by Iris Waichler, LCSW
I recently read a blog by actress Elisabeth Rohm. She is known for her role as attorney Serena Southerlyn on Law and Order. She became a mother after in vitro fertilization. Since then she has worked to help support people experiencing infertility and has been very open about her experience. This blog described her candid thoughts about whether or not to try to build her family. She has a three and a half year old daughter. Ms. Rohm’s age and the passage of time were issues for her. She understands the emotional, medical, and physical challenges imposed by infertility. But her wonderful memories of being pregnant and having a newborn child also weigh heavily as she and her fiancé try to determine the right course of action for their family. Ms. Rohm was an only child and was quite content with it.
One issue for Ms. Rohm is trying to anticipate if her daughter will share her positive feelings regarding being an only child. The other key question she raises in her blog is what is the right reason to try to have another child? Is it for the parents, or to give the only child a sibling? The prospect of facing infertility adds another complicated dimension when deciding whether or not to build your family.
Secondary infertility is a huge issue for many people. There is an expectation that when you have a child relatively easily the first time it happens the same way when you want to have more kids. When trying a second time fails it can be devastating. In these scenarios people often are not empathetic or supportive towards someone who already has a child.
There are no right and wrong answers about whether trying to have another child is the right decision for you. It is a choice that should be discussed with your partner if you have one. There are questions to be considered when trying to piece together the course of action that feels right.
You can speak with your doctor about what treatment options and success rates are relevant to your individual case. Think about how you experienced your infertility before you became pregnant and had a child. Did infertility overwhelm you and negatively impact other life areas and relationships? How were you able to cope with the roller coaster ride infertility treatment offered? Is it something you are willing to go through again?
Adoption is also a family building option. Is adoption an option you would choose to bring a new child into your family? How important is a biological or genetic link for you to have with your child? Do you want your children to have a genetic connection?
You need to consider the financial aspects of increasing your family. Do you have the necessary health insurance for infertility treatments? Do you have the money available to fund an adoption, legal fees, and the costs associated with supporting a new family member?
Finally, are you feeling the need to expand your family so your child is not an only child? Remember the presence of siblings does not ensure loving relationships and bonding among them. Taking care of more than one child creates a host of new challenges. It can also offer great rewards.
Sometimes parents decide to expand their families because they feel bad for their existing child. There may be some guilt connected to an only child who may eventually become a parental caretaker. Guilt is not a good reason to grow your family. Carefully explore what you enjoy most about your current life, marriage, work, school, relationships, and family constellation. How will adding one or more children affect this picture? Use the answers that come from this self reflection and discussion with your partner to make the decision that feels right for both of you in.
Iris Waichler, MSW, LCSW, has a Master’s Degree in Social Work and has been a licensed clinical social worker for over 30 years. She has done workshops, individual, and group counseling with people experiencing infertility. Ms. Waichler is the author of Riding the Infertility Roller Coaster: A Guide to Educate and Inspire. She currently writes freelance infertility and health related articles.