It is not uncommon for people to marry after one or both of them have a child. It can certainly make sense to want to have a child together as a way to cement and celebrate a new relationship, but often it is not easy, as stepparenting rarely occurs when people are in their 20’s.
It can then be quite a shock to find out that the dreamed-of chance to have a child will end up in a fertility or urology clinic, especially if previous children were easy to conceive.
Parenting a child can feel very different than having one’s own genetic or biological child.
As a Stepparent, The Desire to Parent Your Own Child Can be Real
Step-parenting, like all parenting, can bring joys and challenges. Today’s stepparents are often active participants in children’s lives. That can be a good thing, and even feel good, but it can leave some stepparents wanting more.
Parenting a child can feel very different than having one’s own genetic or biological child. “These aren’t really my children. They already have parents. I am the coach, the friend, the associate and cruise director,” said one woman in my office. “You are—and are not—one of the sports parents. I want to be THE mother.”
Some women want the pregnancy experience they have dreamed of for years. Some men would like to have a child from their own genetics. Now with a new relationship, there is a chance to fulfill the dream of having children of your own.
This can be a very normal desire, but there are additional realities that come with this that you and your partner may need to consider.
Both Partners Really Need to Be on the Same Page
When it comes to wanting more children, both partners should share that desire. Conversations about children are often deal breakers.
For women of advanced maternal age, donor eggs may be part of the equation. If we then add in the need to do in vitro fertilization (IVF) and the costs of undergoing an egg retrieval procedure, or the cost of donor eggs, this can become a source of conflict for couples.
Discussing finances in a relatively new relationship can also be challenging. Financial resources in the new household must be taken into account, as well as what is owed outside of the household, like child support or spousal maintenance.
Having a child at any cost can be a high cost indeed—both financially and emotionally.
Managing The Emotions of Being a Stepparent While Experiencing Infertility
The pain that many stepparents feel about infertility is often overlooked or misunderstood, even between spouses. It is not that stepchildren aren't good enough, it’s that the parenting experience feels unfinished or incomplete. One person has what the other wants.
If empathy is not front and center, the situation can be a set up for unfairness, jealousy, resentment, burden, anger, loss, and despair. Raising someone else’s children with little credit or appreciation does not work and is not sustainable.
It is crucially important that each spouse speaks honestly. Swallowing feelings and defensiveness will build more negative emotion. Individual and couples therapy is important as it can lead to decisions that both spouses can live with.
It is not that stepchildren aren't good enough, it’s that the parenting experience feels unfinished or incomplete
Questions to Ask Moving Forward
Working together on a new project, including fertility treatment, can allow each partner to show the best of themselves. There can be a sense of shared effort and shared reward. Should you find success in adding a new family member, a child can be truly treasured.
But questions may remain:
- Will one more child be enough?
- Are there extra embryos requiring further decisions? (Read: What Are Your Options For Your Remaining Embryos?)
- Will each child in the family, regardless of how and when each child came into the family, be treated equally?
These are additional tasks to address in a blended family; with love, fairness, and negotiation, all of these issues can be resolved.