Advice: I Want a Baby; He Doesn't

Hara Estroff Marano advises a woman on her desire for a baby.

By Hara Estroff Marano, published on March 1, 2009 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

I have been with the perfect man for 13 years. At first, we agreed we did not want children. I have since changed my mind, while he has not. We both come from broken homes. I am a risk-taker and he is not. I trust that he is the one. I think it is because I trust him that I feel open and ready to start this next chapter. I know he would be a loving and caring father; he is a loving man. I thank God for him every day. I cry every day by myself; the need to have a child is becoming all-consuming. I feel I am getting old and my time is short. He says he is not convinced about having a child and wants to know if we are over if he says no. I sometimes want to say yes, but I love him and know how empty I will be without him. Can you help me?

First of all, it isn't clear whether you are married or not. I know it sounds quaint, but it is not terribly wise to have a child outside of wedlock. It is an unfair burden on a child, even in this emancipated age. But perhaps even more, it is a terrible bargain for you, and baby lust has a way of blinding women to reality. Having a child would put you in a very vulnerable position, with no leverage to keep your partner in the relationship. After all, he just might decide he doesn't want to stick around to raise a child he never wanted in the first place. Sure, unhitched movie stars have babies all the time—but they have support staffs to help with the feedings and dirty diapers, and that doesn't guarantee happy children. But here's the strange part: Why must you cry by yourself when you are facing a problem stemming from the relationship and affecting both you and your partner? That is the troublesome part of your relationship, making it sound a lot less perfect than it should be. Please ask yourself, "Why do I feel that I have to hide my real anguish from the person closest to me?" Are you trying to protect his feelings? Afraid that your partner will feel betrayed by your baby-longing or run off if he knows the true extent of your wish for a child? And who, may I ask, is looking out for your feelings, helping you cope with your dilemma and the anguish it creates?

If your partner isn't looking out for your well-being, at least you should be—while making a mental note of his failing. You can't make someone want children, but you should be able to openly discuss your feelings about wanting them with your partner. I recommend that you sit down with Perfect Man and let him know it's precisely because of his love that you feel ready for a child: It has helped ease the trepidations you shared when the relationship began. And you are proud that you have grown emotionally to now be able to embrace the very thing that you were afraid of—raising a child. That may not change his mind, but at least it won't keep you in secret sorrow. The truth is, raising children is what makes most of us into full adults. Many people come from "broken homes" and do a wonderful job raising children. Just what about his broken home was so painful to him? Even if you felt your own upbringing was less than ideal, you're not locked into repeating mistakes your parents made. It's entirely possible to do things differently. That is how people grow up and heal the wounds of their childhood. It's not clear what Perfect Man is afraid of, but by describing him as risk-averse you suggest he doesn't give up anxieties easily. It's best to help him by discussing this openly, too. Is he afraid that he won't be a loving father? You might reassure him that you already know him to be a loving person. Most people today have some concerns about the kind of parent they will make. Perhaps he fears that having a baby means the end of a close relationship with you. Is he afraid of divorce? That is something the two of you can actively work to prevent. Beware Perfect Man consenting to have a child just because he is afraid to lose you. Babies require a lot of care and a reluctant father could easily feel too marginalized to stay in a situation he didn't enter wholeheartedly.