Wednesday, January 16, 2008

No, I did not forget to have children

In fact, having kids or not having kids has been on my mind since around, say, 1992. I was 27 and in love, about to marry someone who wasn’t exactly the man of my dreams, but, by gosh, did we ever love each other and love conquers all, right? He was funny, a great dance partner and had lived with me for almost 3 years. And he loved me. Lots. So much so that I thought that at least I knew this guy was crazy about me and that wouldn’t change.

How do you identify true love? And if you identify it, when do you cross that line of maturity - or immaturity – to decide that, yes, this is the one for whom I should cast all other potential suitors aside? At 27, I figured this was my one shot and I could not think of why I should look any further – this was love and that was what you do next.

LJ was kind, caring, and only lost his temper once a quarter. He was funny, cute, and who cared that he did not have the pedigree that my family had bred me to follow. In fact, the more Dad tried to talk me out of getting married to someone he did not think was a good match for me, the more I was convinced he did not know what he was talking about. Couldn’t he see? We were in love! And nothing, not a few dinners and a few choice words from my father were going to stop me from marrying LJ I knew what the next step was. But thanks for the advice; I’ll take it from here.

So that was that. Until, I thought, maybe we should make this more official, and get some “pre-marital counseling” just to prove how right we were for each other. We found a minister from an article in the Living section of the paper, a ringing endorsement to be sure. Plus, he offered an extra pre-marital workshop as part of the deluxe wedding package. LJ and I filled out our workbooks before the session, and met with the minister to review our answers and talk through the inevitable topics of money, conflict, in-laws and children.

“So, how do you feel about having a family? Carol, let’s start with you,” the minister asked. “Well, it isn’t something we’ll jump into right away,” I said, “but I’m sure kids are in the cards.” I answered assuredly for both of us, looking at LJ.

LJ looked down, changed the way he sat, and half-smiled. “What are your thoughts?” the minister asked him. LJ paused, looked away from me and said, “Sure. I mean, I already have two kids but they live with their mother so it should be fine.”

The minister paused, asked a few more probing questions about children to which he got shorter and shorter answers from LJ, and moved on to the other topics. My mind, however, was racing. Wait a minute, I thought, we better slow down on this one. We hardly ever talked about kids, other than his kids who he rarely visited. His response when I teased him about us having kids was similar – evasive, even non-responsive, and then changing the topic. This did not bother me before we were engaged as, gosh, we didn’t have to settle this yet. We weren’t married yet. I was interested in establishing a career as was he, and the most important thing we had talked about as a couple was whose family we needed to visit for Thanksgiving.

At the end of the session, the minister declared us a typical couple: very in synch on some things but not totally in synch on all. The purpose of this counseling, he said, was to bring issues to the front burner for further discussion before we got married. With that, he left after discussing some of the details of the wedding day itself, which was just 3 weeks away.

Front burner? Where had this been simmering before in the past three years? Was the burner even turned on? Before, our relationship had been about being in the moment and in love, and then – BAM – focusing on the enjoyment of being engaged and obsessing on wedding details. We had an event to plan! But, now, I thought for the first time, how did I feel about having kids – or not having kids? I had assumed that, while I wasn’t in any hurry to have a family, we would indeed have one. That is what you did, right? But no rush, of course. LJ would get over his ambivalence once he saw how great it was to be married to me. After all, he found out about his first daughter when he was unmarried, 18 and in boot camp. A shotgun wedding and unhappy marriage certainly could not compare to our fairy tale romance. We were different I thought, and love conquers all.

I brought this subject back up after the minister had left. LJ was evasive and non-responsive. When pressed, all he could say was, “I don’t want to lose you over this.” Lose me? I wasn’t even thinking about losing each other; I was thinking about how I had assumed I would have a family with the man I wanted to marry. He had a family once before and surely it would be WAY better with me. We discussed this for hours. Actually, I discussed this for hours. LJ mostly just sat there.

Did we get married? Yes, it was beautiful. Did we resolve the issue? No. I thought that it would resolve itself. That once he saw how great our life was together and how much we loved each other, he’d change. That it would be true that women want children when they meet the man they marry and men want children when they see their first child. That love, and then time, would take care of everything.

I gave it lots of time, and thought about having a family and what it meant to me more and more as time marched on. Right through my mid-thirties, when biological clocks chimed at me from every wall and every corner. I noticed everyone was having children, including friends, sisters, friends’ sisters, women in Lifetime movies, you name it. And, most painfully, women in front of me in line at the grocery store, with handsome husbands and cute kids who clamored to get out of the cart or push the cart or put something in the cart.

Did we make it? No. LJ did not waver and wouldn't talk to me about it. While we did go on to have many happy years together, we finally went through counseling and learned that “you can’t have half a child.” The marriage did end, but not just because of the kids-no kids debate. And probably not in time for me to have kids with anyone else (though the jury is still out). But definitely in time for me to concede that, in the end, love just may not conquer all.


MrsGuru said...

What a great blog. I'm glad I found your site.

Due to ten years of health problems (now resolved) I didn't meet Mr Right until I was 33 and we married the following year. He'd been married before and had a vasectomy. Despite that, we agreed that we would try for one child.

Two years into the marriage, my hormones were out of wack due to a thyroid problem and I broached the topic of kids. I wanted to "try" once we got the hormones regulated. It was then that he told me he was terrified and that he couldn't go through with it. He told me he loved me, wanted to spend the rest of his life with me but he would understand if I wanted a divorce.

Wow! What a decision. I mean here was the best man I'd ever met, treated me great and worshipped the ground I walked on. And I loved him madly, too. I very quickly realized that he wasn't worth losing over kids. I mean, at that age and with hormone issues, there was no guarantee of kids and he wasn't worth losing. So, I choose him. Yes, it was a tough decision and one that did take me a while to accept.

I thought turning 40 this year and no kids would be very, very difficult but surprisingly, it wasn't. But I know it's coming. We even had a chance to adopt (about a year ago) but since I'd finally come around to accepting no kids, I was surprised to find out that I didn't want to adopt and liked my life.

So, our kids are 4 legged creatures that I absolutely love and I'm ok with that.

Connie (aka Mrs Guru)

Carol Caldwell said...

Wow, thanks Connie for your input. I haven't posted this yet, but my story is eerily similar to yours. I, too, have a husband (second for me) who was married previously and has a vasectomy. He, too, said he'd try for kids but he said that begrudgingly out of his love for me, and once we got married it became clearer as we went through infertility testing that he did not really want to become a father. What a loss as he'd be a great one!

And very frustrating for me, as I am now going through this issue twice. I'll post later about being frustrated how I allow my S.Os to have a voice in this choice and did not have children as I wouldn't have a cooperative father, but lots of women just - WHOOOPS - have kids anyway. I had friends tell me I should get preggers anyway! Again, no right answer to this situation, just personal preference.

And, like you, I too feel this match with Tim (my hubby) really is the right one for me, and it even feels divinely arranged. While I am (obviously) not quite yet over the hump of acceptance, I think I'm getting there. And learning to enjoy the hand I was dealt (or selected?) is the process I am trying to get through now.

Thanks for the post! Carol

Kim said...

I am not sure if your still writing or reading comments on your blog, but I thought I would write to you. I really appreciate finding this blog. Two years ago, I met an amazing guy. We had so much love and affinity, I couldn't be much happier. We got engaged, and moved in, started the leg work to plan a wedding, and since I was 39, by that time, I started to bring up kids. I got a fertility test, and everything seemed so amazing. Until I started to ask, and probe. He has two adult kids already, as he also started very his twenties.
Here we are, one year later, now I am 40. I moved out and ended the engagement. I couldn't accept no kids. I felt like I couldn't go thru my life not trying for a child. It was always in my mind that i would have one. I too was working on my career, and waiting for the one. I recently just left, and wonder to myself have I done the right thing...what if I can't even have kids? He is an amazing man, can I just be okay with being in love and having a loving rich relationship? Can I ever be okay with it. I feel like a child is worth the risk to see if I could find a relationship with a man who shares my desires? Or is it selfish to say, I will do it on my own??
I don't know what will happen to us. Maybe he will change my mind or I will. It's sure scary to be 40 and where I am at now :( Thanks for ur blog and I wish u would write more!

Carol Caldwell said...

Thanks for your post Kim! I am trying to get back into writing. This is just such a hard topic to get to. That and making time for it. I finally did post an update today, so thank you for the encouragement.

It sounds like you are in that position of fading hope (see chart on another post) which is a very hard place to be. I went through the same ultimatum with my current husband. He agreed to have kids begrudgingly before we got married, then we got married, and then it was apparent he really wasn't agreeable.

I had lots of folks during the time I was dating him say, "but you could adopt without a husband" or "you can do IVF and have a child any time." Both valid, but personally I wanted to have a family with a willing life partner - not to have a kid on my own just to have a child. And I feel there is a very fine line between deciphering "my will" from "God's will/God's plan for me." We don't focus on that enough these days. Our society has trained us to follow our hearts, be true to ourselves, do our own thing, do what makes us feel good. This is a tough decision with many variables. For my life, I have decided to come to terms with being childless, I'm very happy with my husband and I'm trying to figure out what ELSE the Lord wants me to do with the space I take up on this earth. I haven't figured that out yet! But clearly I have more disposable time and income than many of my mom friends. (So what is it, Lord? Hmmm).

Until I figure that out, I focus on helping others at work, I volunteer, I work on having rich relationships with others, etc. And, honestly, I still have hope that, like Hannah in the bible, the time will come where there will be an opportunity that works out for both my husband and I to work with a teen or foster child of some sort who needs a good home in the future.

If that doesn't work out, that's OK too. God already knows the plan for my life (Jeremiah 29:11), and I'm enjoying the ride.