Tuesday 27 June 2017

Dear Patricia: We have three children but I yearn to have a baby

Patricia Redlich

I'm a 40-year old mother of three young children. We are just about managing financially, we both work, and childcare is expensive. Having said all that, I am getting increasingly broody for another baby. I know this makes absolutely no sense whatsoever and my husband does not want to hear of it. I know he is right and we should be very happy with the children we have and get on with our lives now.

Maybe hitting 40 made me realise that my baby days are over and I am mourning that fact. I find myself longing to hold a new-born, to touch the little hands and gaze at the beauty. My head tells me I should forget all this, but my heart sometimes aches for the feeling of being pregnant again, and giving birth, and creating something beautiful. Is this a normal part of growing older for a woman? How can I "snap" myself out of this?

I think my husband is getting nervous about having sex with me in case I "trick" him into a pregnancy. I wouldn't do that to him, or to our marriage. But I feel so lonely sometimes.

Patricia replies:

Telling someone to "snap out of it" is unkind, if not actually offensive. It belittles the validity of feelings, denies the person's reality, and shuts down communication. It is also entirely ineffective. So stop being nasty to yourself. Feelings can only be changed, or eased, or dealt with, when we acknowledge them, and then start the process of putting them into perspective.

Everybody's situation is unique. There is no point in saying that someone with three children shouldn't want a fourth. Or that a woman of 40 shouldn't have a baby. Or that childcare is expensive. Or that another child would break the energy-bank. Or that we should be thankful for what we have. Or that babies shouldn't be born into tight financial situations. Such statements are simply noise, generalisations which mean absolutely nothing. Deep down we know that, and when we hear them, be it from ourselves or from others, we simply go silent. And the feelings stay.

Your feelings do make sense. It's life-affirming to want a baby. Of course we mourn the passing of various life-stages. At the very least we note them, acknowledge their passing. We miss the kids when they are gone. We miss the human comfort of cuddling babies when grandchildren emigrate with our children. We miss human touch when we lose a partner, particularly when we're older and that phase of life is done. And it's sad to face the advancing watershed, when babies are no longer a possibility.

It's not nice, but it's OK to feel broody and sad. Like all wishes, three things apply. Firstly, our wishes don't have to be fulfilled. Living with unfulfilled desires is part and parcel of maturity. You don't have to have a baby just because you feel you want one. Secondly, we can't saddle other people with the consequences of our wishes, can't override someone else's wishes in something so important. No, I know you wouldn't. I'm just reinforcing what you said. And in this your husband bears no blame. He just doesn't want what you feel you want. And by the sounds of it, he's not for turning. Thirdly, it sometimes suits us emotionally to put someone else in the role of policeman, the one who says no, we can't. That way we can indulge our thoughts, without taking responsibility for saying no to ourselves. Don't do that to your husband. Don't make him the baddie who is saying you can't have a baby. You already have all the arguments in your own head about why it wouldn't be a good idea. And you are a grown woman. It's up to you to be wise.

No, it's not easy. But saying goodbye is part and parcel of what we do, on a regular basis, right throughout our lives. And the sadness will pass.

Sunday Independent

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