Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Beware of unreasonable baby expectations



* She’s 46, he’s 36, and he wants to have children, preferably several. But she’s 46, past the age when most women can get pregnant without heavy medical intervention, and she has almost finished raising the daughter she had with her first husband.

* He’s going through a divorce that nearly destroyed him emotionally and financially. His two half-grown kids are breaking his heart. And now his girlfriend is badgering him to get married and have children. She won’t stop talking about it when he barely has the energy to get through his day as it is.

* Before they got married, he said he didn’t want to have any children. She said kids were never a priority for her either. But then a couple years into their marriage, she saw all her friends having babies and started wanting one, too. When she mentioned her new desire to her husband, he told her he still had no desire to have children. Now she is certain she must become a mother or die of grief. It’s all his fault for denying her this essential part of life. But he told her all along that fatherhood was not on his bucket list.

Dear friends, I read stories like this almost every day in blog comments and in private emails readers send to me. Most of the writers are heartbroken and struggling to figure out what to do. Should they leave their partner in the hope of finding someone eager to make babies or stay and risk ending up alone and regretful in old age? I sympathize. I really do. When I married Fred, I was 33, and he was 48. He had three children from his first marriage and he’d had a vasectomy. We talked about having the vasectomy reversed. We talked about adoption. But he finally told me he just did not want any more kids. I wanted babies. I cried over it, I drank over it, I got mad over it, and I fantasized that somehow I’d get pregnant anyway. Of course I didn’t.

Like the readers described above, I had unreasonable expectations. I married an older man who had already done the baby thing. He had barely finished his divorce before our wedding day. His kids were in all kinds of trouble. His financial security had just been demolished. Finding and falling in love with each other was like a gift from God. To demand children on top of that was asking too much. If I really wanted kids, I should have found a man my own age who was aching to be a dad. I chose Fred.

Readers, I know how much it hurts not having the babies you always wanted. I still cry over it.  It kills me to see families with their children and grandchildren and realize I’m alone. Add active hormones and people having babies all around you, and it can be brutally hard walking around with an empty womb. It’s hard to see clearly when you’re in the thick of it. But sometimes you have to be realistic. If you really love someone, consider their side of the situation. Instead of browbeating them, love them and do your best to understand.

Say the serenity prayer. It helps: God, please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I welcome your comments.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Having children is not the antidote to depression: looking at the suicides of Robin Williams and others we loved



Like so many other people, I can’t stop thinking about Robin Williams, the beloved actor and comedian who committed suicide on Monday. Like so many other people, I felt a bond with him, loved him like family. We were about the same age, both performers, and both from the San Francisco Bay Area. Beyond that, did we have anything in common? Maybe not. But now I do share something with his family: suicide. Many years ago, my great-grandfather killed himself with a shotgun. More recently, my uncle hung himself in his garage. Robin’s death by hanging brings it all back to me. Why couldn’t these men go on?

They all had wives and children who loved them. They had good homes and enough money. They had work and hobbies they loved. It would seem they had so many reasons to live. So, what happened? What demons overpowered them and made them take their own lives?

These men left children and grandchildren to pick up the pieces, not just to do the practical things like arranging funerals and sorting their possessions but to remember and share their memories forever. If they can’t go on, how can we, who may never have children or grandchildren?

We can. We must. I have dealt with depression and anxiety throughout my life. I have been in counseling for years. For most of that time, I resisted taking any kind of medication for it. No, I don’t need drugs, I said. After my uncle died, I changed my mind. Give me the drugs. I do not want to follow in his footsteps. I take a small dose of a mild drug, but it helps.  

You know what? It makes no difference whether or not I have children. Depression is an illness, and it can come to anybody. And you know what’s more important? My life is not just about the children I had or didn’t have. There’s so much more to life. I am a complete person all by myself, and I have been given many gifts that God wants me to use in this life. I hope to use them until I die a natural death and maybe beat my grandfather’s record of living to age 98.

Many people who comment at this blog worry about how they will feel later if they don’t have children. Will they regret it? Will they be overwhelmed by grief that never goes away? Will their lives not be worth living? I have to tell you the hardest part is when you’re still trying to figure out what to do. Have children or not? Stay with this partner or not? Once it’s a done deal, it gets so much easier. There are moments of regret and sadness. It’s a loss, just like when someone dies. You will always wonder “what if?” I'm not going to pretend that I don't wonder who will pick up the pieces when I die. But even if you never have kids, you will still have a life worth living, one full of gifts and possibilities. You will also have freedom to do things you might not have been able to do if you had children.

If you can’t imagine life without children, find a way to have them. Change partners, do IVF, adopt, volunteer. But if you are certain you have found your one true love, and that love will not give you children, accept that this is your life. Whatever happens, live the life you’re given, and for God’s sake, don’t give up. I know from personal experience that the hardest thing in the world is to reach out when the despair is so heavy all you want to do is disappear. But do reach out. Call a friend. Send an email. Tell someone how you feel. Grab a lifeline that will get you through today and into tomorrow when it will be easier. And if someone you love seems to be struggling, don't wait to be asked; reach out to them.

We will get through this together. RIP, Robin, Uncle Don and Grandpa Joe.

Have you had a connection with suicide? What qualities give your life value in spite of not having children? Please share in the comments. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What do the men say about being childless by marriage?



Is Childless by Marriage just for women? No, definitely not. Sometimes it seems as if this is an all-girls site, but I welcome men as well as women. Both men and women struggle with the same issues about children. One wants them and the other doesn’t. One can’t have them, and the other can’t imagine life without them. The relationship, the engagement, or the marriage is in danger. Should they go? Should they stay? Sometimes I wish we were back in the olden days when everybody who got married had kids, and if they didn’t want children, they didn’t get married.

Of course men are not the ones who get pregnant, and they are not the ones whose fertility ends in their 40s, so that part is different, but their comments sound pretty similar to the ones I get from women.

Let me share a few of the men’s comments I have received lately. I encourage you readers to respond to each other. I don’t have all the words of wisdom. You can find all of these comments under the post, If You Disagree About Children, is Your Relationship Doomed? 

Anonymous said...
Hello, I don't know if this post is strictly for women but I'm a 37 year old male with 45 year old gf. We've been friends since I was 27 but began dating at 30. I've never been married and I have no kids, she has been married and has 2 kids which both are now married. She has 2 grandkids, a 2 year old and a newborn. I didn't begin to think about kids until her first grandson was born but she was 42 at the time. Now at 45 it would be a high risk. Friends and co workers around us are having kids left and right and I can't deny that it is eating me inside. She said that it's written all over my face when we see a baby and or her grandkids. She wants me to be happy and is willing to sacrifice by losing me, I just don't know if I'm willing to lose her for the chance of having a child. Any thoughts greatly appreciated.

Anonymous:
Hi, My wife is leaving me because I don't want a second child and it's killing me. I feel I am being punished for that decision. She says she always wanted two but she never talked to me about it, so now I face becoming a part time dad and I don't know what to do .

Anonymous said...
Hello everyone, I am going through a terrible situation with my girlfriend. We have been together for 7 years now. We are both immigrants (she is from Russia and I am from Brazil) who live in Los Angeles. I am 32 and she is 35. Her mother passed away in 2010 due to a brain tumor. Since then she has become addicted to the idea of having a child. At the moment I do not feel that crazy desire to be a father. I moved to the U.S. kind of late in life at 25 and I am just now transferring to a four-year university to get a degree in business. I have a degree in Physical Education from Brazil, but the hassle to get it validated here was so time consuming that I decided to do something else. I am also not happy with my career because my work is unstable and the pay is very low. On the other hand, she moved here when she was 13 and had her whole education in the U.S. She is very successful in her career and she is stable financially. Four years ago I asked her to help me to pay for school so I could finish faster but she said she was not interested to spend her money like that.

It made me concerned because if she wants a family with me, how is going to be when the kid arrives? I have no financial means to provide for a kid. Not even half of the bills for a child. It really scares me that I may find myself in a situation where I won't be able to support my son/daughter. I am feeling terrible because I cannot make her happy. I can see that she resents me because she picks up fights all the time for silly reasons. The other night she said that is better for us to go apart. I just cried for the whole day and I am feeling lonely and worthless. It kills me that I am not enough for her and that I cannot make her happy. She said that she wants me to be a stay in dad, but I am very independent and I believe that I must have a career. It would be better for both of us if I have one. I fear that once the baby arrives she will just break up with me and leave in a difficult situation. I would not be able to abandon a child.

I moved here on my own and I have no family in the states. Our relationship was one of the main reasons that made me stay in the country. I also understand that she is coming close to 40 and that it might become harder to become pregnant, but she does not want to wait any longer. Am I being a jerk or too selfish? It is just killing me that the whole focus of my adult life is coming to an end. I just want her to be happy and she deserves all the best. It just hurts that I am not good enough. I believe that the best should be to leave her alone and not interfere on her life. I want her dreams to come true. I wish I could have a normal job so I could help and give her what she wants. I struggled financially since I got here. It took me 7 years to get a green card and now (after 9 years) things are getting better. I just don’t want to struggle right now and I want to get my college degree before a kid. What should I do? 

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Well, dear readers, what do you think? I welcome your comments.