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Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

My husband wanted to stop at one kid, so we did, even though I desperately wanted our son to have a sibling. Now that he is 10, I feel the lack of the imaginary sibling quite acutely. At the time, I didn’t have the energy or the presence of mind to fight my husband on family size; it’s something we really haven’t talked about since about 2010. But I find I’m carrying around all this resentment, almost a decade later, and it feels unhealthy.

What should I do, given that at this stage there is no way we would have another baby even if my husband did somehow change his mind?

— Resentful

Tell him openly that you’ve been dogged lately by 2010 regrets.

It’s normal for old resentments to resurface occasionally, and it’s OK to decide not to air them all on the spot in hopes they’ll just sink back down again. Sometimes ghosts behave themselves and float uneventfully away.

When it’s clear they plan to linger, though, then you have two unpleasant options: Say nothing, which means you leave your partner to wonder why you’re in a mood; or speak up, which means you relive something together that tore you up the first time.

The argument for Unpleasantness No. 2 is that at least you both get your say, which means there’s a better chance you’ll get past it.

Therapy, too, solo to start, is a valid place to have these feelings out loud.

I don’t usually do this, but the way you phrased it — “there is no way we would have another baby” — I do feel compelled to add that having a baby is just one way, albeit the most common, of many ways to expand a family. And I don’t (just) mean adoption, since that’s also fairly obvious and you don’t need me to tell you it exists.

This is what I mean: Having seen friends open their homes to exchange students, billeted players, foster children, kids clearly in need but not in anyone’s system, kids of overwhelmed neighbors, their kid’s friends who just need someplace to hang out, etc., I’m happy and humbled to pass along the inspiration they’ve given me. Focus on the love you have to give, not the places you can’t give it.

Re: Resentment:

I always remember something I think I got from you, Carolyn, although I can’t remember an exact quote. But the idea is that we long for this imaginary alternative past where we focus on the happy details — so it feeds the notion we missed out on something, but in reality, anything could have happened. Who knows what would have been if you’d had that second kid/moved abroad/taken that job? It could have been great; it could have been terrible.

Maybe that’s simplistic, but it’s worked for me many times.

— Who Knows

If it worked, then you totally got it from me (looks at ceiling and whistles).

To: Resentment:

Does your husband know you DESPERATELY wanted another baby? I suddenly “desperately” wanted another one in the twilight of my egg-laying career. But I didn’t soft-pedal my feelings, so my better half knew how intensely I was feeling.

— Desperate

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