I’m 46 yrs old reviewing my life with some regrets about having waited too long to have children. After one failed marriage and years spent raising my second husband’s 3 children, when I was 41 my husband told me he’s changed his mind and doesn’t want any more children. He’s done and I’ve never even started. In some sense I feel like I’ve wasted ‘my’ life to raise someone else’s children. Now that my clock is ticking or more likely TICKED I am wondering how to deal with the uncomfortable silence in my heart?

Written by a member of our site development team, Emily Koert – Registered Clinical Counsellor and PhD Candidate. Read more about Emily here. 

When you’ve always wanted to have children, it can be incredibly painful to reach the point where you realize you might have missed the opportunity to become pregnant. It can also be devastating when your partner is the one who has shut the door to you having a child together, when he gave you every indication that he’d eventually be ready to have a child with you when his children were older. Given the circumstances, it is understandable that you may feel overwhelmed with feelings of bitterness and anger at this choice being taken away from you, as well as feelings of regret for having waited to have your own children while devoting your energies to raising your partner’s kids.

In every relationship there are times where you have to compromise your needs for your partner’s and vice versa. However, if becoming a mother is very important to you, this may not be the time to compromise. Your partner’s unilateral decision not to father a child with you may be an ultimate ‘deal-breaker’ for you. I would strongly encourage you and your partner to seek couples counselling to try to work through this impasse. If, after some counselling, your partner is still unwilling to compromise on the issue of trying to have a child together, you may need to ask yourself some difficult questions:

-How strong is my need to become a mother?

-Can I meet these needs through other avenues that will be satisfying to me?

-Can I imagine myself in the future without children?

-Will I resent my partner if I stay in the relationship and sacrifice the opportunity to become a mother?

- Do I need to leave the relationship to try to become a parent so that I won’t have any regrets?

- Can I make peace with my partner’s decision and build a meaningful life in different ways besides motherhood?

The possibility of making peace with your partner’s decision is particularly important if you are intending to stay in the relationship as regret tends to grow and fester over time. This resentment can become a huge obstacle in a relationship as you may find yourself feeling powerless and bitter towards your partner. If, after answering these questions you truly feel that you want to remain in the relationship and thus, the door to motherhood is shut, then comes the difficult but important task of dealing with the uncomfortable silence in your heart. Some women who end up childless through delay and circumstance talk about building meaningful lives by nurturing nieces and nephews, foster children, animals, or other people needing support in their communities. Or maybe it’s time to focus on you after parenting your husband’s 3 children –  perhaps there is something on your “bucket list” that you’ve always wanted to do, such as returning to school, or taking an art class. Of course it may be difficult to entirely fill the space in your heart that was reserved for motherhood, but over time, you may begin to notice that the grief and loss begins to heal.

Alternatively, if you know that you will never be able to make peace with your partner’s decision and with having to sacrifice the possibility of motherhood, you may decide to leave the relationship. You may want to book an appointment with a fertility clinic to discuss your options. Depending on your current fertility, it may not be possible to have your own biological child, However, if you truly want to become a mother, you may decide to be a sole support parent using donor eggs and donor sperm, or donor embryos so that you can achieve this life goal. See our section on sole support parenting here for more information on this option. Or, you may leave the relationship in order to try to find another partner who would be willing to be a parent with you.

These types of decisions can be incredibly scary because there is so much uncertainty involved. It can be very difficult to answer the question: “am I willing to give up the chance of becoming a mother to stay in this relationship?” Whatever your decision, it’s helpful to look ahead and ask yourself, what do I need to do now to build a meaningful life so that I won’t be haunted with regrets in the future?


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