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


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  1. says

    Oh Amy you hit the nail on the head. We’re going on 28 months of trying with no success. We already have a daughter who is now 6, and I fear all the same things you do. Secondary infertility should be talked about more. Sometimes we sad mommas need to be reminded that we aren’t alone.

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    • says

      Thank you for writing this Amy, you took the words right out of my mouth. I had my daughter in 2010 after our first attempt at ICSI, I still can’t believe it worked and she is here. We tried FET in feb 2013 which failed and have been trying naturally to conceive ever since. I got my period yesterday so now I give up!, we’re going back to clinic soon to try IVF or ICSI again as soon as we can, I just wish it didn’t cost so much. Most nights I can’t sleep for wanting another baby so much, I need my daughter to have a sibling to grow up with, I don’t feel like I am finished with having babies yet but also feel selfish as I know many people never have and never will even have one baby. I feel very jealous of friends who can conceive naturally and very angry with people who have kids so easily and don’t look after them properly of just live off benefits on purpose. I must stop that though, nothing I can do about it. I wish someone could help me pay for my next lot of treatment but no can do, we will have to get a loan. Its really helped reading your story tonight, thank you Amy x

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  2. says

    I’ve been where you are. I spent three years digging myself into a hole, struggling with the constant disappointment, frustration, baby envy, and painful comments. No one seems to “get” secondary infertility, it’s the elephant in the room we’re not supposed to talk about, so most of us struggle alone. There’s more of us out there than you imagine–most of us just suffer in silence.

    It’s hard to imagine when you’re in the thick of TTC, but whatever happens, you will be okay. I know women who finally had their beautiful dream baby (and in a few cases *babies*) after secondary infertility. At some point, some of us make a conscious decision to just stop. Four years after my husband and I decided “enough” we are quite content with our little family of three. At this time, I can’t imagine it any other way. My womb no longer aches each time I hold a newborn, and when watching a toddler’s meltdown, I breath a sigh of relief that my one amazing kid is well past that stage.

    I hope you kick infertility’s ass, but no matter what, you and your family will be okay.

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    • Lora says

      Kerry Ann we share the same story. Amy, like you I was 40 when I had my son. Within 6 months I was pregnant again. Only to have early miscarriage over and over. I didn’t know until our local fertility expert told me, that I’d been lucky to have my son. Hoping that secondary infertility would just “go away” we continued to try. I would bury myself in infertility forums and reading. Until one day I just had to stop. I had to stop the emotional roller coaster that comes with checking that pregnancy test every. single. month. Now my son is 10 and we are a happy family. I am still a little sad at times because I wanted that forever family for him too. Someone he could reminisce with long after his father and I are gone. This is a heartache felt by many. I my heart aches for them as much as it does for myself. As an aside.. I NEVER ask a mother if she’s going to try for another child.

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  3. Jill says

    Thank you for this, Amy. It is something that is so rarely discussed, and can make you feel so, so alone. After lots of trying and two miscarriages, I am now just starting the third trimester with my little girl… But I have lived everyday of it terrified deep down inside that something might still go wrong.

    Good luck to you, and to all the women out there dealing with this. <3

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  4. beachmommy says

    Your post brought tears to my eyes. I know exactly what you mean.
    We have finally bagged up all of my son’s outgrown clothes and toys and gear that in my heart know will never be used in my house again and gave it a young family.
    It is a pain that I cannot describe as eloquently as you did.

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  5. Jessica says

    I shared this with my best friend, and she said, “If I didn’t know better, I would swear you wrote this.” We have had conversations about everything you mentioned. It is amazing how people assume if you can have one child, you can easily have another. Thank you for sharing. I might just keep a printed copy to hand someone when they ask me when I’m going to have another baby. ;)

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  6. Robin says

    This is me to a T. Except for the fertility treatments which we couldn’t afford after my husband and I both lost our jobs and the health insurance we bought has no fertility coverage. I am now 43 and have resigned myself to having one child. It’s so heartbreaking that I shut myself down from it most of the time which I know isn’t the healthiest thing. I’m sorry that you are going through this too, I know exactly how you feel. Sending you good thoughts.

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  7. says

    Thanks for the post. We are in month 15 of trying for #2 (DS one was conceived with IVF). People tend to not get it, they think having one child should make it all OK and we should just be greatful for what we have, but life isn’t that simple. Its so painful to see other people with toddler’s my son’s age having their second kids, and not knowing if or when it will happen. And becaues I have one child, I feel like I am not allowed to complain about it or that complaining would imply I don’t love him. Ugh.

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