Series- After Infertility: You and Your Partner Disagree about a Second Child
This series will focus on many different situations you may encounter after infertility, with this article focusing on one person wanting a second child and their partner does not.
Congratulations! You survived the torment of infertility and through whatever method worked for you and your partner you now have a beautiful child! You are probably elated, exhausted and frequently perplexed by this other person whom you are fully responsible for. In other words, you are a parent! It was a torturous road getting here, and it brought you to your baby. Love that bundle of joy, there is nothing like the weight of your baby on your chest and the smell of your baby. And brace yourself for as soon as you start showing up places with Baby, the questions will have shifted from “when are you having a baby” to “when are you having another baby”?! You may very well be wondering the same thing...
If one person in the relationship wants to have a second child and the other person is uncertain or does not, prepare yourselves for yet another huge storm to be hitting your relationship. This Will Be Hard. Like, really hard. And you thought when you got through infertility that you were done with all that! Sadly, no. When I found myself in this situation I lived in denial about it for quite a while, and when that was no longer working I researched this very topic. There is not a lot of information out there and yet I’m fairly sure I have not been the only person in this situation so here is what I found to be helpful.
Get Clear on What you Desire:
You can’t talk to your partner about what you want until you actually understand what you want. Enter Vulnerability. It is incredibly difficult to say out loud “I want to be a parent again”. You may be tempted to skirt around this issue, drop hints, get passive aggressive, or like me say things like “Maybe we should renew our adoption home study application before it expires, just in case”. Not my most direct moment. It is really scary to get real around what you desire, especially if you don’t think your partner is on the same page. But you are brave and you have been through worse. Remember, “the only way out is through”. So, own what you want.
Once you know what you want and how you feel, it’s time to clue your partner in. I’m a fan of writing a letter and giving it to your partner to read. This allows you to say every messy thought and feeling you are having without getting sidetracked. Once you talk to your partner or give them a letter, then allow your partner time to process. This is a lot to take in. Set a time in the future to revisit this conversation.
This Will Go On for Awhile:
This should not be a one and done conversation. If the goal is to express yourself and understand your partner there will be multiple conversations. Resist the "time is running out" mentality that surrounds infertility. Take all the time you both need.
Your Feelings are Valid, and so are Theirs:
You will have a lot of feelings. I’m a big fan of any journaling or writing out feelings, however in this instance I would encourage you to write out Anger. Every single uncomfortable, guilt ridden thought needs to go somewhere, and we don’t want it coming out on its own. So write down all your anger toward Infertility, your partner, all the pregnant moms you see in Target, your friend who complains about having too many kids… Write it, read it, rip it up, and let it be released.
Remember this is not intentional. Your partner loves you and your family. They are not trying to hurt you, in fact, they probably wish they felt differently. Trust in your relationship and yourself, if you have been through Infertility Round 1 you can get through this.
Putting it All Out There:
Say everything you need to say. Kindly. Don’t hold back. As you think/feel new thoughts/feelings, share them. It is equally as important for you to say what you need to say as it is for your partner to really hear it all, and visa versa. Relationships can survive disappointment and disagreement, it is a lot harder to survive secrecy and resentment.
What makes you excited about the idea of a second child? What scares you? How do you envision your life in 5, 10, 20 years? What worries are you having about your relationship as you go through this? How much of these current feelings are related to the trauma around Infertility Round 1? Would you work with the same professionals or would you need a different team? How much time and money will Round 2 cost? What is important to you about your child having a sibling? What are your preconceived notions around having an only child?
Talk to your support system- friends, family, a therapist etc. Don’t talk to the people who are not supportive- the people who will have an agenda, who can’t empathize with you, the people who will hold a grudge toward your partner etc. We all have some of these people in our lives, if we are really honest we have all probably been these people at one point in time or another. So, no judgement toward them, but also protect yourself from even harder conversations that make things murkier for you.
If you and your partner are struggling to communicate and to listen in a kind way and could use some help, couples counseling could be EXTREMELY helpful.
When is it Time to Stop?
When pain becomes suffering. That is annoyingly vague, but still true. Are you still expressing new pain, or are the same feelings you’ve expressed multiple times continuing to stew and fester? If you have truly given yourself and your partner time to express, hear, process and feel, then it may be time to lean into acceptance.
Grieve and Accept:
You can’t accept until you grieve. So let yourself grieve this loss. It may bring up feelings of loss from Infertility Round 1 that are still embedded in your body. As with any grief process let the feelings flow, be gentle with yourself, and know that the intensity of this loss will not be forever. And while it doesn’t feel like it today, one day there will be acceptance.
I hated when people would subtly infer that wasn’t I grateful because I already have a beautiful, healthy child and wanted another. My love for my child is infinite, but it doesn’t mean I can’t also deeply desire my family to grow and that I don’t have more love to give. So, while I may instinctively try to reject that line of thinking, isn’t it also kind of true? My family journey never went the way I thought it would, yet I am eternally grateful for where we ended up together. You may feel devastated and cheated and irate, and you are also incredibly lucky and blessed. One does not discount the other, they are both true, but try not to lose sight of the abundance in your life that you already have.
Close the Door:
Well, it’s done. You have felt, expressed, processed and grieved. You are not happy about this decision, and you are consciously trying to let go of the pain around it. When you are ready, do something to close the door. Mine involved getting rid of all the baby stuff that I had been hoarding for years, “just in case”. Redecorate a room, plan a trip, take a class, adjust how you spend your time etc. Whatever it is, allow yourself to move into your new reality with self-awareness and grace. Live your life.
You are brave, you are strong, you have survived worse, you can do this! Take care of yourself, and reach out to a mental health professional if you are struggling and/or could use some more support.