The Loneliness of Secondary Infertility
As the mother to one beautiful perfect-for-you child, you wear your Mommy-badge proudly. But something is missing. Your heart longs for another baby, and you cannot get pregnant again. The loneliness of secondary infertility is hard – you are a mom, yet you are also infertile.
It’s not an uncommon struggle. There are many like you, who revel in the joy of parenting a little one while longing for another. And you are happy; honestly, you are. But this fight to get pregnant again? Others around you don’t get it at all. It’s got you wandering in new territory – this space between motherhood and infertility feels lonely and bleak.
What Are You Complaining About?
If you’ve been around our online community for any length of time, you have heard sad stories of how the rest of the world lacks support and understanding for those struggling with infertility. But it seems to be even more lacking for those who have secondary infertility.
The comments sound something like one of these:
- “What are you complaining about? You have a child. A beautiful child. Be happy with that!”
- “You have such a great opportunity! You can focus all your love and energy on the one child you have. How lucky is he?”
- “Lots of folks CHOOSE to have just one child. Have you read that new book by XYZ? It’s all about the joys of raising an only!”
They make it sound like parenting an only is the trendiest choice ever. Like you are so “hip” for your choice. (Does anyone still say “hip” as related to trends? My 19-year-old says not.)
Worse yet, they make it sound as if you aren’t really infertile. It’s stupid. And just plain wrong.
Are You REALLY Infertile?
When a couple has struggled to get pregnant with their first child, their struggle with secondary infertility might not come as a surprise. It’s a little more surprising for a couple trying to conceive many years after the first pregnancy, at a time when the woman has reached the waning stage of her most reproductive years.
Sometimes beyond all reason, and often the most surprising (for them) is the young-ish couple who previously conceived relatively quickly the first time now but now find themselves unable to have a second.
At this point in your struggle, the world around you might start to question the validity of your infertility. You find yourself fielding questions.
- “But wait. You aren’t really infertile, right? I mean, you do have a kid. Right?”
- “Huh. I thought since you were able to have one child, you can’t really be diagnosed as infertile.”
What is it with that one word, “really?” It can totally change the feel of a question, can’t it?
Not only does this line of questioning trivialize the pain you are feeling right now over your struggle, but many women report that there is significant additional pain to being doubted in this way. These questions – which have already been swirling in your mind – when asked aloud, by friends, family or medical professionals are isolating. It makes this space of secondary infertility feel even more lonely.
Creating A Family Resources for The Pain of Infertility:
Where Do You Belong?
The loneliness of secondary infertility it quite often compounded by a division of the “haves” and the “have nots.” We sometimes see it in our online community, and I’m sure you’ve experienced it in real life.
- The “haves” are happily, busily doing all things kid. Parenting consumes them. And you get that – you may “only have one” but that one is a full-time occupation.
- The “have nots” are focused on “trying” – tracking cycles, researching treatments, and getting to appointments. You totally understand that – you are trying to make a plan too.
- And then there are the “haves” who are content with their childlessness or with parenting an only (even if just for now) and they don’t “get” your pain. It’s okay; you can sort of remember being there before your only came on the scene.
And it’s okay with you, these “haves” and “have nots” in your life. Except that it’s lonely because you aren’t quite sure where you fit. To ask “where do I belong?” can absolutely exacerbate that loneliness.
Is this Hurting My Child?
Perhaps one of the most painful parts of this struggle with secondary infertility is the dashed expectation of choosing your family size and dynamic.
When you and your partner talked about building a family together, that dream started with a baby that satisfies your and your partner’s desire for a baby. Once you have your first child, you aren’t just dreaming of having more children for yourselves. You understand the benefits of sibling relationships. The dream becomes about that life-long friendship between your kids, throughout childhood into adulthood together. Facing the end of that dream hurts you.
But now you question if it’s also hurting your child to be an “only child” for so long, or potentially remain as your only forever. Losing the ability to choose that path yourself is often a crushing disappointment when you think you are hurting your sweet little one too.
So, What Do I Do About It?
First, if you suspect that you are facing secondary infertility, or if you have been trying to get pregnant again for a year or more, make an appointment with your physician. Talk with her about what testing you should undergo. Go over your health history to discuss what changes might have occurred that could be contributing to the difficulty in conceiving.
Creating A Family Resources on Starting Infertility Treatment:
If you are struggling with the loneliness of secondary infertility, it’s time to talk candidly about it. When comments hurt or feel too intrusive, have a come-back at the ready. Depending upon your temperament, you can choose to educate nicely but firmly. Or you can go the snarky route.
Find your “village” of folks who support you and care for you well, even if they don’t “get” the pain you are facing. Tell them what you need and what is not helpful in this season. Figure out what your boundaries are and stick to them. No one has the right to make you feel embarrassed or ashamed of your struggle.
Finally, if you need help with any of this, find a therapist or counselor who is skilled at the issues of infertility grief. You deserve to navigate this path with support, tools, and hope!
Do you struggle with secondary infertility? Have you felt this loneliness? What did you do about it? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!
Image Credit: Kanishka samrat; Dr. Logan