My husband and I have enough to disagree on. Whose turn is it to do the dishes? Big Brother or Masterchef? However lately it’s the decision of whether or not to have another baby that is causing the most trouble.
When I was pregnant with our second child, I was certain that would be it for us; we even discussed booking my husband in for a vasectomy. But the moment the midwife placed my beautiful daughter in my arms I just knew I wasn’t done.
In the three years since, I’ve been a helpless passenger on a hormonal rollercoaster I can’t control. Torn between logistics and my aching ovaries, I can only find solutions to the myriad of problems my husband throws at me. You see on the opposite side of the equation is my husband, a perfectly satisfied father of the pigeon pair.
I’ve debated with him, strategically left articles about the benefits of big families and even coerced my two children into nauseatingly cute scenarios to display the ease at which a third child could slot into the picture. All have drawn a mixed bag of results; fleeting moments of agreement, lots of tears – mine, and even once the suggestion that I might be better off finding a different father for my longed for third.
It seems my situation isn’t uncommon. Psychologist Dr Carla of Here and Now Health says that whether it’s the transition from one to two, two to three or more, the decision to bring another child into a family can leave the relationship between mum and dad fraught with a mixed bag of issues. “This is a scenario where one partner has to effectively give in to what the other person wants, and depending on how strongly you feel about this issue, resentment and anger can lead to the breakdown of the relationship.”
The unrequited yearning to have another baby isn’t just for women. James and Maria* have a three year old son who was conceived via IVF after a lengthy two year struggle. James grew up in a family with three other siblings, one his identical twin, and now he wishes to provide a similar family unit for his son. Maria on the other hand is adamant that she doesn’t want another child. “The adjustment to being a mum took a while,” she admits. “The thought of going back to square one with a baby is just not appealing.”
James has accepted Maria’s decision for now, but it’s still a topic regularly debated. “We have three frozen embryos in storage and every six months we get a letter asking if we would like to continue, so we usually end up discussing it all over again,” she says.
Dr Carla urges couples to be upfront and always honest about their feelings. “Ideally you want to have the conversation about family size with your partner before committing to a serious relationship, but it’s not always possible,” she says.
If you’re continuing to butt heads on the issue, Dr Carla shares the following advice. “Lay all your reasons out on the table, this is the only way to find some semblance of a solution. Say for example the woman doesn’t want to have another baby because she found the post-birth year very difficult. A solution could be found in renegotiating duties for night time feeds, or the man could become the stay at home dad for a period of time. Each situation is unique and requires its own personalised response,” she says.
No matter the strategy you choose for broaching the subject with your better half, Dr Carla offers these golden rules to remember.
- Don’t fall pregnant when your partner is against it by purposefully forgetting to take birth control or similar. This rarely works out well. Decisions to have a child together should be that - joint decisions.
- Don’t take permanent action, like having a vasectomy, without discussing with your partner.
- Do be very honest with your partner about your reasons for wanting, or not wanting another baby. Neither of you can begin to understand the other's point of view if you don't know what their point of view is.
- Do remember that at the end of the day, you are with this person in a partnership and have chosen to spend your life with them. Having children, while a large part of that, is only one part of that.
No matter what side of the fence you sit on and regardless of the family size, most parents will admit that having their children is the best thing they’ve done. Keeping this in mind is the secret to moving past this hurdle with your relationship intact. “It’s not easy, particularly for women, to resign themselves to not having any more children when this is something they are desperate to do. Focus on your current children and savour those new milestones and moments,” says Dr Carla.