When you finally become a parent after years of infertility, your dreams will have come true — you’ll finally have the wonderful baby you’ve been wanting forever, and you can finally start being the family you’ve always known you wanted to be.
However, as much as parenting after infertility will feel like one of the biggest successes in your life, it also comes with some unique challenges. Because you will likely have become parents through a non-traditional method (whether that’s some form of assisted reproductive technology or some kind of adoption process), you will have a unique background that will impact the rest of your parenting years. It’s not necessarily a bad thing — many people who parent after infertility believe their struggles have made them stronger — but it’s important to be aware of how your past may impact your future.
When you start parenting after infertility, you may have some ideas in your head of what it will be like. However, parenting after infertility is not always a clean slate — and some of these ideas may be unrealistic.
To help you prepare for the realities of parenting after infertility, here are some of the more common misconceptions intended parents have:
1. That All of Your Infertility Emotions Will Disappear
Becoming parents after experiencing infertility will make you happier than you’ve felt in a long time, especially if you’ve spent years trying to have a child. It’s normal for you to be overwhelmed with this joy for a long time after you add a baby to your family.
However, it’s important to acknowledge that this happiness will not erase all of the months and years of disappointment you experienced on the way to this success — and nor should it. As difficult as they are, those emotions shaped you into the parents you are today.
If you expect to permanently move forward from these emotions after you have a child, you will likely be surprised later on when those emotions resurface, sometimes when you least expect them. For example, someone may comment on your apparent ease to have children, or your child will eventually reach the age when they start their own families — both situations that can bring up feelings of grief and loss all over again. While you won’t be addressing these emotions as constantly as you did during your infertility process, you’ll need to be aware that not addressing them at all after you become parents can lead to serious mental and physical side effects.
Unresolved grief is serious, so it’s important that even when you’re parenting after infertility that you and your partner take the time to talk about any unresolved issues from your infertility journey. For example, this may be the frustration you feel at having to explain your pregnancy journey if your child was born via surrogacy or telling your child’s adoption story to those who ask. Remember, as a parent, you have the right to include as little or as much detail as you’re comfortable with.
Retaining a positive attitude and properly addressing any unresolved emotions are important parts of being the best parent possible. To help acknowledge your lingering emotions while parenting after infertility, don’t be afraid to reach out to your infertility counselor or surrogacy professional.
2. That You’ll Be Happy With One Child Forever
After struggling through years of infertility, many intended parents believe they’ll be satisfied if they can manage to add just one child to their family. However, once you successfully bring a child into your household, it’s normal for feelings of desire for another child to emerge.
You may feel guilty that your child doesn’t have a sibling to grow up with or for even feeling like you want another child when you put so much energy into the one you currently have. These are normal feelings, and you should anticipate them. When you think you’ll be grateful enough that these desires won’t emerge, it can be incredibly difficult when they do. So, as you’re preparing for parenting after infertility, it’s important to also prepare yourself for the possibility of someday wanting to have another child — whether or not it’s a feasible option for you and your partner.
3. That You Will Be a “Perfect” Parent
Parents who have to take deliberate, elaborate steps to have children also likely have more time to prepare for being parents. When you imagine parenting after infertility, you probably have thought long and hard about exactly what kind of parent you’re going to be.
However, no matter what promises you make to yourself during the infertility process, things will always be different when you actually become a parent. You may not always reach these expectations that you set for yourself — and that’s okay. It doesn’t make you a bad parent to occasionally lose your temper or give into your child’s demands; it just makes you human. Parenting is difficult, no matter what path you take to get there, and it’s unreasonable to expect you to always meet the goals you set for yourself before you even knew what parenting would really be like.
In many ways, parenting after infertility is just like parenting after no infertility — it’s a learning process, where you discover just as much about yourself as you will about the parenting experience.
4. That You’ll Quickly Bond with Your Baby
When you’ve worked so hard and long to bring a baby into your household, you may have the expectation that everything will be perfect from the moment you bring them home. You’re ready to be a great parent, happily and easily creating a deep bond with your infant.
While you will likely feel an automatic bond to your baby, whether they’re born through surrogacy or brought into your life through adoption, it’s also normal to not feel this automatic connection. If you’re in the latter category, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent, and it doesn’t mean that you’ll never have the kind of connection you’re craving. It may just take more time. In fact, even biological parents who give birth to their children don’t always feel the immediate connection you think they might.
You may wish to take extra steps during your surrogate’s pregnancy to establish a bond with your baby in utero, but you’ll also want to be patient if you don’t feel an automatic connection with your baby at birth. These things sometimes take time, and it’s not a personal reflection on you if it does. If you ever have concerns, speak to your family-building professional for tips and advice.
5. That You Won’t Experience Postpartum Depression
If you are not carrying your child yourself, you may think that you’re immune to the challenge of postpartum depression — but any new parent can develop this mental illness. Parenting after infertility can be complicated by the risk of developing postpartum depression, which can make mothers and fathers depressed at the point in their lives when they thought they would be the happiest.
Postpartum depression is usually caused by fatigue, unrealistic parenthood expectations or a lack of community support. If you find yourself exhibiting any symptoms of postpartum depression, please contact your doctor of another mental health professional.
6. That You’ll Quickly Recover Financially from Your Infertility Process
It’s no secret that infertility treatments can be expensive, as can a process like surrogacy or adoption. Most intended parents take the time to budget for their infertility options, but it’s not unusual for them to go over their budget when certain treatments don’t work.
A tight financial budget will likely extend into the first couple of years of your child’s life. Having a child in general is expensive, but when your financial situation is already stretched from years of infertility treatments, it can seem even more difficult. That’s why it’s so important that all intended parents speak in detail with a financial advisor before their infertility process — not just for guidance on affording infertility treatments but also for affording the costs when they eventually bring a new child into their family.
You may expect parenting after infertility to be easily affordable after you’ve already invested so much in the process of becoming a parent, but unexpected costs can quickly add up. Don’t be surprised if you and your partner have to maintain a tight budget for the first couple years of parenting after infertility.
When it comes to these misconceptions about parenting after infertility, education and preparation are the keys to having a positive parenthood experience and being the best parent possible. Your experience parenting after infertility need not be incredibly different from any parenting experience for someone who has not experienced infertility — but it’s also important to anticipate some differences, just in case.
To help you cope with these challenges, both before and after you bring a child into your home, speak with your infertility counselor or your family-building professional, or seek out support groups for parents who have overcome infertility.