Dear Carolyn: Found out a few weeks ago that I am pregnant at 42! Have one kid, almost 8, who is a complete joy. Husband has made quite clear he does not want this baby because it was not planned and he doesn’t want to work forever. I am feeling like it is a miracle after four years of fertility treatments and finally giving up two years ago.
I don’t want to be selfish but really want this baby. But then I keep seeing moms with kids and wonder, is it selfish to be so old with a young child and to go against what my husband wants? Friends who know my struggle are very excited . . . he has told no one. I cry a lot of nights. — 42 and Pregnant
He wants his wife to abort a child she has ached for six years to conceive.
And you’re the one worried you’re selfish?
Does this originate in you, the state of mind that doesn’t even entertain that it’s equally selfish of him to “go against” what you want? Does it originate in him? In your dynamic together?
Allow me to note that I dwell comfortably in the gray areas of childbearing, out of respect for the fact that no one can know — or has any business dictating — what is right for each prospective parent and child.
But this is, again, a yearned-for child who is already on the way — courtesy of parents who, two years ago, used fertility treatments. You got “so old” since then? When you gaze upon those “moms with kids,” can you peg their ages to within a two-year margin of error?
There are, certainly, practical considerations here that outrage won’t solve. An obvious and painful one is your 8-year-old, who stands to lose a (presumably) stable, intact home to this standoff. There’s also always a chance your baby will have special needs — especially given the higher risks associated with the gently phrased “advanced” maternal (and paternal) age — and that has to factor into any responsible calculations about having this child as a single mom.
There’s also the sad irony of your husband’s priorities. If he leaves the marriage over his retirement-age stance, and if you choose to bear the child, then you’re both looking at the added financial strain of maintaining two households plus a baby — meaning he’d better serve his interests by staying. Would he, then? Would he be a loving or grudging dad?
None of these considerations comes into play, though, until you wrestle with the baseline question you need to answer: Is there any reason to terminate this pregnancy that you consider legitimate?
Forget (somehow) all the specifics of your current bind and answer that question on its own merits, as if it were a hypothetical. Sleep on the question, cry (more) on it, even talk to trusted advisers: friends, clergy, obstetrician, mental-health professional.
This is, I believe, the only way you can live with yourself after making your decision — whatever that decision may be.
Then work on the question about your dynamic that I posed earlier.
Then share your conclusions with your husband, thereby presenting him a clear menu from which to choose his next move. A reputable, professional, outside adviser also makes sense at this stage, too, should emotions put productive discussion out of reach.
Ideally, of course, you’d write this menu together. Conception doesn’t work that way, though; call it unfair or call it biology, your husband had his say when he slept with you. In the mother’s body alone is where the last word resides.
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Dear Carolyn: My fiance writes for a living (he works for a nonprofit). He has decided his life’s dream is to write a book, and so has written a series of essays about . . . his thoughts on life.
While he’s certainly a good writer, and I think he’s very interesting, I feel in my gut this book has no mass appeal (essays are about his musings, TV shows he likes, family, etc.). I feel awful, because I really don’t think the book has much to offer to people beyond our close circle, and he’s adamant about publishing. How to move forward? — Unsupportive Partner
You hug him and wish him luck.
You are not a book editor, presumably, or an expert on the current market; you also probably wouldn’t have wanted to be the significant other who told Jerry Seinfeld or David Sedaris that their musings on daily life and family would have “no mass appeal.”
Therefore, your sole responsibility here is to love your fiance. If he presses for your opinion, then say you love his writing — right? — but have no idea what sells a book these days. (Funny me, implying that anyone does.) The market will have his answer.