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I'm 44. I thought I'd left it too late to have a child. And then I fell in love! (With a man who doesn't want one...) Help!!!

(100 Posts)
griselde Tue 16-Sep-14 01:31:39

I'm not asking for help because I know that no help can be given. But after years of struggling with the children/no children thing, and heartbreak over relationships that failed, and one deeply felt miscarriage, I've found that I still haven't found any peace and equanimity.
Worse, I've found my confusion actually deepen as I've gotten older.
I had a long stint of singledom in my late 30s and early 40s. I was quite depressed during this period. I found it difficult to be an ageing, childless single woman. I felt judged. I felt lonely. I contemplated having a child alone but in the end I decided that it wasn't my top priority. I didn't want to go it alone. I'm in a fairly insecure profession and I worried about how I would provide for it. And Sarah Jessica Parker's line from Sex and the City about "If I'd really wanted a baby, wouldn't I have found a way to have one by now?" resonated with me. I decided that having a meaningful romantic relationship was my top priority and while I, ideally, wanted a child too, I didn't dare raise my expectations that far. And as a 40-something, going dating - internet dating of course at my age - I didn't want to be that cliche: the spermhunter. The He'll Do woman. That's what I'd done in my last relationship. That really had been a bad idea. So I said I "maybe" wanted children. As in I hoped, but I didn't assume.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I started a relationship with a man who'd said he didn't want children on his profile. On our whatever date, we discussed it. I said I wanted to leave the door open. He said okay. We were both desperate to have sex with each other....
It was a quite magical time. I fell very deeply for him. There was none of that 40-something last chance saloon about it. I felt 25 again. I'd never expected to fall so completely for someone at my age. It felt like more than I could have hoped for. And yet....I wanted more. A year later, I asked him if he'd ever consider us having a child, and he said, yes. I felt overwhelmed.
But it turned out he didn't. It was a blip, he said. A mistake. He's never really wanted children - though he'd contemplated it with an ex - but now it was too late. He'd been very clear, he said. Why on earth did I enter into a relationship with him, a man who didn't want children? Why did you enter a relationship with me, I said, a woman who said "maybe"?
We saw a professional. And it came down to this: I could respect his views. Or we could split up. I felt better because I realised I had a choice. I could choose to leave, or I could choose to stay. I chose to stay.
But it hasn't been the end of it. We fight. We are opposites. We don't handle confrontation well. He's a very loving, sincere, loyal man who I find very attractive. He's clever and successful in his career and we share similar interests. But, we are also opposites. He is very highly strung, organised, disciplined. We're both over emotional.
And I feel a sense of loss....
It's become worse as I get older, partly I think because I fear getting older. And I see how much meaning my parents have had had from their children, and how meaningful I find my adult relationship with them. And I prematurely regret that I won't have that. I've never yearned for a baby per se; but I do mourn the not-having-a-family-of-my-own, particularly when I project ahead to later years. He doesn't understand. If I say such things, he feels under attack. And then I feel like well, it's okay for him, we're doing things his way....
He never contemplated the if-it'll-make-you-happy approach to not-quite-convinced fatherhood. Which I understand and respect...and yet still. It hurts.
So, like I say, I know there are no answers. But I obsessively read other people's accounts: regret at having children, regret at not having children.
He believes that the issue of children - and my ongoing feelings of loss and what he perceives of as resentment toward him - is the root cause of many of our issues. And I feel....misunderstood. I feel like the rows and arguments and flying-off-the-handles break the compact we made when we agreed to settle the children issue: that we would have to be each other's family; that we'd need to be everything to one another. He ended our relationship a year and a half ago in the middle of a fight. Since then, we've both raised question marks, threatened its existence. I feel insecure.
I find this lack of stability totally disorientating and disheartening. And it makes me think I made a mistake about choosing him over having a child. He thinks that I am holding him responsible for decisions I have made.
What is certainly true is that I've made a right royal mess of my life in many respects. I can't believe I'm 44. That I'm in another unstable relationship punctuated by rows and unhappiness. That I've completely fucked up the having-children thing. I dithered over so many things for years. In the absence of making difficult decisions, I made no decisions and drifted for years.....
I console myself with the Sarah Jessica Parker line and call up the ambivalence I've felt about having children - when I remember my childhood I remember very vividly my mother's exhaustion and my father's bad temper and happy holidays and a feeling of claustrophobia. And then, I leaf through friends' and acquaintances' Facebook photos: the women who do seem to have it all. Good jobs and cute children and a husband who seems to delight in them and who was willing to help support them.
I don't have that. And I wouldn't want to give a child any less than that. And it's madness to hold it against my partner. And yet....the way that he's been so singleminded about what he wants and so unconcerned about what I want, and my happiness is a hard pill to swallow.
He's wondering the same, I know: he's told me. As you can see I'm writing this down to try and help me gain perspective....but I would love any thoughts or insights that you think you might be able to bring to bear. I know that it's my fault, by the way. I don't "blame" him. Or do I? Have I deliberately constructed this whole complex scenario to create a scapegoat for my own feelings of ambivalence and indecision about having children? Or is it true...that one is most likely to regret the things you didn't do, rather than the things you did?
Sometimes, I agree with him. I think I am to old. (Not to conceive, I know that, or at least assume; I've always assumed I'd have to have some sort of assistance or foster/adopt). But to be just sending them off to university at the age of 65....(particularly given the aforementioned insecure career).
Ugh. Help!

WhatsGoingOnEh Tue 16-Sep-14 02:08:24

I don't think you wanted kids. I think it's more likely that you have always struggled with commitment of ANY kind, and therefore never before made an irreversible choice. This time, you did. You chose to spend your last fertile years with a man who didn't want children. Now, when the time to get pregnant has probably safely passed, you've decided to "regret" that, and blame him for it.

Are you constantly looking back over the roads not taken?

Stop blaming him. You're pushing him away on purpose. sad You could be happy if you wanted to.

Churchillian Tue 16-Sep-14 02:47:47

That's a bit harsh whatsgoingoneh. OP it doesn't sound like this relationship is right for you and/or making you happy. It doesn't seem fair for your partner to blame your understandable feelings of loss for not having children on why the relationship is failing. You have tried to find a way forward with this man after counselling, but it really doesn't seem to be working and I don't get any sense from your post of a way forward for you whilst you're in this relationship, essentially as there's no compromise, you're stuck with these feelings of loss.

Have you thought of ending the relationship? If you can afford it, it may be worth having some individual counselling to talk through these issues to get them straight in your head re children/not children and your own feelings without the drama of this relationship, until everything becomes clearer for you. You could still potentially adopt/foster as a single parent, or even conceive via IVF. Not knowing that much about your situation apart from that your work is somewhat 'insecure' I don't think that should stop you from wanting to have a family, plenty of people do in less than the 'ideal circumstances' if it is what you really want.

Even if you did decide not to have children after all, I think coming to terms with this and working through these issues by yourself, would lay the foundations for you to meet someone else who you could be happier with in the future?

HumblePieMonster Tue 16-Sep-14 07:09:43

My great-grandma started having children at the age of 17. Her last child, her ninth, was born in 1909 when she was 43. She didn't have the aid of medical technology.

Get out there and get a baby. It's only 'almost too late'.

HumblePieMonster Tue 16-Sep-14 07:10:43

preferably, get two. i have one, my daughter has one. you're always afraid of dying and leaving your baby alone.

get two babies.

Romeyroo Tue 16-Sep-14 07:15:20

Sorry, but I think your partner's actions were deeply unfair. He said he had been very clear...well no, he hadn't, he was on his profile but then he said what you wanted to hear to get you into bed and you heard what you wanted to hear (not a judgement, because he should not have muddied the waters); he later said yes, he would consider it. By the time it turns out to be a blip, a year later, you are invested in the relationship. So he was not perfectly clear, he was a bit manipulative, during the honeymoon stage, he told you what you wanted to hear to keep you there. Once the relationship was established enough that he felt you would stay, he reverted to his original position.

The problem is not the children thing in and of itself, it is that he misled you at those two crucial points, but has rewritten history to say he was clear. Combine that manipulative behaviour with the high levels of discipline and organisation in his life and I would hazard a guess he is quite controlling. I actually would wonder how many of the arguments really are about the lack of a child or whether it is just convenient to blame your 'resentment' on everything.

What comes across in your post is that you would have been content, I won't use the word happy, to substitute a good, loving relationship for a child and would have come to terms with that. But you have not got a happy relationship; even if a child had come along, you would not have had a happy relationship. You would have had a child and a man who struggled to fit the chaos of a newborn into his highly organised, disciplined life and would have seen the child as your responsibility as you wanted him/her, that is if he did not expressly blame you for the chaos of introducing a newborn into his highly organised life.

So, in my opinion, what is happening here is that when the relationship was established, he has reverted to highly organised and disciplined, which means you need to behave a certain way (ie accept not having children) and if you don't, you will be seen as the root of the problem. And if it wasn't resentment for the lack of a child you were bringing to every argument, it would be something else.

That said, I think you have ignored, or accepted, the negative aspects of his behaviour earlier on because you thought he would agree to being the father in your rather idealised vision of family life. But as that has not materialised, you are more aware that you are left with a controlling man who will blame your 'resentment' for every issue in your relationship.

FWIW, I think the professional was wrong, because she put his wishes first, you were the one who had to accept or leave. The foundations of a good relationship are built on compromise. That is true of every aspect of your relationship. By bringing every argument back to the child question, your partner is implicitly returning to the accept or leave advice for every issue. That is a nonsense, but that is the bottom line he is giving you, accept his behaviour or leave. And that goes beyond the child issue.

Romeyroo Tue 16-Sep-14 07:24:22

Just to add, I have a friend who, in her early forties, went through the adoption process as a single woman. She is now on adoption leave for a year. I know someone else who did IVF as a single person. There are lots of happy single parent families. Your age might work against you, but you don't know till you get out there and research your options.

My final armchair assessment is that in your desire for stability, you may have mistaken controlling, disciplined behaviour for that. Whereas in reality, a lot of love and a heartfelt commitment to managing come what may are actually more important.

Flipper934 Tue 16-Sep-14 07:36:03

OP, I could almost have written your post, except that I always assumed I would have children.

When I was younger, it was just this expectation that it would happen one day, but I never found the right relationship, it was never the right time...As I've got older, it turned into a longing, and now a grief of sorts that I don't think will ever go away. I know that some people have a drive from a young age to find a partner to have a family with, but I never felt it as an urge until maybe 8-10 years ago. It was definitely exacerbated by a relationship with someone who, although he'd never wanted children in the past (and yet had 3), did want to have them with me, or so he said. And he said it, on and off, for 6 years, until I was 41, when he decided that my longing for children would breed resentment and left for someone else. We had lots of the 'you know I never wanted children' vs 'you know I always wanted children' arguments, with a bit of 'you promised me this' vs 'I made a mistake' thrown in.

I say that the urge to have children was exacerbated by this relationship - that's probably not strictly true, as my increasing age and decreasing fertility was probably on my mind as well.

So now I'm 44, childless, and regretting some of the decisions that I made in my youth. I've also felt judged, pitied, marginalised, all those things. I've had people keep their children away from me, as they assume that I don't like or understand children (though luckily, my friends now see me as the perfect standby babysitter/ Aunty).

It's not as easy as going out and getting a baby, sadly. Fertility treatment doesn't work for everyone, and the risk of miscarriage is high at this age.

I don't have any answers, OP, but I wanted you to know that you're not alone. I know there's more to life than procreation, and I'm finding bits of it as I go.

Flipper934 Tue 16-Sep-14 07:39:25

Cross posted with Romey - thank you so much for your first post. You've described exactly how my relationship panned out. I could never quite get my head around it, but you've put it perfectly.

Sorry, OP, hope I haven't hijacked.

Anotherchapter Tue 16-Sep-14 07:40:27

op you don't need a bloke to raise a child. I raised my 19 yo dd all by myself. She is awsome.

Women are having children later and later. Look in to IVF .

Don't leave it too late.

HumblePieMonster Tue 16-Sep-14 07:54:22

It's not as easy as going out and getting a baby, sadly

But if you (OP) don't try, you won't know. Or you might weigh up the risks and think they're too great. At that point, you'll know its your choice.

Swingball Tue 16-Sep-14 07:55:21

I agree with Romeyroo.

I also want to add - don't be taken in by what is on facebook. No-one's life is how it is presented in social media! Your childhood recollections of grumpiness and claustrophobia are probably spot on. I feel whistful when I see my childless friends pictures on facebook because they seem to be constantly going off to exotic places on minibreaks. I'm not being flippant - there are pros and cons to either choice.

It sounds as if you saw someone about the relationship but do you think it might be an idea to have some counselling by yourself? I think you have to do something pro-active to change this. flowers

Flipper934 Tue 16-Sep-14 07:57:01

Fair point, Humblepie.

mammadiggingdeep Tue 16-Sep-14 07:57:11

Look deep inside your heart. Do you want to be a mother? More than you want this relationship? What would you want your life to be like in ten years? Raising a child or in the relationship as it is now?

If you want to, go and have a child. Personally, my two dc are the total loves of my life. No other relationship compares to mother and children.

Good luck whatever you decide- just be honest with yourself x

anotherdayanothersquabble Tue 16-Sep-14 08:01:53

I will come back and read later but don't, just don't, judge people on their Facebrag photos and updates!

No one has it all, people make their choices and compromises and make what they can of what they have and on the very best days with with very best photos they tell the world what an amazing life they have.

No one posts, I dropped breakfast cereal on my dress, my son went to school without an important piece of homework, my daughter is so unhappy at school she cries every morning, my husband is not talking to me and I don't think we have paid the house insurance but it looks like the shower is leaking again and this time it will be expensive!!

BravePotato Tue 16-Sep-14 08:05:55

don't compare yourself to others, that is not the road to happiness!

stop it now.

Also, people who parade perfect families on Facebook can be living a lie (some of my friends are. Actually, the most prolific posters on my FB are both having affairs!).

Just focus on yourself and what YOU want.

fortyplus Tue 16-Sep-14 08:15:26

OP only 10% of women are still fertile at 43. You're wrecking your life agonising over something that is now unlikely to happen even if he wanted it to. Maybe he's fearful of a SN child. It seems to me that you both need counselling to try to get your relationship back on track - if t's what you want. If not then walk away, but whatever you do don't fixate on having a child. We all start to think of 'what ifs' and 'maybes' as we hit our early forties. I'm 53 and I still haven't decided what I want to be when I grow up. I can't quite adjust to the idea that I'm never going to compete in the Olympics. I never did meet the man of my dreams and spent 30 years with someone who is 'nice'.

goshhhhhh Tue 16-Sep-14 08:19:35

I agree with anotherday. People either put the - look at my fabulous life - or - woe is me on Facebook.

Be very sure you want children. Mine are the live if my life & I also know that I am worse off financially & in terms of career than my childless sisters. However, I wouldn't want to be without them & I think to parent well you need a degree of selflessness.
If you truly do then go for it - 44 probably isn't too late nowadays. (my mum was 42).

goshhhhhh Tue 16-Sep-14 08:20:56

Meant love of my the way my almost teenagers is also my biggest frustration - remember you get the teenager as well as the baby!

TeapotDictator Tue 16-Sep-14 08:29:49

Your post resonated a lot with me griselde, except I do have children. I am also extricating myself from a painful marriage (to somebody I should never have married in my right mind) and I'm very aware that my bulldozing 'ticking clock' over-rode my entire right mind. After separating I have become friendly with many other women whose marriages are also breaking up and we all say the same thing - our biological urge to have children clouded our judgement massively and in retrospect we should never have married these people.

My situation was very similar, I too found myself in an insecure career and doubted I would ever have been able to make it work by going it alone. However, if you can I would research the best person to talk to and sign yourself up to an excellent therapist for an intense exploration regarding what your options are - you do have several. I have often said that given my state of mind before getting pregnant I really don't know how I would have coped had I hit each birthday knowing that this whole baby/family/my future issue hadn't resolved in the way I wanted. I certainly was nowhere near having 'made my peace'.

I have a good friend who is single, childless and 43 and she says she has made her peace with it all. I have another friend who just chose to go it alone and had sperm donor IVF aged 41, giving birth to twins recently aged 42. She feels unbelievably blessed - BUT she has a very supportive family and that I think is key. I am a big believer in that you can MAKE things work if need be. Your career may be the way it is because you have drifted along until now. You could morph it into something more suitable. It is possible.

As I say, you have my support and my empathy. You are not alone, and I don't think you should have to minimise your feelings about it all. I would get thee to a counsellor, do some intense work to establish whether or not there is any available option that could make it work re. going it alone and whether you really are up for that. With donor egg IVF there is no increased risk of miscarriage due to your age. You need to either open or close that door for good so that you can move on with your life, in whatever direction.

Pensionerpeep Tue 16-Sep-14 08:53:18

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

pinkfrocks Tue 16-Sep-14 09:04:07

I'd ignore the stats about only 10% of women are fertile at whatever age. You are an individual and you may be fertile. I've heard of women aged 49 having children. A good friend of mine had her one and only child at 41 and conceived within a month or two.

I think your relationship with this man is doomed.
You are having problems quite early on in the relationship (I'm saying this as a 30 yr married) and IMO a child - if there had been one with him- may well have exacerbated the problems between you.

I don't think he was unfair to give you a hint that he might want a child, any more than you were disingenuous to say 'maybe' to children in your OD profile.

People are allowed to change their minds depending on which way the wind blows- or how the relationship pans out. Maybe he felt he didn't want a child with you because of the ups and downs you had in the relationship. It sounds very stormy.

If you read between the lines of what you wrote - that he doesn't seem concerned for your unhappiness- that is your slant on it. Another angle would be that you are not respecting his desire not to have a child and took the blip when he said he did, too seriously.

IMO you have made him the scapegoat, and that's why long term this relationship will never work.

You need to think- as others have said- about whether IVF and all that medical intervention is something you want. personally, it would never have been because for me a child is the icing on the cake of a union with someone I love- not just someone's ovum and someone's sperm producing a baby for me. But it's your choice.

GlowWithLight Tue 16-Sep-14 09:19:38

Don't muddy the water with the biological vs adoption/fostering options. It is unlikely you would be able to conceive naturally now but that's not the issue, is it? The issue is having kids at all, not how you have them. You made a choice, and now you are questioning if that was the right one. It's allowed to question your own choices you know, you're allowed to make mistakes and want to rethink things.

If you adopted an older child, you wouldn't necessarily be waving them off to uni with you aged 65. There are undoubtably ways to do this, if you want to.
It sounds as though the issue has soured your relationship. Invariably, the concerns we have initially about a prospective partner come back to bite us in the arse later. Falling in love doesn't make them go away; it just makes us deaf to the issues for a time. So now you are confronting things honestly, which is laudable. Are you incompatible? Probably. Should you leave him and try and have kids? That's something only you can say, and you'll have to listen hard to your instincts on this one.

Quitelikely Tue 16-Sep-14 09:21:57

It seems to me like you do want a child - in that case let him go. Why waste your lives with each other.

I might get flamed for this but having a child isn't the be all and end all. It brings a whole new meaning and risk to life/relationships. Yes there are wonderful moments but there can be pretty horrific moments too. Speaking for myself of course.

Time isn't on your side so make a decision and move forward.

AlleyCat11 Tue 16-Sep-14 09:29:21

I don't know... There's no guarantee of getting pregnant, even if you're both on board. I don't think a child is anyone's birthright. There are folk having them unplanned & folk who desperately want them who sadly can't. I think you must accept how your life turns out. As another poster said, it's down to decisions you made & I think it's partly down to fate too. I'm not down with the "just have a baby" advice. Think about the child.
I really don't know if I want a baby. Neither does he. We need to make a decision either way before I'm 40. That's my personal cut off point & it's not far away. I have prioritised a loving relationship over kids. The SATC quote rings true - if I wanted one I would have found a way by now. I think you need to be pragmatic & ditch the comparisons / FB stuff. Nobody's life is perfect, especially not those with children.

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