How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Kids, pt. 1

Did I ever tell you that when we got married, Ken and I didn’t want children?

I feel like this is something I would have told you

I can see you scanning over my bio, re-reading the part where it mentions six children. I know. Trust me. I know.

Anyway, we didn’t want kids.

Or rather, Ken very much didn’t want kids, and I was ambivalent, so his formed opinion trumped my lack of one. He had no reason for this barren desire. It was an unexplored, unquestioned decision.

And for the first couple of years in our marriage, it remained just that, and we were fine with it.

We spent our first year of married life in a dreary Livonia apartment that we tried our best to escape. Then Ken got hired with Ford, and we were able to get a down payment on a house in Dearborn Heights. As soon as we got the keys to our new home, I started looking for a dog. I wanted a dog so badly it burned. I had my heart set on rescuing an ex-racer greyhound, and as I made my way through the adoption process, I built up a stockpile of doggy accessories that would have seen several dogs through several lifetimes.

Harvey, as we renamed the dog as soon as he was ours, became our baby. My mom, stoically resigning herself to the fact that she would have no grandchildren through us, sewed the dog winter coats (yes. Winter coats. Shush.) We lavished all our attention and care on the dog, who really was the best dog I’ve ever owned.

Several months later, full of happiness with Harvey, we adopted a second greyhound, a smallish, twitchy girl we named Stella. For six months, things were a static sort of perfect.

Then Ken turned 30, and everything changed.

We were headed to a restaurant to celebrate his birthday, and I was driving. As I was exiting the highway, making the long right turn of the exit ramp, suddenly, out of absolutely nowhere, Ken says, “It wouldn’t be so bad having a couple of rugrats around.”

I almost drove off the ramp and into the pond that it circled.

I don’t remember what I said in response. It wasn’t much, I know. Mostly I was absolutely blindsided by this sudden, absolute reversal of everything I thought our life was going to contain.

We didn’t bring it up again.

That summer, the first of my friends started having children. She and her adorable, fat, beautiful son came over to visit, and as I played with him in my living room, I could feel something shift inside me.

Growing up, I wasn’t around a lot of babies. I didn’t babysit much, I didn’t have infant nieces, nephews or cousins. My limited exposure to little ones made it easy for me to view them as nothing more than work-heavy nuisances. But holding my friend’s baby there in my house that day, it was as if someone suddenly turned on my biological urges, and I realized I wanted children.

Ken came home that evening to find me sprawled out on the bed, sobbing. Alarmed, he asked me what was wrong, and I told him that I was crying because I realized that I wanted children, and I knew he didn’t, and I knew that this was the sort of thing that broke up marriages. He looked at me for a long moment, told me that nothing was going to break up our marriage, and not to worry about it right now. Something in his voice reassured me enough that I was able to pull myself out of bed with hope in my heart.

(On Sunday I’ll continue the story of how we moved from confirmed DINKs to enthusiastic breeders)

Cari Donaldson


Cari Donaldson lives on a New England farm with her high school sweetheart, their six kids, and a menagerie of animals of varying usefulness. She is the author of Pope Awesome and Other Stories, and has a weekly podcast about homesteading at

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  • Aging Flower Child

    “Enthusiastic breeders!” Ha ha! (I refuse to lol) Can’t wait to hear your story, I have a similar one – only it was not a baby that instigated my shift inside…