Q My husband won’t let me have another baby. When we got married five years ago we both agreed that we’d like at least two children together but now he’s changed his mind.
I’m an only child and I felt isolated and different from the other kids at school. I didn’t have any relatives nearby either and so I remember feeling sad about not having brothers and sisters like my friends had.
My husband is from a large family who all keep in touch – even though they don’t really get along that well.
Another child wouldn’t cost us any more as I still have all the stuff from my two year old that I can use again.
This is tearing me apart. I can’t sleep and I feel so angry at him for changing his mind. I don’t want to have an ‘accidental’ pregnancy – although I have thought about it – because I want him to love another child as I would, and not feel trapped or pressured into being a dad again. I’m making myself ill with worry about this. What can I do?
A You say he won’t let you have another baby – but this clearly isn’t all about you and what you want. He has different preferences to you – and these seem to have changed since you had an earlier agreement to have at least two children. Has he said ‘never’ or just ‘not yet’?
I agree that it’s important not to push a new baby upon him ‘by accident’ because, although he may well love and bond with another child, there might still be some resentment at having his choice taken away from him. He may have negative feelings of obligation which will impair his relationship with an unwanted child.
The fact that this is affecting you physically concerns me, and tells me there must be some deeper need going on for you that probably involves you not wanting your child to feel alone and lonely as you did years ago. That must have been very emotionally painful for you, and I can understand that you wouldn’t want your child to ever feel like that.
Not all ‘only children’ do feel the same as you did though.
You say that your husband has a large family, although I don’t know if they live close by or whether there are cousins of a similar age that your son or daughter will grow up with.
You and your husband may have different preferences over this issue, although there will no doubt be plenty of things that you do agree upon regarding your existing child – and that bond between you needs to be kept strong for your child to see and feel.
My first suggestion is, not surprisingly, that you talk about this with him… but in a structured way rather than going round in circles and getting nowhere.
Ask him to share with you his three reasons for not wanting any more children (assuming this IS what he’s saying).
Ask him to be completely honest with you – even though he may want to hold back for fear of upsetting you. You won’t make much progress unless you are both honest and open to hearing and understanding the other’s point of view and emotional position on this.
Write down his three reasons.
Then share your three reasons for wanting to have another child (or more).
Again write these down.
Then, ask him to share the feelings that come up for him about each of his three reasons… and you do the same.
I suspect that ‘fear‘ will feature for both of you in one form or another. Perhaps fear of extra responsibility and cost for him; or fear of imposing imaginary loneliness upon your only child, or fear of what family and friends might think or say about you having just the one child.
Allow yourselves to be loose and open and to explore the feelings which underpin your position.
Is there some common ground between you?
Are there things that you can both agree upon?
Is there a compromise position (like waiting a bit longer before having another child)?
Then both think about a plan you can create which reduces the fear that one – or both – of you has (for instance about having enough time together as a couple; having enough sleep; attracting extra income into the home etc.)
This way you will be communicating in both a rational solution-focused way, as well as in an emotionally empathic way. Attempting to solve any problem using only one of these ways alone won’t be enough to help you to make enough progress.
It will also be useful if you both share your own ‘5-year plan’ for the future of your relationship. Where you want to be living and how, your income, your family size and emotional bonds between you, the activities you want to have done and the places you want to have seen etc. It’s good to know you are on the same path towards your shared future.
If he refuses to discuss the matter at least explore why that is and again, what the emotions are that underpin that restrictive decision.
I do hope you can find a compromise that suits you and your child, and strengthens your relationship.
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy)