Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | November 23, 2009

Best Laid Plans

This past week, a woman at the place where I work out brought in her brand new baby. And, as usual, my heart just melted.

I love kids. Absolutely love ’em. I always knew I wanted to have kids. Lots and lots of kids. In fact, I always had this suspicion that I’d end up with daughters. Lots and lots of daughters.

Let me back up.

My senior year at University, I began a Long Term Relationship with a woman with whom I was very compatible. She was smart (ooh, I love smart), beautiful, quietly sexy, and a kindred spirit when it came to pop culture: we both loved the Beatles, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Monty Python, and so on. Nerds in love. Well, at least, nerds in serious like. We were sexually compatible, as well, although I didn’t appreciate just how much (and how important that was) until many years later.

She always figured she’d probably have a kid some day. She was an only child, and I’ve noticed that many only children tend to only imagine having one child, themselves, if any. (I should also point out that I have one sibling, but my father was the oldest of six, and I spent a lot of time growing up with my extended family with dozens of cousins, aunts, and uncles straddling both sides of the US/Canadian border.)

This girlfriend talked about all of the things that would happen first, of course. Getting her career started, then grad school, then shore up the career, and also some travel… I added it all up, and it seemed to me that if she pursued this plan, we’d be in our mid-thirties before even getting started on having children. I didn’t want kids right away, but I certainly didn’t want to wait until my mid-thirties. That’s… old!

Our relationship fell apart for other reasons, but with each passing year, the notion that any serious relationship would have to include a partner who wanted kids took on an increasing level of urgency.

Along comes Long Term Relationship number three. Like anyone else I’ve ever dated seriously, she was smart. Attractive. Sexy… although moreso in appearance than in practice, sadly for me. But, well, we *seemed* sexually compatible at first. Plus… she wanted kids! Lots and lots of kids. In fact, she always imagined having daughters. She was the first-born daughter of a first-born daughter of a first-born daughter. In a back-and-forth Post-It note exchange (more on that in a future entry), she confided that while she always imagined working, career wasn’t most important to her: having children was.

Certainly, there was more to our relationship than that, and there were some major complications, but the kid thing was a key part to our working things out. We got married. We started having kids… in our mid-thirties. The irony was not lost on me at the time, and I would occasionally wonder what would have happened if that other LTR had worked out… but, no. That’s dangerous thinking. So what if our children — ALL THREE OF OUR CHILDREN — look more like me and my previous paramour than they look like me and my wife?

[“Why —–, they look so much like you!”

“Yes, that’s kind of you to say. But, I’m still not certain who their mother is….”]

Now, I’d always imagined having lots of kids. Maybe, oh, six… plus or minus one or two. The number didn’t matter. I wasn’t dead-set upon anything. Just… kids.

Our first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. I was devastated. My wife was not. I know what you’re thinking, and no, that’s not what happened. Most women who have children have a miscarriage at some point in their lives. Plus, my wife grew up on a farm; she was a biologist by training. She was capable of being clinical about it. And she could feel it happening — she suspected that something was up when she suddenly started to feel better. The morning sickness went away, etc. So, she had clues, she had prior training, she had time to figure it out and deal with it as it was happening. I found out when we went in for the ultrasound. (Oh, and I was in the middle of a six-week intensive workshop at the time, so I was already strung out.)

So when the second pregnancy resulted in a (mostly) healthy baby boy… oh, my. What an amazing thing. When I first laid eyes on him, I understood what true love was all about. Oh, my, oh, my. Talk about an unbreakable bond. Unconditional love. Forever.

He had jaundice, which is not entirely uncommon, but that worked itself out quickly enough. His complications combined with Penny’s complications (emergency c-section) meant I got a lot of quality time caring for him while he was in “the box” and Penny was recuperating.

And I came to realize with crystal clarity that if I never sired another child, it would be okay. This one would be enough. He was amazing. When you have all the love in the world right in your hands, how can you seriously demand of the universe anything more?

For various reasons, Penny wanted to have our children spaced three years apart. And she wanted four, because after that, she’d be in a number of high-risk factors because of her age. All well and good.

Now, I should mention that our sex life was already pretty much dead before our first was born. But after our first was born, that was pretty much it for our sex lives. After that… maybe… once a year? And, wouldn’t you know it, I turned out to be a surprisingly accurate shot. As soon as we stop with the contraception… BAM. Pregnant again.

With the first child, we didn’t want to know the sex beforehand. Well, Penny didn’t. I did, but that’s besides the point. And although I expected to be disappointed if it wasn’t a girl, it turns out that it didn’t matter to me in the least once the moment of truth had arrived.

Next pregnancy, we decided to ask during the ultrasound. I watched as Penny’s smile evaporated at the news: “It’s a boy!”

Child number three, she damn near cried at the news. Yes. Another boy.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. She loves all three of them. She is an amazing mom, and gives so much of herself to all three of them. But there was always going to be girls. And, now…

Our youngest is over a year-and-a-half old. If we were to go for four, that means we should start… but, well, I’ve made a decision. I need a lover. My wife doesn’t want to be that person in my life. And I won’t stay in a marriage where my role is relegated to that of sperm donor. (I used that term once, and Penny was mortified: “Is that really what you think?” And yet, she’s done nothing to indicate that there’s any other reason to have sex with me.)

She still wants that fourth. She still wants a daughter. Truth be told, so do I. Although, again, another son would be fine with me, as well. I always expected to have daughters, but I love my sons beyond question.

You never know how things are going to work out before your baby arrives. They might have autism or some other chronic problem. They might have a bad disposition (is my sibling reading this?). They could break your heart in any number of ways. And yet, all three of our kids are such a joy. Healthy, yes, but also smart and kind and loving. Our third… he’s interesting, in that while he and his brothers all love both Penny and me, this little guy is definitely Daddy’s boy. He cries so much when I leave. He hugs me and celebrates when I get home. How much I would have missed out on if we’d stopped at two!

What are we going to miss out on by stopping at three?

Well, for one thing, we’re going to miss out on me being further trapped in a loveless marriage. I also think that the differences in our parenting styles would go from being different-but-compatible to becoming outright irreconcilable with the addition of a fourth. Maybe I’m wrong. But I won’t be just a sperm donor, and quite frankly, I don’t think I could trust Penny’s motives at this point if she decided to even try to act like a lover.

The other day, after our kids were in bed, she and I were talking about our financial situation, which again led to discussing our parting ways, and the subject of our children came up. “I still haven’t come to terms with the idea that there won’t be a fourth,” Penny said. And for the first time in years, she got up from her couch, came over to mine, and curled up in my arms. It was the first genuine hug we’ve had in years.

And as I held her, all I could think was… “It’s too late. It’s not enough. It’s too late.”

Not that she made any effort to seduce me that night, anyway.

So this past week, a woman at the place where I work out brought in her brand new baby. And, as usual, my heart just melted. I love kids. I absolutely love ’em. But I had to look away and join my class and not think about asking to hold that beautiful child… or whether it was a boy or a girl.

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Responses

  1. I love your Blog! I have only one question:
    Is there any possibility that your wife could be reading this Blog? (If not, maybe you could think of a way to create such a possibility, because if anyone should be reading this, she should…)

    • Hi, Leah.

      Thank you for your kind words!

      At present, there is no reason to believe that my wife is reading this blog. While this blog is pseudonymous, I do have a normal public blog under my own name, and she rarely even reads that. I’m curious… why do you think she should be reading this? While I’m being more frank here than I might be if I knew she were reading, there’s not much information here that she doesn’t already know. She knows I would prefer to stay married, and she also knows that I am frustrated by our lack of romance/intimacy.

      I am very much open to suggestions; I’m just curious as to what you have in mind.

      Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts!

  2. Awh this one breaks my heart. I so understand that feeling. But what would another child do for the marriage? Nothing. Maybe it would fill your hearts with a little more love for each other for a short time but you would be right back where you are.

    • Another child would do nothing good for the marriage. Another child would be it’s own reward, but the marriage would be no less doomed. Penny and I are compatible (-ish) in many ways, but while we are obviously not compatible in the romance/intimacy department, we do make amazing babies. That’s not a reason to stay married, nor a reason to make more babies with her, nor even a reason to make babies at all.

      I’m glad you posed this question, because while I already knew the answer (once Penny has child number four, esp. if it’s a daughter, then she absolutely has no further need for me), I haven’t really stared it in the face. Even though she denies it to me and to herself, Penny has had little use for me other than as a sperm donor. And I want to be more than that to the woman I love. The fourth child that we will never have together would simply be born into a marriage that would end in divorce, anyway. If either of us were to ever have another child, said child should be born into a household filled with love, where the parents are role-models of how a whole marriage is greater than the sum of its parts.

      Still… the thought of having another child can make me wistful.

  3. INRIS~

    I say this because, as a woman, it’s one thing to “know” (or think I know) how my man is feeling. Even if he’s telling me. It is quite another thing to be able to “listen in” on his private conversation (with a friend, for instance) or read his “diary”..if you will.

    How you say things to her, and how you write about them here may be different. Even if they aren’t (to you), the written word may be felt differently by her.
    And the mere fact that you are pouring your heart out like this to “whomever might be reading it” is very telling.
    She’d have to be void of any human emotion to read this and not feel your pain…

    As well, she may not actually realize that:
    1) It is not her decision whether or not you stay
    2) You are closer to leaving than she thinks you are
    3) There are things she could do to salvage this

    I will say also, that as a clinician, I think it’s very possible (in fact, I’d bet on it) that your wife has a hormone imbalance, which she likely had as a young woman, and was then severely exacerbated during pregnancy. It is worth having this checked out by a “qualified” physician who is well versed in bioidential hormones. I’ve seen MANY a marriage saved after a woman’s hormones are balanced. In your case, it sounds like she loves you but has no interest in sex. And not just with you, but she doesn’t want it with anyone. This is a clear sign of imbalance. Can YOU imagine not wanting sex with her or any other woman? Of course not. It’s not normal. And by the way, all the counseling in the world doesn’t help hormonal imbalance.

    Anyway, good luck with all of this. I can see why you’d want to leave, but I hope you don’tm until all options have not been explored. Right now, it’s mostly you waking up to the idea that you’re miserable and don’t want to be anymore. Understandable! But so many variables exist and you have not unturned every stone, and 3 little lives hang in the balance….

    Leah
    P.S. No matter WHAT, baby #4 is a bad idea in my opinion.

    • Leah,

      Your suggestions regarding allowing Penny to “find” the blog are very interesting. I’m going to have to give that some thought.

      There’s still more of the story to tell, but I’ll quickly touch upon your thoughts upon hormone imbalance: first, I do believe that’s a very real possibility. That said, Penny has said that it’s not that she doesn’t want sex… she’s just not interested in sex with *me*.

      (She has also said that she doesn’t believe sexual interest something you can control or adjust. She does, imo, tend toward “learned helplessness”, and if there’s a problem she’s not dedicated to solving, she classifies it as unsolvable.)

      (Further, she and I had a conversation that I think reveals a great deal about why she is not romantically inclined toward me… more on that in an upcoming post.)

      Penny was diagnosed by one of our therapists as having clinical depression (and, having studied the subject somewhat, I’m inclined to agree), but Penny rejected that diagnosis and refused to get a second opinion. *And* refused to see that counsellor again. Case closed.

      So, while I strongly suspect that some chemical imbalance *may* be a contributing factor, we’re still left with the fact that she would have to want to do something about it. Thus far, that’s not happening.

      [Of course, if, as you say, she doesn’t realize how close I am to leaving and that this isn’t just up to her, maybe she would change her take on things if she *did* know….]

      And yes, I agree with you: baby #4 would be a bad idea. Still, I need to hear that from you all. Thank you for your honest opinions. It really does help me to think about the best way to navigate these troubled waters.


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