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Dear Patricia: I long for another baby but my husband doesn't want one

I'm a 39-year-old mother of three, and for the past year I have been longing for another baby. The main problem is that my husband doesn't want one. He says he is content with three, and frankly finds it hard work. I see and respect his point of view, and don't want to push him. So I've tried to distract myself, throwing myself into my life, which is certainly busy with family, friends, career and hobbies. I appreciate what a lovely life I have with a good, supportive husband and three beautiful children.

The ache, however, hasn't gone away. If anything, it seems to be getting worse. My husband is aware of how I feel, and if I really pushed the issue, he would probably agree to another baby just to make me happy, not least because he feels it has formed a wedge between us. For my part, I feel a bit distant from the world in general at the moment, possibly because it's not an issue that I would like to discuss with anyone else. Yet it seems to occupy my mind 24 hours a day. I'm jealous of those who are preg-nant, and almost as jealous of those who have just two children but are content.

I debate with myself constantly. My heart wants a baby and my head cautions against it. I don't want to be selfish. I also have my own concerns. What if the child has a disability and turns our lives upside-down? What if having another baby has a negative effect on my relationship with my husband? What if my other children lose out because time and money has to stretch to four? Am I wasting all the chances and talents I have been given, sacrificing them to become a mother of a large brood? I certainly know my parents would react negatively, thinking I'm too old, and mad to throw away my career.

Yet at the end of the day, I know that if I was pregnant in the morning I would be delighted, and confident that there is enough love in our house to manage anything. I also know that despite his doubts, my terrific husband would support me 100 per cent. I have tried so hard to talk myself out of this baby that I am totally confused, unhappy and really can't see the wood for the trees.

Patricia replies:

I'm sure there is enough love in your home to take on another baby. I'm sure, too, that your husband would step up to the plate if a pregnancy presented itself. I'm also sure that this isn't the point.

You're struggling with a decision. You're not sure yourself whether another baby would be a good idea or not. Deep down, you believe your longing is simple. If there were no outside forces questioning the whole idea, you'd go for it. That's not true. The opposition isn't just external -- like your husband firmly stating that he's finding things hard going as it is, or your parents thinking you'd be throwing away your career and that you're too old, to boot. You have reservations yourself. There's a dilemma going on right inside your own psyche.

That dilemma is not just about your head going one way and your heart another. It's about selfishness versus due concern for others, that constant balancing act we all engage in, the struggle between wish fulfilment and respecting someone else's point of view. Career versus child-minding? Women face it all the time. Ambition versus family involvement? Men face it all the time too. Biology is the reason you don't see this quite so clearly. Wanting another baby seems like another dimension, something qualitatively different to any other desire. Is it? Is it something almost holy, spiritual even, a necessity rather than an option, a sort of destiny, governed by other rules entirely? I am not for one second being facetious, or dismissive. I genuinely don't know.

I do know your husband is not the enemy. Which is why it's sad to hear that he feels this baby issue has formed a wedge between you. You are a good and loving woman, who has a dilemma. Don't make your husband the fall guy. Face it.

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