A Dozen Myths of Parenting After Infertility
Posted on January 4, 2011
The anticipated joy of parenthood when so long awaited, can create expectations that can be rather unrealistic, both of ourselves and our children. Following are twelve common myths of parenting after experiencing a fertility challenge:
1. Once I have a child I won't even remember our infertility.
The pain of experiencing infertility runs very deep. Although never forgotten, it does diminish after your child enters your life. Nevertheless, should you have additional difficulty conceiving other children, the memory and sadness may re-emerge. Additionally, don't be surprised if it arises again as your child(ren) enters puberty, becomes sexually active, gets to the age to start their own families or your friends are becoming grandparents, or when you, if a woman, enter menopause.
2. I won't be overprotective of my child.
Don't kid yourself. After working so hard to create your family, your child(ren) feels particularly precious to you and the tendency to be overprotective may definitely be there. However, conscious effort to overcome the tendency so as to allow your child(ren) to develop age-appropriate independence and autonomy and build a safe world view and a sense of personal competence is absolutely possible and a must for the good of your child(ren).
3. I will feel so grateful after having just one healthy child that I won't feel sad if I am unable to ever have a second child.
Secondary infertility, because of advanced parental age, is even more common than primary infertility. While most of us believe we would be happy and grateful just conceiving one healthy baby, when the time comes around to consider expanding your family, comparable feelings of sadness and loss may arise if you have difficulty with this or wind up with a family that is smaller than you had hoped for. You may also feel guilt for not providing your child with a sibling or for feeling that one child is not enough and wanting another. Your child may ask for a sibling, as well, or you may fear that a solo child will be lonely. You may feel sad for only having one pregnancy or one baby experience, as well. Most individuals and couples can come to either accept a solo-child family or choose to expand their family in alternate ways, however.
4. Parenting a child who came to me through donor sperm, donor egg, or adoption will be exactly like parenting a child who is genetically related to both of us.
This one is less of a myth than the others. The operative word here is 'exactly.' While there are some differences, including informing your child of their genetic origins, knowing that your child is not genetically related to you, and some of the questions your child will have as he or she matures, on a day-to-day basis, parenting is parenting and involves loving, protecting, being emotionally present for your child and generally considering the best interests of your child from the moment they enter your life and forever forth.
5. It is just as easy to raise twins as a singleton child.
This is not true, at least from the reported increased rates of depression among mothers of twins vs singletons. Multiples are more likely to be born prematurely, fare worse than singletons in the perinatal period, mainly due to the consequences of premature delivery, and are more susceptible to long-term disability. While many experiencing fertility challenges hope to conceive twins as a way to complete their family with just one treatment cycle, they may be unrealistic in terms of the increased demands of having two babies of the same age at the same time, especially if those children experience any disability.
In addition, you may experience guilt feelings for the absence of time for a one-to-one relationship with your child and have concerns that others are judging you for having multiples or assuming that you were infertile and used assisted reproductive technology to conceive your babies.
6. After waiting this long and working this hard to have a baby, I'll bond immediately to the baby.
The reality of a difficult delivery or C-section, sleepless nights, a colicky inconsolable baby, changing multiple diapers daily, and cleaning spit-up is not as romantic as many had envisioned during the long wait for parenthood. While some women bond during pregnancy or immediately upon delivery, many women and most men do not. Yet, they do bond with time. Just know that if instant attachment does not take place, it does not mean that you don't love your baby. Be patient and give it some time.
7. My partner and I became so close during our journey to parenthood that we will never forget to carve out our time to be alone with each other after we have children.
Having children is a transformative and overwhelming life experience. While we all yearned for this transformative experience, the true demands of children are hard to anticipate in advance of becoming parents. In addition, the emotional attachment with our children often proves to be far more gratifying than we could have imagined. For many, even after experiencing infertility, we forget to make time for ourselves and our relationship with our partner. Since a loving and secure relationship with our partner, if we have one, is a most important gift to give to our children, it is crucial not to ignore the importance of time together, without the children, ie., being able to focus on each other and not having to be mommy or daddy. By the time your baby reaches around three months of age, start to consider a weekly or bi-weekly date night. Although at first you may not want to leave your baby, down the road your relationship will benefit and you won't regret it.
8. If I have a child through donor egg, sperm, embryo, surrogacy, or adoption, I'll never feel like I'm the real mother/father.
This is typically not true. Those who believe, however, that kinship/family is defined solely by genetics may struggle more with feeling authentic as the parent. However, multiple diaper changes, walking the floor in the middle of the night, worrying, kissing booboos, being there for first smiles, steps, words, and creating an emotionally engaged relationship with your child all result in feeling like you're the real thing - a parent.
9. Because I will be so excited to have this child, I am unlikely to experience any postpartum depression.
Also, not true. Recent data suggests that women experiencing infertility can also experience post partum depression, especially if they had a history of depression or were depressed during their pregnancy, or gave birth to twins, triplets, or other multiples.
10. Waiting to tell my child conceived by third party reproduction about her/his genetic origins until she/he is a teenager is a good idea because she/he will be able to understand it better.
It is true that children understand the science and mechanics of reproduction better as adolescents than when younger. However, a good part of their identity is already formed by adolescence and telling them this requires backtracking and correcting some of their already-formed beliefs about themselves and their family. Mental health professionals believe from their experience in working with families and adopted individuals that learning earlier in life means no untruths are told or misconceptions developed. It is usually better to start telling children earlier in their life and re-tell them with more sophisticated details as your child(ren) mature.
11. I will be a perfect parent and never complain about my role as parent.
This is both unnecessary and impossible. Just because you had to work harder than most to create your family does not mean you do not have a right, just like every other parent, to feel tired, want some time for yourself, and even resent your child(ren) at times. Give yourself permission to make mistakes as all parents make mistakes, even with the best of intent. Being able to apologize to one's child(ren) teaches them an important lesson - even grown-ups make mistakes so they can, as well.
12. My child will be a perfect child.
Not true, either, and not necessary. Each child unfolds in their own inimitable way, and this is part of the mystery and beauty of raising children. In addition, we all tend to learn more from our mistakes than our successes, so who would want to deprive their child of this opportunity?
I wish you all the best as you travel this most incredible journey called parenthood.
Joann Paley Galst, Ph.D. is a psychologist in New York City specializing in reproductive health issues including infertility and pregnancy loss. She can be reached at