I don't want more kids but my wonderful husband does

I've got two of my own and I thought I was done ... and then the unexpected happened.

Published May 16, 2007 10:30AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

A brief history: I was married before to a nightmare of a husband, had twin sons at the tender age of 20 and was divorced by the time I was 26. Of course, the nightmare of an ex-husband was a nightmare of a deadbeat dad, making my single-parent years extremely difficult.

Current situation: The twins are soon to be 14. I've been married for two years to a wonderful man; we've been together for eight. He helped me get through the aforementioned dreadful single-parent years. He has been a steady figure in the twins' lives and mine. I love him desperately. This is his first marriage and he has never had children. He's 13 years my senior.

Complication: Before we got married, I expressed to my husband that I wouldn't be interested in having children past a certain age.

After we got married, I discovered I had endometriosis. We tried hormone treatments. We tried laser surgery. Before I had my laser surgery, I wanted to have my tubes tied. My wonderful spouse asked me to hold off on that. Before we tried hormone therapy, I wanted to have a hysterectomy. Both my OB-GYN (a man) and my husband talked me out of it. After we tried all these other procedures, the only option seemed to be a hysterectomy or a pregnancy (which my doctor seemed to think would temporarily ward off the endometriosis). My husband and I discussed it.

We had not completely finished our discussion when I discovered I was pregnant.

Now that I'm pregnant, I realize just how much I don't want to have another baby. I tried to be positive about it. I tried to think that maybe I could open up to the idea. But I am despondent. While I love my twins, I don't enjoy being a parent. Even my husband has remarked on my ambivalence to parenthood (although I am a good parent and I would do anything for the boys). Needless to say, I have been looking forward to my "freedom" from child rearing for several years.

I have told my husband that I don't want to have this baby. I have scheduled an abortion procedure. He knows this and is upset but understands.

I love my husband. This is his one shot at having a baby. Although he has never proactively sought parenthood, he realizes now that in the back of his mind, he has always wanted this option. He was hedging his bets by asking me to hold off on tying my tubes or postponing a hysterectomy.

I fear that this is a land mine in our relationship; one day we'll step on it and it will destroy our marriage. If I have the baby, I fear I would resent my husband and the child. I keep thinking about the 32 years of my life that would go to rearing children. I also fear that following through with the abortion would hurt the man I love, to whom I would give almost anything ... just not a child.

How do we avoid stepping on these land mines? Is it unavoidable?

Reluctant Mommy

Dear Reluctant Mommy,

One uniquely appealing approach to this situation is for you to get down on all fours, roll yourself up into a tight little ball and refuse to move until the United Nations arrives.

But I have another idea. When faced with such a bleakly intractable problem as yours, I like to start by boldly imagining an ideal outcome, however implausible such an outcome might at first appear.

In this case, an ideal outcome would be one in which he gets to have the kid but you don't have to raise the kid.

Of course, that is crazy and impossible ... but, well, wait a minute. He wants this kid. You want the freedom to live your life.

What if you were to make a contract with him that says you will have the kid if and only if he is the primary caregiver?

OK, it's a long shot. But consider the alternatives. You have an abortion and he lives the rest of his life wondering what if. You have the kid and raise the kid and live the rest of your life wondering what if. And perhaps the pain of all that life unlived does destroy the marriage.

This is a different what if: What if two people could be imaginative enough, and flexible, disciplined and thoughtful enough, to create a plan that would make the wishes of all three participants come true -- and at this point I am indeed including this potential third being in the equation, for it is difficult to escape a feeling of awe at the miracle of pregnancy. A new life is beginning. It's nothing to sneeze at. It's worth giving some consideration to the possibilities.

If you consider this plan logically, I believe there is much to recommend it, for it aims at giving at least one party what he wants, and mitigating as much as possible the ill effects on the other. There is at least some happiness in it. If you have the abortion, it seems to me, no one wins.

And, again, not to be too mystical about it, but when life comes knocking, isn't it possible that it means something?

So there it is, short and sweet, my pitch in a nutshell: Have the kid. Make your husband raise the kid -- and I mean seriously: Make him raise the kid. Don't give up your dreams. Put your dreams in the contract. Wherever you were going to go once you'd done your mother time, put it in the contract. Whatever it was that you were going to do, put it in the contract. If you and he were going to do those things together, then put that in the contract and arrange for childcare. But find a way to make it work.

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