Secondary Infertility is a Lonely Place

Dawn Davenport


Secondary infertility is hard and misunderstood

Those with secondary infertility are caught between the worlds of infertility and motherhood. It’s a lonely place to be.

You’re blessed with one child. You’ve firmly moved over into Mommyland. You can discuss the latest stroller and best preschools with the best of them. You’re happy, truly you are. But when you can’t get pregnant again, you’re stuck in the world in between motherhood and infertility—the world of secondary infertility.  You’re a mom and yet you’re also infertile.

No Right to Complain

Support and understanding is often in short supply for all those who are infertile, but it is especially lacking for those suffering from secondary infertility. After all, you already have a child. You should be happy. You should be focused on the child you have. Plenty of people only have one child. Heck, there are even books celebrating the benefits of only children. Basically, only kids are the “new black”–they’re the hip thing to do. I mean, it’s not like you’re really infertile, right? Wrong.

Do You Really Qualify as Infertile?

Sometimes secondary infertility is no surprise since the couple struggled to get pregnant with their first child. Sometimes it strikes when trying to conceive many years after the first when the woman has reached the hinterland of her reproductive years. But sometimes beyond all reason, a young(ish) couple that fairly easily conceived the first time finds themselves unable to have a second. But it’s not like you’re really infertile if you have one child. I mean, you’ve gotten pregnant once, so clearly you can do it again, right? Wrong?

Where Do You Belong?

At times it seems that the online and in-person world is divided between those who have kids and those who don’t. The “don’ts” are divided between those who don’t want them (at least for now) and those who are infertile. If you are happily parenting a child, but desperately want another, where do you fit? The mommy world is busy with all things kids, while the infertility world is busy with all things trying. The secondarily infertile are busy with both.

Hurting for Three

With your first, you wanted a child to satisfy you and your partners desire to parent. When you are trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant with your second, you want this child for yourself, of course, but you also want a sibling for your first child. Children often fantasize the big brother/sister role and the joy of having a childhood partner. But even if your child is not begging for a baby, you see the advantages throughout life of having a brother or sister to walk the walk with them not just in childhood, but throughout adulthood and old age. Not being able to provide this for you child is painful times three.

But really, why are you complaining. Some people can’t even have one child. Just be thankful, just relax, just count your blessings. Right? Wrong.

Have you experienced secondary infertility? Did you find it lonely?

Image credit: Steph

02/12/2015 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Blog, Infertility, Infertility Blog | 12 Comments

12 Responses to Secondary Infertility is a Lonely Place

  1. Avatar Jenny says:

    Thank you so much for this article. Very well written. It’s also nice to read the comments by other moms who are in a very similar it almost exactly the same (!!) place as me.

    • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

      You are welcome. It’s nice to know you aren’t alone, isn’t it? If you are looking for more peer support and connections with other women who’ve been there in the “same place” please consider our online Facebook community:

      We’d love to have you there, if you aren’t already.

  2. Avatar Amanda says:

    The question that I get all of the time, “Do you want more kids?” Sigh, such a loaded question. I think infertility is lonely from whatever side.

  3. Avatar Cabber says:

    Secondary infertility is so horrible because everyone feels the right to give you advice or cliche opinions. “At least you have one”. Yes, and that is why I want another. So that my daughter can have a sibling! “Maybe it is t meant to be”. Um, thanks. I’ll just give up. I feel MUCH better now. “Be grateful for the one you have. I know a woman who blah blah blah blah….” . Exactly what I need. Guilt for being depressed. I shouldn’t have to justify my pain.

    We ended up adopting and I know it was the exact right thing for us. It took me two years to come to that decision. No amount of “you should adopt” (another often heard quote) convinced me. I had to get there myself. (Actually it was always “you should *just* adopt”! Just! Ha!)

  4. Avatar Rachel says:

    Oh goodness, thank you for posting about this!! I can so relate to it all—especiallyghe “where do I fit” role. Our first came unexpectedly, and conceiving seemed to hopen easily—though the pregnancy itself was not easy. My body tried to get rid of my girl several times and I ended up with ptsd symptoms. A live baby—yes. Joy of my heart–yes. But the experience was so scary, we decided not to try again. Then we “accidentally” got pregnant again. (i know how frustrating this is to hear). I was over the moon excited… I wanted a sibling for my daughter. But that baby died because she was ectopic. We’ve gone on to have 2 more miscarriages. We’ve now been “trying” for almost 2 years, with 3 losses. Yes… I get pregnant. But I also seriously hate how my body tries so hard to kill my babies. We’ve seen the RE, wifh no answers. Still the explanation is… Just keep trying, and we’ll hope for the best. So, the answer is no… Is dealing with secondary infertility the same as primary? No, it’s not. But it’s still hard. And like you said, Dawn, there’s no place for us to fit.

    Here’s the blog I wrote about that very same issue…

  5. Avatar Mani Sheriar says:

    Oh and I will add that while I was already a mom, my husband was not yet a dad (we married when my son was five). So I did carry the added pressure of giving parenting to him, and of being able to share that experience with him.

    • Mani, you raise a good point. I don’t know the percentage of secondary infertility in remarriages, but I’m guessing it’s high given that women are older. And yes, that adds pressure to want your husband to experience parenthood.

  6. Avatar Mani Sheriar says:

    Secondary infertility was brutal for me, and one of the worst things was the last that you mentioned, hurting for three. My son was seven when we started trying, and he wanted a baby brother or sister so very badly!

    I think one of the hardest things was trying to parent successfully while hurting profoundly. Because no matter what kind if happy face you try to put on, your child picks up on your moods. And when you are swinging between desperate hope and wild despair it affects them big time. And then your IF suffering is compounded by feelings of shame and guilt because you’re not being the mommy your child deserves.

    When I finally got pregnant my son was ten years old. We were so excited!! When we found out that we were doomed to lose that pregnancy it was excruciating to tell my son and see his heartbreak and to have to feel and navigate that on top if my own. It was so brutal. I ended up having to tell his teacher what was happening because he was struggling with keeping up with his schoolwork. It was such a painful time.

    When we adopted my second son, my older son was eleven years old. I have to say that the journey was completely worth it, as these two boys are so in love with each other that it fills each day with beauty!

    But yeah, secondary infertility was very, very difficult. Thanks for writing about it. <3

  7. Avatar Natalie says:

    This article was so refreshing to read thank you! My husband and I are 33 and 29 respectively, and had an accidental textbook pregnancy 3 years ago. She is our life’s joy and it never occurred to us we would not be able to bring home more children. We began trying last September for number 2 and have since lost 3 pregnancies. There is so much to process as the article states. What world do I belong to? After our last loss I took my daughter to “reading time” at the local library for kids her age. The topic of the day was “Bringing home baby” since so many of the kids were having siblings. I barely held it together and felt so alone. Guilty that my daughter couldn’t really relate, and sad that I didn’t have anything to offer the “adjusting to two” conversation. As another commenter states, it is so hard to be a sad mommy. Thank you for acknowledging this kind of suffering.

  8. I think so many people with secondary infertility are worried about posting on infertility boards for fear on not really being accepted.

  9. Avatar Erika says:

    I can’t wait until my little one goes down for a nap and I can read this post.

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