Ask A Therapist: I'm So Ready For A Baby, My Boyfriend Is So Not

Photographed by Elizabeth Castillo Gama
Ever wondered what you'd say to a therapist, given the chance? We asked a cognitive analytic therapist with over 30 years' clinical experience for advice on the things we worry about in private.
Problem:
I’m so ready to have children, and my boyfriend is so not. I’m 32 and have been with my boyfriend for four years. He’s 28. We’ve lived together for a year and are very in love and happy. It still feels exciting and we have loads of fun together. There’s just one problem, and it’s not a big problem, but it is one I can’t seem to shake. I want to start having children, but he says he won’t be ready for a good few years. There’s lots he still wants to achieve before 'settling down' as he sees it. He wants to get further in his career, he wants to travel, he wants to wait until his friends are having kids (currently none of his friends have kids, but lots of my friends do, as do my siblings). I understand his point of view, and I want him to live the life he wants to live and not do anything he’s not ready to do. And I know it's very common for women to have children in their late 30s and 40s, but I do still worry about fertility, because (I think) I want three or four children and I’ve seen lots of women go through traumatic experiences trying to get pregnant in their late 30s. Plus, fertility aside, I just want to have children now! I’ve felt ready to have children for ages but I know he’s 100% not ready and the very idea of it seems absurd to him right now – which I find upsetting.
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I know he’s 100% not ready and the very idea of it seems absurd to him right now – which I find upsetting

He reassures me that he definitely wants children with me eventually, just not yet. I’m trying to put the thought out of my mind because it seems pointless to dwell on and like a total cliché being an older girlfriend who wants babies – what a bore! I’m sure I want them with him, so I guess I just have to wait until he’s ready? I just keep imagining myself over 35 trying to get pregnant and struggling, or struggling to have a second baby at 37, and a third after that. I imagine something going wrong with the pregnancies, and me blaming him completely. On the flip side, he would resent me if we had a baby earlier than his proposed timeline. Maybe I’m panicking unnecessarily, it's just bothering me because physically, emotionally, financially, etc, I'm ready to go.
Answer:
"It’s not a big problem" – but it is an invasive problem that you are clearly ruminating over. What would you like to do for the next few years while you wait for him to achieve his goals? Are you prepared to mark time while your clock is ticking? You don’t want him to blame you and feel resentful and similarly you feel that you will have to manage blame and resentment towards him if you wait and if there are any problems conceiving the family that you say you both want. There is the potential here for massive conflict, which should and can be managed by kindness and respect, because deep down the answer is biologically driven.
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The age gap between you is nothing much or unusual, although clearly you feel aware of it and it is this issue that makes it more acute. Your friends and family are having children and you want to join that party with all the new experiences that would come your way. I wonder why he sees this as being a restriction involving "settling down". You very generously suggested in your writing that you shouldn’t be a bore or a cliché. I think you have described both of you being risk averse, fearing getting it wrong, and you also told me that his parents were a bit later to parenthood and all has been well. So he assumes that will be true for him too, even though there is no scientific evidence that would back this assumption.
I am going to address you here...
In every way you say you are ready and have been for a long while. Four years together is a long time, you are happy, you say you have fun together. It took a while for you to move in with each other – was that also because there is a level of caution there where you guys take it carefully, cautiously and do things in a considered way?
While you both age, eggs are less reliable and sperm become more mutant, but for reasons of the head you postpone this (endlessly illogical) yet compelling decision to have children. You have some choices. 1) Accept his terms and run the risk of difficulties having all the children you say you want. I’d say at 32 it’s an ambition to have four children. For that to be comfortably achieved, some would argue it needs to begin now. 2) He accepts your terms and you run the risk of his resentment. 3) You do nothing and try to close down?
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There is never a right time to have a baby. If you were in your mid 20s then his position could be reasonable. However, now your risk is greater, you face a riskier time than him.
He presents a fait accompli, but so can you. In pre-contraceptive days, having children was almost an inevitability, but I suggest to you that having agreed the idea of children together, then deferring against your wishes is quite a thoughtless position. Having children is tiring so the older you are, the more tiring it is. That for you is a serious consideration.

I have seen too many women who have reached 40 and their partner is ambivalent still

So the choice is yours. This lovely man wants a family but not now. You want a family now. I have seen too many women who have reached 40 and their partner is ambivalent still. Ask yourself how many times you have given in to intuition and been right. Ask him how many times he thought the party was going to be a bore but it turned out to be the best fun. Enriching your lives when you are young enough to avoid potential pitfalls makes sense. Suggest to him that being the first of his peers to have the baby could be trailblazing, it could be joyful, intimate, exciting, rewarding – as well as terrifying and impossible. Push where it moves, take control and jump. He will follow in his own time.
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