A woman of 40 who asked her boyfriend to move out has discovered she is pregnant. Should she keep the child? Mariella Frostrup says she has to think of herself.
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The dilemma I am 40 and I’ve been with my boyfriend for two years, but have never been madly in love or in lust. Last year I became pregnant and lost the baby at 16 weeks. We were both deeply upset. I have now discovered I am pregnant again – just after asking my boyfriend to leave the house we share (which I own). He agreed and has moved out for us to think about what we want to do. He is a lovely, decent, honest, kind man. The rows have been instigated by me and my brattish behaviour. My boyfriend has now told me he “did not sign up for this”, that he would like me to abort the child as he has tried many times and we always get to the same hurtful place. He doesn’t want a child in a broken relationship and I suspect he wants to be free of me. I have started counselling, as I’m negative, bullying and rarely show love verbally. I have a long road to go to become open to good, loving emotions, but in the meantime I am being asked to get rid of a child, which – at nearly 41 – I fear I will never have the chance to have again.
Mariella replies And it’s a valid fear. You may not be saintly in your emotional responses, but you are brutally honest, which is greatly to your credit. You’ve discovered what the Ancient Greeks knew to be true: fate mocks mere mortals. You are running on emotional adrenalin and the surging hormones of early pregnancy – neither conducive to rational thought.
Let’s unpick and isolate the threads of your story that matter. First, the baby business. You are right – in your 40s getting pregnant, let alone carrying to term, is a challenge. In this country, rather disgracefully, NHS IVF is only available on a one-shot-and-you’re-out basis after 39.
You’ve already had a miscarriage so you know how precious this chance is. Having an abortion could squander your last chance of motherhood and equally depressingly it’s still possible you may have another miscarriage. I know men out there will groan, but right now you have to think of yourself.
Neglecting to use contraception is a choice, if a slightly fuzzy one. You’ve been pregnant once so the fact it has happened again shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to your boyfriend. In the normal course of events the best time to choose not to have a baby is before it’s conceived. While the situation is far from ideal for him, he has the opportunity to become a father for many years ahead. You don’t have that luxury so you have to make up your mind based on what you, yourself, really want.
If you decide to go ahead it may be without his blessing or support, although as you describe him he seems a man unlikely to shirk his responsibilities. You don’t have to be together to jointly participate in your child’s life, but being a single parent is extremely hard work. These days, dazzled by choice, we struggle to make firm decisions and when to have a baby is one of the many things we find hard to commit to. It may sound peculiar but in some ways you are lucky. You’ve managed to conceive, you have a man with whom, if you alter your behaviour, you may be able to make a future and you have a very firm grip on where you are going wrong.
Having a baby won’t save your relationship, but it certainly focuses the mind for a couple of decades. Being “madly in love or in lust” seem silly ingredients for choosing a mate. Viewed pragmatically, your feelings for your ex offer far more valid attributes in considering a life partner. Is it possible to stop torturing him for not inspiring the slightly goofy feelings you hunger for and appreciate him for all the good, resonant stuff he adds to your life?
Equally possibly, if you never have a child you may live perfectly happily as many who make that choice do. Only you know what you are capable of navigating. Making an informed decision and living with it is part of being a responsible adult. Bizarrely you might be grateful for this impasse, as it may well be the making of you, whatever route you choose.