The Cherished Child: Parenting after Infertility

Dawn Davenport


The Cherished Child: Parenting after  IVF or adoption

Are children conceived after IVF or adoption more cherished or loved because of the struggle?

I was talking with a woman last month who was in the midst of trying to decide about the next step on her infertility treatment journey. They have been trying to conceive for three years.  She told me that what kept her going was knowing that they had so much love to give to a child. “One thing I know for sure is that when we finally have kids, they are going to be the most loved children in the world.”

There is some evidence that she’s right.  Parents who have struggled to conceive make very good parents.

IVF Moms Show Greater Warmth Towards Child

Research shows that families created with the help of fertility treatment compare favorably with families that conceived without treatment, especially after the first 12 months.  There is some research that infertility patients are more anxious during pregnancy and their child’s first year of life, but the anxiety usually passes after that.

In the European Study of Assisted Reproductive Families, 116 families with children conceived via IVF were compared to 115 families formed through adoption, 120 families with naturally conceived children, and 111 families with children conceived via donor insemination.

The study found that mothers through IVF, compared to natural conception mothers, showed towards their children:

  • Greater warmth
  • More emotional involvement
  • More interaction
  • Less stress
  • More overprotective

Adoptive Parents Invest More Time with Their Kids

Parents who chose to adopt rather than stay in infertility treatment also make great parents.  Studies show that adoptive parents invest more time and financial resources in their children than biological parents and “evidence a high level of strength in terms of warmth, communication, discipline, and cohesion.”   Researchers speculate that “One of the reasons adoptive parents invest more is that they really want children, and they go to extraordinary means to have them.” Amen to that.


I have to admit that I worry about the effect of over protectiveness on kids, but I think our entire generation of parents is over protective, not just parents that conceived or adopted after years of trying.

I don’t think we have a good grasp on how to weigh relative risks.  We are overly worried about low chance risks such as stranger abduction; as a result we micromanage our kids’ lives because we are afraid to let them out of our sight.  The older my kids get the more I believe that children need to learn certain lessons from failure and falling and figuring things out on their own. But that is the subject of a different blog.

Expecting Perfection

Parents that have had to struggle to become parents sometimes have a hard time giving themselves permission to have the normal feelings of frustration that comes along with parenting.  (See last week’s blog about a mom through surrogacy and donor egg.) They may feel let down after all the years of anticipation.  They may think they don’t have the right to complain about being tired, or wishing for a day to themselves, or craving time to wash their hair and shave their legs.  But fortunately, these feeling also usually pass with time.  Most parents of two year olds and teens feel pretty darn entitled to their frustration, regardless how they got their kids.

Impact of Twins on Parenting

Infertility can affect the quality of parenting in two ways.  Infertility treatment results in a disproportionately large number of multiple births, and much research supports that parenting twins and triplets is much more stressful on parents.  Studies of families with assisted reproductive twins found higher levels of anxiety and depression compared to parents with assisted reproductive singletons, even though the parents of the twins through IVF had expressed a greater openness to multiple births.

Everyday I see and hear from people who have struggled for years to create their families.  I don’t know whether these kids are “the most loved in the world”, and as a mom by both birth and adoption, I can’t say any of my children are more cherished than the other. I can say, however, that being cherished is probably the greatest gift we can give our kids.

What do you think? Are children who arrived after their parents have struggled for years to become a family more cherished?


Image credit: Carol Von Canon
Originally published in 2010, but substantially updated in 2015

27/05/2015 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Blog, Infertility, Infertility Blog | 36 Comments

36 Responses to The Cherished Child: Parenting after Infertility

  1. Avatar Pam says:

    I commonly see that there are good adoptive parents and not so good. Unfortunately, when I child or infant is brought into a family to solve a problem the child has a hard time living up to this standard. When an adoption takes place the child is in crisis mode and many adoptive parents don’t seem to understand, they are joyous, while their baby or child is in extreme distress from losing his first mother. When the parents are available to give the child the mental health counseling he needs and make decisions based on the child’s needs and not theirs, it can be a more positive experience. Parenting an adoptive child can be extremely stressful and unrewarding.

    • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

      Thanks for sharing your observances. Yes, there are a lot of pressures on the adopted child in scenarios like the one you mentioned. And honestly, many families, both by birth and by adoption, would benefit from mental health supports when struggling with life after infertility or life after adoption. Or both.

  2. Avatar Rach says:

    I have to agree with Christina, studies such as these do nothing but make parents question each others parenting abilities. Most parents love their children and do all they can to make their lives wonderful regardless of how that child came into their lives.


  3. Avatar Laura says:

    I have issues with over protectiveness. I guess when you lose pregnancy, after pregnancy you tend to hold on a little tighter to the child you have. But he is loved SO much and cherished. I am so blessed to have him!!

  4. Avatar Angela says:

    Shanisa, you make a very good point!

  5. Avatar Angela says:

    I’m so glad you mentioned the feeling of thinking you shouldn’t feel tired, stressed, frustrated, etc. I have also experienced, or at least I perceive that I have, other people thinking I shouldn’t feel that way simply because I “choose” “this.” Fortunately, I do have friends who have children and can understand regardless of how my daughter came to me that I do get aggravated, frustrated, etc.

    I love daughter to pieces, but sometimes I just want a few minutes to myself! 🙂 Don’t we all?

  6. Avatar Kara says:

    Dawn, lord knows I think your one of the good guys. I think you have a phenomenal site and your work is exceptional. Did any of these studies statistically control for the effect of socio-economic status? Or, even better, designed to control for socio-economic status?


    • Kara, I’m going on my memory, which is a risky thing to do. I don’t think the infertility studies controlled for socio-economic level (plus they were quite small), but I think the adoption studies did control for socio-economics.

  7. Avatar Jamie says:

    Great post!

  8. Avatar shanisa says:

    This is a very insightful article! Thanks so much for posting it. It’s all very tricky to implement, but I think it comes down to common sense and compassion. Should parents who went through a struggle be able to air their feelings or frustrations just like any other parent? yes! However, it’s important to exercise compassion. I’ve seen too many parents post fertility treatment vent about their frustrations of not getting any sleep, not having any time to themselves, etc, to the people who they know are still TTC or trying to adopt. This is just inconsiderate. Audiences should be chosen with compassion. I try not to discuss the trials and tribulations of my job with my friends/family who are struggling to find employment (especially these days), nor do I talk about how “i hate my hair” to someone who lost all of theirs to chemo. It’s just some common sense and compassion. We all need to vent, but that doesn’t mean we should all have a license to do so to whoever, whenever, without considering the feelings of others.

  9. Avatar Anon AP says:

    I’m struggling with this one a bit. While I am love our child and appreciate her, I can’t find it in myself to say that I do so any more than my sister and brother-in-law love their son or any more than my friends who adore their children.

    I think we might have more wonder. We might marvel more at our daughter’s fingers and smiles…but I’m not sure. I’ve been flooded by friends’ baby pictures enough to know that every minor muscle change on their babies’ faces requires a new picture. Hmm. Gonna have to think about this.

    The article you cited also had this excerpt:
    “Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, welcomed the study’s findings, but cautioned against possibly exaggerated interpretations of it. ‘It’s an affirmation that there are all sorts of families that are good for kids,’ he said. ‘Adoptive parents aren’t less good or better. They just bring different benefits to the table. In terms of how families are formed, it should be a level playing field.’ “

  10. Angela, yes, and allowing all parents a chance to complain, because as miraculous as is parenting, it is also hard, and at times, unrelenting work!

  11. Avatar Angela says:

    I do think couples who’ve struggled long and hard have an added dimension to their parenting. But there is a loss of innocence as well that can’t be brought back. And the feeling of not being able to complain? Oh so real. And often pointed out to the person as well. (In my experience, I wasn’t even allowed to respond to “how are you” with the truth. It had to be all rosy, all the time.) while people who research such questions are truly interested in the dynamics of different types of families, as readers of such articles, I think it’s important to keep in mind that ALL children are miraculous gifts, and as we still live in a redeemed but not restored world, the spectrum of a parents love is wide. Our best response is to continue loving, encouraging, and normalizing the frustrations that come with parenting.

  12. My pleasure! Thanks for all u do.

  13. Well, I do think we love them more but you can't really say that can you 🙂

  14. Meg, I forgot to say thanks so much for passing the link around. It truly helps people find us and as a nonprofit that really really helps.

  15. Thank you all for your comments. Gemma, I agree that it's not fair to say that we love them more, but we sure do appreciate them. Please remember to cut and paste your comments over into the comment section of the blog so others can see them. Thanks.

  16. Oh Dawn, I loved this article!! I passed it on to my LinkedIn Groups with a link to your site (which I also love and told them was a great resource) Thank you for all you do.Meg

  17. There are two very good books on this topic (neither published by Perspectives Press.) One is Ellen Glazer's The Long Awaited Stork and the other is The Belated Baby by Kelly James-Enger and Jill Browning. I looked them up on Amazon because I couldn't remember the second author of the second book and found that Amazon also lists my book Adopting: Sound Choices, Strong Families in the parenting after infertility category.

  18. Loved this blog! I don't think it's necessarily fair to say we love our kids more but I do think we appreciate what it means to be a parent more. After years of struggling and finally welcoming a daughter through adoption I can honestly say she is cherished above anything else and appreciate and respect the journey that it took to finally see that.

  19. Avatar Rita says:

    I LOVED LOVED LOVED this. I agree that it probably isn’t a bigger love than other parents feels for their kids but I think we’re more appreciative at the very least.

  20. Avatar Patricia T. S. says:

    This made me cry. If only God would give me a child he or she would be cherished more than any child ever born. Thank you. and thank you for you show. Some weeks it’s a real life raft.

  21. Avatar CNA says:

    What a great resource!

  22. Avatar Wendy J. says:

    My beautiful brillant wonderful son was born via surrogate and donor egg after a 7 year battle with IF. I loved that you used the word “cherished”. I can’t imagine a child being more cherished than he is. I continue to listen to your shows on both IF and adoption. I know we’d like another and I have no idea how he or she will come into our lives, but he or she will also be cherished.

    P.S. Please keep doing some general parenting type shows.

  23. Avatar Wishing4One says:

    This was a great article.Thanks for writing!

  24. Avatar kimbosue says:

    I couldn’t agree more!

  25. Avatar Catrisha T says:

    I mostly agree with this post. I feel as though my child is a cherished child since it took us almost 6yrs to conceive him after enduring multiple treatments and giving up, but there are times that I’m at my wits end and lose my cool. It comes with parenting and it’s only natural. I also know that IF puts alot of strain and struggle on your marriage before hand, and thus once you become a parent sometimes that still shows through at times even when you try to be on the same page for things. I think every circumstance and situation is different, but I’m glad that you wrote this to bring it to light of other’s eyes that don’t feel this way. Maybe it will bring meaning to them for their child/ren.

    ICLW #33

    • Avatar Dawn says:

      Catrisha, you raise an interesting point. I think that sometimes former IF patients that finally have this long awaited child have a hard time letting themselves feel the normal frustrations of parenting. It’s almost like they feel that they can’t complain. Parenting is hard at times and kids, all kids, can get on our nerves. Just because they are cherished doesn’t mean that they can’t drive us to our wits ends.

  26. Avatar Jennifer says:

    First of all, let me say that I am sorry Christina. I am so sorry your adoptive parents were abusive. That is wrong.
    I know there are bad parents in all ways they became parents. (not sure that makes sense, but I hope you get what I mean) I would hope that the more time and effort one puts into becoming a parent it would make them a better parent, but that’s not always the case. Just like not all people who get pregnant easily are as good of parents as those who spent more time and money. Some are and some aren’t.

    ICLW #28

  27. Avatar heather says:

    Our child is adopted and special needs. We also have a biological child. Tis a shame that some have had bad experiences, but I am standing up to say: I agree.

    ICLW #29

  28. Avatar randi says:

    This blog brought tears to my eyes and usually anything with research in it doesn’t do that for me. I love love love the title “The Cherished Child.” That is exactly right.

  29. Avatar Christina says:

    { Studies show that adoptive parents invest more time and financial resources in their children than biological parents and “evidence a high level of strength in terms of warmth, communication, discipline, and cohesion.” }

    So does that mean that I, as a biological mother, do NOT invest time and financial resources or evidence strength in terms of warmth, communication, etc.? I disagree. You can’t generalize adoptive parents, nor biological parents that way.

    My adoptive parents invested nothing in me and exhibited no warmth, communication or cohesion. The only thing they evidenced was the discipline part, and that was done through abuse.

    • Avatar Dawn says:

      Christina, I am so sorry for your experience. No child deserves that. You share a good point–there are lousy adoptive parents and parents through assisted reproductive technology as well. When we look at research we are looking at large (and sometimes not large enough) groups and can miss the details. And no, I don’t think this research implies that bio parents are as a group inferior.

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