Navigating the Baby Decision - A Personal Story
Many people ask me how I coach people who are trying to decide whether they want children or not. 'How on earth can you coach people on that? ' Surely it's so personal? There are many ways that I do explain this work. But there is nothing so powerful as reading the personal story of another person.
As Rosie explained, she originally came to me because her boyfriend had ended their relationship because she didn't want children.
I didn’t question my choice until I was 32, and Tom,* my boyfriend of eight years, ended our relationship because I didn’t want children. I’d always been honest with him, but until his own nephew was born, he’d never been sure about his own feelings – and when he finally made his decision, the fallout was devastating.
As Rosie described in her article, it can be a shock when you find your partner wants exactly the opposite. Some of the advice she received from other people was not helpful.
'One colleague asked why I couldn’t just have children to keep him, because I’d probably like it – as if carrying and raising a baby was the equivalent of eating kale chips. More than one person told me I’d want them ‘when you meet the right man,’ effectively writing off a relationship that had lasted longer than many marriages.'
In the article, Rosie talks about how she decided she needed to examine her decision again after dating several men who also wanted children.
'Research has shown that women who choose not to have children feel more pressure to become mothers than other childfree women – and the constant rejections were becoming hard to bear. I wondered if there was a way to make myself want children. Was there perhaps a part of myself that would love to procreate, if only I could unlock it? It felt like life would be so much easier if I could be the same as everyone else.'
It was important to Rosie to examine whether she could want children, whether she could change her mind. That's why I do challenge my clients assumptions and get clients to look at some of the beliefs they hold have having and not having children. One of the key exercises I do with all my clients is get them to do a mind map of all their fears. We then shine a light on them together. How 'real' are these fears? Or are they just believes that, when challenged, disappear.
'If you’re not sure if you want children, ask yourself, “What am I scared of? What am I anxious about?”’ Beth told me during my session with her. ‘You might worry that you won’t be a good mother, that you won’t be as good as your own mother, or that having children might affect your career. Once you’ve identified those fears, it’s necessary to work out if they’re based in reality – what makes you think you’ll be a bad mother? Would children really wreck your career?’
I explained that a big fear about having children involved losing my identity – once children enter your life, your needs are subsumed by theirs. My greatest fear, though, was being judged and alone because of a decision that felt no more like a choice than the colour of my eyes.'
Often, as a coach, I find myself listening for that moment which could be the key to unlocking the dilemma for the client. This fear of being judged and alone was, I felt, the key for Rosie.
'Beth told me this was a common concern, so women who are wavering should examine their motivations for wanting a child – or, in my case, wanting to want one. ‘I ask women to ask themselves: Am I making the decision for myself, or for other people? Is having children just what’s expected of me, or what I really want?’ she told me. As we talked for an hour, it became clear that I genuinely don’t want children.
I’m not even one of those who claim they ‘absolutely love being an auntie!’ –I simply lack the gene that makes me want to sniff babies’ heads. Beth suggested that perhaps, rather than having a hidden desire for children, maybe I really just wanted to be accepted for who I am...I left her office feeling much lighter'
Holding fast to this new confidence, it eventually happened: I met Don, my fiancé. The moment we met, something clicked – and now, we’re looking forward to a child-free future together.
Usually I suggest clients have a minimum of 6 sessions to work through their issues and sometimes it can be more. But for Rosie, this was enough to help her feel secure and confident to move forward with her decision.... and her life.
Below you can read two short reflections from clients on their 'Maybe Baby' coaching journey.
I came to Beth because I was feeling torn about whether or not I should try to have a child on my own and didn’t know where to turn for answers. From the start, I found Beth to be a very patient, calm, non-judgemental and careful listener. At times, I had so many conflicted feelings, anxieties and doubts but she allowed me to experience whatever I was experiencing and I never felt rushed to make a decision.
Beth has incredible insight – almost a sixth sense - and always managed to pick up on the more subtle meanings and deeper feelings within what I was saying. She allowed me to simply talk as much as I needed to, then offered considered reflections that helped me to understand what my true feelings were beneath all the overthinking, fears and external messages.
The guided exercises she used were very effective at tapping into my intuition, deeper needs and desires. I will continue using these exercises for other challenging situations or big decisions in future.
Working with Beth, I felt so supported and lighter after each session. Over time, she helped me to work through my conflicted thoughts and feelings to reach my own decision.
Thanks to Beth, I feel much calmer now regarding this issue and more confident about moving forwards in my life without lingering regrets. I am grateful to Beth for her unconditional support during a period of angst and for helping me to reach a place of clarity and inner peace.
- Jennifer, aged 39, Australia
I was struggling with some issues and wanted some professional help to sort through them. I had an initial telephone consultation with Beth as well as an initial consultation with a therapy counsellor as I was not sure what would be best for me. After both consultations I decided to go with Beth as I liked her creative approach and thought that trying a more fun way to dealing with problems would help me more. I am so glad I made that decision. Each session with Beth uncovered so many things for me and I was able to look at it all with new perspectives. Beth was supportive throughout my process. With Beth's help I was able to deal with the things I knew I needed help with as well as discovering issues I did not expect. Whilst things were difficult to explore at times I never regretted my decision to trust Beth's creative approach. By the end of our sessions I felt lighter and more confident. I can not thank Beth enough for helping me work through things.
- Jay, 34, London