Tell Me About It: First of all resource yourself, possibly through your female friendship network
PROBLEM: I found out a few weeks ago that I am pregnant with our fourth child and I don’t know what to do. My husband hasn’t spoken to me properly since I told him. I know he is angry and feels let down and is 100 per cent blaming me.
The pregnancy was totally unplanned. Our youngest is just over a year and when she was born last year (after two older brothers) we were thrilled and sure that our family was complete.
I only stopped breastfeeding a few months ago and so my cycles were a little irregular, but I honestly didn’t think I was ovulating. We were having unprotected sex and I’m angry at myself now in that I let this happen and indeed how irresponsible I have been. Our three other children all took months of actively trying before they were conceived and being older now, (41), I wrongly assumed it was highly unlikely I would fall pregnant again.
While my diet is usually a healthy one, I wasn’t taking folic acid or any prenatal vitamins. As I found out late about the pregnancy, I had had a few nights out and would have been drinking alcohol and now on top of everything else, I’m worrying that I’ll have caused the baby problems.
Both my husband and I work full time, in full-on jobs. Life already feels quite stressful at times, the constant treadmill of it all. Financially, we are okay, but we still have to watch things, and the three kids are a handful in themselves. At the moment I’m feeling lonely and unsupported. I can’t tell anyone yet as it doesn’t feel right until my husband can accept the reality and talk about it. I have scans and hospital appointments coming up and feel I will be going alone without his support. I am also anxious a problem will be detected, and I’ll be dealing with it on my own.
However, in saying all that, as the pregnancy progresses, I find myself becoming more used to the idea and even excited at the prospect of having a lovely big family. I know if my husband comes on side and I have his support, we will be fine. But I can’t stand the idea of him blaming me (even though I admit, I should have been more active in ensuring we were taking precautions, it somehow has always been my responsibility). I also am worried about the judgement of others, four children in the current climate feels perhaps excessive, even selfish. I will also be an older mother, which comes with its own challenges.
There is no question of me opting for an abortion – I just couldn’t live with myself. I am really worried about my husband and our relationship though. How can we ensure our marriage survives?
ADVICE: There are a number of issues you are dealing with, but decision-making is not one of them. You have decided to have your baby and are already connecting deeply with the child and it sounds as though you are quite attracted to the idea of having a big family. However, this does not take from the very lonely place you find yourself in and, with three small children and a full-time job, your life is exhausting. Adding lack of support and empathy is very tough and if resentment grows on both sides, your life could be very challenging.
Both of you are responsible for the pregnancy and you both need the support of the other for the sake of your whole family
The first thing is to resource yourself and you might do this through your female friendship network – this will allow you to get everything out and express your worries fully while getting genuine comfort. You will need to talk about your husband in a way that will allow him to have a good relationship with your friends, so be conscious of this. You want him on board in your new circumstances and he will probably know that you are discussing him.
Your husband may be feeling “provider panic” and this is a genuine issue, in that fathers worry about the long-term financial provision for all their children. He may not have close friends that he can discuss this with, and it is possible that you are his only confidant, so you may need to offer him some understanding without taking offence if he expresses his upset. This is quite demanding as you feel the blame is being piled on you and this is, of course, unjust.
Day off together
Both of you are responsible for the pregnancy and you both need the support of the other for the sake of your whole family. It might be wise to take a day off together – while this is difficult it is important that you prioritise this is in your life right now. Arrange to go somewhere away from home and when appropriate, inquire as thoroughly as possible how your husband is feeling – until he feels that you truly get where he is at. Then speak fully about your feelings – everything from the excitement of the new life to fear about the wellbeing of the baby to what your friends and neighbours will comment. There is no need to push for immediate resolution – you already know that new babies have a way of healing many rifts – and your husband clearly loves the three he has and will, no doubt, stretch to include his fourth child.
Loving someone when everything is rosy is an easy thing
When the time is right, you might talk to him about a vasectomy as this is the simplest way to prevent future pregnancies. In fact, he can do this right now and exercising some agency over the size of your family may offset his feeling of helplessness.
Loving someone when everything is rosy is an easy thing; loving them when they are angry and blaming is much more demanding and yet we do this for our children without thinking. If even one person in a relationship remains loving, the relationship stands a great chance of surviving. Remember that love does not mean acquiescing, it gives you the right to challenge because you believe in the other person’s capacity to be the bigger person.
If you can operate from this position, your husband will be offered every opportunity to reconnect with his relationship and family.