What About the Child?
What If We Can't Have More Children, Ever?
Secondary infertility, the inability to conceive after having given birth to one or more children, takes its toll on a couple in myriad ways. Not only does it affect their marriage relationship, it involves more people than the couple themselves and by definition becomes a family crisis. Everyone in the family feels the stress and will continue to do so until some form of resolution is achieved. Not knowing if there will be another child born into the family can keep stress levels high and until or unless the couple can come to terms with the fact that their family may be exactly the number is currently is the stress will remain. Once there is acceptance of the possibility of not having more children, then the family can grieve, and experience the loss they are feeling.
What About the Little Guy?
Unlike couples who are dealing with primary infertility, couples with secondary infertility already have a child's security and needs to consider. A young child takes in everything around him and absorbs emotions, whether the parents intend for that to happen or not. Just because things are not spoken about does not mean they are not felt. It is important for children to know that problems are dealt with and not buried by ignoring them or not talking about them. The reality is that unless children are included in the information loop, they will fantasize and make the issue about themselves - it is called egocentricism. The child creates a world where he is the cause of the problem, whatever it is. If the child sees the parents going to the doctor and coming back upset, then, unless the child is informed, he will create a fantasy that says they are not happy with him and therefore, he is not a good child. If the parents can't explain to the child why they are upset, the child will wear their feelings. He must be helped to understand what is going on and to identify his own feelings in the situation.
Is It Reasonable?
Parents often feel guilty that they cannot provide a sibling for their child. The sense that they are failing their child is common in couples with secondary infertility. Parents idealize and create a picture in their minds of a perfect sibling relationship - and now that they seem to be unable to have another child, that picture is shattered. The fact of the matter is that sibling relationships are not guaranteed and the child should not have to carry around the loss of an idealized relationship which may never be. Parents must resolve the issue of what they believe constitutes a family and be willing to accept that they are a family - just the way they are.
Over-the-Top Parenting May Result
Secondary infertility affects couples deeply giving them mixed feelings about watching their child grow up, perhaps alone. They want to stall the process as much as possible, fearing they will never have an opportunity to experience the same pleasure again. Some parents smother their children, are overly attentive and sometimes refuse to allow the child to gain any independence. It is important for parents to remain in balance, even though it is natural to want to hang on to what they already have. Children need the freedom to grow, express themselves, and separate from their parents in a natural and healthy way.
Finding Your Path
It is a delicate balance and a real tightrope to walk when it comes to facing secondary infertility. The need to focus on conception with all of the attending factors like time, finances, energy and decisions about treatment or perhaps adoption is measured against the need to be parents to the child they already have, meeting that child's needs. Sometimes, through the grieving process parents come to the realization that they have more time and resources available to parent their one child and are willing to allow things to be as they are.
Regardless where in the emotional scheme of things a couple find themselves, it is important for them to receive support, counsel and to be able to grieve the loss of a child. It can take a long time to work through the depression and ultimately reclaim their lives - but it can and does happen.