- In her latest agony aunt column, best-selling author Jane Green offers advice to an expectant mother who has discovered her unborn child has Down syndrome
- She also writes to a wife who has been left ‘shattered’ by her husband’s cruelty
- Do you have a question for Jane? Email [email protected] or ask it below
- READ MORE: My best friend married my widowed FATHER
A few months ago I found out I was pregnant. The news came as a big shock – my boyfriend and I had been taking every precaution and hadn’t even discussed if we wanted a family, never mind if we were ready to start trying for one then and there.
After I found out about the pregnancy, we weighed our options, and after a lot of soul searching and a lot of stressed discussions, we decided to keep the baby.
My boyfriend told me that he has always wanted to be a father and promised that we’d be able to get through even the toughest of times together. I was worried, I really didn’t think I was ready, but he seemed so sure that I kind of just went along with him.
But then at one of our most recent scans, the doctor sat us both down and said that our prenatal screening tests had revealed some ‘abnormalities’ in our baby’s cells. The doctor said our baby very likely has Down syndrome and that we should prepare ourselves for what that means for us both as parents.
Honestly I didn’t know what to say or think. All that flashed in front of my eyes were images of doctors’ visits and medical tests… images that were a long way off from the rosy picture of parenthood that my boyfriend had painted.
It’s been a few weeks now since we got the news, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I’ve gone over and over it in my head, and all I can think is, ‘I can’t do this.’ I’ve tried to tell my boyfriend how I feel but all he does is try and reassure me, tell me that we can handle anything if we’re together.
Well I can’t handle it. I don’t want to handle it. As selfish as it sounds, I’m not cut out for this. And I think that my baby will have a far better start in life with someone else.
I’ve started looking into adoption and think that’s the best course for me to take at this point. I don’t want the life that is laid out in front of me right now. I feel like a horrible person, but I know I’ll feel far worse if I keep a child I know I don’t want.
How on earth can I make that clear to my boyfriend without breaking his heart?
Pregnant and Afraid
Dear Pregnant and Afraid,
I understand just how overwhelming and frightening it is to have an unexpected and unplanned pregnancy, and that’s without the added complication of possible Down syndrome.
Your hormones are going haywire, and you’re facing the kind of choice that you cannot prepare for, didn’t plan, and clearly do not want.
I can’t tell you what to do, but I can tell you to slow down and take some deep breaths, for it seems that you are making a number of assumptions about what it is raise a Down syndrome child, without any information.
Before you make any kind of decision, I urge you to find support groups for parents of Down syndrome children, speak to parents who have been through this, and get a clearer picture of what it is like.
Right now you are in panic mode, which is never where you want to be when making a monumental decision such as this.
One of our dear friends gave birth to a Down syndrome baby many years ago. She was advised to take the baby home for a month, then bring him back to the hospital who would place him in an institution. When the month was up, she didn’t take him back.
Her son is now in his fifties, an athlete who works, and has a full and happy social life, and who makes every life he touches just a little bit better.
Which is not to say that you ought to make the same choice, only that you must inform yourself, and perhaps spend time with the baby before you make any final decisions.
My husband and I have been married for 13 years. We’ve had our ups and downs but for the most part I feel we’ve been happy. He doesn’t drink, doesn’t go out with ‘the guys’, he doesn’t hit me, he cleans, he cooks, he’s funny, and he’s the most amazing father to our daughter.
He’s the only man that was and still is able to make me laugh out loud. I love him dearly and deeply.
But here’s the thing… my husband suffers from Tourette’s, OCD, adult ADD, and he has schizoaffective disorder. When we argue, it can be a little tough. He cusses and can say some pretty ugly things. He doesn’t have a filter at all, and is insensitive.
He’s also not particularly ‘lovey dovey’. He doesn’t hold my hand, put an arm around me, or kiss me more than once or twice a week. We also don’t have much of a sex life. That’s also something I’ve learned to accept though.
However during our last fight he said something I’m having a hard time getting over. We were fighting about me being in a grumpy mood during our morning routine in getting our daughter ready for school. He was upset that I wasn’t happy even though I’ve explained to him that he needs to understand I have emotions other than ‘happy’. He tends to put on a mask to hide his other emotions, but that’s not something I’m able to do.
Well on this occasion, he told me that he’d once left a girl who he loved – ‘maybe more than I’ve ever loved you’ – because she ‘wasn’t happy’, like me, suggesting that if I don’t stop being ‘unhappy’, he will leave me, too.
He’s told me horrible things before, but that one really stung me. After the fight he tried to get me to talk to him but I couldn’t stop crying and I shut down. I replayed his words and I couldn’t let them go. I know he felt miserable afterwards. He talked to me kindly and we did what we usually do, which is move on.
He still hasn’t apologized and I don’t know what to do at this point. I know we all have a past, and past loves, but he really hurt me. I was engaged once before him, had the dress and half the wedding planned before it ended.
I still don’t feel I ever loved anyone more though, to me he really is the love of my life. Hearing him say ‘more than I’ve ever loved you’ has me shattered.
We’re both strong people, but I’m having a really tough time getting back up from this one. Please help. I didn’t think I’d ever leave, but I feel defeated. I’m ready to throw in the towel.
Wife in Strife
Dear Wife in Strife,
It sounds like you have done a wonderful job in accepting your husband as he is, rather than resenting him for having a number of syndromes that add up to the kind of neurodivergency that can be very difficult to live with, not least because open clear communication is often not easy.
Dear Jane’s Sunday Service
Every couple will find themselves in a fight at some point, but those that argue productively and with mutual respect, create a much stronger bond than those who fling insults around, which creates resentment, and a relationship that is only going to grow weaker over time.
Whether we are neurodivergent or not, arguments are often when we say things we don’t mean or necessarily believe, in a bid to hurt our partner when we ourselves are hurting. Lashing out is cruel and painful, for – as you are discovering – once said, things cannot be unsaid.
However, those painful things said during a fight are rarely the whole truth.
Your husband has already tried to talk to you, but your own self-protective mechanism was to shut down, which is not uncommon when fights, and words said during fights, bring up old trauma.
Moving on without discussing this will only lead to a deeper wound the next time.
In order for your marriage to survive, the two of you need to have a calm discussion where you tell him exactly how you felt when he said those words, and how you can do things differently in the future, which has to include agreeing not to say anything deliberately hurtful.
If he doesn’t understand why that hurt you, you need to help him see it from your point of view. I wish you much luck.