The Negotiation

Girl Power

Two months before M and I conceived our daughter, SJ, I was pretty certain that we were about to end our three-year relationship and part ways. It wasn’t complicated: I wanted to get married and have a baby — and M, for his part, was pretty sure he didn’t want to get married and was undecided about whether he wanted to be a dad.

When we first met, I was just out of law school. I hadn’t started working yet and had just completed the bar exam the week before. M was one of the most extraordinary, unconventional- thinkers I had ever met. The fact that he’s gorgeous didn’t hurt, but really I was just so excited to finally meet someone I could have an intelligent — challenging and frustrating, yes, but fun nonetheless — conversation with. We moved in together after knowing each other two months. I was blissfully happy.

M was always honest about the fact that he didn’t believe in marriage. On the question of a baby, he was a little more open. But there’s no denying that I knew from the start that there was a pretty good chance M would never marry me. I was just way too into him at that point to care. Of course, I always knew we would reach a crossroads. And two- and-a-half years later, we did.

At some unknown moment, I awakened to the fact that I was ready to be a mom and a wife. Once confronted with that knowledge, it consumed me. I knew I wasn’t content to maintain the status quo indefinitely. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that the second I began asking for more—the baby I’d always wanted and the lifetime commitment I needed— this amazing life we had created together would just disappear into nothing and I’d be left alone. Unquestionably, the idea of starting over scared me to death. But I had no choice but to address the issue. I could not continue to invest in a relationship knowing it would not result in the life that I wanted. To do that would be crazy.

The initial talks didn’t go well. M was still against marriage. He thought he might “someday” be ready to have a baby. But he couldn’t say when; he didn’t feel financially ready to take on that responsibility. But I did. I offered to work full time. He could stay home with the baby. Or, if he didn’t want to stay home, we could get a nanny. In an effort to compromise, I tabled the marriage discussion. Somehow over our years together, it had become less important to me, for whatever reason. But for the baby….the little person made of us…I just really didn’t want to wait. M didn’t know if he could give me what I wanted and still be happy himself. And I had to respect that he too, deserved to be happy.

The next few months were tough. Outwardly, everything appeared fine. But on the inside, I was preparing for the worst. And then, M’s mother made a visit out to California. I was extremely busy at work and hadn’t seen much of her, but I managed to meet the two of them after work for dinner on the last night of her visit. I was nervous walking into the restaurant. I didn’t know what she knew of the intense discussions M and I had been having. More importantly, I wasn’t sure how she would counsel her son.

About ten minutes after I sat down, M turned to me and said, like it was nothing at all, “So, my mom agreed to watch the kid for me if I ever need a little break, or we need some time away.” My heart skipped several beats and then, “What kid?” Then M’s mother chimed in, “Well M mentioned that you and he are talking about having a baby, and M needed a little reassurance from me that I’d be here to support him and help out from time to time.” I almost died. I don’t even think I gave a coherent response. There they were, discussing so nonchalantly a subject I’d been torturing myself over for months! Somehow I made it through the rest of dinner, though I honestly can’t remember how.

Once alone, I asked M about that awkward dinner conversation and what exactly it meant. He told me he loved me and that he really did believe that we could be great partners in life and amazing parents, together. Of course, were it up to him, he’d do things differently and wait a few years longer. But if I was prepared to take on the financial responsibility and bear that burden, then he would quit his job when the time came and stay home with . . . our baby!!!!!!!! I couldn’t believe it. I never in my wildest dreams believed that he would come around and I would have him as my partner for the rest of my life! I will never know what it was that M’s mother said to him during that fateful visit that convinced him to move forward with me, but whatever it was, I am forever grateful.

Two months later we were pregnant.

Doing-It-All Mommy
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