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Bittersweet Joy: Post-Infertility Parenting

The Royal Treatment?

Six years ago, an article in The New York Times Magazine posed the question "What does it feel like being a $100,000 baby?" The assumption was that any child conceived at such great expense and effort was bound to be spoiled rotten and to fail the impossible task of justifying her cost in the eyes of her parents.

Michael and Pamela Stevinson, of Madera, CA, confess to giving their in vitro twins anything they want. "When their second birthday came around, our house had more toys than Toys 'R' Us," says their mom.

Adding fuel to the Stevinsons' overindulgence is the fact that they underwent a procedure called fetal reduction. Like hundreds of other couples who've used in vitro fertilization, they had agreed to the implantation of multiple embryos, four of which took. Eighteen weeks into the pregnancy, specialists urged reducing the pregnancy to twins to improve the odds of healthy births. (Quadruplets are more than 13 times likelier to die within the first year than single-birth children. Twins face five times the risk.) "Our joy came with a bittersweet reminder of those we lost," says Pamela. "How can we help but overindulge?"

Still, most experts say that the stereotype of the spoiled "test-tube baby" is inaccurate. "We just don't find the His-Majesty-the-Baby stuff among the families we've studied," says Dorothy Greenfeld, director of psychological services at the Yale Center for Reproductive Medicine. "As a group, these children aren't any more spoiled than others."

Part of the reason may be that the long ordeal of infertility treatment inspires many parents to invest extra effort in disciplining their kids. "All those years of waiting gave us plenty of time to see how we didn't want our children to behave," says Pat Kotsakis, of Palatine, IL, now the mother of a 5-, a 7-, and a 9-year-old. "It bothered us to see other kids acting bratty and spoiled."

Still, discipline can involve an inner struggle, according to Tom and Margaret Potter, of Bridgewater, NJ. "Sometimes I feel guilty after raising my voice to my older daughter," says Margaret. "I think, How could I? She's such an incredible gift!" The Potters' two children  -- Sarah, 4, and Brooke, 1 1/2  -- were born with the help of in vitro fertilization and a gestational surrogate. Margaret's uterus, but not her ovaries, had been removed due to cervical cancer.