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The Second Baby War

The Second Baby War

By Amalah

Dear Amy,

My fiancé and I have been together for 7 years and have no intentions to actually tie the knot because things work for us like it is. We’ve talked about kids too. I would like to raise a basketball team and he was ambivalent. He wasn’t outright against having kids but wasn’t sure how many he wanted. RED FLAG? Our relationship was otherwise great.

Enter our 8 month old beautiful baby boy. He’s awesome. He was a surprise but aren’t they all surprises one way or the other? I went a month without the pill while I switched brands and used no secondary method. I wasn’t actively trying to get pregnant but I wasn’t preventing it either. He says I was trying to get pregnant and I outright deny it. It’s not like I was being irresponsible; we are twenty-something year old college graduates who work decent jobs for the economy sucking so badly and our life was great.

Pregnancy was a breeze. And my labor and delivery was AMAZING ( a hospital doula is worth her weight in gold and highly recommended especially when your partner needs room to breathe). Needless to say I came home from the hospital on a baby adrenaline high. I couldn’t wait to do it again. And the postpartum period went swimmingly for me. My partner on the other hand had some degree of PPD. He had a really difficult time bonding with the newborn and I allowed him to take a step back a lot of the time even though that meant more stress on me. RED FLAG? As the baby has gotten older he has come out of it and loves being a father and is all about our son. Our relationship is what it is. It did take a big hit after the baby in a good way and in the “I could ring your neck right now but I’m too tired so what do you want for dinner instead?” kind of way.

So after Christmas I introduced the idea of another baby. By introduced the idea I mean sort of demanded that we start trying for another. Immediately. That would put 18 months between the kids. PERFECT. Not so perfect. He declared he didn’t want to have any more children. Not as in right now, “any more” as in ever. Ok I should have not sprung it on him like that. It should have been a question more than command. It’s not like my plan is to be the next Michelle Duggar, I just want to raise a family. I don’t think it’s a no-go purely based on the financial aspect of it all, although I reduced my hours to 20 hours nights at the hospital so I could be home and not do the daycare thing which he didn’t dispute but feels the burden of being the breadwinner at times. You do what you have to do. And it’s not like he doesn’t want any more kids because he selfish and its all about him he said he just doesn’t want to and doesn’t want to have a conversation about it. Is this the demise of what seemed like a normal healthy relationship?

I feel as though I’m the one clearly in the wrong here. And stupid for wanting the fairytale ending and not the realistic one given the (possible) red flags. So how do I not dwell on my own selfish plans while respecting his decision? I don’t know if I’ll ever let go of wanting more children or if I wait and HOPE he changes his mind in a few months? Years? Decades?

Bring on the smackdown. I clearly need it.

Sincerely,

All for more babies

Aaaand behold! Another frequently-asked Smackdown topic that I NEVER address because it completely stumps the stuffing out of me.

Jason and I were not on the same page about children exactly once, and that was before we had any. He kind of wanted a baby, but not yet, not right then, while I was already in the throes of the NOW NOW NOW phase of baby fever. It was not a fun or easy time for our marriage, and in retrospect we probably should have gotten our disagreeing butts into couples’ therapy  — if only to have the (heated, emotional) conversations in front of a neutral third party.

Eventually, we muddled through it. I realized I needed to chill the hell out and stop pressuring him with thinly-veiled, bratty ultimatums. Jason realized he really DID want a baby, but was terrified of making the conscious choice to go ahead and have a baby (which is what we really had to do, given that I was almost completely annovulatory at the time and needed fertility assistance). We had Noah and the baby-number-two talk started barely six weeks later, and I’ve already shared that baby number three was also a joint decision.

So I can’t really speak to your specific situation, the “we have one child and I want more and he doesn’t” dilemma.

I CAN say that, as someone with a heapload of small children, even I’D be a little wigged out by an 18-month-on-purpose age difference. That’s two very young, demanding little babies, especially for someone who maybe discovered they aren’t actually a “baby person” and found the whole newborn phase to be upsetting and unpleasant. (And there’s nothing wrong or unusual with a parent NOT being a “baby person” and preferring the older ages. It happens to mothers, too!) It’s possible that as your son grows and reaches an age that your fiancé feels more naturally comfortable with and more confident in his parenting abilities, that he MIGHT decide that the newborn stage, while not his favorite, is worth dealing with in the short term because of the long-term payoff of a great, awesome child. Right now, babyhood is all he knows. Once he gets to really know his son as a person, he might change his mind.

BUT HE MIGHT NOT.

And there’s the rub. Is this really a complete dealbreaker for you — to the point where you can’t even fathom waiting him out and risking not ever having more babies and would rather break up the family you have now (and yes, one baby and a fiancé IS a family) in order to possibly maybe hopefully find a new partner more willing to give you the family you think you want? Is this something that will consume you whole and lead to feelings of resentment in the meantime?

If the answer is “yes” or even a strong “maybe,” I would definitely suggest couples’ counseling sooner rather than later. It sounds like he had a really not-great experience this time around and probably doesn’t feel especially good/proud/competent about any of it. I doubt he “stepped back” just because he’s a thoughtless jerk, right, given his current enthusiasm for fatherhood? It was probably just as stressful on him to realize he wasn’t “good” with his son as it was for you to take center stage on the babycare front. Why would either of you want to repeat that scenario, only with a young toddler thrown into the mix? Counseling could help him work through those feelings (and help you understand why he has them), and would be a much better place for the topic of a second baby to be brought up than in a “HEY GUESS WHAT YOU NEED TO GET ME PREGNANT AGAIN RIGHT NOW” and “UM NO I DON’T END OF DISCUSSION” format of futility.

(Not mention you guys PROBABLY need to work out the whole “you were TRYING to get pregnant!” accusation, because yikes. That’s a fundamental trust issue AND soap opera plot right there, and probably the biggest RED FLAG I see in your letter.)

Of course, you cannot go into couples’ counseling with the expectation that it will help you “win” anything. It won’t be your therapist’s job to convince your fiancé that you’re right and to change his mind about more children. Instead, try to go into it with the goal of repairing and strengthening the bonds of the family you have now, and recognizing the value in it, even in it’s small current form.

I don’t want to sound like I’m coming down hard in favor of either side here: I know it’s so difficult to not to dwell on dreams of pregnancy and babies and the crushing disappointment that it might not be in the cards! I do, believe me. And that’s not a path to a happy, healthy relationship, but one where you’re resentful and he’s pulling the silent treatment and refusing to budge and getting angry whenever you try to bring the topic up again. Your son needs happy parents more than he needs siblings, so try to give him that first and foremost. I hope everything works out…for all three of you.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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