I didn't think I wanted to have kids until a boyfriend changed my mind. We started planning for the future — then, he ghosted me.

Woman wearing green sweater crossing arms and looking out window
Melissa Persling (not pictured) didn't think she wanted kids, but changed her mind. Then, her boyfriend ghosted her.Getty Images
  • For the longest time, I thought I didn't want to have kids.

  • But I started a long-distance relationship, and he changed my mind.

  • We started planning a family for the future. Then, he ghosted me.

We met during a wild booze-filled night out in downtown Seattle. It was one of those completely unexpected nights you could never plan out. I was visiting from Spokane, Washington, and he was visiting from Alberta, Canada. We kept in touch through random texts over the next year and even made loose plans to meet on a few occasions, which didn't come to fruition.

Then one day, the Canadian asked whether he could call me, and something changed.

After that call, we hardly went a day without talking. At 38 and 43, neither of us was interested in games. We immediately had in-depth conversations about the role religion and politics played in our lives as well as our thoughts on having children. I told him I'd never wanted to have children. He said he had vacillated on it but did not want to be an "old dad," a territory he felt he was approaching.

I remember thinking it would be a shame for a man like him not to have a child. He had morals, values, and deeply held convictions. He had worked hard to create a successful business and cared deeply for his employees and clients. Most importantly, he was close with his family, whom he spent time with regularly and spoke about with great affection. He was even getting ready to break ground on a house that his parents would live in with him.

I found his devotion to his family incredibly endearing.

When we finally saw each other again, I knew it was meant to be

After a few months of talking, he said he was flying to Spokane to see me. I was thrilled and nervous. I knew he was someone I could fall for, someone with the qualities I wanted in a partner. I saw the potential for his visit to upend my entire life and change its trajectory. I had a feeling he knew this, too.

The Canadian and I only had a few days together because of his hectic work schedule, and he frequently apologized for taking calls and returning emails while we were at dinner or out having drinks. Still, it was enough time together for me to know he had crossed that nearly imperceivable line that separates people who have the power to hurt us from those who don't. "I could love this man," I thought. Maybe I already did.

When he left, I hardly thought of anything aside from when I would see him again. He told me his friends and family wanted to know about me, "the American girl." He said many of them referred to me as his girlfriend, and even though we hadn't discussed what we were to each other, I began seeing myself as just that — his girlfriend. I stopped dating and texting other men.

As our relationship grew, so did our hopes for a family

He told me that I was changing how he saw his future and that he wanted to cut back on work and live a more balanced life. He told me that he had all but resigned himself to bachelorhood, but that he envisioned something entirely new because of me.

He told me his mother had asked him with real hope for the first time if she would have grandchildren.

I don't know if I recognized it then, but the Canadian was changing me too. He was doing what eight years of marriage in my 20s, a divorce, and a serious seven-year relationship in my 30s could not do. He was making me think about the possibility of children.

I always thought that wanting kids was a sort of innate knowing most women had. I assumed it wasn't a question they had to ask themselves repeatedly but a given. It never occurred to me that the right man could stir up those feelings in a woman — or in me.

I could hardly admit it to myself; I hadn't thought it was possible. Yet there I was, picturing myself placing a baby — my baby, with him — in the eager arms of his mother. For the first time, I saw myself in a greater picture. I saw I might have a place and purpose beyond my selfish desires.

When things changed, I made excuses for him

He was busier than ever in the weeks following his visit. We'd start planning a trip to see each other, and something would come up; he'd talk about me coming to Alberta and then say he didn't want me hanging out by myself all day while he worked. I alternated between understanding how demanding his schedule was and feeling like I wasn't a priority.

My friends, family, therapist, and even my yoga instructor told me the same thing: he would make time to see me if he really wanted to.

Then I did that thing women do when the people around them doubt their relationship. I told myself they didn't know or understand him as I did. I made excuses for his behavior and convinced myself that I was the exception, not the rule.

Our communication went from constant to infrequent

When two months passed without plans to meet again, I told him we needed to talk. I told him I felt lonely and disappointed he hadn't made more effort to see me. I asked him whether he had space in his life for me. "The ball is in your court," I said. He told me he would "move some things around" and call me later that night.

But I didn't hear from him that night, the next, or the night after. After nearly a week and a half, I texted him, "I don't understand." And I didn't. We had spoken almost every day for the past five months and then, without explanation, nothing.

I obsessed over the situation, but as more time passed, I shifted from wondering what I had done to feeling deceived by this man I thought I knew. A man I felt so certain I knew that I disregarded the concerns of the people closest to me.

I texted him: "You're not the man I thought you were."

I waited. The next evening he texted me back: "I don't think that is true."

And then he sent me a long text saying that I had changed his life and made him believe in love again, but that he couldn't ask me to move to Canada when he couldn't give me what I deserved. He said he was working on getting to that place but didn't expect me to wait for him.

"I have to let you go to have that chance with someone who can love you how I so deeply want to," he wrote.

Ultimately, he said he hoped to have the life he wanted with me when he was ready — but that time was not now.

Our breakup was confusing, but I learned about myself

It seemed like a roundabout way to dump me, but it was layered and confusing. For one, the mention of my moving to Canada threw me off; it was not something we had yet discussed. Though we'd both recognized there was potential to get to that point, I hadn't even visited yet. I felt like he had created an entire scenario about everything I expected from him when I just wanted to see him every few months.

I texted back: "I'd rather not reply through text. Call me if you like."

He never replied.

Two weeks later, my twin sister and her husband FaceTimed me with the happy news of her third pregnancy. When I got off the phone with her, I began sobbing uncontrollably. At first, I thought they were tears of joy, and then I knew they were tears of sadness. Tears of what could have been. Tears of profound and unexpected self-discovery.

I spent that evening curled up in bed with a box of tissues thinking about the Canadian, cursing him for unearthing something in me I could not forget and leaving me alone to sort the feelings and emotions that came with it.

This was two and a half months ago, and I still don't know whether I want kids or whether I want them with him. Maybe I was caught up in his dream, or perhaps his dream has become mine, too. I'm still figuring it all out. Ultimately, I am grateful for the opportunity to know myself better and to know there is a part of me yet to be explored.

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