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Replacement Child Syndrome

(7 Posts)
SausageHeart Fri 17-Apr-15 12:52:05

Ok, have been hesitating, but will take the plunge...

Is there anybody else at all out there in MN land who has experience of Replacement Child Syndrome?

Ie if you were born as a "replacement" for another child/baby in your family who died, and you feel those circumstances and/or the way your parents dealt with it (or didn't deal with it) had a negative impact on your life?

This is my situation anyway, and it was compounded in my case by my parents both being EA to me and making me the family scapegoat. The EA is one thing, and clearly I identify with many of the posters on here who experienced similar, but the Replacement Child Syndrome (it is officially recognised and named as such) adds another layer to it, and I've never come across anyone else on here with a similar story.

There's precious little out there in terms of material - a few pages on Google and one autobiography that I've come across called "Replacement Child" and I myself was totally unaware of it for a long time. It's kind of a taboo - as a parent myself I understand that, in that of course losing a child is the thing we all dread the most, and our natural sympathies lie with any parent who has been bereaved; it's kind of taboo to say anything negative or critical of someone in that position.

But the experience of RCS is pretty horrific too. I'm not of course saying that's true for every child born after/in reaction to the death of another, not all children in those circumstances actually develop RCS. In an essentially loving family the child may well be protected from it in way that I myself wasn't.

But in a family that isn't very emotionally healthy anyway, and is particularly ill equipped to deal with such a huge trauma, the consequences for the child that comes next can be devastating. They were in my case.

I'm not looking for advice here, or any kind of urgent support - I have worked on these issues, along with the general EA issues, for a long time now, and I have a wonderful therapist who really gets it and is there for me if I need her, though that's not so much these days.

It's just it's quite isolating as obviously there aren't that many people this applies to, and I haven't really come across any other people who feel this has been an issue for them. And as I say, it's kind of taboo; everyone always thinks of the impact of the parents of a child death, and also on siblings already living, but not so much about the impact of the child that comes after, so it's very hard to talk about. So if there is anyone else out there who has some experience of this, and you want to post (or message me), I would really appreciate it.


GERTI Fri 17-Apr-15 20:16:34

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

SausageHeart Fri 17-Apr-15 22:46:03

Thanks for your reply and understanding Gerti, and sorry for your loss. Were you close to your sibling? And have you ever talked to your "replacement" sibling about any of this? (Assuming your parents took that advice!) If so, do they feel it affected them?

One of the things I always found very hard to get my head around was the fact that technically I had this sibling that I just didn't know at all. We were sisters in terms of biology but obviously never sisters in terms of any kind of relationship, and that was a very strange feeling for me. I still never quite know how to refer to her, on the rare occasions I do speak about her.

Re the advice, yes, my parents were given exactly the same advice at the time. Have another baby as soon as you can to "get over it". (My sister was just a baby when she died.) And I was born just a year after her death. You're right, it was standard practice then. Although you might be surprised how many people still do the same today.

I agree that understanding and attitudes have evolved and are evolving (thank God!), but I think there is still quite a wall of silence around this topic. There is no support group for adult "replacement children" anywhere that I know of, nothing I've come across online, and I've searched quite a bit. I feel like I've come an awful long way in dealing with how it's affected me, but it's ongoing, and it would just be nice to have a way of connecting with others.

Although it's good just to talk about it at all!

thanks for you too

DustyMaiden Sat 18-Apr-15 00:10:39

Sorry for your loss. I have always thought of my DS as a rainbow baby not a replacement. He is unaware of his sister, I had been toying with the idea of telling him. After reading your post I think I will leave it.

I am sorry you feel the way you do, glad you are getting help.

YvyB Sat 18-Apr-15 06:41:41

My ds knows he has a sister who would be a year older than him. I never wanted him to grow up feeling he'd been left out of a 'secret'. A close age gap to a baby who has died doesn't necessarily indicate 'replacement': in my case, I had a mc, the following year my baby dd died, I was aware I was getting older and clearly had some problems around having healthy children - it wasn't rocket science to know that waiting until I'd got even older was unlikely to give me a better chance of having a healthy dc.
I am so sorry for anyone who has felt like they only exist to replace a sibling. I have always wanted to do my best to show my ds that he is loved and was very much wanted purely for himself, so I went down the 'honesty is the best policy' path from the outset. He occasionally mentions her, sometimes (less than yearly) he likes to have a look at her things, we have a couple of special Christmas tree decorations he likes to choose where to hang and I collect a certain type of ornament for her birthday but, because he's always known, it's no big deal.
I don't think there is ever an ideal way to handle it as it just isn't an ideal scenario for anyone to be in. Every child deserves to be loved for themselves and every parent knows that a child cannot be replaced because they are unique. I'm so sorry for anyone whose experience of this type of scenario has ever made them question their own worth as a person.

GERTI Sat 18-Apr-15 14:23:17

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

dcali1408 Fri 24-Mar-17 00:18:22

Hi there,

I realise this post was quite a while ago but hopefully the conversation is still of interest. I'm going through a similar experience where I have realised I can identify with this term of RCS but not finding any rich sources on it.

I'm 21 years old and from a young age I have been struggling with anxiety, low-esteem and depression, although, I didn't quite realise. I come from a "stiff-up-a-lip" family, so have believed that all of these symptoms were just my personality.

The past couple years have been both liberating and emotionally challenging as I have tried to get help for the issues but not really knowing what exactly was my problem.

My parents had a child, Danielle, almost exactly a year before I was born. She was born prematurely, and died shortly after. I was aware of this growing up but of course never really considered how it affected my parents.

I've always recognised that my mother and I have had a strained relationship. She still reminds me of how much of a "needy" child I was. However, I remembered a few things too that have, I feel, explained a lot about my mothers relationship with me.

I was quite young when my dad told me that was an "accident". I remember being a little miffed at the time but what my mother said to me in confidence has always been more memorable: "he may have not expected you but I planned you when I decided to come off the pill."

When my parents split up my mum made my dad apologise for what she thought had caused a strain in our relationship (confessing me as a mistake) but I had forgotten about it by that age.

I have concluded that my mother thought that having a child would help her heal but really, as we can understand from RCS, it didn't work out so well.

I don't resent her for it, I can't imagine the pain she went through and I guess given the same situation, I would opt for a distraction rather than dealing with the pain, it's definitely how I have coped with things until now.

I'm very fed up with being so unhappy and I would like to work on my mental health, but one thing I can't imagine is what will happen if I were to ever try to open up to her. My worst fear would be if she didn't acknowledge this as a problem and thought that I was just being neurotic. But I dont think we can have a close relationship without addressing it and being honest. I know I will regret not trying once she's gone. But the little girl in me that was too afraid to even cry in front her mother without good reason is still, unfortunately, there.

Thank you for taking the time to reads this, if you have any thoughts or advice please feel free to share. I hope you have found some comfort since your original post.


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