Just because you’ve had a baby doesn’t mean your struggles with infertility have come to an end. The mental, spiritual and psychological effects of having difficulty conceiving can pursue you long after the much-awaited baby has arrived. In this exclusive Q&A with Kelly James-Enger, co-author (with Jill S. Browning) of The Belated Baby: A Guide to Parenting After Infertility, we discuss the unique challenges of parenting a baby you weren’t sure you would ever have. CF: What are some of the most common struggles for women after they finally get pregnant?
KJE: They’re really concerned that something will go wrong. They’re afraid to be truly happy and enjoy it. There’s a lot of fear associated with every pregnancy, but women who’ve struggled with infertility seem to have more fear.
CF: What can they do to help alleviate that fear?
KJE: Educate yourself, but don’t make yourself crazy. Most pregnancies turn out well, most babies are born healthy. Do what you can [to have a healthy pregnancy], but don’t obsess over it.
CF: A lot of infertile women depend on friendships with other women in the same situation to get them through. How can you maintain those friendships, knowing that you’re pregnant and your friends may not be?
KJE: The best thing to do is to ask your friends, “what will be best for you?” They can be happy for you, but it still can be painful for them to hear about your pregnancy. On the other hand, you may make other friends that are pregnant. Women in the [infertile] community may not feel that same link with them because you’re pregnant and they’re not. When we moved to adoption, I felt really alone, because I knew I was getting a baby.
CF: How do dads react to pregnancy after infertility?
KJE: I think their concerns are similar, but not to the same degree. I think that—understand your wife is going to be obsessed and nervous and scared, and I think the biggest thing is listening and being a support for her. CF: What about those who struggle with secondary infertility—they’ve had at least one baby, but are now having trouble?
KJE: Understand primaries are not sympathetic to secondaries. If you’ve gone through infertility the first time, it’s very different the second time. When you’re going through secondary infertility, your sister-in-law, who’s never had a baby, may not be very sympathetic.
CF: How can you explain to your child that he or she may not be getting a baby brother or sister, once they start asking for one?
KJE: Say something like, “We really love you a lot and love being your parents, and we would love to have another baby, but we don’t know if it’s going to happen.” You don’t want your kid to feel he or she isn’t enough, but you don’t want to get their hopes up.