“I have no idea how to bring this up to you.”
A client of mine spoke those words to her husband in session. He sat there and listened.
She continued, “I know we’ve been playing with the idea of having kids soon, but I’m so scared.
I’m scared that I won’t be a good mom, that we’ll fall out of love with each other. Gosh, what if we can’t stand each other? What if we’re awful parents?”
It took him a minute.
We sat in silence and let the emotion fill the room. He looked at her and quietly said “I’m scared of the same things.”
These moments in therapy don’t surprise me anymore. You see, most of us share in familiar fears, it’s just that we’re afraid to voice them and start the discussion. We worry that we’re alone with our thoughts, that if we bring something up it won’t get heard, and that our fears may either get invalidated, criticized, or just straight out rejected. These are all reasonable concerns to have, but we still need to tap into our courage to get to the other side.
Without communication there is no opportunity to hear and understand each other, and without it there is no opportunity to join together and conquer the fears as a unit.
If there’s ever a time to communicate, it’s now. As you embark on one of the most rewarding and challenging times of your lives, you will see how important it is to be able to trust in each other. To trust that you’ll both share when you need to, that you’ll work at it to understand, and that you’ll lean towards one another when it gets tough instead of shutting down and turning away.
You will strengthen as a couple when you are deliberate with your words, and when you commit to creating emotional safety and security as you move forward in this process.
As you consider having children, the fears and concerns can come flooding in from all different directions. “Do we have enough money?” “Will I have to give up going to the gym?” “Will I ever sleep again?” “Will we be able to provide for them in the same way my parents were able to provide for me?” “Can I still work after I have the baby?” “What if we can’t get pregnant?” “What if it’s my fault?” “What if we do everything correctly, and our child still turns out to be an awful person.” “Will we stop having sex?” “Will we hate each other?” “Will I have the Baby Blues or PPD?” “Will you love our child more than you love me?” Question after question after question.
Fear after fear after fear. This doesn’t stop (sometimes ever) unless we give ourselves permission to talk about this with our partner.
So this is what we’re going to do. We’re going ask our partner if they’ll carve out an hour either during the week or over the weekend (maybe both!) to talk about fears/doubts/concerns. Schedule the time and put it into your calendars. We are more likely to honor our commitments when we write them down.
Before each ‘meeting’ you’re both going to share one thing that excites you about the idea of having a child/starting a family. It’s so important to remember and honor the joy even when the fears may be flooding in. Start off by reminding each other why this decision is still a joyous and exciting one in which you’re both invested.
Prior to each meeting you will both separately write out your lists/answers to each question below. Commit to only one for each meeting. Honor the time allotted, and remember not to do too much all at once.
1. Write a list of fears you have for yourself. (Not about your partner! Let them own their own ones). Share these fears with each other by using “I” statements. For example: “I’m afraid of failing as a mother.” “I’m terrified that you’re going to hate me if I come home from work tired and can’t help out as much as you need me to.”
2. Write out the qualities of your caretakers that were positive. Split your list into however many people cared for you. This may include a grandparent, or even an older sibling. Maybe it was a family down the road that your mom dropped you off with while she was at work. Include anyone who had an important role in your life.
So many of our fears stem from our own experiences with our caretakers. We question if we’ll be able to recreate the positive and improve on the negative. Maybe we even declare “you have to be better to our child than my father was to me.” The relationships with our caretakers so deeply impact our wants and desires for our future family. You don’t need to understand it all right now, but shedding light on those relationships is a critical piece to understanding your fears.
3. Write out the qualities of your caretakers that were negative. Same guidelines as #2.
4. Write out your favorite family traditions that are important for you to keep with you while you build and begin your own family.
5. Identify what messages you will need from your partner to feel supported and uplifted through this all? What can they say/do to communicate their love, understanding, and connectedness throughout it all.
This is just a starting point. There are so many more questions to consider and layers to understand, but it’s a beautiful way to get the ball rolling and to start working towards building the emotional security you will need throughout this process.
Have the courage to ask to be heard, and lean towards each other through the process.