I’m Not a Bad Person

Wanting another child who is biologically mine – and my husband’s – does not make me a bad person, in exactly the same way that wanting a second child at all does not make me a bad person.

Perhaps you think that those are obvious statements, but your opinion is not, so it appears, shared by everyone. And amongst all the pain, hurting and difficult decisions of the last week or so, these people sharing their beliefs with me has been an extra source of heart ache, grief and guilt. Not to mention tears. So many tears.

It’s never easy to be in the position of hearing someone else’s bad news. There’s that whole sense of “There, but for the grace of God, go I”. And there is plainly and simply not knowing quite what to say. I get that it’s awkward. But in that position, we’d all do well to remember that we aren’t the ones who are in the truly difficult place, who deserve allowances and understanding. That is reserved for the person sharing their news. And the very best thing that you can do is engage your brain before you start to speak. I don’t expect anyone to say anything all that insightful, for I know that the truth is that no words can repair my dreams or fix the pain that I feel in my heart right now. However, there are plenty of helpful and supportive things you can say. Such as “I’m really sorry”, or “Life really sucks sometimes”, and “I’m thinking of you”. Or even simply “I don’t know what to say.”

Examples of the kinds of things that I have been hearing instead include: “Oh well, at least you already have a child.”

I only wish that I was kidding.

I’ve said it before, but clearly it bears repeating again: Wanting to have another child, to give my son a sibling and to grow our family beyond three has no bearing on how grateful or blessed I feel to already have my son. But when people say things like this, the implication is clearly there that I don’t appreciate him enough and that miscarrying a second child is somehow less significant than experiencing a miscarriage before you have had any children.

I’m in the unfortunate position to be able to tell you that the latter statement is categorically untrue. It hurts every bit as much.

It matters every bit as much.

And there is absolutely nothing selfish about wanting more than one child. I love my son more than I have ever been able to find the words to explain. In fact, the love I feel for him is one of many reasons that I so desperately want to experience motherhood again from the beginning. If you still doubt me, take a look at your own family and those of your friends. Having more than one child is not some sort of exceptional circumstance. It’s a basic maternal desire that I shouldn’t repeatedly find myself apologising for.

Perhaps my best response would be the one suggested by the lovely Katie. “Oh well, you probably wouldn’t miss your second child, then. May I have them, please?”

It’s true that before we judge – or in this case, speak – we really should at least try to stand in the other person’s shoes, if only very briefly.

The other issue that has arisen over and over again – beginning even before we started this IVF cycle – is the question of biology. Prior to even attempting to create another child of our own, we were being asked to consider sperm donors as a solution to our fertility issue. And since losing the baby, more than one person has asked me whether we have “simply” considered adopting a sibling for Thomas.

“Because there are so many children out there who need a family. It’s what I would do in your position.”

“You’re not in my position, though, are you?” is all that I want to scream. You’re speaking in hypotheticals, from the heart of your family and your 2.4 children. Or from behind a masque of naievity borne of not yet having tried to have your own children. Tried, of course, and failed. This will be the third or fourth cliche I’ve written today – and believe me cliches are something I usually try to avoid – but sometimes, nothing else will do: You actually have no idea what you would do until you’re in the position. Unlike you, who I don’t, incidentally, see rushing out to adopt all these children yourself anyway, we’ve actually considered all of our options. Carefully.

I could just stick with the fact that adoption isn’t, actually, a “simple” process at all. But there is so much more that I need to say. Just because we are infertile, it seems that to some people it automatically becomes our responsibility to adopt children that need a family. Not considering that pathway apparently makes me selfish. Yet for those who are fertile, choosing to procreate in the more conventional way is perfectly acceptable. Tell me how that is right, or fair.

Yes, perhaps we should all be more magnanimous. Think more of others instead of ourselves. But that isn’t the way life works, and I don’t accept that I should be singled out for my desire to have children that are genetically ours simply because that has proved to be so difficult.

That’s the simple truth: I want another of Ian’s children. I wasn’t ever a deeply maternal person, as a small child, teenager or young adult. In fact, I wasn’t sure that I wanted children at all until I met my husband. And then, suddenly, I wanted his children. I wanted us to have children together.

I’m aware that there is an awful lot more than makes a mother – or father – than biology alone, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter at all. Maybe I’d feel differently if we didn’t already have Thomas, but as it is I’d very much like him to have siblings that, genetically speaking, are full siblings. And if you look at what is widely regarded as an “average” family, if you look at what occurs most often, how can anyone suggest that this is so strange? It doesn’t mean I think adoption, or the use of donor sperm (or eggs) are bad choices. But they are not an answer to our situation. they don’t provide the same end result.

At the end of the day, I’m just a woman, heartbroken and grieving for a dream, who is still clinging to the image of a family that she created in her head, struggling to accept that the reality will be very different.

I’m not a bad person.

I’m a normal person facing a less-than-normal situation.

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11 Replies to “I’m Not a Bad Person”

  1. I have a question. And of course, this is probably going to sound offensive but I don’t know how to ask it any other way. I think my main question when reading your story is why are you so forcefully against the alternatives? It seems to be the thing that I’m missing from your story.

    I get that you want to have a full sibling for Thomas, and of course wanting a second child does not make you a bad person (I honestly don’t know where people come up with this). And it’s not even that I think having a genetic sibling for Thomas is a bad thing (because that would be weird to think), but I’m wondering why is adopting out of the question? Maybe I missed the blog post on it, but you just simply state “That’s not for us.” and I’m just wondering why? I know it’s not what you imagined but there are a lot of things in life that happen that we don’t imagine happening, and I’m just wondering why the alternative isn’t acceptable at all. Not that giving up your dream is easy (it ISN’T — that’s not what I’m saying!).

    Would you ever adopt or would you just have Thomas? Or would you just keep trying for the biological child even though it might cost thousands and never give you a child (or a child much later down the road)? Or maybe you don’t know…

    1. It’s not an offensive question. I have no problem having a discussion about it. I just object to sweeping statements about what other people would do in my shoes, or assumptions that we haven’t thought it through, or that it’s easy and simple to achieve.

      Adoption is not for us at the moment in no small part because it doesn’t satisfy my desire for a biological child. But it’s not just about what I want – I don’t think it would be fair on a potential adoptive child to start down that road whilst that desire remains so high (and indeed it would most likely be flagged in the application process). Adoption in the UK is also most likely very different from the situation elsewhere, including the US. We’re a small country, for starters. There are very few babies given up for adoption here, thanks possibly in part to relatively liberal abortion laws, plus a welfare state that helps support mothers whom in other places might have no choice but to give a child up. The majority of domestic adoptions are of older children who will have had some degree of difficulty in their start in life. We’re simply not in a place right now to take on an older child, or a disabled child, or a sibling group. It’s not to say that it isn’t something that we’d come back to in the future, but it isn’t as simple as a couple of naive commenters I’ve been on the receiving end of would seem to believe. I suppose it’s as I say, we’ve considered it carefully, looked at what is involved and required, and decided right now that it isn’t for us and, equally, we’re not suitable for it.

      I honestly don’t know where we are going to end up right now. It’s probably a little too raw and too soon to have it all figured out. But having Thomas as an only child is a likely outcome. And I know that in time, when I’ve done my grieving, I will be OK with that. It’s clearly very far from the worst thing in the world.

  2. Caroline, I completely understand where you’re coming from. In my pre-mummy days I always thought if we had difficulties I would happily consider adoption. Oh, how things change! Now, I don’t long for any old kid (if you get where I’m coming from), but like you I want a “proper” sibling.

    Please don’t feel you have to justify your emotions. What works for other couples/families doesn’t work for all, and a little bit of appreciation and consideration will go a long way.

    Sending lots of love & hugs xxx

    1. Thanks Jo, I’m sure that you get exactly where I am coming from – although I do wish you didn’t have to be in such a similar position! xx

  3. We’ve been asked about adoption, too, usually with the attitude that they might be suggesting our very lifeline, a family-building option we haven’t even considered! It’s like the latest cool website (à la Pinterest) – have you guys heard of adoption? It’s perfect for “people like you.” We actually would love to adopt an older child someday, hopefully a diabetic. They’re often considered less adoptable, which breaks my heart. But a diabetic household would be in a uniquely good place to adopt one. But I still want to carry a child (I LONG for morning sickness!), still want to experience labor, still want the newborn moments… the impossible teeny-tinyness, pitiful little cries, utter dependence, bonding… and I still want to see my green eyes peeking out from behind Ethan’s red hair, and I still want to watch with baited breath to see how our personality traits manifest in our most important and lasting collaboration 🙂 You’re not alone, and you are most certainly NOT a bad person!! 🙂 Hugs and prayers!

    1. Thanks Katie. You see, I think that some people think that as I already been so incredibly lucky enough to “do” pregnancy, and have a genetic child, that all those wonderful reasons you state for wanting to do it too somehow don’t apply to me. But they do. The fact that I’ve done it once I really do know exactly how wonderful it truly is is a driving force in wanting to do it again. And that in itself in no way means that I think there is anything wrong with those who only want one child. I suppose the point is that we all want different things. We shouldn’t really have to justify those decisions just because we are unfortunate enough to be facing infertility.

  4. No you most definitely are not! Arrgh it’s as if it brings out a whole new level of stupid things for people to say on top of the usual post-loss banalities (anything involving angel babies and “at least you’ve got your health” being my personal favourites).

    If my dream was to learn to windsurf and it was prooving difficult, no one would think it logical to ask me if I’d considered paragliding instead.

    You have a dream. The reasons why it is your dream and why you have decided that adoption/donation are not the right paths for you are entirely valid whatever they may be. All we and anyone can do is mourn with you what I very much hope is only a setback to that dream.

    And for the record, I love Katie’s answer – I definitely think you should try it out!

    1. As always, you’ve put it so well. I do wish it were only a setback, but I’m not sure that we haven’t come to the end of the line. I definitely need a bit more time though.

  5. Caro, it’s such a horrible situation. I can’t pretend to know what you are going through, I have only ever felt a tiny slice of what you are feeling. But I can totally understand the strong desire to have a sibling for Thomas, and to me it would also feel incomprehensible to have another child that wasn’t Emily’s biological brother or sister. All this compounded by the grief you must be feeling following on from your miscarriage. I don’t have any cheery or inspiring words for you. Just to say I am thinking of you, and I hope that in time you will be ok. Whatever the outcome. Sending you gentle hugs. xx

    1. Thank you Amy. I don’t think there is any need to compare – every loss is awful, and everyone experiences it differently anyway. I do know that you understand, and that’s always helpful to know x

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