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When You Want Another Baby . . . And He Doesn’t

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You’re supposed to compromise in marriage, but how do you find middle ground when you want another baby and your partner doesn’t? It’s a life-altering decision with major financial and logistical repercussions—and you can’t really meet halfway. That stick is either positive or negative. My husband and I discussed and debated having a third child for about a year before he finally agreed. (Actually, he said, “I think it’s a bad idea, but if it’s what you want, ok.”)

For the record, I think both of us had valid points, and I don’t think that any of his were wrong. Moreover, as a couple, we had always talked about our life as a family of four—until I had a change of heart about two years ago.  So now I was coming to the conversation with a more emotional and long-term perspective, and he was forced to defend something on which he thought we had already agreed.

I should mention here that if the default parent is the one who does not want another child, that’s a whole different conversation. AND, if the husband is the default parent but the wife is still the one who has to endure pregnancy/labor/breastfeeding, that’s also a different set of parameters. In our case, I am the default parent and desperately wanted another child.

HIM: Our budget is already tight. Adding another child will be a major strain.

Me: (Big breath here.) Adding another child will definitely cost us money—though I don’t believe all of the projections of how much is costs to have a baby or how much is costs to raise a child in the US fit us that well. Our family is a little different. We don’t incur major childcare costs (second highest cost after housing, according to the USDA) because we made the decision for me to stay at home while our children were young. (Meanwhile, he points out, we forfeit a second salary.) Our oldest son is attending an amazing K-8 public school for free (that his siblings will also attend).

In terms of getting ready for a baby, we had given away or sold almost all of our baby gear—except a pack n play and some baby blankets, but I knew that we’d be able to find most of the things we needed through our community’s amazing MOMS club or craigslist. Plus, we’d already had two babies, so we knew what stuff we actual need and used versus the stuff stores tell you you have to have (or scare you into thinking you need). We cloth diaper and I breastfeed for as long as possible, so those costs are relatively low for the first six months or so.

Overall, we’re pretty frugal in general. I know my husband would rather have more fun with our income now (he’s the spender, I’m the saver). We love to travel and just go out in general, and that’s expensive with kids (whether you bring them along or don’t). The major flaws in his argument that we don’t have enough money are 1) assuming that our income will stay the same for the next 18 years. I argued that he would get raises (for at least the next decade or two) and maybe even a higher paying job (which he did). Meanwhile, I plan to return to the workforce at least part time (doubling or tripling what I currently contribute to our bottom line) once all of the kids are in full time public schooling. So, our needs may increase, but so will our ability to pay for them. 2) (And more importantly), people all over the world have way less money than we do and lead very fulfilling lives. To me, the potential joy of expanding our family outweighed the discomfort of stretching our dollars.

HIM: Our house and car are too small. We’ll need new ones. (Really, this was money again.)

Background: We bought our 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom, 1100 square foot house two years ago under the pretense that we were done having children. Then I had a change of heart. My husband’s argument is that the children are already sharing a room, and everyone’s tripping over each other in the bathroom. Adding a fifth person will be chaotic.

Me: This is a problem three years from now. When the baby is born, she won’t be using the bathroom—not until she’s two or so. She can sleep in a pack-n-play in our bedroom (half in our closet and half out was the only way to make it fit). Eventually, she can share the bedroom with the boys until the oldest one turns nine or ten or hits puberty. That’s at least five years from now, so we have time to figure out a solution. We already have plans to expand our house, so now we’d have a stronger reason to focus our extra money and get it done. Or perhaps the solution is move to a new house. The point is, this is a problem down the road that we have time to figure out based on what we need.

In terms of the car, we thought we’d have to buy a new-to-us car and had priced out some station wagons. Then, on a random day, we happened to pull the carpet in the back of our SUV and realized that we had a hidden third row. Car problem, solved (for now). This might not work for everyone, but I highly recommend examining what you have and how it can work before you commit a chunk of change to upgrading when you don’t really need to.

HIM: Having a baby is hard, and I don’t want to go back there. 

Me: He’s absolutely right. Even before the baby comes, dealing with pregnancy is hard. It screws with the sex life and social life you were just beginning to enjoy again. It makes having fun with the kids you have already hard because you’re exhausted and can’t keep your eyes open during the day. Hips hurt. Tears come easily. Plus there’s a whole rash of unpleasant side effects like bacne (acne on your back) and varicose veins—just to name a few.

Once the baby is here, exhaustion hits everyone hard—especially mama. The other parent has to be willing to step in and (in our case) make breakfasts, pack lunches, and get everyone to school on time while mommy and baby sleep. He also has to be willing to handle the older kids’ bedtime routine alone while I nurse through the witching hours for those first six or seven hellish weeks of newborn fussiness. And that sex life is definitely on hold while you recover.

It’s a big ask. But to me, it’s a two to three year sacrifice that is difficult—but not impossible. And in the great scheme of life, 2-3 years is so small, and there’s so much love to gain. My friend loaned me the book Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids which makes a compelling case that parenting is not as hard as we all are making it out to be anyway.

The book also tackles the “but adding more people to the earth will contribute to the devastating ecological impact our species is making” argument, if you’re interested…which is basically that a) adding more people one generation at a time isn’t nearly as catastrophic as some of environmentally harmful practices most of us support by eating meat, driving cars, and generally living and buying products made in an industrialized society and b) if you’re taking time to consider having or not having another child because you care about the earth and its inhabitants, then you’ll probably pass that value on to your future child as well, and the more people we have on the planet ready to do something to take care of it, the better off we all will be.

My biggest reason for wanting another child is totally selfish: I want a big family to love as we age. I want lots of grandbabies to hug and hold (and hand back to their mamas when they need to be fed). While we’re not perfect, I think my husband and I do a pretty good job with parenting, and I’m confident that we can handle the stress of adding another.  I’m good at being a mom, and—while it wasn’t an easy transition—I’m comfortable in that role now. Actually, I think that it’s the best job I’ve ever had. My biggest fear was that something would go wrong with the pregnancy or birth or the baby wouldn’t be healthy…but that is a risk we take with loving other people in general. Those are not things I can control—just like I can’t control whether one of our sons has a terrible accident or develops a life-changing illness. If it happens, we’ll deal with it and keep making the best life possible for our family.

My final point, which I tearfully confessed to my husband, is that at the end of my life I cannot imagine regretting adding a third child to our family. I don’t think I would regret not having had more money or a bigger house.  But I will always regret it if we do not try for a third baby. Thankfully, he finally agreed with me, and it’s a regret I’ll never have to bear.

Did you and your partner debate having another child or are you thinking about it right now?
What are some of the pros and cons you’ve discussed?

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14 Responses to When You Want Another Baby . . . And He Doesn’t

  1. Elizabeth October 30, 2015 at 10:21 am #

    Great article! This is a current debate in my household but I’m the one who is “done” and my husband is the one that wants a fourth (and fifth and sixth and so on). It’s tricky. I would love more kids too but since currently I’m the working parent the thought of working, being pregnant again and being the one to handle all of those sleepless nights all over again is just a nightmare. I’m also kind of terrified of having another set of multiples… because dang. They are amazing but those first 6 months are H.A.R.D. I’m hoping that fostering or adopting will be a way to bring more love into our family in the future without having to go back to the dark days of infancy and pregnancy. Hahaha.

    • Mandy November 2, 2015 at 11:24 am #

      Being pregnant this time was harder than either of my first two – actually, so much so that I’ve got another post coming about it. I totally don’t blame you for looking at other options. AND I can’t even imagine what twins would be like. Babies are so wonderful and so so hard! Thanks for reading – glad to be on this motherhood journey with you!

    • clare November 10, 2015 at 10:00 pm #

      Are you my husband?!? I want the 4th, he’s not into it and has suggested foster/adoption of an older child. Our twins are 3 and he’s not eager to repeat the baby stage. I wouldhappily be pregnant again even though I had terrible pregnancies.

      • Mandy November 12, 2015 at 9:18 am #

        It’s definitely a hard conversation to have. Thanks for reading and I wish you both peace with what you ultimately decide is best for your family!

  2. Joy October 30, 2015 at 11:32 am #

    Hold on. You’ve had your car HOW many years and didn’t know you had a 3rd row?!

    Fun to read your story. Miss you guys 🙂

    • Mandy November 2, 2015 at 11:27 am #

      I know, right? We’ve had it at least four years – just never thought to look, I guess! We bought it from a family member so I guess we never checked out the specs in the first place.
      It’s got 220k+ miles on it, so we’re still going to be looking for a vehicle soon… but at least it wasn’t the baby that will make us get a new one! ((Or, on the flipside, maybe it would have been a really good excuse so that we don’t have to suffer through a prolonged death of this car….))

  3. Theresa
    Theresa November 2, 2015 at 11:36 am #

    Our third baby came to us not after a lot of step by step discussions but of him being reluctantly open to the idea and me being more open to it (ie no birth control) for long enough that it happened. So, she was not a complete surprise, but I wouldn’t say she was planned. Sometimes it really is best to release some control in that regard and be open to what happens. I always thought we might have three, and she has already brought so much joy to our family these last 7 months. I do feel our family is complete now and #4 would definitely be a surprise!

    • Mandy November 9, 2015 at 10:23 am #

      Whoa, I totally commend you on being open to what happens. At this point, I could not imagine going through pregnancy again or another baby without some major planning. I mean, that’s not going to happen because the one condition my husband set on having this third baby was that it was, indeed, the last – to which I agreed!!

  4. Sueann November 7, 2015 at 10:05 pm #

    This is my marriage struggle. I want A child with my husband. I’m 32 with 3 children (15,12,11) from a previous marriage, he’s 50 with 3 children (21,19,18) from a previous marriage. He’s ” done” but with no real reason other than done. I own an in home daycare so I’m home all day and an online boutique that is slow but fun! He’s a custome home builder ( owner) and owns an engineering firm as well.

    • Mandy November 9, 2015 at 10:26 am #

      That sounds like a really hard place to be – I can see from both of your sides – and I wish I could give you some words to help convince him. But, know that there are other parents out there struggling with the same debate! I hope you find peace in whatever comes – it sounds like you have quite a heart for little ones 🙂

  5. Aimee November 12, 2015 at 1:11 pm #

    I’m in the opposite camp here: my husband would like another and I can’t fathom it. Between a horrible pregnancy, a 41 hour delivery, and crippling PPD that lasted 19 months, I can’t and won’t do it again. We are finally in a comfortable place again and life with our only child makes sense. If he could carry, birth and raise it until age maybe…4 then he can have another. So we all know I win here. 🙂

    • Mandy Wallace
      Mandy Wallace November 15, 2015 at 12:36 pm #

      Yeah, I feel a little bit bad for men on this side of it. They really don’t have much say because pregnancy, nursing, etc is SUCH a physical commitment – and is risky!! It’s got to be a bitter pill to swallow to have so little control – but hopefully he understands why and supports your decision! Thanks for commenting!

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