Secondary Infertility Sucks Too

Dawn Davenport




I have a question for you: Is it appropriate for someone who has two children by birth, but has been unable to get pregnant with a third to post on an infertility support group?

I’m 30 and have been trying to have a 3rd child for 2 years. The reaction I get from people when I say how heartbroken I am is usually “You already have two children. You should just be thankful.” Or “There are couples that don’t have any. So be grateful.” I feel like my feelings are being disregarded, and that they are insinuating or getting the impression that I am not thankful for my children! My heart is grieving for the child/children I can’t have. I am sure it will lessen in time. But I feel like I have the right to be sad for a while.

Mixed Reactions

Most people on the group were kind and supportive: “I’m sorry you’re stuck in this place.” “Of course you have a right to be sad.” “You’re not alone.” But then there were:

  • I would trade places with you in a minute.
  • Can you imagine how someone with primary infertility feels like reading this…
  • It actually does make the pain less with secondary infertility. Because you HAVE children and cannot understand what it’s like to never carry a baby.
  • I’m not saying you don’t have the right to be sad, you do. But it’s nowhere even CLOSE to what people who don’t have children go through. No comparison at all. Your pain is 100% less than mine. You HAVE children. And it’s a slap in the face to say you have the same pain as someone who can never have kids. That’s absolutely awful to say to an infertile barren person. You have NO idea what it’s like.

Do you see their point? Maybe just a little?

Comparing Pain is a Fool’s Game

No one wins when we compare pain. Period. I still hurt. You still hurt. I feel misunderstood. You feel misunderstood. {sigh}

I’ll be honest though – when I first saw her post, I did for a moment think, “You’re only 30. You still have time and a proven track record. The odds are in your favor.”

But then I stopped. She wasn’t asking for an assesement of her chances. She wasn’t asking for me to be a fertility cheerleader. She was asking for support and recognition of her pain. Surely I could channel my own experience with pain to offer her that.

I think the following comment was particularly insightful.

For those with primary infertility … what if you were posting about how painful your journey is, and someone came along to say, “Well, at least you have a uterus and can try! I had to have a hysterectomy – I would trade places with you in a minute!” Would it be helpful?

Well, no, actually that wouldn’t be helpful. Not one little bit.

Infertility hurts… regardless the type.

So, what do you think? Should a 30 year old who has two bio kids and been trying for 2 years post for support in an infertility support group?

P.S. Please sign up for our twice weekly newsletter at the top of the page. It is how we primarily keep in touch with our audience and share all the new stuff we add to the website each week. It is also one of the prime ways we judge whether we are accomplishing our mission as the national infertility and adoption education and support organization. (And I want to be “judged” as successful! :-)) Your info is safe; we share with absolutely no one. Thanks!!

24/06/2014 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Blog, Infertility, Infertility Blog | 26 Comments

26 Responses to Secondary Infertility Sucks Too

  1. Avatar sarah says:

    It’s so nice to be reaffirmed that its OK to acknowledge the pain of secondary infertility. I love the comparisons you drew.

  2. Avatar Geochick says:

    She makes a good point in her post. Acknowledges that yes she has a child, and then says that she is grieving for the child she is trying to have. The comments putting her down are insensitive and wrong. Our children do NOT fix the infertility whether it is primary or secondary. It’s pain and grief all the same when we are struggling to build families.

  3. Avatar AnonT says:

    Comparing pain is not helpful at all. However, when these “my pain is worse than yours” war break out on some forums, I just don’t understand how anyone one can think that the fear of not being able to have a sibling for you child (ren) or with your new partner is worse than the sheer panic of realizing that you may never EVER be a mom.

  4. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I had secondary infertility and would never post here saying I’m in pain or as much pain as women who have no children (yet or ever). Starting a support site never occurred to me though because I honesty thought I was the only one (when we face a trial we always think we are the only one until we find we aren’t in a support group). Reaching out for help is good but this subgroup of infertility is deeply isolated and ashamed. We worry that our children won’t have siblings. We feel we have failed them. That’s it, but it isn’t as painful as not having a bio child and wanting one!! I chose not to seek treatment but instead adopted. I’ll never regret that. My second child took two years of hard labor (paperwork, setbacks and much much more). Still I would never ask for support from this group of courageous folks, except for the adoption. Finally, I have to say that I love Dawn’s work but adoption support and infertility support are different. It’s hard to get the newsletter on infertility when all I want to do is forget that pain. Thanks for listening.

    • Anonymous, you raise a good point about the separate natures of infertility and adoption and the need for separate support. On the other hand, I think there is also value in joining together b/c we can learn from and lean on others who have felt this in the past and even now, but chosen a different path.

  5. Avatar Greg says:

    I definitely think she has a right to be sad. She can be happy for having two children yet sad she can’t have more. Just like I am thankful for my wonderful wife, dog, family and financial security yet sad that we’ll never be able to have a child.

    So yes secondary infertility is different than primary but it doesn’t mean that people suffering from it don’t have a right to be sad.

  6. Avatar Justin says:

    In my point of view, it’s not a question of recognizing her pain. Secondary infertility sucks, and I don’t think anyone here is trying to deny it. However, her behavior is extremely lacking in tact.

    I’ll give some examples. If I have the flu, I will suffer. Nobody should deny that my discomfort and pain is real. However, I will not go complaining to a group of friends who are undergoing chemotherapy for Stage III cancer. It’s not that I don’t suffer, but they are probably the wrong crowd to seek support from. It would be much better to complain to a group of healthy friends, or fellow flu sufferers.

    This year, due to some change in circumstance, I had to cut the family vacation and avoid changing my car. I may be distressed over it, but I should not go complaining to a bunch of people who just had their homes repossessed. Even though my emotions are real, I simply don’t think the newly homeless should take my troubles so seriously.

    Following the same logic, the woman who posted the message experiences real pain. However, presenting her “I have two children and I wanted three” complaint to a group of persons who are struggling with the realization they may NEVER have EVEN ONE child, or NEVER have EVEN ONE child biologically connected to them, and asking those people to provide her with support, is wrong. It is insensitive, entitled and egocentric.

    As previous commenters noted, it would be more appropriate of her to seek support from others who suffer secondary infertility, and leave the primary infertility people alone.

  7. Avatar AnonAP says:

    Secondary infertility is still infertility. It’s still the two week wait, it’s still workups and tests, it’s still hope that builds up and then comes crashing down, it’s still scheduled sex and intrusive “going for three?” and “wow, leaving a gap between these last two, eh?” questions. It’s still feeling betrayed by your body (that you trusted to work properly again) and coming to terms with having a chronic condition. It’s still doctors and appointments and envisioning what this child would look like. It’s watching your kids play and thinking about how awesome a big sib the youngest would be if they only got a chance to be one. It’s still lost (or at least deferred without serious effort and pain) dreams, but this time with guilt for not being content enough.

    Sure, it’s different from primary infertility, but I didn’t see the poster saying that it wasn’t. Primary infertility sucks beyond all reason. I’m glad I could cuss it out freely with y’all without fear of being judged as not infertile enough. It was such a relief to find others who said, “yes, it hurts. Tell me about it.” Can’t we let the secondary infertility folks in too? Am I not allowed to vent about primary infertility because we adopted our daughter and should now be content? Can I grumble about the pain of wait times if we decide to go through the process again or am I restricted because it won’t hurt quite the same way as the first time around?

    Listening and welcoming someone else in pain and trying to give them comfort and validation of their feelings does nothing to minimize the validity of our own pain, nor does it reduce the sharpness of its sting. We can do this. We can live with our own sorrow and help hold up those from different parts of our community too.

  8. Avatar Anonymous says:

    They’re not the same thing at all. I’ve been trying to conceive for 4 years. I’m not trying to diminish her pain in any way. I may have to accept that I will never have the opportunity to be a mother or a grandmother. She will never have to face that in her life. It’s extremely difficult to sympathize with someone who has everything that you want and can’t have, yet they want more. In my opinion, she has her dream, it’s just a little different than she had envisioned.

  9. Avatar Anonymous A says:

    I have primary infertility and have been trying to conceive for 4 years. I don’t think that my pain is any worse than someone who has secondary infertility. However, they are 2 very different things and it’s like comparing apples to oranges. I may never become a mother and I grieve every single day for the child I can’t have. She has children and even if she never has another one, she will never have to accept that she won’t ever be a mother or become a grandmother. I’m in no way trying to diminish her pain. I’m just saying that her circumstances are VERY different than someone who has no children! She still has her dream, it’s just a little different than she had envisioned. It’s really difficult to hear someone that has everything you want and you can’t have it, complain about not being able to have more.

  10. Avatar CK says:

    Secondary infertility is no joke. I have many friends with primary infertility, so I do understand that my pain is different from theirs. Not better or worse, just different. I am at prime childbearing age and I know very, very few people who aren’t pregnant or have just had a baby. I am currently watching my friend’s four kids while she is in the hospital with number five. I love every single minute if it, but I cried myself to sleep last night. I always planned to have at least four children before cancer took that from me. I so desperately want a large family. Just because I have one child does not make my grieving any less. I sometimes feel it sharpens it because I grieve for the experience of siblings he will never have. I grieve for the child we lost. While I am loving every moment of a full house, I also keenly feel the loss.

  11. Avatar Anna says:

    “But I do understand that sometimes you just need to vent.”

    I completely understand. Pain is pain.

    But the other people on forums aren’t paid therapists; if they’re suffering from infertility, they’re also in pain. Most people know to be sensitive when mentioning children in infertility forums.

    “My heart is grieving for the child/children I can’t have”

    There’s something else that may have set people off. I don’t know if she gave more information, but in this post it’s not clear why she thinks she can’t have children at 30. It reads as if she’s only been trying with timed sex.

  12. Avatar Crishana Benton says:

    YES! You have a right to vent and ask for someone to say, “That really sucks!” Everyone wants that. If a child hurt their toe, you aren’t going to tell them, “SUCK IT UP! That kid over there broke her leg.” You would tell her it hurts and it sucks, but we can get to “better” together.

    Compassion does not discriminate.

  13. Avatar Marni Levin says:

    I had four bio kids (3 boys, 1 girl)and tried desperately for years to have another daughter but all I had were a string of early miscarriages. My pain and grief were very real each time. Finally we chose to adopt so our family would feel complete. Of course this experience can’t compare to that of a woman trying to have her first child but it shouldn’t be negated either. A support group for secondary infertility would have been a better place to post.

  14. Avatar Melissa says:

    I experienced primary infertility. It was hard. I had friends that experienced secondary infertility. They were in a lot of pain. You have your lot in life. If you have trouble experiencing an initial pregnancy, you think “God, I’d give my right arm to have just one bio child, what are you complaining about?!” But if you got pregnant easily that first time, you still experience the pain when infertility strikes later. Secondary infertiles were never in the place where they had to wish for “just one biological child to experience pregnancy and birth.” They just know they want a sibling for their child. Or that they always dreamed of having a big family. I think a good idea would be to start a separate board or support group for those experiencing secondary infertility. Although both primary and secondary infertiles are experiencing infertility, their pain and stories are very different, and I think it is very hard for them to understand and support each other in the midst of that pain (especially for primaries to support secondaries, because they often believe their pain is worse and that the other group has it better—and for them, that is their truth, because they would give anything to be in the other group with biological children).

  15. Avatar veronica says:

    I don’t doubt for a minute that her journey is a painful one and perhaps it would be more useful for her to seek the support of people who are going through the same thing. There are many support groups for secondary infertility. I believe it’s just a matter of finding the right place as infertility and secondary infertility trigger different sorts of emotions and perhaps need to be addressed in different ways.

  16. Avatar Anna says:

    Thinking about this further. I think her approach inspired these responses. She didn’t want advice for a plan — she wanted to express how bad she felt.

    That’s not going to go over well because feeling bad doesn’t motivate other people to keep motivated through their medical treatment.
    The same thing could happen in other support groups. Let’s say she’s posting on a forum for student loan support. Let’s just say she owes 10K, doesn’t know how to pay then back, and just wants to feels bad about it.

    The people who owe 30-150K are not going to be that sympathetic. They are going to urge her to shake it off and make a plan. And they also might say, “hey, you only owe 10 K and we owe 70K!” “I’d love to be in your place!”

    • Anna, I’m a very plan oriented person. Maybe a little too much. But I do understand that sometimes you just need to vent. You don’t want a plan. You’ll figure out a plan tomorrow. Today you just need to feel bad.

  17. Avatar LorMarie says:

    I want to add that yes she should be able to post in an infertility group and receive support.

  18. Avatar Anonymous says:

    thank you for posting this. I believe she has just as much right as anyone else. Her pain is just as real even though it is different from others. When I had my 1st daughter I was 17. I was beyond pressured to just “give her to your Aunt Kathy. She’s only 8 months old it’s not like you’ve really bonded to her” constantly. I raised my daughter, finished school and worked full time completely on my own. Years later when I met my husband and we began to try for another child (my 1st was now 10) we found out that I had DOR. I can te4ll you from experience that even though I had a child already I was completely devastated. I can’t explain the pain and frankly I shouldn’t have to to a support group how I felt. Yes I had a child but I had missed out on so much with her and was completely unprepared to be told my only chance to conceive again would be through treatment.

  19. Avatar LorMarie says:

    I must be honest and say that the thought of having a hysterectomy is easier to bear now that I have children than it was when I didn’t have any. Yes, infertility always sucks but a woman experiencing secondary infertility already experienced pregnancy, child birth and motherhood. As she grieves, she can experience the love of her children. A woman suffering primary infertility cannot. So I can’t in good faith pretend that both women have it just as hard. It’s hard, but not just as hard…

  20. Avatar katherine says:

    I am going to say, though, that when I was dealing with primary infertility and my friend was dealing with secondary, I had a hard time being empathetic, because it felt like she had what I so desperately wanted but it wasn’t good enough for her.

  21. Avatar Anna says:

    The stress levels of infertility treatment are about the same as those measured for cancer patients. It is appropriate for anyone seeking support to visit support groups.

    It’s courteous to insert a “trigger warning” noting that children or babies will be discussed. Or she could have kept it abstract, and wrote about her “secondary infertility.”

    Even when seeking support, it’s respectful to demonstrate sensitivity to the feelings of others.

    • Anna, I think you’re right, but often when someone is reaching out for the first time or just reaching out at a moment of grief, it’s hard to put other feelings first.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top ↑

Content created by Creating a Family. And remember, there are no guarantees in adoption or infertility treatment. The information provided or referenced on this website should be used only as part of an overall plan to help educate you about the joys and challenges of adopting a child or dealing with infertility. Although the following seems obvious, our attorney insists that we tell you specifically that the information provided on this site may not be appropriate or applicable to you, and despite our best efforts, it may contain errors or important omissions. You should rely only upon the professionals you employ to assist you directly with your individual circumstances. CREATING A FAMILY DOES NOT WARRANT THE INFORMATION OR MATERIALS contained or referenced on this website. CREATING A FAMILY EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMS LIABILITY FOR ERRORS or omissions in this information and materials and PROVIDES NO WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, implied, express or statutory. IN NO EVENT WILL CREATING A FAMILY BE LIABLE FOR ANY DAMAGES, including without limitation direct or indirect, special, incidental, or consequential damages, losses or expenses arising out of or in connection with the use of the information or materials, EVEN IF CREATING A FAMILY OR ITS AGENTS ARE NEGLIGENT AND/OR ARE ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.