Monday 17 June 2019

Dear Mary: I'm so desperate to have another baby but my wife isn't interested

Mary O’Conor

I have always imagined my wife and myself as having children (I always said two, which we spoke about before we got married), and four years ago our daughter came into our lives, and she is the greatest thing I have ever been part of.

Happy and healthy, she is the one we both live for and want to give her everything she needs. I work really hard, and recently we moved from a rented house and bought our own home. And it is a home with lots of room, with lovely neighbours and friends/ schools for our daughter.

There is also room for another child, as my wife wanted more bedrooms when we were determining what we could afford and this impacted on our home's location and my commute to work.

My wife has voiced her concerns about a second child for the last two to three years, such as me working long hours and not giving her support when she needed it. Also the birth of our daughter was extremely hard and it took my wife over a year to recover and she doesn't want to risk her future health. She also says that financially we cannot afford to have another child. I did push myself at work and my boss was pushing me to do longer hours, but it was always to provide for my family.

In the last 12 months I had to address something which had crept back into my ability to cope with stress. I began to self-harm - something which I had done in my teens and went back to every now and then without ever disclosing or talking to anyone about it. With my wife's support I got help but I am aware of falling back into my old coping methods.

The second child was a major driver behind my 'falling back' to self-harm as I was not talking to my wife and was holding on to all my emotions. This had an impact on our relationship, and we are working at healing some of the cracks through better communication.

Some of the other issues about birth options have been addressed as my wife has spoken to her doctor. She also says the social pressures are hard, and I also get remarks, such as 'better start cracking on number two'. Our families also pressure us.

Whatever solutions I suggest she simply says she does not have a desire for a second child, and that breaks me inside. In selfish moments I think I would never have wanted to marry her if I knew this issue was going to arise. But then I would never have the joy of my daughter, and I do love my wife who has been a huge support in the last few months and years before.

I feel like I now will have to accept never having another opportunity to be a father again, and it is like a ball in my stomach. I know part of this is not getting what I want, but what if another child would be great for us and our daughter?

Time is not on our side, and I know I am still holding out hope my wife will change her mind, which I don't think she will. Or if she does, I will always think I have forced her to take on something she doesn't want.

It is really hurting me to have to accept, and I fear hiding it to avoid conflict will impact on me and my ability to cope.

Mary replies:  You have obviously put a great deal of thought on your own and in discussion with your wife about all of this. It's a difficult situation because both of you are entitled to your opinion as to what is best for the family and there is no right and wrong in this case.

I have seen families where a second baby was not wanted by a parent and that particular child suffered emotionally as a result. I have also seen the opposite, and once the second baby arrived the 'unwilling' parent became totally captivated and all was well.

Your daughter will have by now realised that she does not have brothers and sisters whereas some of her friends have and I would not be surprised if she starts to exert some pressure on her mother to have another baby. Indeed, most adults who were only children say they would have preferred to have the company of siblings growing up. Then when it comes to the reversal of roles and they become carers for their parents in their old age it can be quite daunting for an only child to shoulder all this responsibility.

Marriage is all about compromise and if all your entreaties have not been successful then it seems to me that you cannot force your wife to try for another baby.

I am very concerned that you may be continuing to self-harm despite having sought help, and I urge you to go back to your counsellor and get back on track to re-learn coping skills to replace this harmful practise.

In the meantime, Pieta House, Ireland's suicide and self-harm crisis centre, has a helpline (1800-247 247) and the UK website Battle Scars has a great website both for those who self-harm and also their family, friends and carers (

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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