Can I do it alone?
I have a son. He’ll be four in a few weeks – a sweet, smart, active little boy with a big heart. However, his father and I split up over a year ago, largely because I wanted more kids. While we had agreed upon it previously, he later decided that one was enough. He loves our son, of that I have no doubt, but he refused to have another child.
I’d had enough.
The breakup was nasty but I agreed to shared custody. Leaving was the hardest thing I have ever done – not leaving him, but sleeping under a different roof than my son. However, our custody arrangement is such that I see my son pretty much every day, and most nights. At least it’s bearable.
My son keeps asking me to bring home a baby for him (which is just so darn cute), but I wish it were that simple. I want another child. My biological clock is ticking louder every day. In a few months I turn 40. Somehow that number has always seemed the age I should be finished having kids.
For the past nine months (irony, anyone?), I’ve been actively searching for Mr. Right. Someone intelligent, attractive, single, honest, interesting, gentle, kind and creative, who likes kids and wants to settle down – and who hasn’t had a vasectomy. There isn’t anyone like that in my regular life so I’ve tried four different internet dating sites. So far I’ve met 18 local men and, well, short version: no luck.
So I have a choice.
I can take the risk and wait, or I can cut out the middleman (pun intended) and just do it myself with the help of a local fertility clinic.
I can afford the procedures and they’ve accepted me as a client. I’m lucky to have a job that will pay me almost my full salary for a full year of maternity leave, and a great health plan that covers most costs. I make enough money to be able to support another child. What more do I need, right? Case closed! Decision made! Sign me up and show me the stirrups!
Then the doubts set in.
If I get pregnant this fall, my son would be five by the time the baby was born. Is it fair to him? Will I have the energy to do all the things he needs me to do for him? Will I be able to get him to school on time – help him with his homework? Will he resent sharing his bedroom? Will he resent sharing me? Will his father think that he can steal our son away from me because I have another child? I wouldn’t put it past him.
Is it fair to deprive a child from knowing his father? Will the baby wonder? Will this baby resent that my firstborn son gets to spend time with his father but he or she can’t?
I remember those first months (and first years) of having a baby. It’s exhausting. Not enough sleep, constantly on call, never a moment of privacy – and that’s what it was like when the father was there to help out.
What happens if I’m on my own? No one is going to make me a sandwich. No one is going to vacuum for me or unload the dishwasher. No one will change a diaper once in a while to give me a break. No will bounce a teething infant for an hour or two in the middle of the night so I can sleep. No one will pick up groceries from time to time.
I will have no one to rely on but myself.
I don’t have family around, and all of my friends are leaving town one by one – it’s their careers, I always knew they’d be going sometime. Could I hire a doula for the first few months? A nanny? How much would that cost? Can I afford it? How do I find one? Would she expect to live here in my tiny house? Where would I put her?
What would it really mean to have a child on my own? Can I do it alone? The only single moms I know had a hell of a time, and they had friends and family around to help. What if I have twins? How the hell would I handle that on my own? My mother was a twin.
Am I strong enough to handle it?
It’s the right thing to do.
Right? Tell me I’m right.
When I was 15, I accidentally fell in love with a 20-year old, Jeff*.
I know, that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. I didn’t know how old he was, I just knew he had saved me once, and then he stuck around.
I spent the next six years of my life bouncing back and forth between loving him and hating him. I gave him more of my energy than was responsible by any stretch of the imagination.
When I was 17, he cheated on me… kind of.
We were fighting and said we were over, but we both knew it wasn’t going to last. I forgave him. We found out later that the girl he’d slept with was pregnant. She also got hooked on drugs.
By some miracle, she carried that baby to term and delivered a healthy baby girl. That baby girl came home with us. Her mother’s rights were terminated by the court, and Jeff was all she had. I was Mommy to that baby girl. Jeff proposed shortly after we brought her home, when I turned 18.
Unfortunately, things didn’t work out so well once I left for college. Despite promises from Jeff that he’d move closer to my university and we’d stay together, it never happened. We went from living together to a long-distance relationship. Then, we went from a long-distance relationship to nothing.
Despite the end of our romantic relationship, he still allowed me to be a part of baby girl’s life – I was the only “mom” she even knew. When he realized the toll our separation was taking on her, he started bringing her to visit every week. She’d stay the night with me, and he’d have nights to be the 23-year old guy he wanted to be.
This arrangement has been working out pretty well for the last three years. We’ve toyed with the idea of getting back together, but we know we shouldn’t. The idea of being married to him is great; the reality is scary. He has a long and scary history of breaking my heart. He broke my heart again four weeks ago.
See, Jeff is from Washington state and it’s been his dream to go back. A month ago, he was offered a great job in his hometown. When he called to tell me about it, he sounded like a little kid on Christmas. I couldn’t have been happier for him. It struck us at the same time what moving meant, though. He’d be taking his daughter all the way across the country – away from me.
We had until May 7th to find a solution. That was his deadline to accept or decline the offer. On the 2nd, we were still fighting for an answer. I was laying in bed when I realized that the answer was simple: he needed to go. He needed to worry about himself and his daughter, and not me. I knew from his voice during that first phone call that nothing other than going to Seattle was going to make him happy. He needed to go for it and let the pieces fall together. He will not be without support, family, money, or love. Neither will our girl.
When I told him this, he cried. He felt like he was making a mistake for not finding a solution that included me. I told him that if this life move was meant to include me, it would find some way to, but right now, I’m staying put.
They started their road trip on Wednesday. Jeff planned a crazy six day adventure with all kinds of fun cities in the middle. Every couple hours, my phone rings, and I get a travel update from the best three-year old travel reporter in the world. I spend some time crying after each call. They’re in Portland tonight and will be at their new home tomorrow morning. It’s taking everything I have not to get on the next plane and meet them there. I don’t really know why I wrote this here, The Band.
Am I wrong for feeling this way about a little girl who isn’t even mine? Am I being ridiculous?
*Names changed to protect privacy.
Dear The Band,
I do not know what to do. My owner hit me today. I growled at another dog and she full-out whacked me across the muzzle. Not just once, but again and again.
I am so scared. She has never behaved like this before. She has been so sad for months and months because she lost her dearest friend and was betrayed by another, but she has never been so mean. I would know that she was sad by the way she wouldn’t want to walk me or play with me or train me or even spend time with me sometimes, but she was still a good mummy.
I am trying to be a good doggy, but I do not know what else to do but to ask The Band for help. I listen to her, and she is so scared. She is scared because she is hurting me, and she is scared because she sometimes thinks that I would be better off at the animal shelter than with her. Even though it scares me, too, when she hits me, I do not want to live with anybody else. I just want her not to hit me.
I worry for her, The Band.
She used to love nothing more than to spend time with me or with any dog, but I can count on my 18 toes (if you count my dewclaws) the number of times in the last six months that I have seen her truly happy. That she has loved to take me for a hike or to agility training. I worry for her because she used to believe that a career with dogs is what she wanted, and in the last few weeks I have seen her barely tolerate the dogs that she is pet-sitting. I worry for her because she hugs me and tells me that she just wants to go back to bed.
I know she worries for herself, too. She does not know whether she is upset because she is still grieving over her lost friends, or whether her sadness has become something more. I do not have the answers for her, and that is why I am here.
My muzzle hurts where she whacked it, and my flank hurts where she grabbed it, and my brain hurts where she was sad at me. I do not know who else to go to.
A Concerned Puppy Dog
Okay, Band, I am in a quandary and need some mature advice.
My closest friend cheated on her husband this year, her husband found out, and they decided to stay together and work on their marriage.
Last week, my friend confided in me that she had been cheating again (same guy), but it ended the week before she told me. Only this time she did not plan to tell her husband. Our husbands are also close friends and in business together. She told me this but also straight-up said that it was okay for me to tell my husband about what she’s been up to. Because my husband and I love them both and also value the truth, we each talked to her separately and urged her to tell her husband the truth. She agreed that she should be honest with her husband if her marriage had a real chance at being repaired.
Last weekend, she told me that she’d told him, but that they were going to keep the matter to themselves and seek counseling. Over the course of the week it became obvious that her husband had no clue about her affair. My husband and I agonized over what to do.
Did we (1) urge her again to come clean or (2) leave it alone?
We chose option 1. She blew up and told us to back-off. So we did…but with nagging consciences.
Today, my husband decided that if his friend found out at a later date that his had wife cheated again, and found out that we knew about it and hadn’t told him—well, he just couldn’t live with that.
So without actually telling him outright, he gently told his friend today that his wife was not being truthful and he needed to talk to her. (I had no clue he was going to say anything to him.)
My friend’s husband went home to confront her.
Needless to say, the poo hit the fan and the truth is out. Now she’s lashing out at my husband for talking to her husband and “ruining her life.” I feel awful about the whole thing; I love my best friend and her husband as well. They have been amazing friends.
I would love to hear from anyone who has been in a similar situation—do you think my husband did the right thing?
Would you tell your friend if their spouse had cheated on them? Could you live with yourself if you knew and did nothing? Where do we go from here?
I spent the last many years married to a woman with fairly severe (clinically diagnosed) Borderline Personality Disorder. I could very easily fill an entire book writing about what that experience was like, so it’s hard to know how to distill it. Here are some things I know-
-Years of being subjected to masterfully performed gaslighting has left me very unsure of all my own judgements and perceptions of reality.
-Years of being degraded and emasculated when I wanted to discuss my thoughts/feelings, being told that it is unattractive for a man to show “weakness” to his wife, has left me uncertain of when its ok to be vulnerable with other people.
-Years of walking on eggshells, trying so hard to do and say everything just right, but knowing that no matter how well I did, the next blow-up/emotional attack was always coming.. has left me perpetually anxious, and steeped so heavily in learned helplessness that I often struggle to even feel that I have any control over what happens in my life. I never used to be that way at all.
-Years of having all my contributions and accomplishments minimized or forgotten, and all my imperfections magnified and carefully score-carded, has left me with close to zero sense of self-efficacy.
-Years of living with someone who is intimacy avoidant and uninterested in sex, but being told the whole time that her disinterest is caused by my shortcomings—because I didn’t last long enough in bed, or because I lasted too long in bed (yes, both of those), or because of the stress I was causing her by me not making us enough money (even when I was bringing in over six figures a year), or because I was paying too much attention to (suffocating) her, or because I was not paying enough attention to (neglecting) her—has left my self confidence so damaged that I almost fear being intimate with someone again.
Probably the worst part, though? During the early “idealization” phase of the relationship, she was incredibly jealous and protective of my attention (which, at the time, I foolishly believed was just because she loved me so much) that, focusing all of my time and attention on her needs, I greatly distanced myself from any male friends I was close to, and completely cut off contact with all of my female friends. So once she flipped me into the devaluation phase, I was left with a partner who had zero interest in me, other than what I could fix or provide for her, and only weak remnants of friendships remained. I was effectively isolated to the point that I spent most of my free time just sitting alone in my basement, wishing things were different.
Isolation is definitely one of my biggest hurdles right now. I’d really like to make some new friends, particularly some female friends since I lost all but one or two, but no clue where to even start. I just really miss having more meaningful conversations and connections with people.
Another hurdle is figuring out how to integrate “what I know to be true” with “what I feel to be true.” For example, I can write down a list of all of my business/financial accomplishments and objectively say I’ve been successful in that area. I know this to be true. But I do not feel that this is true. I can find endless examples of things I’ve done or experiences I’ve had that show most of the negative feelings that I mentioned above are illogical or don’t line up with reality. But again, I still don’t feel that.
I would love any thoughts or advice from anyone who has gone through something similar. What worked? What DIDN’T work? How did you re-connect with yourself? How did you re-connect with other people and build some new meaningful friendships/relationships?
I went to my psychiatrist today.
Through our one-sided conversations where I talk while he writes, I realized that through my childhood and adolescent years I felt like I was never wanted. I was just ‘there.’ A nuisance. A pain. Not a being – but a thing that was part of life. How awful for a child to go through life feeling like this.
Then it hit me that the child I was sympathizing with was me. I was distancing myself from MY actual life by thinking of myself as a ‘thing’ instead of a being.
Self-loathing takes on so many forms … it mutates in your brain to become something from another world. A world of hate.
Why would I feel this way? I don’t want to ask “who made me feel this way,” but rather, why? Why did I – why DO I – not hold myself to a higher standard in my own mind? Why do I hate myself so much? When did it start? I have so many questions today that I wish could be answered.
“Is it my own fault?”