The decision to have children or not have children is unique and private to every set of prospective parents, and parents with an ill child are no exception: you will have to look inside yourself for the answer. But if your first child deals with a chronic condition, you may have concerns that parents whose first child is well do not.
First is the influence of genetic conditions. If your first child’s condition is heritable, a second child may be at risk, too. Rather than guessing at this risk, a genetic counselor should be able to put a fairly specific number on it. Knowing this risk can become part of your decision-making process about having a second child. However, keep in mind that many options exist for parents in this situation, including adoption and non-traditional conception strategies that can avoid the risk of one or both genetically at-risk parents.
Then it seems as if money, time, stress and other factors of your life that includes chronic illness might argue against having another child. Some prospective parents also talk about worries that bringing another child into a family dealing with chronic illness might be unfair to both the ill child and second child. With your time and energy and resources already stretched thin, will there be enough for another child? Will there still be enough for your ill child?
However, as difficult as having a second child may seem, it can also be a tremendously hopeful addition to challenging lives. Basically, some parents of a chronically ill first child find that a second child adds more love to their lives. Rather than “stretching” love more thinly, a second child can boost the total amount of love that swirls around your family. And this love can point in many directions – a second child’s love can extend to the ill child, and can also provide the ill child with another opportunity to express love.
Of course there are challenges. Just like in a family without chronic illness, there will almost certainly be sibling rivalry, sleepless nights, and added financial strain. But many parents of children with chronic conditions find that a second child can open a window of perspective or “release” that had been closed.
This post is absolutely not meant to argue for or against having a second child. That decision is yours and yours alone, and the dynamics of your life and relationships are too unique to squeeze into a one-size-fits all box. But we hope that this post offers food for thought. Once you have rested with these ideas and listened to your head and your heart, any decision you make will be the right one.
Dr. Pikiewicz earned her PhD in Clinical Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria, CA. She completed pre-doctoral training at the Nan Tolbert Nurturing Center in Ojai, CA, and her post-doctoral internship at the Boulder Institute for Psychotherapy and Research. At both sites, Dr. Pikiewicz worked with a range of adult, adolescent and child clients in individual, couple, family and group settings. She also holds a B.S. in environmental science from Allegheny College and a teaching credential from Western Washington University.