Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“I Regret Not Having a Baby With My Ex”

I recently broke up with my boyfriend of eight years, and though it was my decision to end things, I’m having a hard time deciding whether what I’m feeling is normal breakup sadness or regret. My boyfriend was my first real relationship (I had dated a lot before but never got serious with anyone) and my first love. He is older than I am and I was in my early/mid twenties when we got together. We come from different cultural backgrounds but had an amazing connection and talked about everything.

Because I knew he loved kids, I was honest with him from the start that I never really saw myself becoming a mother. At the time, we were both trying to get careers off the ground and enter into/ complete masters programs. The first several years were lovely and everything I could hope a relationship to be. It was during the next several years that we kind of drifted. I think he was hurt because I still wasn’t eager to be a mother and purposefully remained aloof. A lot of the things we had initially talked about and dreamed of doing never materialized. I hung on for so long because of the strong bond we had formed in the early years. I made a lot of sacrifices for him, but he never changed his life to accommodate me. So I finally ended it, and I have made steps to move on, but I have all these emotions.

I think the mixture of anger and sadness are probably normal, but recently I have had a stronger urge to have a baby, though I’m still not baby-crazed like other women I know, and I have a sense of regret that we didn’t just go for it years ago because our bond was so strong and what we had seemed unique. How do I resolve these feelings, and what should I do if he wants to try to get back together? — Still Not Baby-Crazed

What you’re feeling probably IS regret, but not regret that you didn’t just “go for it years ago” and have a baby with a man you eventually drifted apart from and whose life didn’t comfortably accommodate you. What you’re feeling is regret that things didn’t work out — that the love you had for each other wasn’t enough to get you through whatever hurdles you faced as a couple and that the urge to have a baby wasn’t strong enough early enough to keep you together and that you didn’t want the same things at the same time. And, yes, what you’re feeling is normal and it absolutely does not mean you should get back together with your ex.

There’s nothing you can or should do to resolve the feelings you’re having except resist the urge to reach out and let time take its course. Eventually, the sadness and regret you feel will dissipate — maybe not completely, but certainly enough for it to take up only a tiny residence in your heart — and it will be replaced with new feelings — hope, excitement, and maybe a little anxiety about the future. Those are all normal feelings, too.

Another normal feeling is an urge to have a kid without necessarily feeling baby-crazed. It’s also normal to be a 20-something or 30-something woman and NOT have any urge to have a baby. It’s all fine and normal and healthy. You can even be a wonderful, loving mother without even necessarily LIKING babies all that much. After all, babyhood is a year — two years, max — in the life of a person. No one mothers a baby forever (and thankfully, no one mothers a toddler forever either…).

What happens sometimes and what may happen for you is that the urge to procreate lies somewhat dormant until you find the person you can imagine raising a family with. And then, BAM! All of a sudden, those feelings or urges come rushing to the forefront. It’s biological. You meet the person you want to spend your life with and all these nesting instincts kick in and all you want to do is spend your weekends having sex, picking out bedding at West Elm, and making lists of baby names you both like. It’s telling that in all the years you were with your ex, you didn’t feel a baby urge until AFTER you two broke up. I bet you didn’t like shopping at West Elm with him either. Girl, I feel you. We’ve all been there.

The important thing to remember is you’re on the right track. You’ve done the hard part. You left a relationship that wasn’t working for you. Let time and distance take care of the rest now and eventually the sadness will wane. You will miss him less and less, and soon when you imagine a family one day, it will be with someone else — probably someone you haven’t yet met. Someone who feels permanent. After eight years of temporary, you’ll know the difference when you feel it. And it will be awesome.

***************

You can follow me on Facebook here and sign up for my weekly newsletter here.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

34 comments… add one
  • avatar

    cdobbs August 22, 2013, 9:09 am

    i think lots of people look back at past relationships and the choices they made and feel regret….there is nothing wrong with that….but you have to realize to that there is an entire future spread out before you….who knows, maybe you and your ex would have had a baby together and he would have turned out to be a horrible dad or you end up splitting up anyways and they you would have had an entirely different set of regrets….maybe in the near future you will meet the most amazing man and end up having a baby with him….an opportunity you wouldn’t have if you had stayed with your ex…..life is full of choices….some are bad and some are good….my point is learn from your past to make your present and future what you want them to be

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  • avatar

    SasLinna August 22, 2013, 9:20 am

    I 100% agree with Wendy and this was really great to read for me personally because I went through something similar. A really important thing for me to realize was that timing is something that can legitimately influence the course of a relationship. Timing matters a lot. A lot. Even if you end up wanting kids, it still doesn’t mean that you should have had them with your ex, because at the time you were not ready. Also, I think there are often (not always) underlying problems in relationships that take really long to feel permanent. The aloofness wasn’t a coincidence. His failure to accommodate you wasn’t a coincidence. The biggest difference I can tell in my new relationship is that planning a future together seems natural and almost effortless.

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  • avatar

    bethany August 22, 2013, 9:32 am

    WWS.

    And also, looking back, things tend to seem better and more romantic than they really were. You tend to remember the good times more than the bad times. That makes it a lot harder to let go. You did the right thing by moving on, just stay your course. It’ll get easier.

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  • katie

    katie August 22, 2013, 9:35 am

    great answer, wendy!

    i think it is pretty natural to look back after a relationship is over and think “if only i just changed X, we could work out”- and then, either subconsciously or whatever, we start to want X thing. so for you, and your relationship, i have to assume that having kids was a pretty serious point of contention, i mean it almost always is. but i think maybe for you the biggest thing to separate is your actual want of a child and your want for your relationship back, working better because you would be willing to have a baby. i think those are two very different things, and some of your answers will come from figuring out the difference.

    and even if you decide that you eventually do want a kid, i think it is good that you didnt have one with him, because you should only have kids in relationships that work, you know? the things you mention -aloofness, drifting away, hurt feelings, hanging on, one sided sacrifices- these do not a healthy relationship make. i do not believe that having a kid would have just solved all your problems. this guy probably wasnt the right guy to be with, period, kids or not.

    also, what you had was not unique, im sorry. i know it may have felt that way, and i know we are conditioned to believe that, but it wasnt.

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  • avatar

    oldie August 22, 2013, 9:58 am

    Yes, WWS. Beyond that, this is a warning to heed your dealbreakers. Wanting children vs not wanting children is a big dealbreaker. At that point, both LW and bf should have known that this was not a relationship that had legs. Eight years is a long time to devote to a relationship that neither party can treat as truly serious because of such a serious disagreement on what their future together should look like. Timing is as important as love. He had no reason, nor did you, to expect that either of you would change your opinion. Now your view may have changed, but neither of you are in the same place as at the beginning of this relationship. A major disagreement about the shape of your shared future has cast its cloud and driven you slowly apart, with less real commitment to each other and the relationship over time. People don’t make sacrifices in their lives for a relationship that they don’t think has legs. You can’t look back. Just go find someone whom you can love and who shares your current views on the big issues that are dealbreakers to you.

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  • theattack

    theattack August 22, 2013, 10:00 am

    Better to have missed the opportunity than it is to have had a baby when it wasn’t a good thing to do. You didn’t make any mistakes here, LW.

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    • avatar

      SasLinna August 22, 2013, 10:09 am

      Yes, it’s better to err on the side of not having a baby until you’re sure you’re with the right person & that you definitely want to be a parent.

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  • avatar

    SasLinna August 22, 2013, 10:15 am

    Also, yay for a reasonable LW!

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  • avatar

    sarolabelle August 22, 2013, 10:43 am

    I think a lot of people like to spend their weekends having sex…. haha!

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  • avatar

    Amy August 22, 2013, 10:50 am

    I love your answer Wendy. And I really liked this letter – Good luck LW! I wish you love and happiness!

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  • avatar

    lemongrass August 22, 2013, 10:54 am

    These are the hardest relationships to leave- when it’s not in your face awful but it isn’t quite right. Good for you, lw. You are level-headed enough to leave when you aren’t quite a match. It is hard to do but ultimately the best decision.

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  • IDreamofElectricSheep

    IDreamofElectricSheep August 22, 2013, 11:54 am

    I have left maybe three or so comments ever but your letter kind of struck a chord for me. I’m in my mid-thirties and going through one of the strangest divorces ever. Even my divorce attorney said that (“Yours ranks up there as one of the strangest divorce cases I’ve had” – another story).

    We had no kids. I dragged my feet and we started trying a few times and then I would panic and put it off. I always thought it was because I had a really messed up childhood, but once my husband and I separated, wham! I suddenly regretted not having kids. Suddenly all I saw were babies. They seemed like they were popping up everywhere all of a sudden, in restaurants, parks, under my office desk….and everybody kept saying, “At least you two didn’t have kids!!” and I would be like, why is that a good thing? Wahhhh!!!

    It took me awhile, but this is what I discovered for myself. 1) Similar to what Wendy is saying, I think I was really sad that I had nothing to show for my marriage, rather than about a baby. I bought the house before we got married, his family has cut me out completely (only one phone call), we had no mutual friends, and I was the one who had to buy out his equity. So it was more about wishing I had something positive come out of it all (tangible).

    2) I think I was somewhat mad at myself for not figuring out earlier that majorly delaying having children with my husband when I did want children “in the future” should have been a major red flag, maybe not just about me, but possibly about the relationship itself. So in a way, if I had a child, I could say, hey, there wasn’t this huge red flag I didn’t see.

    3) A child WILL tie you to the father forever. And I am SO glad that I won’t be forced to deal with my soon-to-be ex for the rest of my life. Seriously, x number of months from now, you will say to yourself that not having to do that is for the best. Not necessarily because you hate your ex (seems like you don’t), but because you will probably have a family down the road and it’ll be difficult to deal with two fathers (?!?!!) and there will be issues you would not have to deal with otherwise.

    4) I don’t know how old you are, but I freaked out for a while because of my age. I figured that to have a baby by the time I hit 40, I would have to find the father….uh, NOW. And I REALLY didn’t want to just grab someone not right for me because of this fear. So I decided to freeze my eggs and if I don’t find someone by a certain age, you know what? I’ll just use my mid-thirties eggs and have a baby on my own. HA! But it doesn’t sound like you have this worry. If you do, that is my take on it.

    Hope this helps. And I know the above sounds really healthy and all that but it’s taken a lot to get there and these things still rear their heads every once in a while. Especially #4, 🙁 . So don’t blame yourself too much and give yourself some slack in not figuring everything out quite yet.

    Good luck!

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    • iwannatalktosampson

      Iwannatalktosampson August 22, 2013, 12:24 pm

      Okay your story kind of creeps me out. I never really thought I wanted kids while I was married to Ethan and then the second I started dating Colin (halfway through the process) all of the sudden I could imagine babies. I could imagine being a mom. I assumed it was because I was finally dating someone that was stable and would be a good dad – so all of the sudden that possibility (with Colin or someone else) was alive again. But your right it could also be a sense that I wasted 5 years of my life and have nothing to show for it. Interesting.

      Also I kinnnnnda want to hear about your strangest divorce ever.

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      • katie

        katie August 22, 2013, 12:27 pm

        yea i think that is a legit thing- and outside people probably view it that way too. like have you heard the expression “he (meaning the ex husband) gave me my beautiful babies so i could never regret the marriage” or whatever? so i think that is a real thing.

        there was a piece in offbeat home&life today about the sense of loss after a wedding in which the couple doesnt want any kids. the woman was talking about being sad that all her “legitimate” life milestones were over, and i think that kind of goes along these same lines too.

        but overall isnt that kind of a bad way of thinking? like, using kids as markers for success or wanting them for additional life milestones? i feel like that is kind of creepy.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest August 22, 2013, 12:33 pm

        I’m so glad I’m not into life milestones like that, because it does seem to really upset so many people. Then again, maybe I’m not because I hit one so young so I’m not ever going to be “dying to have kids.”
        I feel like those into milestones might have trouble ever feeling content. I know this girl who went from 1 to the next (milestone) quickly and now she says she’s bored not having another big thing to look forward to.

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      • katie

        katie August 22, 2013, 12:36 pm

        yea, all good points.

        i guess though, with people really “into” milestones, they do get a lot of them with kids. like from the pregnancy to the kid graduating college to the kid getting married themselves and then having kids themselves- i mean thats a lot. lol.

        i do wish that there were more “legitimate” milestones then we currently have, though.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest August 22, 2013, 12:38 pm

        That’s true that even 1 kid will add plenty of milestones.

        Which other ones would you like to see? I’d like buying a home/getting your first place to be one.

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      • katie

        katie August 22, 2013, 12:45 pm

        i dunno, but buying a home is a good one.

        maybe paying off debt? and i think it would be funny to be able to through “5 years childfree” parties.

        but, i mean, all of these are legit party themes. i mean you can throw a party for any theme right? but not everyone will like fly out to be there. they wont carry the same weight regardless of how good the theme is.

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      • IDreamofElectricSheep

        IDreamofElectricSheep August 22, 2013, 2:58 pm

        A friend of mine and I were talking about how everybody has crazy celebratory party themes now so we came up with stuff like 1) I am Not having a Baby Shower, You May Thank Me for One Less Yelling/Misbehaving Kid Sitting Next to You in a Restaurant; 2) I am Not Getting Married, But Thinking About It, You May Now Give Me a Present; and 3) I am Polite and Always Say Thank You to Service Staff.

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      • avatar

        kerrycontrary August 22, 2013, 12:40 pm

        That’s what vacations are for! They’re the big things to look forward to. Or fitness goals. Or making a bookshelf with your own two hands. Plus I think that using marriage, kids, etc.. as big things to look forward to in our lives you are sort of depending on other people to hold up their end of the bargain. Have a goal that only YOU are responsible for meeting.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest August 22, 2013, 12:43 pm

        I love everything you just said. Love!

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    • avatar

      TECH August 22, 2013, 12:42 pm

      The whole concept of “I got married and have nothing to show for it” is kind of interesting to me. As if you’re supposed to leave a marriage with something tangible. A child. An extended family. Significant assets. Permanent scars? I dunno, it’s interesting.
      The flip side is you could say “THANK GOD I left this marriage relatively unscathed.”
      The whole “I got married and have nothing to show for it” seems like people view marraige as a goal or an accomplishment. For instance, if you graduate from college, you hope you have something to show for it in terms of a good education, developing a career, etc. But to me, marriages and relationships are experiences. All you can really say you have “to show for it” are memories.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest August 22, 2013, 12:46 pm

        I think its also “wasted time.” Anytime someone leaves a relationship, it seems they think damn, i just wasted all that time. I liked one time when Wendy said to think of everything you learned during that time, how you changed, etc., rather than think of it as wasted time because you didn’t last, or you didn’t end up married.

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      • avatar

        TECH August 22, 2013, 12:51 pm

        Yes, I think it’s important to not subscribe to the “wasted time mentality.” You don’t know a relationship is over until it is. You can’t be hard on yourself for not knowing the future and not being able to predict it. Plus, most people walk away from relationships with some good memories that have greatly changed who they are as individuals, so that’s never a waste.

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      • avatar

        lemongrass August 22, 2013, 12:50 pm

        Your comment made me think that someone should make divorce t-shirts saying “I was married to X and all I got was this stupid t-shirt.”

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      TECH August 22, 2013, 1:02 pm

      Also, I guess the obvious “take away” of thing “you have to show for it” is this: “At one point in my life, someone loved me to enough to devote his life to me.” No small thing. Even though it’s intangible.

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      • IDreamofElectricSheep

        IDreamofElectricSheep August 22, 2013, 2:47 pm

        I can see at some point in the future feeling that way. But it sure is hard 8 months in. What katie said is true, that you often hear people say, “Well, I wouldn’t trade my kids for anything in the world, so I can’t really regret my marriage.” It’s hard for me to think at this point, “Well, I gained a lot of experience about relationships and how I need to listen to my gut feelings more and a whole bunch of other stuff. I am now a more mature, informed person when it comes to relationships.” That’s the healthy way of looking at it. The little bitchy hurt person in me, though (right now), is like, “F___ self-enlightenment and personal growth! He’s a jerky dickhole and I wish I never met him and I just want to throw things at his head from my freezer like frozen cornish hens!! And let loose a whole jar of mosquitoes into wherever he’s living so he gets bitten like 200 times and cries from all the itching!!!”

        Wow. That felt really good to write. Which only goes to show, I guess, that I have a ways to go before coming to terms with this whole experience.

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      • Kate B.

        Kate B. August 22, 2013, 3:05 pm

        Ah, I haven’t attained this milestone yet.

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  • avatar

    Holly August 22, 2013, 11:54 am

    This is a secret I haven’t told a single person that knows me personally: in the weeks before my ex and I broke up, I was having pretty bad nerves about the possibility that I was pregnant, because I had been taking my BC sporadically and my BC had a way of making me have zero period, so there was no sign to tip me off either way. Plus I was stressed and having nausea and a bunch of other little tipoffs. A week after I was dumped I went to Planned and came up negative (symptoms were leading to breakup stress and the BC period-hiding) but my first strong feeling, even though I never wanted kids, was regret. I apparently, without realizing, really did want to be a Mom and to have his kid, even if he wasn’t there to raise it. Or so I thought.

    Later I realized I was just mourning the loss of the dreams I had with that guy – that we’d one day get married, maybe have a family. What happened was just symbolizing the loss of that opportunity. Now I’m VERY GLAD I wasn’t pregnant, but back then? It was easy as hell to confuse the many different emotions I was going through back then.

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  • gatecrashergirl

    gatecrashergirl August 22, 2013, 12:39 pm

    I think Wendy nailed it. Also, one other thing to consider – think about your comment where you said you compromised for him but he didn’t for you in the entire 8 years you were together. Is that something that would have carried into fatherhood for him? He may have been wonderful for you or where you were in life in your early 20s but people do grow apart as they age and mature. I think you need to focus on the reasons why you ended the relationship and, while there’s nothing wrong with looking back fondly on a relationship, try not to focus only on the good times. . . you ended things for a reason. There is someone out there that fits your needs infinitely better and now you just have to meet him.

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  • thewriteway

    thewriteway August 22, 2013, 1:51 pm

    I was really glad to read the part about not wanting any kids even at a certain age, because that appeals to me lately. I just have no desire to have any, or I could only see myself having one at most. (I’m 28 now, so I’m getting up there.) I do like other people’s kids, but have no desire to raise/have more than one, and I don’t really want to so much as babysit for anyone else’s kids. My one friend has two, and I like seeing them occasionally when they are behaving, but honestly, I don’t want the day to day work, and I just don’t gush on kids that much.

    Someone I work with and his wife had a baby the other day, and we got a picture of the baby in our e-mails (we had a whole long chain with inside jokes going about it…most of which I didn’t understand, but I digress), and I really felt like nothing more than just e-mailing back my congratulations and getting back to my job. Meanwhile, everyone else was way over-excited about the kid. I was briefly wondering what seemed to be wrong with me that all I could muster myself to do was be nice to my co-worker as manners dictate but not be really caring about the BABYYYYYY. I definitely feel weird at times.

    OK, tangent over.

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    • CatsMeow

      CatsMeow August 22, 2013, 2:52 pm

      I’m the same. Sometimes when I find out someone is pregnant, my first thought is, “That sucks”… even if they are happy about it. Yes, I’m evil.

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    • Kate B.

      Kate B. August 22, 2013, 3:04 pm

      I get this. I know having kids is a huge deal for some people, but for me, it just isn’t. I can’t even remember when my niece and nephew were born. I have a friend with 10 (10!) nieces and nephews and she’s all over it. Me, I can’t even remember two. I don’t go to the office baby showers. There’s a part of me that wonders what the big deal is. People have been having babies since the beginning of time, right? I have been called a bad person for this, but I tell myself it’s their thing, not my thing. I have other things that get me excited.

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      • thewriteway

        thewriteway August 22, 2013, 4:50 pm

        I used to watch A Baby Story after school, and then, in more recent times 16 and Pregnant/Teen Mom. Seeing childbirth on TV must’ve traumatized me for life. I was like OMG I have no desire to do THAT! When I had on A Baby Story, I’m not even kidding that I would change the channel if the mother needed a C-section. And forget home birth, water birth, hospital birth with no drugs, etc. I guess I’m just not willing to go through childbirth and stuff either!

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