Secondary Infertility

Secondary Infertility

As a mom, there are a few questions I hate answering: When are you due?  Um, never, that bump is left over from the baby who’s now in preschool.  When are you going back to work?   I don’t know! I’m not ready!  Are you planning to have another one? Lady, unless you’ve got Kleenex in your purse and 20 minutes to spare, let’s not go there.

The moment my daughter was born, my bonkers first thought was, I want to do that again.  I wanted to make another baby, like, immediately.  The miracle was so huge, and the joy/love rush so potent, I was hooked and knew I’d need another hit.

Unfortunately, we’d gotten a late start on our family and I was already 40, so as soon as it was physically possible, we started trying for baby number two.  When it didn’t happen right away, I panicked (because panic and conception mix oh-so-well) and ran to a fertility doctor. There were tests, drugs, shots, an unsuccessful insemination, three failed in vitro fertilizations, and along the way, several early miscarriages.  I tried vitamins, supplements, herbs and acupuncture. I lost weight, did yoga, ate pineapple cores and prayed.  I gave up caffeine and booze for a year, and all I learned is that I’m a real bitch without my coffee.

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We’re still trying — the free, old fashioned way — and I’m struggling.

They call it secondary infertility.  You have the first baby, and you think, Wow, my body’s so good at this; I could have like 10 more kids.  Should we have 10 more kids?  And while you’re negotiating whether to have one more or 10 more (with a partner who thinks you’re nuts, but humors you), your body just up and quits.  In my case, the glitch is declining egg quality, but I know other, younger mamas who can’t seem to make a second baby either.  It’s wildly frustrating.  And it hurts not to be able to create the family you envisioned.

As a mother, you want to give your child everything.  I want my daughter to have a sibling.  She may not consider that the same caliber gift as a doll house or tricycle, but I’m taking the long view.  I grew up with a younger brother, and even though we fought like criminals for the first 10 years, we’re BFF’s now, and I treasure him. I realize I can’t guarantee a close sibling relationship, but I want to provide my daughter with that person who will know her always–the one who understands what it was like to grow up in her house.  The one who’s still there when I’m gone.

This is a morbid obsession of mine.  Any discussion with my partner of our fertility woes generally ends with me sobbing, “I don’t want to leave her alone!”   He is certain she will not be alone—that she will have good friends and someone to love.  We love her so much, surely others will as well.  But I’m a mom and I want insurance.

Call me crazy (or laugh in my face), but I’d also like to experience raising siblings.  I imagine it’s hard—much harder than what I’m doing now.  But that’s my Everest.  I want to take on the challenge of the schedules and the sharing and “it’s not fair.” I want my chance to threaten, “I will turn this car around!” though I’m not sure back seat squabbles exist anymore, what with bucket seats and iPads.  I want to see how different or similar my two kids would be.  I want the messy and the dirty.  I want it all.  Are you listening, ovaries?

One of the unique struggles of secondary infertility is that everyone you know is pregnant.  I’m not exaggerating.  I have a preschooler, and when you socialize with preschool families, most moms are either knocked up or toting a brand new bundle of joy.   Conversations at the playground focus on the ideal age spread between siblings and whether to go for a third.  These perfectly legitimate questions start to grate on me like humble brags.  You know, Should we get the Ferrari or the Porsche?   But I don’t want my friends to feel stifled around me, so I imagine that I am someone who has these same choices, and try to consider them thoughtfully.  I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s possible to be genuinely happy for others while still being insanely jealous.  At least there are always cute babies available to hold.

Then there’s the problem of the gear.   Each time my kid outgrows something, I struggle with next steps.  Do I save toys, books and clothes for another child who might never come? What about the nursing bras and breast pump rusting in my closet?  So much stuff.  I wound up sending most of the outfits to our new niece and the bulky swings and bouncers to a neighbor baby, but I don’t think I can bring myself to ditch the crib.  We’re going to be vacuuming around that sucker ‘til I hit menopause.

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Emotional triggers are everywhere, and I’m nothing if not emotional, but it’s not always easy to find comfort.  Some friends shy away from the topic, as though infertility might be contagious.  If I do share our difficulties, the well-meaning response tends to be, “At least you have one child,” which of course makes me feel horribly guilty. I know there are tons of infertile couples who would give anything to have just one child.  And I have several single, childless girlfriends who would love to be mothers but didn’t quite make their biological clock deadlines.  In their company, I am a glutton yearning for extra helpings.

I know that in time I will, if I must, learn to accept the status quo.  It helps that the one kid I have is pretty incredible.  Sure, she has tantrums and her favorite word is “why” and she exhausts me, but she is the yummiest, funniest, most amazing human I could have ever hoped to bring into the world.   I am lucky.  I am grateful.

Yet when I see her playing baby, feeding her “little brother” (a stuffed owl) his pretend bottle and rocking him to sleep, it’s impossible not to want a real baby. I want to experience the miracle again, but in a new way: more assured, less afraid, and with my daughter by my side.

Related post: The 8 Biggest Misconceptions About Infertility

About the writer


Amy Wruble is an East Coast transplant raising a California girl (who has the diaper tan lines to prove it). Her work has appeared in Parenting, Lifetime Moms,, The Huffington Post and the In The Powder Room anthology, You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth. She blogs at Carriage Before Marriage, and you can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.


Danielle 2 months ago

I wrote about this recently.
I’m not quite in the same boat – I’m not actively seeking treatment. We decided it just wasn’t a good fit for us financially or personally. So in a way I feel like a whiner sometimes because there are things we could do but we aren’t. But for those of you who can’t or won’t seek treatment but still long for a baby – you’re not alone. There are more of us than you think!

Mel 7 months ago

I have never been pregnant, but I am a mom to a 4 year old who joined our family as a baby through adoption. He is wonderful and amazing and I am aware of how blessed I am. But the yearning doesn’t go away for him to have a sibling. But the four years if trying, treatments, paperwork, and waiting that led to his arrival were stressful and emotionally and financially crippling. I/we can’t put ourselves through it again. But deep down, I pray that after 8 years, we’ll somehow have a miracle pregnancy or adoption situation drop in our lap. I know it won’t happen, but it’s hard to let go of the dream.

Taryn 7 months ago

I’ve been in that place. It took two months to conceive my first, who was then born 3 months premature. She is healthy and fabulous and when she was 3 we decided we were ready for a second child. She created an imaginary brother and sister and would narrate their daily activities everywhere we would go, unwittingly reminding me that she didn’t have an actual brother or sister. It took 3 years to conceive our son, and they are 7 years apart in age. Those three years were incredibly hard with people innocently asking when we were going to have another, as though it was just that simple- snap your fingers and here is baby number 2! While the wait was excruciating, in hindsight I will say that the age gap worked out well for our family. And I know that the years of trying were worth it for my son and if it had happened sooner I wouldn’t have him. Hang in there to all of you who are trying, all of your feelings are valid and although it might look like it on the playground some days, you are not the only one.

Karin 8 months ago

As some one who struggled with primary infertility for 3 years, you would think that having that “miracle” baby would fix everything. I had my baby girl at 36. A lot of my friends have high schoolers ! It’s lonely. I was hurt with the comments of “just get drunk, go on vacation, relax” RELAX?? Now as we are desperately trying for number 2, it starts all over again. I can’t stand to listen to people “plan” their family. How they can “just stop because they have a perfect family”. While I am so blessed beyond measure for every tear, every, tantrum, every onsie washed….it does not stop that longing, that hope that since you had one, maybe whatever was broke, has been fixed. I can’t even seem to find support on my infertility forum because it seems like everyone there is “fixed”…complaining about how they are going to fit 4 car seats in their vehicle. Not that IVF or IUI’s are easy or painless, but from a “natural” perspective, I wish I could afford to go to the “store” and buy a baby..I don’t wish to have the pain from loosing multiple embryos, huge debts..but there’s that part of envy that screams “it’s not fair!” The loneliness of being on an island alone….no longer dealing with the emptiness of having none, but the pain that comes from getting to experience motherhood and then seemingly denied the opportunity again. Savoring every 1st…morning every last…never knowing if you will ever experience something again is bittersweet. It’s a crappy way to feel about other people’s joy. For me, God gave us one when it was in his time, believing that he has a plan, whatever that may be, is a soothing balm for open sores.

jess 8 months ago

We have a daughter who just turned 7. We have been trying for our 2nd child for 4 years with no luck. I got pregnant with my daughter in the 1st month of trying. All tests are normal. So frustrating. Lots of crying and lots more praying as I know God has a plan for me.

Anne 8 months ago

Thank you so much for this. Secondary infertility is so emotionally complicated and you captured the “I should be happy with the child I have but dammit I just want another one” sentiment exactly.

Maria 9 months ago

Hi Amy,
Thank you so much for posting this. I have a beautiful 2 year old daughter that I love and appreciate, even though that is the first thing people tell me to do when I share my pain and fear of never having a second. My husband and I have been trying for a year and 2 days ago we just found out we will probably never have another baby. He had a double inguinal hernia surgery that has blocked his tubes and basically given him an early vasectomy that is near impossible to reverse. The doctor laughed when he told us he has never heard of a double inguinal surgery being reversed…. I hope it was nervous laughter. Everyone I know has had or is about to have their second child and I am happy for them, I really am, but I also feel like I desperately want to be there too. I feel so alone. My daughter is amazing and I want her to feel the love of a sibling. I want her to have someone understand her crazy parents, like only a sibling can. How do you mourn the loss of a child that never was? How do you not sob everytime someone says,”now you don’t want them too far apart in age. You’d better get on it!” ? I really needed to get that out. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for having a place where other moms can share theirs. It is more appreciated than you know.

Teri 10 months ago

I differ from secondary infertility and it’s like you were inside my head when you wrote this! After six years of trying for baby #2 we became foster parents. Our daughter was 11 daddy’s old when we picked her up from the hospital and is the apple of our eye. The agree gasp between her and our bio soon proceed to be perfect, they get along great. Please consider opening your home to an orphan, it’s so miraculous.

Kristen Beeman 10 months ago

Secondly infertility was the most painful experience…4 miscarriages and a lost twin, hours and hours of doctor visits, drugs and independent research…but the desire for a child is powerful.

Alicia Hebner 10 months ago

I was a lonely only but only after my mom remarried and we moved when I was 6. She had my sister when I was 11. She was very ill during the pregnancy and depressed afterward for a long time. I sort of had to grow up fast and figure a lot of by myself. And then my little sister hated me for 15 years because i was born first and had our mom to myself for 6 years lol (really!!) Now im 30 and shes 19 and we are best friends. Every family is so different and its all in how you raise them. Not in how many of them or what the spacing is between them. There are a lot of perks in being an only child.

Carol Gordon 10 months ago

Especially when you conceive easily, it is so shocking when it turns out to be hard to have that 2nd baby. I had 5 pregnancies in 4 years before we were so lucky to have our second son. We’ll not all luck; we moved and had a new doctor who immediately tried progesterone supplements which I guess worked, so try another opinion! Best wishes however you move forward.

CKA 10 months ago

Thanks for sharing – it’s exactly what I’m feeling right now! I’m 43 and trying for baby #2. I had the first when I was 36, then my husband passed away unexpectedly when our baby was only 18 months old. We always wanted 2, but I figured chance was taken from me. Then several years later, I met a single dad with a son the same age (only 6 weeks apart) as mine. He shares custody of his son with the birth mom (50/50). I couldn’t be happier to have him in my life! But now we are trying for one more, our 1st together, and it’s been so much more difficult. A couple of chemical pregnancies and a miscarriage later, we will be off to see a specialist. It’s so hard too, because I got pregnant so easy with the first! One one hand I feel so blessed with what we have, but on the other hand, we both really want a baby together. It’s hard all around. So I totally get it – exactly where you are coming from. Hugs and best of luck!

Helen Sanborn 10 months ago

Yup, that happened after my first was born. I had an auto immune disease that was triggered by the birth of my first and caused secondary infertility. Fertility treatments wracked my body and emotional health and I had a miscarriage after many months of fertility drugs. I told God I’d give it one more try, but then I was done. I couldn’t take it anymore, my body was a mess, and I was emotionally and mentally traumatized from miscarrying. I also suffered the guilt of how this time affected my family and my young daughter. After a year and a half of trying, 7 months of fertility treatments, and 1 miscarriage, I conceived my beautiful Paisley girl, who is the absolute completion of my family. She’s my silly, adorable, intuitive, sweet little love. She’s worth it all and more. But it was hell getting there…

Monica 10 months ago

So true & beautifully written. My first was & 35 after IVF. At 38 we were “done”. I felt like this article. At 39 our second was born & there is a wonder fullness @ the ease & relax ness I feel with him.

Marris 10 months ago

We had our son at 35 and started trying again at 38. Ended up with secondary infertility thanks to a boatload of endometriosis. When I finally had a lappy done at 40, it was found I had endo in the walls of my uterus right where baby would implant. So my baby making days are done. We chose to continue forward with adoption and are waiting to be matched with a birth mommy. It sucks some days when you think your body failed you, but I’ve found a happy place and look forward to raising a bright 7 year old and his little brother or sister whenever they get here.

Christina Marie 10 months ago

Everything about this post is so true. Infertility is so hard on families whether it’s first or secondary.

Denise Hughes Frank Blados 10 months ago

I have four children. I would have had more had I met my second husband earlier in life. I had my last two children at 41 and 44.

Michelle Munnings Peart 10 months ago

I’m so grateful for my pair. But I have friends who have not. This is heartbreaking.

Alyssa 10 months ago

I hate that i have the double edged sword…i am struggling with primary infertility so have no children of my own but have a step daughter that i raise which puts me in the conversations with other parents. :-/ ugh i hate this struggle and feel for everybodygoing through it. last cycle we were told only hope is injectables and ivf :-( why can’t money grow on trees…

Crystalyn 10 months ago

Its Murphy’s law. You should get rid of the crib because the month after you do you’ll get preggers. Thats always my luck! Good luck to you! :-)

Shailyn Volk 10 months ago

I am totally ok with my baby being an only child, they’re not missing out on anything!

Karyn 10 months ago

Thank you so much for writing this. This sums up so well many of the same thoughts, struggles, and emotions I’ve had. I’m an only child and we turn out just fine, but it’s not what I wanted for my daughter. After 2 1/2 years of heartache and miscarriages, we are going to move on. I hope your story ends differently.

Helen Russo 10 months ago

It’s the “I don’t want her (him) to be alone.” that I struggle with every day. I love my daughter more than anything, but I want her to have a sibling.”

Heather 10 months ago

I could have written this. Every. Single. Word. Thank you for a thoughtful and honest post.

Rachel Krinsky Rudnick 10 months ago

Secondary Fertility is SO. DARN. FRUSTRATING. You have explained the emotional side of it so well. Stick with it, Mama. And speak with specialists. We tried for 4 years for Baby #2. Turned out there was a reason for my secondary infertility that just took a really long time (and surgery for something else) to figure out. Turns out also that I was lucky to have has my first child and didn’t know that. Now I am the grateful and proud Mama of 2. To anyone else going through this, you are definitely not alone.

Linda Brink Paluzzi 10 months ago

This is my story as well. In the middle of my struggle to find something anything that would allow me to have another child, my husband left me for another. And that was it. Any chance I may have had was gone. My depression and anxiety about not being able to have another child had turned me into a mess. My body had betrayed me and I didn’t handle it well. I don’t blame him for leaving. Who wants to be with someone who is depressed and angry all the time? The medical procedures and tests were horrible. Sex had become a chore that had to be done on command. There was no joy left in our relationship. I cried every time a commercial for diapers came on the television. Like I said, I was a mess. I was only 32 years old and I was done. I had grown up in a big family and now my son would grow up alone. I mourned. It took me a solid year and a half of therapy to get back my ability to be happy. My son grew up without siblings in the house but his father had two more with his second wife. He does have a brother and sister now so I guess you could say everything worked out. Not being able to have another child wasn’t the end of the world even though it felt like it at the time. My son and I are very close. He got to go through life knowing that without a doubt, he is my favorite. (Wink) Thanks for this article. It’s good to know that I am not alone.

Hilary 10 months ago

It’s taken me more than 13 years to have my second. My first was a surprise at the age of 20 that totally re shaped the course of my life. She’s been my constant companion and a huge joy (minus the start of the teenage years

Donna Rose 10 months ago

I had my first daughter without any issues. I tried for a year for a second child, saw a fertility specialist, did IUI, IVF all failed attempts. I got pregnant, but miscarried every time. I told my husband I couldn’t do it anymore. We stopped fertility treatments after a blighted ovum. I got pregnant with my second two years after that spontaneously. My girls are 4 & 12. I was 34 & 42 when I had them, both naturally. The one thing I used to dread was people asking if I was going to have another, and when I did they asked why I waited so long. People are so thoughtless

Dawn Marie Presley 10 months ago

Took 4 years before I had my son. Tried again when he was 4. 2 years after trying, my heart could not handle anymore so I stopped trying, had my tubes tied and told my son, who was then 6, he would not have a sibling. His heart was broken. We cried and then moved forward. He is now 10 and my world and the way everything fell in place, its clear that things do happen for a reason. It was meant to be this way and I have found peace.

Olga 10 months ago

Oh I can totally symphatize with you! It’s so tough.
After having my first at 24 from the first try I was in complete shock of secondary infertility few years later. I found my own guilt the worst. When i was looking at dd it would break my heart that I’m thinking she’s not enough, because she truly is an amazing little girl and we were so grateful for having her. Unexplained secondary infertility was killing our family, I wanted to know what’s wrong, I wanted to fix it! The unexplained bit was driving me into depression. Eventually I just gave up it was too hard to wait on periods, do pregnancy tests, cry over other people pregnancies, we truly decided that we are happy with our little family of 3. And then – surprise! Our little miracle is 19 weeks old now there are 6 years between my girls.
I still find it hard to believe after all those years or heartbreak. Life is really full of surprises.
I hope you can find peace in whatever happens in the future xx

Kristina M Kay 10 months ago

I am thankful I do not have this desire. I do want another “someday” but I’m 36 this year and have my toddler, who is quite enough for me right now. Can’t see myself with more than two, but also can’t see myself without two. Hoping that if I do want the other it will be in the cards. It would feel pretty awful to not be able to have another.

Cassandra Farless 10 months ago

I feel like this myself. My daughter is 3 yrs old. I had 3 miscarriages before her. It seemed I could get pregnant at the drop of a hat. And then God blessed me with an amazing human. Now I can’t seem to get pregnant again. We’ve only been trying for a few months. But I never had to actually try with the others. And now I just wonder. If she turns out to be my only, I’m thankful I had her. But I would love to give her a little brother. The one she always seems to be talking “to” here lately. Or a little sister would be just dandy too.

Jane Anne Nuessner 10 months ago

I had this happen…15 years after my first baby at a young age, I excitedly had my second…agenda third 13 months later…whew. :)

Dan 10 months ago

This really touched me. My wife and I have been trying for three and a half years with no luck. She has a child from a previous relationship, and it tears at her that we can’t have our own. Is there any chance you could do something on how men feel? Thanks.

Rebekah McClain 10 months ago

We tried for several years . Eventually, we had to work with a fertility clinic to conceive our son. He was a twin but our other baby died while I was still in the first trimester. We were absolutely devastated. We had a perfect boy in September and I don’t think I had even been so happy. I’m terrified I won’t be able to conceive when we’re ready to try for another child. I don’t want to go through treatment again.

Nicole Lynn 10 months ago

Mine are 5 years apart-didnt plan it that way, and I was criticized that my kids would have nothing in common. a 9 year old and 4 year old, they are best friends. Things happen some ways sometimes, and how knows why. Some people just don’t get that not everyone can have a second one a year or two later-our bodies are not like magical switches where we tell them what to do and they do it!

Michelle A. Cropper 10 months ago

That’s hard when you want another baby and you have a hard time conceiving. My first was the hardest physically on my body, and I thought I couldn’t handle being pregnant again. I had to quit my job because I kept getting really dehydrated and ended up with multiple kidney infections. My second, my son, was the easiest pregnancy I had. I only had a small bout of morning sickness. This pregnancy went well the first two trimesters, but once I hit 28 weeks I began having bleeding problems, and at 32 weeks had to have labor stopped. They still can’t figure out why I’m bleeding and i’ve been put on bed rest (which is not easy when you have two kids to take care of and a house to clean). I am grateful to have made it to 36 weeks. I just wish the contractions would stop (i’m having a c-section in a few weeks). This will be my third pregnancy, and probably my last, though I would like one more kid. I just don’t know if I can have another healthy baby. We had a scare with this pregnancy, and they thought he might have trisomy 18. I am so glad the results came back negative and the cysts on his brain disappeared (emotionally the hardest pregnancy for me). I am so grateful to have three healthy kids (even if #3 isn’t born yet). I think of my sister who wants children and can’t have them, and it just breaks my heart.


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