Friday, September 19, 2008

Nobody's Father

LoriBeth at The Road Less Travelled mentioned that there were some essays entitled Nobody's Father in the Toronto Star. I read them all and it was really interesting to read living child free/less from a man's point of view. With the exceptions of one father whose son died of cancer and the gay middle aged men, I sensed a chilly ambivalence about children. Which is definitely good if they do not want to be parents. There was one story that really got to me, though. This man's wife did eventually become pregnant and miscarried twice. It seemed she did want to be a mother but he definitely didn't want to be a father. He considered her pregnancies a betrayal of their premarital deal. I can only imagine she thought he would eventually change his mind once the baby arrived, except the he didn't change his mind and the baby never arrived.

I couldn't help but think back to the time, years ago, when my hubby and I had had a conversation in bed regarding children. I had told him that I had always envisioned children in my future and here he was telling me that he didn't want them, at least not in the foreseeable future. He rolled away from me, his back closing the conversation. I was stunned, saddened. We had had the children conversation back when we had first become a couple and he was pro kids then. He was going to do his 4 day shifts and then with my schedule, I could take care of the kids and look forward to his 3 days off. Perfect.

I sat there and thought what the hell? This is over. What the hell were we doing if we weren't going to be a family? Of course, I started analyzing everything. Was he worried about money? He made a good living, but had I been bringing in an equal amount of money, we probably wouldn't be living in a cramped one bedroom apartment with our dog. Was this my fault - had I made a mistake in assuming he wanted to have a family with me? Should I change careers? I felt unsupported, insecure, the ground was shifting underneath me. Well, hell, I had to move on.

The next night, he decided to "make me happy" and give me what I said I wanted. I completely freaked out, went to the pharmacy and withstood a humiliating lecture about birth control from some young pharmacist's assistant to obtain the morning after pill. I was angry, I felt he had just not done his usual withdrawal thing just to "punish" me or get some sort of reaction. Well, the reaction was fear. I wanted to believe that he wanted the same thing in the way that I did. I wanted it to be a special earnest moment, full of romance and intent and assurances that he really wanted to make a baby with me. I needed to be feel safe. Now I was going to spend the evening nauseated and I was going to make him realize just how pissed off I was.

Now I look back at that as a moment of irony. What if? What if I had not given in to fear and panic? What would have been the outcome? Probably nothing.

Funny though, speeding years ahead and we're both in the IVF clinic and DH is holding my hand during my 1st egg retrieval and he's actually chanting with me as I struggle through the discomfort. I look at him and feel such love, such desire to make him a father. He's committed, he's sure, he wants to raise a child with me. He thinks I would make a great mother.

My MIL sent me some pictures of the cowboy wedding - and there are 2 of DH holding a delightful little boy who grabbed anyone's hands so that he could enjoy walking around, a little boy that could be his - had he been with someone else that is. They look perfect together with their 2 bald heads. It pains me to see him with other people's children. I have more than a few pictures of him with our friends' sons. Our missing piece. I'm still awkward around young children, after avoiding them for so long.

Getting back to that essay, I was surprised that the man who didn't want children didn't elect to have a vasectomy instead of letting his wife go through pregnancies and miscarriages. It was quite telling when he said that her reaction was to bury herself in her work and moved to the States for a year BY HERSELF. I wonder if she would consider writing an essay to tell her side.


loribeth said...

Glad you found the essays interesting (I sure did, & I will be looking for the book). I would have appreciated some insight into childless/free after infertility from the guy's perspective -- perhaps it's in the book?

I too found that particular essay you mentioned somewhat unsettling (& yeah, I'd like to hear HER side of the story...!). I think it happens far more often than many people realize, though. There were several women on one of my CF living boards whose husbands either were (a) lukewarm on the topic, especially if having children involved infertility treatment or adoption, (b) clear that they did not want children from the outset -- the wife agreed at first but then the biological alarm clock started ringing... or (c) were agreeable to having children at first but when push came to shove started singing a different tune.

OHN said...

It always bothers me when one half of a couple changes the course when the ship has already left the port. I know people change but it is obviously a huge deal when the change regards becoming parents or not. I actually broke up with an old fiance when I found out he had a vasectomy 2 years before I met him and he was letting me go on and on about how great it was going to be to have a family with him. What a shithead! So glad I didn't marry him but what if I had? People grow and change and we can only hope we grow and change in the same direction. I see why some couples split after what seems like a 'perfect' marriage.

Pamela T. said...

Will certainly take a look at the essays. I realize after many conversations and research how very differently women and men can view and sort out the baby-making and parenting experience.

chicklet said...

It's good to go through this stuff with someone who IS so supportive, who doesn't leave us to "bury ourselves in our work". I don't know how people do it with a partner who isn't supportive.

luna said...

that poor woman must have felt so alone.

there were many moments in our younger years when I would have been terrified to become pregnant, for any number of reasons -- financial, emotional, etc. looking back, how I wish I could talk to my younger self about a few things...