Couples who suffer from secondary infertility face their own unique stresses, says Harriet Fishman Simons, Ph.D., a therapist in private practice in Wellesley, Mass., and the author of Wanting Another Child: Coping With Secondary Infertility (Jossey-Bass, 1998). Simons says that parents who have difficulty conceiving a second baby are caught between two worlds — one in which other people don’t hesitate to ask, “So when is a baby brother or sister coming?” and another world of childless, infertile couples who might offer little sympathy.
Parents unable to have a second child can feel as if they are letting down their first child by not providing a sibling. At the same time, they can feel guilty that the first is somehow “not enough.” But it is helpful for parents to realize that the data on the development of single children are positive. “Children are very adaptive,” Simons says, “and may not reflect their parents’ feelings about the family unit.”
If parents are undergoing infertility treatment, the time and emotional commitment involved can make them feel as if they’re not as available for their first child as they would like. To make matters even worse, their children may symbolize their inability to have another baby.
“While for some the existing child can be a poignant reminder of the loss,” says Simons, “many take comfort in the fact that they are parents and report that their enjoyment of their children keeps them going.”
What to do?
If you and your partner are not able to conceive after having a year of unprotected sex, your first step should be to consult with an obstetrician-gynecologist who can do an initial work-up and refer you to a specialist. But if you are over the age of 35, says Carson, you should wait only six months before talking to your doctor.
Also know that Resolve, a national organization, is a helpful resource on infertility. It can provide support and referrals to doctors (617-623-0744; www.resolve.org).