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Having a baby after infertility or IVF is not as easy as you might think. Yes, the child is expected, but the very story of infertility can sometimes put a brake on the joys of parenthood. My friend wrote about becoming a parent after having difficulties conceiving. Other readers of the blog have reminded me of the special situation that arises when a child comes after much longing and many attempts; or after one or more older siblings have died in the womb or as newborns.
Repeated miscarriages or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
I think we talk too little to each other about when the road to parenthood is not on track. Most of us do not tell people that we are trying to have children until we are twelve weeks pregnant. We know that there is a risk of miscarriage before then. In my experiences, many do not understand that the risk of miscarriage is as large as one in ten pregnancies. And this statistic is not known probably because most people who have had early miscarriages, have not told others about their pregnancy.
After week twelve, many feel confident that the risk of miscarriage is over. For those who lose their unborn child afterwards, the loneliness becomes all the more greater when you do not know that friends have also had a miscarriages, and before week 12.
If the pregnancy lasts even longer, and the baby could have survived if it had been born, we are no longer talking about miscarriage, but about a stillbirth. It is a great sorrow for every parent or couple affected.
For many of you who have suffered from repeated miscarriages, stillbirths, or infertility, seek each other. Whether it be on internet forums, or in associations, it is important to reach out. There are many who find that their former friends, who have children after children without visible problems, do not understand their situation, or do not have the strength to listen. That may be true in many cases. I am convinced that this long-awaited-child community saves many from years of painful loneliness.
From infertility to parenthood
Now I’d like to focus on my main objective of this post – having a baby after infertility. Steering away from the difficult-to-conceive identity.
Once your pregnancy is a fact, at least after the routine ultrasound, I think it’s time to try to remove yourself from the community that has provided security and belonging for so long. For the sake of the child and for your own sake.
You have the right to feel bad when you have repeated miscarriages, or are involuntarily childless, or lose your child, born or unborn. But you also have the right to feel good! And your children have the right to have a parent who is well and feels good.
This is difficult. It is difficult to begin to believe that your pregnancy will end happily. You will become one of those whom you have been jealous of for so long.
Dare to strive to feel good
My first piece of advice to those who are expecting a child after a difficult longing for children is: dare to strive to feel good!
The vast majority with prolonged and intense longing for children, that I’ve spoken to, testify that they do not dare think it will go well. And if they do, they absolutely do not dare think that parenting a healthy, living baby will be difficult, otherwise they ‘don’t deserve the child’. It’s like deterrence. If I think it will be difficult with a colic baby then maybe I’ll get a miscarriage as a punishment.
Put down all deterrent thinking
My second piece of advice is: put down all deterrent thinking! You cannot cause the death or illness of your child by thinking about the future, whether it be with negative or positive thoughts.
This can be difficult for some parents. Ask for help! If you have a good midwife, ask them for advice. Or ask for a referral to a psychologist. Maybe you already have a therapist? Talk to them, ask them for help and dare to believe that you will also have a healthy baby.
Also try to meet other pregnant women in “healthy pregnancy” contexts. Sign up for a maternity yoga class, pregnancy preparatory class, or a water aerobics group. Try talking about your unborn baby with these other moms, and see if you can find points of contact. It is so easy to get caught up in an identity clouded by your difficult times. You have an equal right to an identity with a bright future. And it’s a better identity because it’s easier to feel good in.
Embrace the baby together!
When your baby is born: dive into parenthood with the baby’s other parent. If you have the least opportunity financially, make sure you get at least two months, full time together when you are free. Severe longing for children eats away at all relationships, and if one of you is at home with the baby while the other is working, the risk that you will not find each other in joy and partnership again is very high. If, on the other hand, you can find each other in the joy of your newborn child, you have a good starting point for repairing the relationship. If you’re having difficulty repairing your relationship, ask a psychologist for help! Or ask a family counselor, or a private couple therapist if you have the finances.
Skip the guilt
It is common among parents who have longed for children to feel guilty that they think parenthood is difficult. Don’t do it! Having a newborn is difficult. It is especially difficult when the period of trying to have a baby has not been constructive and strengthening, but corrosive and sad. So there is no reason to feel guilty. It is tough for everyone when the baby screams, or when you have breast engorgement and it has returned for the fourth time.
When you and your partner’s reserves are depleted, do whatever you can to refill them.
Remember: you have the right to feel bad, but you also have the right to feel good!