Family Planning – Why Do I Feel Guilty?

Many years ago when my husband and I were thinking of getting engaged, we decided we wanted children. We wanted at least two because my husband and I had good experiences with our siblings.

We were married for six years when we had our daughter. Early in our marriage, we were not in a good place financially to start a family, but after six years it felt like the right time.

Except for some pretty challenging morning sickness, the pregnancy and birth went smoothly. Everyone was happy and healthy.

At the time I had my daughter, I still thought there would be another baby in my future – but not right away. My husband agreed and I had an IUD placed.

A Change of Heart That Changed Our Plans

A few years passed and the idea of another baby made me nervous. I waited. I drug my feet. I could tell my husband was getting antsy and let’s face it – we were getting older. Maybe that window of opportunity was starting to close so I decided to have my IUD removed.

That didn’t last long.

When I thought about having another baby, I felt dread. There was a pit in my stomach. I thought about how costly and stressful it would be and about the sacrifices I would have to make.

After about three months, I told my husband I changed my mind. I decided to go on the pill. He was outwardly supportive but I know deep down I broke his heart.

Did I make the right choice?

Birth Control and Birthdays

I have been on the pill now for over a year and overall I am happy with my life.

I have a part-time job I love, ample time to write as well as time to spend with my husband and daughter. We have a cute little house perfect for our little family.

A second child doesn’t fit in the picture.

Later this year I will be turning forty and I feel there’s no turning back now. I hope I made the right decision. I wonder if I’ll regret not having more children when I’m older – when having more children would no longer be possible. I feel guilty for not giving my husband something he longs for – something we agreed upon many years ago.

It is tough being a woman of child-bearing age when life-changing decisions have to be made. I’m grateful the decision was mine. Despite the guilt and regrets, it’s so important that I had a say.

Right now I just don’t want to change a thing.


  1. blf says

    My (perhaps insensitive) reaction to “Why do I feel guilty?” is there is no logical (rational) reason to feel ashamed or “guilty”. Of what is one “guilty”? Or ashamed?

    In my (possibly uninformed) opinion, part of what is happening is the social pressure to procreate, combined with medieval-and-prior necessary to have more than one child so that at least one should survive. Modern medical care (even in the States) has dramatically lowered the risk to both mother and child, so more-than-one isn’t (in my opinion) compelling. (Yes, I am aware the “population replacement” statistic is larger than one child, which is (in my opinion) about as relevant as some people actually like to eat peas, that is, so what?)

    The social pressure is, I’m guessing now, related to that medieval-and-prior pressure to procreate — the child was likely to die, so there had to another, and another, and…

    Initially believing two would be good is understandable — I am the male in a two-child family, and in retrospect, my sister was a good influence — but not having a second despite good experiences with one’s own childhood is no rational reason to feel “guilty” or ashamed. Again, “guilty” of what?

    Or why not adopt a second child? (Yes, I realise being a non-believer is an obstacle.)

  2. Katydid says

    Being childfree/having a child/having multiple children is a very personal decision that nobody except you gets to make. Of course your husband gets his say, but it is your body that will house a zygote/embryo/fetus. You will be the one with all the risk because no pregnancy is 100% safe and easy and maternal mortality is on the rise in the USA, in large part due to the hit-or-miss medical care. Even if everything goes perfectly, afterwards you have to deal with a body that will never be the same again, and in your later years you can look forward to such things as sneeze incontinence and stretch marks.

    Then there’s the giving birth. Your options are to be cut open and sewn back together or to push the baby through a very small opening–that also involves pain and blood. Then there’s the recovery while simultaneously being in charge of a helpless, merciless noise machine.

    Then there’s the child raising; it’s never 50-50. Most women are thrilled if it’s 80 – 20.

    Don’t get me started on the financials.

    Disclaimer; I have kids and love them more than life itself…but it was my choice to go through it. I wholeheartedly agreed to it, and even after the first, when my eyes were open to the pluses and minuses, I wanted to do it again.

    Whatever decision you make, you need to be sure it’s right for you.

  3. John Morales says

    1. Family Planning – Why Do I Feel Guilty?
    2. He was outwardly supportive but I know deep down I broke his heart.

    I think you’ve answered your own question.

  4. says

    Nope, nope, nope, nope.
    As a mum of two who always thought she wanted three: nope.
    Your whole being tells you that you don’t want another baby and you should listen to yourself here, not your husband, not any family member, not to kind strangers on the internet even if they agree with you.
    I feel sympathy for your husband. Children are a deeply personal matter and I know how much I struggled for the time when “your body isn’t able to have kids” was on the table. It is hard when those plans you made fall through. But ideally, children are something where both parents opt in. And sometimes life changes and life isn’t fair. In this situation, it can’t be fair.
    I’m wishing the two of you all the best as a couple. Work it out. His grief and loss are real, they are understandable, but they don’t have to make you feel sad.

  5. Katydid says

    I agree with BLF: if your husband really wants the 2-child experience, you could adopt or even foster. You could make a real difference in the life of a child who’s already been born.

    I also agree that people are ingrained with a desire to reproduce. Some of that is likely built into our species–if nobody reproduces, the species dies out. The human population is what, about 8 billion now? We are not in danger of going extinct from lack of breeding. And there are cultural expectations for gender–when I announced I was pregnant, my FIL asked if I knew if it was a boy or girl. When I said no, his immediate response was, “If it’s not a boy, how soon until you try again?” LOL My FIL was a wonderful man who loved everyone, but he was definitely “of his time”.

    Some of that is absolutely cultural conditioning. The Baby Boomer generation’s perfect family was 3 or 4 kids with a stay-at-home wifey chained to the kitchen stove and slavishly serving the rest of the family–but that lifestyle wasn’t even realistic in that generation (women had to be drugged into tolerating that lifestyle, aka “Mother’s Little Helper”.) They could do it because of all the benefits the government was handing out to support that kind of lifestyle–low-priced homes, great schools, brand-new roads, etc.

    But to get back to you: only you can say if having another baby is right for you. Please, please be happy with whatever you choose. There is no wrong answer except what is wrong FOR YOU.

    • says

      I agree with BLF: if your husband really wants the 2-child experience, you could adopt or even foster. You could make a real difference in the life of a child who’s already been born.

      This is actually a terrible idea. A foster child is not a rescue puppy. Kids are in the system for a very good and equally horrible reason. They are traumatised and will require a lot of love, care, and often professional help. They are not a substitute for not going through with a pregnancy, because while pregnancies are exhausting and can be quite a dangerous, they are usually the easier part of being a parent.

  6. says

    You feel guilty because our culture’s overwhelming forces of pronatalism have tried to convince you that your worth lies in your procreation. You made the right choice in deciding to give the best possible life to your existing child, rather than having another one for which you were not prepared.

    Isn’t it much better to regret not having another child, than to regret having one?


    I was there once. Now I’m a grandmother to my newborn granddaughter. In an ideal world I would have had a dozen kids. That world doesn’t exist. In a slightly different world, I would have had two, but after we poured all our resources into that first child, I knew I couldn’t do as well for a second, and with some mild lifelong regret, didn’t do it. I’ve had a great life, I have a great kid, now a first time father. My husband was supportive, kept whatever regrets he may have had to himself. Tend your baby, tend your husband, and gently let him know you can talk if he needs it.

  8. Katydid says

    It’s a perfectly fine thing to bring an already-born child into your home if you want to raise and nurture a child but do not want to give birth to one. To say it’s not is insulting to people who have spent decades nurturing children that don’t share their genetics.

    • blf says

      Indeed. A fairly-close relative was adopted, albeit into a family as a first child, who then went on to have three additional children (none adopted). Why that relative was in the adoptive system (this was a long time ago, pre-WW ][), I do not know, nor do I know the age at which they were adopted.

      To assert that a child in the adoptive system must be traumatised (admittedly not quite what was said, but there was a noticeable lack of nuance) is an overstatement, albeit I do presume the children more-often-than-not are traumatised. And if the system is working more-than-less-properly, those looking for a “rescue puppy” are very very unlikely to be allowed to adopt.

  9. says

    @ blf and katydid
    You can stop putting words into my mouth, please.
    I’m not saying “never foster, never adopt”. I’m saying that fostering is something that is not a solution in a case where one person wants another kid and the other person says “you know, have enough personal resources to raise this kid, but not for another”. I’m not the one who used the term “2 child experience”, because children are not “an experience”, but human beings with personalities and needs, and foster kids double so.
    I’m wondering about your qualifications here, personal and professional, because not only do I have close family experience with a foster kid who is still a kid, I also am a teacher in a school where lots of kids are somewhere “in the system”. Yeah, there might be an occasional kid whose situation was bad enough for the state to take them away from their main caregiver, but who miraculously also went through that experience unscathed, but most of them are not, and prospective foster parents must be very aware of that and have both the time and personal resources to deal with that. For example, you might be the most wonderful people, kind and caring and your foster child might hate you exactly for being good people, because you do the one thing that they wanted their actual parents to do. You might be stuck with visitation and thus contact to their family of origin, no matter how taxing this is on you and your family (and the kid!). Depending on the arrangement, you might have to deal with the kid returning to their family.
    I absolutely think that fostering kids is a wonderful thing to do if and when you decide not just to have a kid, but when you decide that you want to have a foster kid. I’m personally considering fostering at some point in the future, but that will not happen unless
    – my kids are grown
    – my husband is fully on board with the idea
    – I’m no longer running on 110%,
    because I am very aware how big a responsibility that is.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *