for quite a while after, we were attending a hospital which specializes in fathers' and fathers to be's depressions and it was discovered and treated early on. But it didn't help much. Depressions are tough. And our surroundings didn't understand at all.
I decided to go on with the pregnancy, and I have never regretted. My ex loves his daughter now, and we are the best of friends today. But to get there has been hard work and a lot of grief on both sides. I'm not sure I can say I have always acknowledged the work he did or the grief he dealt with. Specially not when I really needed help and he wasn't there at all. It took several years to get to where we could make things work.

Maybe the best answers for you are questions:
In a worst case scenario, would you be able to manage as a single parent? Do you have a solid income, a nice home? Have you got friends who can help you when you need it? Or could you move back to where your family is? Do you still have friends there, so you won't be isolated in your family?

If your husband disappears for a (long) while, will you be able to forgive him later? Will you be able to engage his family in caring for the child, even at a distance? This is not for you, or your husband, but for your child, who will one day want to know their father.

And on the other hand: if he makes absurd claims or demands, will you be able to stand strong, and defend your child's interests, and does your current country of residence or your country of origin offer sufficient protections?

This is why I ask these questions, my experience may not be relevant where you are:
Even though I had a good economy and a wonderful apartment when my ex broke down, I found it very difficult to manage economically for the first 6 months after childbirth, not least because my family was going through other crises at the time. I got some government support, and after 7 months, I was able to work part-time, because my dad was able to help me take care of the baby. When the baby was one year old, I swapped my apartment for a bigger one, and moved in with a roommate, who could also help with childcare on and off. At about that time, I made a huge mistake of falling for someone I thought could support and protect us. To cut a long story short: that is not the solution! You need to find the strength within.

Right from the start, I invited the in-laws over to see the baby, and I even went to visit them when I had an other event in their region (not a different country, but far away). I was open about what had happened, but I don't think they got it, and I couldn't control what my ex told them, and I made an effort not to be angry at them. After a year, my brother-in-law called to ask what we wanted for Christmas; my ex had lied to them and said we would all come over for Christmas, as a family. Because we had a good relationship, I felt I could be open about my feelings and the whole situation. Within 48 hours, the brother-in-law was with my ex and helping him to get his act together. Those months of biting my tongue had payed off, this was the first step towards his recovery. But it would be another year or maybe 1 1/2 years before things got better for real.

During that terrible first year, my ex moved into an old factory with a horrible woman, where they did drugs and generally were a mess. She gave him the idea that we should have equal custody over the baby. At the time, the authorities supported me wholeheartedly. With our current laws, this would have been much more difficult, and at the very least, it would have cost me in lawyers, but also in the proces of building up a future relationship with my in-laws. At the time I didn't dream that I would have the relationship I have today with my ex.

Finally, I feel I have to look at my own part in this. Like you, I dealt with my own doubts and worries. When you are pregnant, you may look at your relationship and think wether this is the right person to have a baby with. And you may just generally be more introverted and anxious. It's normal. I can't say about your husband, but as it turned out, my ex was more vulnerable than I thought he was. He couldn't handle me doubting anything or worrying, I think he admired me for my strength and power, and he just collapsed when that wasn't there. If I were to do anything differently, it would be to have a long talk about that. I think that, aided by the well-meaning therapists at the hospital who identified his depression, I made it all his problem, not ours. That doesn't mean you can't be vulnerable, you should be! Pregnant people are vulnerable. But maybe framing that vulnerability differently can help you both.

We also had some external pressure, which I won't go into here, but maybe it's worth seeing if there are other factors that can worry both of you. You don't seem worried about your husband ending his contract, but that may be a major issue for him. Are there friends or family who are putting any form of pressure on any of you? If so, you need to talk about it.

This all happened more than twenty years ago, and only now my ex is opening up to our daughter about his feelings back then, in a very, very oblique manner. It means a lot to our daughter.
posted by mumimor at 4:06 AM on December 30, 2020 [25 favorites]

I am so, so sorry that this is happening to you. I can absolutely understand how overwhelmed you are.

You have time--a month or two--to figure out what to do about your pregnancy. It may be hard to just kind of put this to the side for the time being, because learning of your pregnancy was a precipitating event--but I would advise you to first focus on the bigger conundrum.

You love your husband and want to support him in his time of crisis...while learning at the same time, in the most concrete, miserable, heart-wrenching way that he cannot, will not, is utterly incapable of doing that for you. The mix of fear, love, heartbreak, and betrayal is excruciating.

You sound stunned by your husband's disclosures of severe unhappiness and don't know how to process that information. It is very, very normal to have doubts and misgivings about the life path one is on in general, and specifically about whether to become a parent. Having doubts and misgivings so severe that they precipitate a nervous breakdown, while affirmatively pursuing pregnancy for months and months and months, means that he was just plain not being a genuine partner in your marriage, for quite some time. He was certainly not honest with you, maybe not honest with himself--whatever was going on in that, he was making commitments he was unwilling and unable to keep, and presenting a false front to you.

Your trust in him has been shattered. The foundational trust in your marriage has been destroyed. Sadly, this happens in marriages all the time, and there is a lot of information about the work involved in rebuilding that trust. Given the depth and breadth of his dishonesty, his lack of commitment, and his current mental state, it's difficult to imagine him being willing or able to undertake that work, maybe at all. There is no way that this will happen on the timescale of a pregnancy.

In my reading, this is the incredibly painful foundational truth that you first need to internalize, and then let your decisions flow from there. I think the most productive framing is likely to be: how much do you need to do for him to live with yourself as a human being, and where do the boundaries need to be to take care of yourself.

He's a human being in immediate crisis. You are doing what you can do to stabilize him; that's loving and compassionate. Doing that is going to help you be able to look yourself in the eyes in the mirror for the rest of your life. But as you help him, bear in mind that this is a crisis of his own making, and ultimately he is going to need to resolve it. You are not going to be able to fix everything for him. You can't unwind the pregnancy. You, your life, your marriage, and the pregnancy are not to blame. There is no decision that is going to make everything OK like the way it was before, because the way it was before was not OK. You just didn't know that.

So, do what you need to do to stabilize him--and then make your decisions about the pregnancy and moving to a different country based on what's best for you, and you alone.

I am so, so sorry.
posted by Sublimity at 5:48 AM on December 30, 2020 [33 favorites]

I think it's very unhelpful at this point to speculate about whether OP's husband is cheating on her or anything else not specifically addressing the problems here.

I strongly agree with marimeko's advice about separating these problems into ones you can deal with right now and ones you can deal with when you're both feeling back on a more even keel.

Right now, you and your husband need to find some help for him regarding his mental health. From what you've written, it sounds as though he's spiralled into some kind of anxiety attack. This definitely requires treatment, as soon as you can get it, from a mental health professional. I'm glad that he's seeing his doctor, and he should potentially be prepared to start some medication for the short term, and possibly be assessed for the long term if this has been an ongoing problem that's just now rearing its head. I will say that this level of sudden emotional shock is not normal and indicates that there is something he's not been addressing which has finally reached a breaking point.

While that's happening, I would also be shoring up your support systems for you. Can you reach out to family and friends you trust to lean on? Please don't suffer alone, don't be afraid to use whoever is available to you for whatever support you need, emotional or otherwise. There may be mental health hotlines available to you if you want someone fairly anonymous to talk to out loud, make use of them if you need to.

Then, once your husband is stable, you can begin to discuss what happened. As other mefites have pointed out, you have time regarding your pregnancy, nothing needs to be decided about that immediately. Ditto the moving overseas. I strongly urge you both to try not to make any major decisions regarding anything for at least a couple of weeks, if you can. Pregnancy news and sudden mental illness can both be big shocks on their own and you've had both in the space of a very short period of time, you both need time to regroup and gather yourselves. Things may change, or this might end up being just something you get through and continue onwards.

Take care of yourself. Take space to be alone with whatever you're feeling and just let yourself feel it, don't worry about "shoulds" or "musts", just let the emotions come. Keep us updated if you can. Sending you lots of loving thoughts.
posted by fight or flight at 6:37 AM on December 30, 2020 [28 favorites]

I need to second edithkeeler up thread - put your own oxygen mask on first. Prioritize yourself and your needs because you know he cannot. It isn't his fault, but it's something worth noting.

Once you can breathe and steel yourself, you'll be in a better place to decide what to do. No mater what choice you make, it will be the right one for you.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 7:01 AM on December 30, 2020 [11 favorites]

I'm writing from the perspective of someone who very much does not want children, and would probably panic if we had a pregnancy too. The difference is that I have felt this way from the beginning, have been clear about it with my spouse, and would not have agreed to embark on trying to get pregnant.

I am also writing from the perspective of someone who is not especially good with change or surprises. I have a bad habit of catastrophizing unexpected things, even when they are "positive" things the logical part of me would say I wanted. I'm not proud of this character trait, and I'm working on it, but it is a long-running problem for me.

Given that your husband at least claimed to be on board with getting pregnant, my first inclination is that maybe it's more of the latter situation. This is a big surprise of a major life change, and one that he wasn't mentally prepared for. It might take some time (and counseling) to get over the shock, and think things through more clearly.

Good luck to both of you.
posted by primethyme at 7:26 AM on December 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

(A note: husbands can have mental health issues; let us not make shitty assumptions about strangers.)

Dearest OP, I am so sorry that you find yourself in this situation.

1. Who can offer support? Even if they are in a different country, can your partner's parents or siblings or other relatives or friends help you think about how to help your partner? Do you or he have friends or colleagues in town who might be able to help?

2. My immediate response was that I can't bring an unwanted child into the world. I agreed to schedule an abortion if that was how he felt, and I've set up the initial appointment, but now I'm having second thoughts.

You are totally allowed to continue the pregnancy or have an abortion no matter what your partner thinks. Also, your partner may decide to leave even if you choose an abortion. Of course, y'all may be able to patch things up eventually.

At the moment, there is a health crisis going on with your partner, so that is the number 1 priority. Then you really do have to figure out what is best for you, including being alone (with or without a child) regardless of whatever your partner wants.

I have no idea what you should do, apart from finding a good therapist ASAP. Pick yourself first, if you end up facing that choice. No one else will do it, so that is your most important job ultimately. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 7:36 AM on December 30, 2020 [12 favorites]

Call your abortion clinic and ask them how much time you have to decide whether or not to have an abortion. Abortion laws can vary greatly, and knowing whether you have 3 weeks or 5 months can help you then tackle all the other decisions. You may also be able to change your appointment to an informational one where they help you understand both choices (abortion vs. continuing the pregnancy), without doing any treatment that day. You won't be the first patient they've seen who's conflicted about the choice. Hugs to you.
posted by sdrawkcaSSAb at 8:12 AM on December 30, 2020 [46 favorites]

The only thing I'm going to say here is to not get an abortion just to please/keep your husband. Frankly, he sounds like he's got his finger about half an inch away from the eject button on your relationship right now, and I wouldn't appease him and get an abortion for a much-wanted (most of the time) kid to try to save the relationship if he's being this erratic. It might not work anyway and if he's decided to freak out, ditch you and leave, he'll do it.

Plan for your life without him (and presumably without child support) if necessary.

I'm sorry your getting pregnant after a year of trying has "suddenly" made him lose his shit and no longer want the baby. Sometimes people just fucking snap and there's nothing we can do about it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:15 AM on December 30, 2020 [32 favorites]

For what it's worth, at least 3 of my friends have had this exact experience with their husbands upon their first positive pregnancy test. All three marriages are still intact, all three pregnancies were carried to term. One of the husbands remained ambivalent throughout the pregnancy, and in fact did not attend the birth because he didn't want to have a panic attack and interfere with a peaceful birth experience. But he is a doting husband and father, and they now have several kids.

Not that I can promise this outcome for your situation; just saying that from my perspective this is not wildly out of the norm, apart from the severity of his symptoms.

My theory (admittedly U.S. centric) is that we get so much anti-unplanned-pregnancy messaging drummed into our heads that it takes awhile for us to catch up when the pregnancy is in fact planned and wanted. Our parents and teachers spent 20 years telling us a pregnancy would ruin our lives and make us miserable forever. And then magically one day a pregnancy is supposed to be FINE? And GOOD? And we're not even supposed to be a LITTLE panicked? Yeah sorry brains don't always work that way.

Hoping you are able to support him through the crisis and end up in a place that is good for everyone, but failing that, a situation that is good for you.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:33 AM on December 30, 2020 [36 favorites]

At some point you aren't responsible for your husband's issues -- it's up to him to tackle them and overcome them. You can offer your love and support, but he needs to be the one to take action.

I am super pro-choice, but it does seem like you're trying to talk yourself into being ok with an abortion - after trying to get pregnant for while. You shouldn't let his mental crises influence your decision. What do YOU feel is the right thing to do? You seem stable, thoughtful, and in an ok place personally. You may need to break this down into smaller areas to address.

I hope it all works out for you, OP. I just want to give you a big ol' hug and reassure you that it's going to be ok. Just look out for yourself first.
posted by Ostara at 9:24 AM on December 30, 2020 [8 favorites]

Won't you always be waiting for the other shoe to drop, if you stay with him now? You know him better than we do, so only you know the answer to this.

To me it sounds like you need to sort through your own options first. I most definitely wouldn't get an abortion just to appease your husband (!!!) but still, you should know what the local timeline is on that. And you need to think through the other options. If you guys split, is your career portable if you decide to go be near your family? Would you be able - financially, logistically - to be a single parent?

Hardcheese is right that there is a ton of messaging being drummed into many of us from all sides since childhood about how scary pregnancy is, and how terrible the world is, and it's no wonder many people absorb it and freak out. Please also try to keep in mind that people have been talking about how crappy the world is getting for thousands of years; and specifically talking about how it's about to end, for at least a thousand.

Yes, procreating is a leap into the unknown. But it's what most human couples wind up doing. It's life.

Hugs and support to you, OP. I'm so sorry that this is what you're having to deal with as a response to what should be happy news. Please check back in, we're all rooting for you.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:24 AM on December 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Big hugs, OP. No advice, but thought this article in the Guardian this week might be helpful.
posted by heavenknows at 9:30 AM on December 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

Please seek individual therapy in your native language if it is different from the local language where you are. Please also have a plan for your physical safety in the event that your partner makes any threats, whether they sound credible or not. One of the most insidious things about intimate partner violence is that it involves so many behaviors that other relationships contain that do not become deadly. If your internal alarm bells are ringing, please do not over ride them with "well, these other relationships survived the same situations."

Threats includes his safety as well as your own. The number of men who murder suicide their pregnant partners because the man feels he would be an inadequate father, or doesn't want the lifestyle change, or suspects the baby will take all the love and attention away from him is not zero.

Your partner's behavior sends up tons of red flags for me, and your use of the word "mostly" is unclear because I can't tell if you or your partner or both had expressed some doubts about childbearing before or during the trying to get pregnant. Pregnancy is a known risk factor in intimate partner violence. So is "estrangement" which is just the academic way of saying, one partner left the other (and it doesn't always appear to matter which partner did the leaving).

Your task now is to get real clear with yourself about what you want and what you need. You can make a decision tree. What does this have to look like to have the baby in the relationship? What does the relationship look like if you do not give birth? What does separating and divorcing look like for you if you have the baby? If you have an abortion? If you have a miscarriage?

I had a miscarriage of a very wanted pregnancy in December, and I have been telling a lot of people about it for a few reasons.
  • All of the friends, writers, famous people, etc who told me and/or the world about their miscarriages before I had mine made the experience much easier to cope with. Knowing that I was not alone was in itself a huge help.
  • Among people who KNOW they are pregnant, about 1 in 8 will have a miscarriage.
  • If you have a miscarriage, it is not your fault.
  • If you have a miscarriage it is likely to be physically draining and possibly a rollercoaster of hormone induced emotions, some of which may contradict how you "expected" to feel.
  • If this mostly undifferentiated mass of cells is going to become a baby, you could work the most high stress job, get a divorce, move countries while pregnant, and have a baby at the end of nine months. Most known miscarriages never get an explanation, but short of taking active quantities of known abortifacients, leaving a serious infection untreated, or causing yourself a grave injury, it is generally accepted by medicine that pregnant people do not cause their own miscarriages. Such attitudes are outright misogyny and if anyone tells you that your behaviors or levels of stress may or do cause a miscarriage, tell them to kindly put a sock in it, because even if a stressful job did cause miscarriages, that's the job's fault, not the pregnant person's fault.
No matter what the outcome of this pregnancy is, many things will be the same. And many things will be different. Please reach out to lots of people in your support networks if you are comfortable doing that. Having some friends who knew I was pregnant made it much easier for me to talk about my miscarriage.

Finally, here is a concept of grieving outlined in Psychology Today that I really appreciate for hard stuff beyond what we typically label grief. It comes from an LA Times piece by Susan Silk and Barry Goldman.

For many couples, becoming pregnant does bring up lots of conflicting emotions. The person for whom the difficult circumstance is most immediate/most impacting is "the center." I will argue forever that the pregnant person is at the center of the concentric rings of pregnancy and pregnancy loss.

In a perfect world, your partner would be dumping OUT, but he is instead dumping IN. Yes, as others have said, it is normal for the partners of pregnant people to have many many feelings. And it is healthy to talk about these things with your partner, and even to receive some comfort from the person in the center, but in a healthy, shorter term, and productive way. Threatening to leave you is not healthy. While you cannot force your partner to "dump out" you can frame his behavior as common, not your fault, and a reminder that you need to find folks further outside your circle to "dump on," and just as importantly, to receive comfort from.
posted by bilabial at 10:02 AM on December 30, 2020 [20 favorites]

This sounds really tough. I was going to tell you about how my wife went through something similar when she became pregnant, but then I read your update. It sounds to me like your husband is having an acute mental health crisis that may have been kicked off by your pregnancy, but is no longer really about that at all. I would avoid making any long-term decisions as much as possible, and see if you can get that crisis resolved first. It's good that he has an appointment with his GP - hopefully the next step will be an intervention by a psychiatrist.
posted by Ragged Richard at 10:08 AM on December 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

You have two, completely different problems.

One is that you are pregnant, and while this is wanted pregnancy a pregnancy is always a problem because it brings so many new projects to solve, ranging from do you change from pre-pre-natal vitamins to regular pre-natal ones, and how do you feel about episiotomies and are you willing to dress your child in pink once it is born.

The second one is that your husband has just gone into an emotional crisis and revealed to you that he is fragile and cannot be relied upon to provide you with the support you had been expecting. Now, the unvarnished truth in life is that anyone can trip on a curb, get a head injury and thereafter be fragile and unable to provide you with support. Anyone including your mom, your husband and your pediatrician can trip on a curb, and anyone can bear up nicely until it all comes crashing down. It could have been you going into flaming meltdown and your husband standing there helplessly watching with huge eyes and a sick feeling in his stomach. I don't know about your marriage vows, but many include a clause about wanting to love and support each other in sickness and in health and you both just brought that clause to the forefront. It's there because it is a hint to anticipate that ill health is gunna happen unless you both die in the same second of a flaming roll over and that good health could happen to and require some serious adjustment to deal with.

At this point I am going to suggest to you that you try a bit of a paradigm shift, and instead of making this about your husband's behaviour, pretend to yourself that he was hit by a car and is having very worrisome neurological symptoms, symptoms which may in fact, be life long and insurmountable.

A paradigm shift like that may help turn the focus away from your anger and hurt that he let you get into this situation without letting you know he was at risk of full meltdown. Of course the day before your pregnancy test he was busy fooling himself that he could handle it and he wanted it, and not admitting to himself that he was in deep, deep denial about incipient panic. But blaming him at this point can send you onto a mental track of "Why, why, why? I thought you loved me!" and he didn't and he doesn't, at least not by the original definition of love as you would have described it a week ago. I think it's a good idea to try not to go there, as you have two problems to solve and the pit of the relationship pain is a third distraction. Later you will have to go into the pit of grief because you have some major grieving and anger ahead to deal with, but today you need to get to where you are in a stable situation and that means dealing with a spouse in crisis and a much wanted child in the uterus.

Your guy has done you one good thing. By putting divorce on the table he has not held a gun to your head and told you to choose the child or him. If you choose him over the child you may end up with neither. And that is, unfortunately, the choice you need to look at.

Do you want this child even if your poor husband ends up married to another woman, unemployable and in and out of the psyche ward? That's the kind of questions you have to ask at this point, just as all pregnant people do, and hoo-boy have you had that question thrown into your face like cold water.

So, in all situations which are complex and involve multiple people, the first question to ask is, what can I do to protect and support myself without sacrificing anything for those other people and without harming those other people. You've got three people to protect and you haven't decided the order of importance yet. You know you come first. But after that is the question of does the pregnancy come before the man? In typical emergency your job will be to save yourself first, then any babies, and leave the adults to fend for themselves because adults are most capable to taking care of themselves. But this is not a typical situation. You don't know yet if the guy is salvageable, let alone if you actually want to salvage whatever is left of who he used to be with who you know know him to be as part of the package. And the baby is not here yet.

Set up the process of obtaining an abortion, but draw it out as long as possible. Observe your husband for if the news of the abortion plan provides him with any emotional stability. I think you will find that while it may provide him with much relief, it will not provide him with much stability. He was hidden unstable to begin with, so observing him during the period while you look into getting an abortion will likely reveal that he still has some serious problems going on. You need to do a cold blooded assessment if you want to divorce him or not, child or not.

Your husband needs to be listened to. His fear of having a child is genuine. It may also be a terrific red flag warning that the guy is not going to be safe to have around a child. If he is crying in the bathroom while the two year old plays with the knobs on the stove and you try to get three hours of sleep, he's not safe. If this guy is panicking because suddenly he realises that his past trauma will make him an unfit parent or a dangerous one - If this guy is not going to be able to participate, you are flying solo - and if he can't play happy families with you and that was the underpinning of what you valued in the marriage you are going to want him gone at least some of the time while you hang out with people who can provide you with the support you need, or where he is not a drain on your resources.

Your future looms, and it may involve no children and a spouse that needs support. Your future may involve a much loved child with an additional sibling or two and a spouse that helps, a little. You future may involve single parenthood with one child and a frustrating distant relationship with a man you used to love. It's not impossible that your life will involve a loved child and this spouse being an absolute bear of a protector, lover, nurturer and provider, but... well, no, that's not likely now. If it happens you are deeply blessed but you'll be more emotionally stable yourself if you prepare for some of the alternative futures.

The thing about kids is that they never, ever, ever fall into place like a fantasy of being a parent. That's not necessarily bad. The old saying "life is what happens while you are making other plans" is particularly true of being a parent. Kids are not extensions of you, they are their own individuals and will need to be loved for being different than you want or expect. If you want a girl and get a boy, you embrace having a boy and wallow in all the wonderful things about having a boy. If you get shy little whiner instead of a go get 'em tiger you embrace nurture protect and support. If you get a go get 'em tiger you race out of the house after them and good bye to peaceful and placid days. There was never any stability in your marriage and your birth plans to begin with, only hidden instability.

Focus on you. What do you need to do your own emotional regulation?. What do you need to get through this hour? What do you need to make your decisions? What do you need to do so you won't feel you have failed your husband? (It probably involves finding professionals who have been trained to help people in emotional crisis.) What do you need to do to be safe, to get some food on the table, to not be overwhelmed? You're down to basics. Self grooming and good nutrition are good bets for your priorities. Don't let the dishes pile up while you listen to your husband sob. If you haven't made him feel better by listening after one hour, odds are trying for a nutritious lunch for both of you will be more effective than continuing to listen will be. Self care and don't burn any bridges. Do nothing impulsive.

And get some grief support when you can and find some room to grieve when you can. You have a lot to grieve about. I am so sorry.
posted by Jane the Brown at 10:32 AM on December 30, 2020 [9 favorites]

While reading the article posted by heavenknows, I remembered something important: if you decide to have the baby, regardless of what happens with your husband, be sure to get the mental health guidance and support you need, if you are not in a country where that happens automatically.
For instance, the hospital asked me to stay a few days after the delivery, both so I could relax and not think about domestic chores, and so they could monitor me. My difficult circumstances could have led to a postpartum depression. With their help it didn't, but specially the first 24 hours, I felt numb, after all I'd gone through.
And after that, I got help at home from the municipality, organized by the hospital. It was practical, but it was also about making sure I was doing OK.

This all underlines that you are in a difficult situation where you must take the best possible care of yourself, and make the choices that are good for you.

Your husband needs care, too, but you might not be the best person to give it to him, because you are vulnerable. You can reach out, and tell him you care, and tell him about your own feelings. But he needs professional guidance.

Many answers here judge your husband very harshly, and since we don't know him, they may be right. But it is important to recognize that paternal depression is a real condition, just like maternal depression is. And today, we would never judge a depressed mother.

That said, for me it was too difficult to handle at that point in my life, which is why my daughter's father is my ex today. But after the first difficult times, we have found a great friendship and partnership in caring for our daughter. We have dealt with the biggest challenges of bringing up a young person together, with few disagreements, and our daughter is proud to have parents who hang out together and support her. Under slightly different circumstances, we might have been married today.
posted by mumimor at 10:34 AM on December 30, 2020 [7 favorites]

OP, I'm really really worried for you. Pregnancy is a very dangerous time for women. There are many men who both have mental health issues AND scapegoat their vulnerable wives because of (or, excused by) those issues. His behavior, whatever the cause, is VERY aggressive towards you.

Also seconding the thought that he has someone else or something else you didn't know about and is incredibly rageful that his plans aren't working out on his timeline. Not a certainty, but a possibility.

Many abusive men only start ramping up the abuse during pregnancy. His behavior up until now is not a guarantee that this is a blip. I would assume that this is the new normal. Flag this situation to his family or whatever you need to do to feel like he's taken care of but FIRST assure your safety.

I realize there are practical issues here to consider, but if you can move to stay with family or friends -- please PLEASE do so. This is escalating and it's terrifying and you need to stay safe.

My story is -- my ex-husband always had some mental health issues but when I got pregnant, he basically "snapped" and by "snapped" I mean decided that I was the cause of all of his problems -- mental health and otherwise. The result has been nine years of, frankly, hell. Don't assume that just because your husband is being shitty now and saying that he doesn't want this child that he won't fight you for custody or otherwise use your child as leverage. My ex has been trying to alienate me from my son for a number of years. He's used that situation to try to sabotage my efforts at grad school and likely has cost me some jobs. Nightmare doesn't even begin to cover what it's like to share custody with someone who actively hates you/blames you for everything.

Please, please consider whether having a child with this man right now is a good idea. I think you are already (wisely!) doing this based on what you've said. The fact that you're from different countries makes custody even more of a potential disaster. No, it might not be fair that his behavior leads you to change your mind about being pregnant, but you have to put your child first -- which might, in this case, mean, not bringing a child into a scenario where you are already looking at a potential nasty divorce.

Good luck, OP.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:32 AM on December 30, 2020 [16 favorites]

Hugs, and take deep breaths. You will get through this, and the other side will be good, whatever it looks like. That said, I think that you should process that the other side will look very different from your life right now. You can't undo what your husband said - deep unhappiness with your relationship, where you are, and fantasies of running away and going home. While you can have compassion for his mental state, you need to focus on yourself, and prioritize your own desires.

I am another person who hears you trying to rationalize yourself into having/wanting an abortion, and into not-wanting a child. Most women who schedule an appointment with a fertility specialist are not ambivalent about having children, regardless of their larger existential concerns. You say that your immediate response was that you "can't bring an unwanted child into the world" - the question you need to focus on is, do *you* want the child? Your husband cannot retroactively withdraw his consent - you conceived after sixteen months of trying, and he actively participated, so this is not analogous to a man accidentally getting someone pregnant and saying he does not want to be a father.

In this situation, putting your own oxygen mask on first means prioritizing your own mental health - right now you are providing (exhausting) care and emotional labor to a man who has said he probably wants to leave you. The breakdown might be of the moment, but he has clearly been thinking about this for a while. I would consider going and staying with a friend (pandemic permitting) or at a hotel for a few days, so you can get the clarity you need. Dealing with someone else's mental health issues while in this vulnerable space yourself is more than any person should have to deal with.

You need the time and space to decide whether or not you would like to have a child as a single parent, and what kind of support you would need if you do. Can you move "back home," and would you want to? What kind of custody arrangements would the laws where you want to settle dictate for a parent who lives elsewhere? If you do decide to get an abortion, do it with the clarity of knowing that it is because the circumstances do not work for you and your happiness, rather than for your husbands'.

Good luck.
posted by MFZ at 11:48 AM on December 30, 2020 [13 favorites]

What a situation.

OP, I am so sorry for you.

All I really have to add is - I've had three kids, one of whom passed away, and all of whom have had major medical crises at at least one point, the first during delivery and for the few days of her life. I was incapacitated for her first 30 hours (I'd hemorraged) and so he was effectively sole parent.

My husband and I have had times that we had trouble or felt disconnected, but whatever else was going on - when it came to our child, we have both always shown up 100%.

Whatever plan you put in place, I think you need to plan to manage the ups and downs of childrearing alone unless your husband fully engages immediately with treating his mental health, because the stress your husband is feeling now, admittedly in the middle of a pandemic, is actually nothing compared to "we don't know if we can preserve your child's eyesight" or "if this child doesn't get surgery today he may not make it."

I don't say that meaning that he is a bad person, but if he doesn't get treatment for these issues, he's just not going to be reliable, at least not until he's had a chance to prove it a few times in a trial by fire. I have known two men who behaved similarly (one on the wanted third child in a family) and neither of them ended up as reliable partners either for the woman or the children.

I think you pull out all the stops for support for yourself. Myself I would schedule an abortion for in a month or so, with a few weeks 'runway' during the legal abortion period for your area, in case Covid causes any delays. It's easier to cancel than to book. And then I'd have a think about being a single parent.
posted by warriorqueen at 12:08 PM on December 30, 2020 [9 favorites]

Honestly, it sounds like your husband is having a breakdown, and anyone making life-altering decisions in the midst of one partner's mental illness doesn't seem like a good idea. I hope your GP can provide a very speedy referral for your husband.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:27 PM on December 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm so sorry this is happening to you. I recommend recruiting all the help you can. Someone else should be taking care of your husband, not you, or at least with you. He may need hospitalization. You have a number of weeks leeway to make your decision about your pregnancy. Trying to make the decision with the weight of his breakdown on you is not fair or possible. Being a single parent is possible, if it's what you want. I wish you the very best of luck.
posted by theora55 at 2:04 PM on December 30, 2020 [5 favorites]

If you want a child now, you should have this child. but when people say the big decision here is whether or not you can be a single mother, they are right, and that doesn't just mean Could you handle it if you stay pregnant and he leaves you. it means that if he accesses medical treatment for whatever part of his nausea-pit breakdown is medically treatable, and chooses to stay with you, you will still be the only responsible parent during your prospective child's difficult and vulnerable early years. the man you describe is not a man you can trust to be a stay-at-home parent of a baby. not, obviously, that he sounds right now like he's willing to be. but people who violently change one day can violently change back another day. he may come back around.

but you will have to consider constantly whether he seems stable today, will he lose his temper tomorrow, does it feel right to leave a child alone in his care today, how about tomorrow. and that will exhaust you. You will be thinking all the time, as you are now, How do I get him help? but who will be thinking of how to help you?
That is if you stay with him after this, which you do not have to do, pregnant or not.

but if you want a child, you should not have an abortion to please him. he is directly responsible, with you, for creating this pregnancy. It isn't something that you sneakily did or that fell on him out of the sky; it's something he knowingly and actively made, with you. you did not present him with a terrible shock. the feelings he expressed are very common and reasonable; they are the feelings that cause responsible men to use contraception pre-breakdown, not trust to chance and to probably-maybes. if I understand correctly, he did not do this.

you want to fix things for him because you love him. this is your own shock reaction, so very different from his. he has thrown a bunch of awfulness at you, in the way he may perceive that you did to him, with the pregnancy announcement. This thing happened to me! you said. and THIS THING IS HAPPENING TO ME, he replied. But only one of you tried to empathize and plan and sacrifice and help the other in their time of need (you.) your respective reactions to each other's momentous announcements are a study in contrasts. your concern for him is painful because there is so little sign that he returns your regard.
posted by queenofbithynia at 3:05 PM on December 30, 2020 [22 favorites]

Query: is there anyone in your current country who can have, I dunno, a medical power of attorney for you? Pregnancy is a medical event after all, and in case of emergency you cannot have your husband making decisions on your behalf.
posted by Hypatia at 4:34 PM on December 30, 2020 [6 favorites]

There's so much going on here. I would prioritize things this way:

0. Call your support system -- whatever friends, family or therapist you have to support YOU through this, because you're going to want support, however things go.

1. Stabilize your husband -- call a therapist/psychiatrist/doctor and get him some help. 2020 has been hard on everyone and it sounds like your husband is suffering badly.

2. Call the abortion clinic and find out if you can delay, and if so, for how long.

3. Once you know how long you have to make the abortion decision, and your husband is getting some kind of treatment for his breakdown, THEN you can start to explore the deeper issues: Do you want a baby? How do you feel about your relationship? And so on. Your support system can help you try to untangle these threads.

Anon, I'm sorry you're going through all this. Hang in there.
posted by hungrytiger at 7:17 PM on December 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

I'm sorry, but it sounds like neither of you want to have a baby and you're on the brink of divorce. I strongly advise you to get an abortion asap. If things stabilize you can try again later, or adopt. This isn't the only chance you'll ever have, to have a baby.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 7:50 PM on December 30, 2020 [5 favorites]

I'm fairly disgusted at the cavalier attitude towards mental health in this thread. If a woman posted a thread saying that she found out that she was pregnant and the anxiety was so overbearing that she was breaking down, weeping into her hands, crying that she wish she were dead, the thread would be filled with nothing but support. Nobody would even dare to blame her for being a bad wife/mother-to-be.

But the husband breaking down, crying into his hands, wishing he were dead (and oh yeah, his work contract is up in a few months in this sort of economy and they're both living in a foreign country)? He's an irresponsible father who cannot provide for you, or he's been secretly planning on leaving you with another woman the whole time, or he's planning on murdering her and the unborn child.

I think there's a lot unsaid in the original thread and modest update. If your relationship was relatively strong before the news, and you have access to good support (be it family and therapy), you can make it to the other side with a happy husband and baby. If there were underlying problems to your relationship or untreated mental health issues, you might not.
posted by alidarbac at 8:20 PM on December 30, 2020 [12 favorites]

I posted what I did before I saw the OP's update. That just makes this situation even more grim and volatile. I really, really don't think you should have this baby now.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 9:00 PM on December 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

There’s a good reason for that, alidarbac, which is that the woman is medically and relationally more vulnerable, has the baby inside of her body, and cannot decide on a whim to run away from it without medical intervention (abortion or childbirth).
posted by stoneandstar at 10:23 PM on December 30, 2020 [12 favorites]

Mod note: From the OP:
Another update: after his initial session yesterday evening, my husband broke down in tears and told me that his GP thinks this is caused by serious post-traumatic stress. He explained in broad strokes some things about his past/childhood that I haven't been privy to before, and he said that he explicitly does not want to divorce and that he wants to make things work. I am not sure whether this is a permanent turning point, but he already has several more sessions lined up in the next few days, and he has committed for now at least to taking whatever medication they prescribe.

When things looked at their bleakest yesterday (my husband was talking about divorce again), I made an abortion appointment for next week. I did this not because I don't want the baby - maybe my original post made me seem pretty cavalier about it, but I've been breaking down in tears the past few days whenever the topic of abortion came up. I also didn't do it to appease my husband - in fact I think having the baby would make him more likely to stay, not less. But I can't imagine being effectively a single mother and that's not what I signed up for. Now that my husband has seemingly staged a turnaround I will see about pushing out the abortion date a few weeks to give us time to think and figure stuff out. I'm lucky enough to live in a country with excellent abortion access so I am not worried about missing the deadline.

Also, I do think it's important to make it clear that he isn't cheating on me (really, I would know) and he isn't violent or aggressive, though he has been (verbally) thoughtless and perhaps unthinkingly cruel. He is hurting badly and deeply depressed, to the point that I'm concerned about him enough to stay here while he's going through this, even if he stages another turnaround and starts blaming me/the pregnancy for his suffering. I'm not worried that he'll lay a finger on me or our pets (of course I would leave if he did; I care a lot about him but I am not a martyr). I'm just worried that he'll do something to himself.

Thank you very much for all your responses. I read and appreciated all of them (even the ones that I disagree with). I will keep reading anything else that comes in.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 10:51 PM on December 30, 2020 [21 favorites]

Thanks for the update, OP. I'm glad your husband is making some progress. PTSD, as you may know, can be very complex and difficult to work through, so I'm very pleased that he has ongoing professional support. If he has had a difficult childhood, it's not surprising to me that pregnancy and the possibility of becoming a father himself has become a big trigger for him.

If you're both feeling up to it, it's a good idea for you to continue talking as he navigates these issues. This is something that he's clearly been dealing with for a long time on his own, and he needs to realise that he can't do that any more and the both of you need to function as a team if you're going to start a family. You need to know if there are issues that might trigger him again in the future and what he needs in terms of support when that happens, as well as how he can support you while he works on himself.

I would strongly suggest seeking out some separate mental health support for yourself as well, both to unpack the current crisis and going forward as you both negotiate his breakdown and the possible pregnancy. As someone who has also dealt with their partner going through a PTSD-induced mental health crisis, I can tell you that you need as many people in your corner as you can get, even if they're just on the other end of a phone call.

Stay safe and be well, I hope things continue to improve.
posted by fight or flight at 3:43 AM on December 31, 2020 [6 favorites]

Everyone else is giving great practical advice but I just want to re-emphasize, as has been touched on above, that this is all totally 100% unfair to you—raise your fist and shout at the heavens and be enraged, because you obviously did everything right. You planned and set expectations properly while responsibly and thoughtfully endeavoring to have a child, and cared for and respected your partner and you're continuing to do so now—and yet the universe has conspired against you and met your good faith with low blows and kicking you when you're down.

I am also fully on team “unthinkingly cruel” as far as your partner's reaction: I can understand every behavior described and sentiment expressed on their part in moments of extremity of emotion and disorientation from catastrophic stress and behavioral health issues, right up to the point of threatening to abandon you precipitously: that's beyond the Pale. One's own mental health issues are not justification to intentionally dynamite the foundations of anyone else's mental health.

So, no practical advice here, but absolutely do not look at yourself as the bad guy at all.
posted by XMLicious at 11:59 AM on December 31, 2020 [7 favorites]

OP, I respect your generosity and kindness. I want to note, however, that there are two major red flags here. One is that you were not told about this severe issue before now. That seems to point to issues that are not going to resolve themselves quickly, and/or issues that your husband does not want to address or fix (or is not capable of addressing and fixing). Two is that he is already externalizing and trying to fix his emotional distress by harming you -- threatening to leave your pregnant wife and/or pressure her into an abortion are both harmful and unhealthy ways to deal with emotional distress.

None of this necessarily makes him a bad person, but it does point to him potentially being unable or unwilling to be a healthy, safe partner for a pregnant woman. Please put your oxygen mask on first, or, if you choose to continue with the pregnancy, please put your child's needs ahead of his. Intergenerational trauma is no joke and it can happen in the blink of an eye. Please be careful.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 12:12 PM on December 31, 2020 [14 favorites]

** If you're now set on having an abortion, I would skip this comment or at least one paragraph that I've flagged below. I support you in whatever you decide. **

Hi OP, I've been thinking of you a lot. I'm so, so sorry for what you're going through, and for what your husband is going through. This all sounds terribly shocking and hard for you, and also in a different way, for him. I wish I could just sit with you and talk about this, mostly listening, and I apologise that instead I can only write this long comment. Hopefully it helps a tiny bit.

While your husband's feelings and your resulting situation are somewhat extreme, I want to first normalize some of this a little. Finding out you're pregnant is jarring even in the best circumstances, bringing thoughts like "wait, am I REALLY ready for this?" Your husband's trauma reaction is bigger than that, and I'm really glad you're getting professional help for him. But your thoughts about your career etc. sound very normal to me.

As tough as all this is, is there any part of you that wants to hear congratulations? If that's painful, please skip this paragraph with my apologies for being insensitive. But I also notice, you tried to get pregnant for 16 months and now you are! I'm so sorry about everything that has come along with it, but despite his reaction and the way that that'll make your life harder, I wanted to make space and say that you're allowed to be thrilled to be expecting a baby. Or mildly happy, or curious about whether you could pull this off, or whatever you're feeling.

I support whatever you decide and don't know where you're at now, but I kind of want to encourage you to think about this a little bit separate from this situation with him. While I would totally support you in getting an abortion, I hope it wouldn't be due to his pressure or because he inadvertently sucked so much of your energy during these critical weeks that you felt you couldn't manage a baby. You're probably pretty exhausted from the all-night crying scenes and from the shock of what he said. Hopefully you can find a way to recuperate and get some space from his emotions before thinking about your life and deciding what YOU want to do, both whether you want to stay with him and whether you want to keep the baby.

(I would especially skip this next paragraph if you're pretty set on having an abortion.)

From my experience with pregnancy/birth, I wish I could convey two concepts. One is the way that the growing embryo will turn into a precious and unique human being, your child, and how that might eclipse or redeem a lot of stuff, which just won't matter as much anymore. Right now, the conflict and pain with your husband probably feels momentous and real, while the pregnancy probably feels abstract and theoretical, or like just a blastocyst. But that bundle of cells could turn into a real baby -- a baby that looks at you with great seriousness, whose soft head fits in the palm of your hand, whose tiny fingers search for yours and have even tinier fingernails, and and and. A lot of stuff that didn't go the way you originally planned may no longer matter when eclipsed by the joy of having that baby in your arms.

Of course there will be challenges, there always are, and this might increase them. Still, I know several people who have found (intentional or unintentional) single parenting to be really joyful with the right external support. It's consuming, of course, but if you want a kid, then it's just your busy and tiring and fulfilling and happy life, with you, your much-loved kid, and the network of family and community that supports you. (How is your country's support for pregnancy and post-partum paid time off and daycare? Is it better or worse in your family's country? How much support would your family provide?)

The other thing I want to help underscore is the way that (assuming you're still considering keeping the baby) you need to be putting yourself and your baby first and moving efficiently to build the nest that you will need. When I read, I get this mental image of your partner in distress and you standing by him trying to help, with him at the center of that picture. And it's a testament to your kindness that you've focused on him; I really feel for him, and it makes sense that you've devoted some time now to getting him professional help.

If you continue with this pregnancy though, you will need to make self-care and preparation for the future your central concern. You'll need to be centering yourself -- not in a "selfish" way, but the reality is just that you'll need time to take care of yourself (e.g., you'll start wanting extra sleep), and there will be a lot to do to get prepared for the future. You can lend him the energy that is left over, but I wouldn't give him first dibs at whatever energy you have. A thing about pregnancy and birth is that at various points, you become physically and emotionally vulnerable. So you have to take advantage of energy and focus when you have it to prepare. The nausea and/or fatigue could start even in a few weeks, though you'll probably then get your energy back at some point after that. (By the way, I mostly physically enjoyed the way pregnancy brought me in touch with my body -- it's just not a minor thing.)

You sound so kind and willing to spend energy supporting your husband's emotional work, but it might be great to start letting go of that if you haven't already. It might even come as a relief. Hopefully he'll pull out of this tailspin and get back on course. But to switch metaphors, if you've taken lifeguarding class you know that they warn that a flailing person can pull you under. I hear him blaming his unhappiness on you and think of that, and I'm sorry, but fuck that noise, you're probably the greatest thing in his life, and I hope he gets his head straight about that instantaneously. But back to your role: you can throw him a life preserver or extend one of those lifeguard poles, but stay on dry land, please don't let his flailing hurt or exhaust you, and don't try to be the lifeguard for him 24-7. To switch metaphors again, if you're jointly supporting his well being, the sooner you let him know that you're putting down your end of the couch, the sooner he can find a therapist or friend to help him carry it so that you can have your arms free to do all the other important work you need to do.

I don't know if you could see a future having a baby without him, but I wonder what it would be like if you said to him, "I love you and I know this is hard for you, but I'm going to have this baby, with or without you. I hope we can do this together, and I'm so glad you're getting help. I believe in you. I also have to focus on preparing for the baby to come into the world. I would love to do that together if we could. I will have to start making plans I can rely on soon. I may even need to move closer to my family, again, hopefully with you, but also because I have to make plans that will work no matter what you ultimately decide, so I will be doing that while also very much inviting you and hoping you'll join me." And then let him figure his stuff out while you figure out a plan that will still work if he bails.

If you think you even might want to keep this pregnancy, (sorry if obvious:) keep taking your prenatal vitamins and go ahead and make a reservation for a first ("dating") ultrasound, which in the US, can happen around 6 or 7 weeks (i.e, two to three weeks from when you found out) if for no other reason than to make sure everything is going right for your own health (e.g., not ectopic).

All the best to you!
posted by slidell at 3:02 AM on January 2 [4 favorites]

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