What you think your life will look like and what it actually is like are not necessarily the same, and how you relate to your reality can determine how fulfilled or how empty you can feel.

I always pictured myself having two children (similar to my family of origin, as I have one older brother), especially because I consider my brother to be one of my close friends. My husband also wanted several children since he has 2 siblings.

My husband and I have one son who is 6 years old, and we were ambivalent for several years about whether or not to expand our family. After two early miscarriages, conflict about parenting, and financial constraints, we have decided that it is best to remain a family of three (plus our puppy). Most days, I feel at peace with our decision to have one child, but I still have my moments of yearning for another baby or feeling envious of women in my life who recently had a second child.

I should note that I am someone who has high expectations of myself and my loved ones, and I have spent many hours, months, and even years feeling disappointed in myself and in the people closest to me. However, I am working on letting go of feeling like a victim of my circumstances and incessantly comparing myself to what others have. I am realizing that I can experience gratitude for what I have and the possibilities of where my life can go.

“You have the power to turn your disappointments into blessings when you allow yourself to process them as learning moments rather than losing moments.”
-Cleo Wade

Compared to many women and couples, it was very easy for my husband and me to get pregnant, and I believe that our son was conceived after one of the first times we tried. I was 36 years old and we had been married for one year, and I was extremely excited to be starting our family. I was in the midst of training to be a psychotherapist in New York City, and life was full of promise.

However, things were not perfect because my husband was out of work and my pregnancy had complications. My dream and hope of having children naturally were immediately dashed. As I sat in my first appointment with my obstetrician, she told me that I would be required to have a scheduled c-section because I had a myomectomy several years before to remove a large fibroid. As I was told this, tears streamed down my face and my doctor looked at me with an expressionless face. This was the first big disappointment I had in my fertility journey.

In addition to that disappointment, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, and boy did I gain a new respect for people who live with diabetes! Aside from that my pregnancy went pretty smoothly until it was my c-section date in April 2013. The c-section went fine, but once my son was delivered out of my uterus I heard that he would need to go to the NICU because he had some amniotic fluid in his lungs and because he was tiny (4 pounds 14 ounces) so he had a hard time regulating his body temperature.      

Disappointment number three was that I would have to be on a separate floor from my infant. In the hours after my c-section, the nurses were all encouraging me to remain in bed and rest, while my husband, my parents, and my in-laws were meeting my son for the first time in the NICU. My husband (who happens to be quite outspoken and extroverted) had to get on the phone and fight for me to get a wheelchair so I could go up to the NICU and meet my baby for the first time.

After that, my husband and I were determined to be up in the NICU feeding my son, changing his diaper, and holding him as much as possible. I set an alarm for the middle of the night and I shuffled slowly down the hospital hallways in my robe so that I could breastfeed my son.

Now let’s fast forward to a couple of years later. My husband and I started to think about having a second child when our son was around 2, but our relationship was struggling so we started couples therapy. We would “try” to get pregnant here and there, but never with a lot of consistency or focus.

When my son was 3 we had our first miscarriage, and I started spotting at my first prenatal appointment. Then the following spring I got pregnant again and I had to have a DNC to remove the tiny fetus from my uterus. I never thought that I would be having the equivalent of an abortion after 40 years old.

Despite both miscarriages being very early, they were very sad and I went through a mourning period after each one. We didn’t consider doing IVF because of the expense, so I have worked very hard for several years to feel settled about our decision to be a family of three. 

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Here are my takeaways from my personal fertility journey:

  • Don’t compare yourself to other families or women. Do feel grateful to the child or children you do have.
  • Having high expectations can lead to disappointment, but you can learn a lot from disappointments in life.
  • Seek out support if you have a miscarriage. Talk to friends, family members, and your partner, join a support group for pregnancy loss, or get help from a psychotherapist to process your emotions.
  • Having an only child is not “bad.” It doesn’t mean that your child will be lonely or have no social skills.
  • Be gentle with yourself as you decide whether or not to expand your family. It is a big decision and you can raise happy, fulfilled children whether they have siblings or not.

licensed psychoanalyst cora goldfarb

Cora G. is a licensed psychoanalyst in New York City. Some of her specialties include depression, anxiety, panic attacks, trauma, and working with people who have been affected by addiction.