Sage Advice: Older Husband Wants to Father a Child
But his more-practical wife has questions
Dear Amy: My husband of almost 40 years would like to (somehow) father a child.
During our first year of marriage, I had a hysterectomy, and so early on we realized I couldn’t give birth to a child.
At various points throughout our marriage (mainly in our younger years), we talked about possible surrogacy, but he always dropped the matter.
Now that we are in our 60s, he is still perplexed and ambivalent, but I (on the other hand) feel we are too old to start looking into options again.
I would like to put to rest our conflicting dilemma, but almost feel it could be futile to try, because it’s unresolvable.
I realize this is a difficult and sensitive issue, but I need some feedback to help at least put my mind at peace when he continues with his heartfelt frustration.
– Mrs. Perplexed
Dear Mrs.: Your husband (and you) might be genuinely perplexed by the persistence of his impulse over the last 40 years to father a child. Of course, many women also wrestle with this desire, but their biology makes giving birth to a child less possible as time passes, and so they have to reckon with the physiological limitations of childbearing, and the reality that it won’t happen in later years.
Your husband may also have to accept this reality. But he could in fact father a child, and you two should discuss this seriously. Would he be interested in being a sperm donor for another woman, and would you consider some sort of shared parenting arrangement? If the answer for you is a firm “no,” then say so. But talk about it.
His thoughts regarding fathering a child might be increasing in power and frequency as he ages and faces the reality of his mortality. Children can seem like a hedge against death.
Having a child might be unlikely – or unreasonable – but you should still discuss it. Does he feel cheated? Does he resent you for something you didn’t ask for and cannot control (your long-ago hysterectomy)? And do you resent him for periodically reminding you of it?
A marriage counselor could help to guide you through this challenging conversation, giving you the tools to discuss this topic without retreating into well-worn positions.
I recommend the book, “Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most,” (2010, Penguin Books). The authors of this helpful book are all members of the Harvard Negotiation Project, bringing their negotiating and communication skills into the personal arena.
In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068
© 2019 by Amy Dickinson