How Prepared is Too Prepared to Have a Baby?
Having not yet had any children, and not having many close friends who have had children, I am in need of advice from someone who can offer a rational-to-somewhat-emotionally-influenced answer. After reading along on your blog for a while, I’ve concluded that person is you!
My husband and I are in what I’ve been referring to as a “planning period” for children. We’ve been together 10 years, married for 5, and are in out late 20’s with successful careers. We’ve talked a lot of things out, crunched numbers, increased our saving, gotten vaccinations, discovered and addressed some of our fears, crammed in tons of stuff that we won’t be able to do for a while (nights in cigar bars, roller coasters). My husband is very much a “planner,” always has been, and he’s dragged my intuitive, by the seat of my pants self into those ways with him over the years. I’ve come to appreciate the freedom that I find in the moment when I am well prepared for something.
Up to a point. All the things we’ve done so far have been reasonable-to-borderline-over prepared. We arrived at the EVE of our “trying” when he said he wanted to open up a conversation about testing options for our as of yet non existent baby for genetic disorders and other problems. Which opened a whole can of worms of percentages of risk and rates of divorce and ended backing us up logically to a decision to wait and him demanding that we both undergo full genetic screening for every disorder possible, though we have no family history, before anything can possibly happen so we can make sure to identify the minute possibility that 2 recessive genes that have never shown themselves on either side of the family would combine. We’ve consulted 3 doctors who have said that no testing is necessary, and we might regret the info if we did have it, but my husband is insistent.
At this point, my concern is more about my husband’s mental health than anything. I agree, in theory, that it would be good to know as much information as possible before walking down a road that will change our lives forever. But I can’t help feeling that this response is not normal, and I’m not sure what I should say or do. Is it that I’m letting my impatience and impulsiveness get in the way to being supportive, or is he just flat out crazy? How does everyone else deal with these fears for their children and still keep having kids?
No, your husband’s response here is not normal, or even reasonable, given your circumstances and what three (threeeee!!!) different doctors have told you. No, it is not “impatient and impulsive” to decide to have a baby without full genetic testing prior to pregnancy when there is no family history or any real reason to suspect that there is some terrible condition lurking in your recessive genes.
Most of us get knocked up, show up at the OB’s office and fill out a little family history form with a bunch of checkboxes and then the doctor glances at it to see if there are any red flags that would necessitate further testing of the fetus down the road. Some couples still opt to skip the testing altogether. Others have it done and then make a decision re: terminating or continuing the pregnancy in the face of not-good results, while probably the vast majority of couples get the happy all-clear news they were hoping for.
Your husband is a planner, but there’s definitely something troubling about the AMOUNT of planning he’s insisting on here, that tells me he isn’t really emotionally ready to have a baby, or is struggling with a high amount of anxiety about the prospect of fatherhood. When is it going to be ENOUGH, I wonder? Because yeah, even if you go ahead and find doctor number four (foooouuuurrrr!) who is willing to subject two healthy adults with no family history of genetic disorders to a barrage of testing (that your insurance will probably balk at covering)…what about the stuff that could STILL go wrong? Chromosomal disorders, physical birth defects, Autism? Not everything is hereditary, and I feel like the more you go along with your husband’s borderline-control-freak ways, you’re just going to keep on finding yourself getting stuck over another issue that he’ll invent down the road.
You seem to be putting your way of approaching the world (intuitive, impulsive) down quite a bit, as inferior to your husband’s need for plans, plans, plans. And while sure, sometimes it’s good to stop and think things through, sometimes you do have to let go of the plans and the flowcharts and the risk/reward scenarios and just DO SOMETHING, ANYTHING, lest you get stuck in an endless loop of what-ifs and then-whats. Having a baby — while a huge, life-changing thing, yes — is one of those times. A leap of faith that everything is going to be all right, even if the timing isn’t perfectly ideal or you haven’t checked off every last item on the pre-baby bucket list. The fact that pregnancy just HAPPENS for so many couples who might not even have been Officially Trying or were using birth control or whatever, and those couples have gone on to be perfectly thrilled with their perfect surprise baby, should be reassuring that hey, life finds a way, and you guys are waaaay ahead of the game here, with all the planning you’ve done thus far.
But I don’t think you’re ever going to be ahead of the game ENOUGH for your husband. He’s psyching himself out and over-thinking EVERYTHING, big time, and if this fixation on genetic screening wasn’t going to be the sticking point, something else probably would be. You absolutely cannot control everything about pregnancy and birth and parenting — who your child is or what kind of impact they will ultimately have on your life — and I bet this is pretty frightening to your husband. But he knows YOU want a baby, so he keeps telling himself that he’ll be ready if you can juuuuuuust cross a few more things off his mental to-do list, but then you’ve crossed those things off and he still doesn’t feel ready. And so he’s reaching and digging to add more things that he hopes will bring about that feeling of “readiness,” and somewhere along the way those things stopped being reasonable or “normal” or remotely logical. (Financial stability? Good. Nights in cigar bars? Fun. Vaccinations? Uh…okay, I guess. Three different doctors’ appointments about unnecessary testing because he’s concerned about the divorce rate among couples who have children with genetic disorders? Yeahno.)
Instead of a genetic counselor, I think your husband should talk to a regular counselor. His fears and anxiety level for your not-even-conceived baby (and what it will do to his life and your marriage) are excessive, no doubt. You cede an incredibly amount of control over your own life once you have a baby, and this is probably a TERRIFYING prospect for him. It’s scary for a lot of parents-to-be, of course, but most of us are able get to a place where we decide that it will be worth it and okay, let’s just quit the pill and see what happens. I wonder if your husband is going to be able to get himself to that place on his own, and I think you have every right to put your foot down and say ENOUGH with the planning, the doctors are right, it’s time for some intuitive impulsivity and that’s not always a bad thing. You can’t force someone to be ready to have a baby, but you can at least push them in the right path of getting ready. For your husband, I think that path is one of confronting a few more fears and control issues with a therapist, and that this path of genetic testing is just another wild goose chase.
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Published October 10, 2011.
Last updated July 18, 2017.
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