Dear Captain Awkward:
Over the years, I have written any number of scripts to talk to my boyfriend about having children. The newest one, the one I came up with today goes like this: I want to have a child, and I need for us to make a plan that starts now and ends with me having a baby.
The problem is that I cannot remove this padlock that is on my tongue. I have written and not delivered so many scripts. Some of them I discarded because they were unfair, and because there is no reason to approach this with any kind of score keeping tally of just how patient I have been waiting for this, or which of our friends already have kids, or a list of facts about fertility or why now is a good time. I have set myself deadlines before. I have so many wasted opportunities, waiting it seems for the perfect setting and moment for this conversation to happen, or letting these moments pass while I try and fail to loosen my tongue.
The script once would have been: We need to think about having children before my dad loses his sight and can’t see them and my mom is too weak to pick them up.
Last September it was: I need for you to talk to me about making a family, or let me know that you are still far from ready so I can go home to take care of the one I already have.
Now it is too late for both those scripts; I lost my mom seven months ago. She was sick, but it was unexpected. I’ll never be able to have my mom in the delivery room, or staying with me the first few months, to call with all the little everyday questions that come up when learning how to take care of a new little person. I’ll have my dad, but I know it will also be hard for him to know how much she wanted this for me and that she is not here to see and experience it.
All this is not what I want to put on my boyfriend. This is the situation, and any part of me that would consider blaming him for taking all those things away from me by delaying this kids talk is too busy blaming myself for being selfish in general and leaving home in the first place. I don’t blame him. If things had happened differently, well then things would be different. And in the end, I know that this is the situation and I must live in this version of reality, not all the ones with paths I could have taken, or circumstances that could have turned out differently.
I know how hard it will be for me to be pregnant and have a child without my mom, but I am ready for it. I know all the ways in which I could improve my health, my relationship and my life before bringing the disruption of a child into it. I know that grief is a huge part of my life right now, and will not be forever. But, I also know more than ever now that there is no perfect world I can create. All we have is this, this imperfect world with these holes in it. I feel ready to try it, and I don’t want to wait any longer. I can make plans, and imagine the story and plan for a happy ending, but I can’t say the first words. I don’t know how to find the gumption to start. Can you help me?
I know by the way, I really do know, I need to call the counseling service whose number I’ve been carrying around for all these months. Maybe if I can send this letter, then maybe I can pick up the phone. And maybe then I can speak.
Dear Letter Writer,
I think the latest script you’ve developed is pretty great. And I’m so, so sorry about your mom.
Let the years you’ve waited to ask this question go. If you haven’t been talking with your partner about this the whole time, he doesn’t know about the missed opportunities and the times you bit your tongue. His part in the conversation starts now, and the less you carry those expectations and anxieties from the past with you into this conversation, the better. Don’t assume or say that you know he’s not ready, don’t apologize for maybe freaking him out, don’t make it about your loss or drown him in facts about fertility. You don’t need a perfectly-argued logic case or the perfect moment. You want it; that’s a good enough reason to ask for it.
“Boyfriend, I know that I want to have kids, and I know that I want to do that with you, and I want to start on that within the next year or so.
I really want to know what you think and how you feel about that, and to talk about how we could make everything work out. But you don’t have to give me an answer right this second, in fact, I really want to give you some time to think everything through and be sure that if we do it it’s what you want, too.
Can we agree that we’ll both think really hard about this for the next three months, and then we’ll sit down and talk about how it could work for real and make some decisions?”
Boom. You can put it out there honestly and let him know how important it is to you. You can give him some time to think about it before he gives you an answer. You can give yourself a grace period from worrying about it while you’re still so deeply in the middle of grieving for your mom. You can take that three months to talk to that counselor you’ve been meaning to call and give yourself a safety net and take some of the pressure off both of you.
I know the stakes are high and that you really, really don’t want him to say no, but there is power and grace in speaking your heart’s desire out loud. The risk is worth it.
Readers who are parents, how did you make the decision to have kids? How did the talk go with your partner?