How to cope when children alter life plans

My November 26 CJN Column deals with life decisions.

I still like to think that procreation is a life event that most choose to fulfill, however that’s not always the case and the reasons are endless. In the end, it’s a personal decision that must be respected.

In the first letter, a couple wants desperately to have a child, however infertility is not only wreaking havoc on their life plan, but it’s also taking its toll on their marriage. 

The second letter, is quite the opposite. This young woman has no intention of having children, but is going through guilt pangs because of it.


Dear Ella,

Our inability to conceive has taken its toll on our marriage. Jake and I had a perfect engagement and wedding, we bought a home, and then the floor fell out from under us. We have been trying to have a baby for well over a year. My parents ask me for monthly updates, and Jake’s parents don’t say a word. My friends are having babies, showers, brises, and baby namings.

The stress is exhausting. Many nights I stay at work late so I don’t have to face Jake. When we communicate, we argue. Our relationship has changed.

In vitro fertilization is our last option, but it’s expensive. If that doesn’t work, I fear Jake and I won’t survive. How are we going to deal? How will we go on?


Empty Heart

Dear Empty Heart,

Your life plan has hit a major bump, and you are not facing this crisis together. Make no mistake: this is a crisis. You had a life plan, and with everything having fallen into place prior to this, your coping mechanisms are weak.

Communication is key at this crucial time, and rather than blaming and pulling away, you need to face this situation  head on and together. If fact, you may need to involve a professional counsellor or support group to get you through this.

Try to take a step back and separate the emotion from the task at hand.

Work together, support each other, never ever assign blame, and put a concrete plan in place. Meet with a fertility medical expert, and be realistic. Give yourselves a deadline. Discuss an alternate plan, possibly adoption. You will be down at different times, so put your support and sensitivity into high gear.

If baby events upset you, stay away from them, and send a gift and your apology for not attending. Tell your parents to stop asking. Let them know you will inform them when there is something to tell.

Together you can get through this. You are fighting the same battle. Lean on each other, and don’t lose sight of why you fell in love. Marriage is hard and rewarding. You have come to a crossroads. Stay on the same path, communicate and move ahead arm in arm. Whatever the outcome, you will get through it together and end up with a stronger bond.


Dear Ella,

My 33rd birthday is around the corner, and most of my life is on track. I’m dating a great guy, my career is taking off and I am making head way into paying off my student loans. I’m finally starting to reap the rewards of all the hard work I’ve put into getting to this stage in my life. However, there is a huge cloud hanging over me. Kids. I don’t want any and the guilt is overwhelming – not so much for me, but for my parents, who talk endlessly about becoming grandparents. I would prefer to leave that for my sister to provide. How selfish am I? This decision was not made lightly. How do I tell them?


No Room for Kids

Dear No Room For Kids,

Many millennials are opting out of parenthood, so you are not alone. It’s imperative that you came to this decision after careful deliberation, as there is no going back, so let’s move forward.

Your parents raised you with hopes and dreams, and you are altering that path. Because of your decision, they will never have a grandchild from you, and that is something they need to accept, and grieve, if necessary. Share your reasons with them. Even if they don’t agree, at least they will understand you did not come to this life decision without extreme introspection. Your comment about being selfish suggests you still have some emotional work to do, too. Once you are sure of your decision, embrace it. It would be so much worse to bring a child into this world for the wrong reasons. Stand tall, and live your dreams to the fullest. Just expect that you will come across some people who will never understand or agree with your decision.

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