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Bittersweet Joy: Post-Infertility Parenting

Great Expectations

Sometimes the long, arduous course of infertility treatment and waiting can result in parents who become demanding, as if their children have some kind of debt to pay, says Diane Clapp, a counselor with RESOLVE, a national infertility support and advocacy group. But by expecting brilliance or perfect behavior all the time, they place an unfair burden on the kids. "Such parents need to remember that the infertility treatment was something they did themselves," she says. Children should never have to carry any burden because of the mechanics of their conception.

More common are the overblown expectations that once-infertile parents place on themselves. "It's as if they don't feel deserving if they're anything less than perfect," says Glazer. Laura Bencivenga, for example, recalls her extreme dismay at Caroline's first diaper rash, which developed two weeks after she was born. "I felt totally incompetent, like I couldn't even put on a diaper right," she says. Fortunately, Bencivenga's sister assured her that such ailments are common and are not a reflection of a person's ability to raise a child. Experts advise parents like Bencivenga to try to free themselves of self-imposed obligations to be superparents.

Also common is the assumption that child rearing will be nothing but a joy, says Clapp. Parents may fantasize about how perfect life will be when their baby finally arrives. Then, when the reality of midnight crying and endless diapers finally hits, normal feelings of resentment can stir up guilt.

Previously infertile parents need to give themselves permission occasionally to resent the day-to-day drudgery and strain of parenthood  -- and even to complain, the way other parents do, says Clapp.