Getting Pregnant

This Is What It's Like To Struggle With Secondary Infertility

by Kim Heard
Originally Published: 
A couple strolling through the park while holding their daughter's hand
Stephanie Horn Photography

Secondary infertility. That is the term my OB-GYN threw at me a few months ago as I sat in the exam room discussing my options. My husband and I decided the timing was right two years ago and that we were ready to try for baby number two. We were excited about the prospect of completing our family. But, as each month came and went the excitement quickly turned into anxiety and disappointment, and now here we sit two years later with no baby and a mountain of heartache.

Our daughter is four years old and it took about nine months and a few rounds of Clomid to conceive her. This time around, my doctor started me on Clomid right away. And I just assumed it would work this time too, but it didn’t.

After six months of Clomid and lab work, our doctor recommended artificial insemination. The timing was terrible and to be perfectly honest, we were not convinced that was the path for us. I did some research and learned that the procedure is only 10-20% effective. Considering the expense, the procedure itself, and the relatively low chances that it would even work, we opted to just keep trying to good old-fashioned way.

I tried acupuncture, massage, essential oils, partook in some ridiculous old wives’ tales (ate lots of pineapple!), and I hate to admit it, but I even spoke to a psychic who assured me I’d be pregnant by the fall or the next reading was on her. And, I just prayed for a sign. A sign that this dream of a baby would come to fruition. A sign from God…come to me in a dream, please! But if there was a sign, I missed it.

I kept tracking my cycles, taking ovulation tests and reminding my husband it was time to do the deed…timed intercourse anybody? Isn’t it just magical when timed intercourse falls right in the middle of a marital spat? Please tell me we aren’t the only couple who had mad timed intercourse.

It is not lost on me that there are couples who have struggled with infertility for much longer than my husband and I have and there are days that I wonder if I even have the right to feel the way I feel. Especially since we have a daughter. But then I think about how heavy my heart has been and how many tears I’ve cried — my husband too — and I think: why should anyone feel like they have to earn their grief?

My husband and I decided a year ago that we would try until the end of this year and here we are. My feelings on the topic change daily, sometimes hourly. Some days I think about our little family of three and I feel happy and lucky. Other days I feel sad that I couldn’t give our daughter a sibling. I never pictured our family as complete with one child, that was definitely not the plan. Coming to terms with the fact that this entire situation is out of my control has been extremely difficult. Every month that I work up the nerve to take a pregnancy test and get a negative result is harder than the last. How much longer can I stand to walk by an empty crib? How much longer should I keep holding on to baby toys, bottles, and those precious teeny tiny clothes?

Nobody really knows how deep my hurt runs. Trust me, it’s deep. It’s a heartbreak that I feel in my bones. I’ve got an amazing group of friends who have listened to me, cried with me, and have supported me. It seems like most people are cautious about asking couples if they are going to start a family or add to their family. You never know what people are going through. I can appreciate that. But I also think we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it. I didn’t tell people that we were trying for a long time because I didn’t want to jinx it. After months went by though, I realized I needed to talk to someone about what my husband and I were struggling with. And we should talk about it. There’s no reason that your friend, sister, someone you care about or someone you barely know should have to feel like they have to suffer in silence.

Sometimes people would say “stop worrying about it and it will happen,” but you know, that’s just a thing that people say. What do you say to a friend who just had an IVF procedure fail or a friend that had a miscarriage. There’s nothing you can say. All you really want to do is say anything that will make them feel better. I found myself twisting people’s words round and round in my head. The “if it’s meant to be…” or “everything happens for a reason” sayings come to mind. What is the reason we couldn’t conceive? Am I a bad person? A bad parent? Do I have bad karma? What did I do wrong? Then I realized, sometimes the reason is that there is no reason. Sometimes things in life happen that aren’t fair and that’s all there is to it. It doesn’t make me feel better but it’s the truth. Life isn’t fair – can I get an AMEN?

We are in a phase of life where our friends and family are having babies. It’s a weird sensation to be equal parts excited and sad. My hope is that someday this will be something that I don’t think about often. That I can fully grieve the loss of a dream that I had for my family and that I can accept that things are exactly as they were meant to be. After all, moments are fleeting even the bad ones.

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