Monday, April 11, 2011

Secondary Infertility-Families come in Size 3

April 24-30th  is National Infertility Awareness Week so I guess it's fitting that I decided to come out with our story now.

One advocacy group I have started to loosely follow is 
"1 in 8 women and men are diagnosed with infertility. RESOLVE and the infertility community are busting myths and telling truths about the most popular public myths and misconceptions about the disease of infertility and the different ways people build their families."

This month I've committed to myself to tell my story by blogging a bit of it every day. Today I want to talk about secondary infertility. Definition from Resolve website: "Secondary infertility is defined as the inability to become pregnant, or to carry a pregnancy to term, following the birth of one or more biological children. The birth of the first child does not involve any assisted reproductive technologies or fertility medications."

Although Ethan was conceived after 2 years of "trying" (I never saw a specialist to be diagnosed with anything), he still came about naturally without the help of drugs or treatment.  The first diagnoses I received was after another 2 years of trying after my periods returned....this diagnoses was "secondary infertility."  I'll tell more of that story in another blog.

My point today is that I have a child and I'm deeply grateful to be a Mom, a gift that some of my friends are still waiting for. I don't want anyone reading this blog to think, for a second, that I'm unaware of how blessed I am. I'm totally aware and totally thankful. However, because of our inability to get pregnant when we desire, I have a bit of an inside look at infertility and because my story is less painful than some, I feel that I can bring awareness to a very touchy subject. This blog is for all women who desire children but are unable to conceive naturally or in the timing and way they would desire.

I think Resolve's website sums up my experience pretty well so I'm just going to copy it here...

"The emotional experience of secondary infertility often is a compilation of the distressing feelings of anger, grief, depression, isolation, guilt, jealousy, self-blame, and being out of control. You may feel guilty for experiencing normal grief and worry about how your current emotional state will affect your existing child. The powerlessness to produce a sibling for the existing child often produces feelings of sorrow, as does the inability to perpetuate the parenting role. You may feel distant from friends as those who were a great source of support when parenting the first child are now linked to sensations of pain and jealously."

"Sadly, couples with secondary infertility tend to receive less social support from others than couples who have primary infertility because the infertility is unacknowledged, the pain associated with infertility is invisible as the couple has a child, and there is no concrete loss in the family. In addition, couples experiencing secondary infertility may be recipients of criticism by others who think they should be grateful for one child and that it is foolish to go to extremes to increase family size. Of course, a couple can be extraordinarily thankful for their existing child and still long for more children."

"Unlike in primary infertility, couples who experience secondary infertility already have a child's needs and welfare to consider.... In addition to helping the existing child appreciate the parents' emotions, parents must help the child identify his own experiences and feelings.  Guilt about not providing the existing child with a sibling is a common experience of couples suffering from secondary infertility, as they feel they are failing their child. Many couples idealize the sibling relationship by believing the siblings would be emotionally close. Of course, there is no guarantee about any sibling relationship, and the existing child should not be burdened by the loss of this idealized relationship. It is crucial for parents to acknowledge and mourn the loss and then to legitimize the existing family. Families come in all shapes and sizes, even size three."

"It is a cruel irony that the more positively parents feel about parenting, the more painful is their experience of secondary infertility. Many parents have expressed ambivalent feelings about their child growing up because they fear they will never re-experience the pleasure of the early years. In addition, parents may become overly protective and attentive to their existing child. In the face of loss, parents want to hang on to what they have and love. Of course, these parental feelings must be kept in balance with the growing child's needs for separation and independence."

The "cruel irony" has been one of the hardest parts for me. I LOVE BEING A MOM. Ethan has only increased my desire for children. Even after a 26 hour labor and very difficult delivery, I was ready to do it all over again when I held his warm little body for the first time. I have found that the 2 years of trying for Ethan were easier than the 2 years of trying for our second. It's been in this 3rd year that I've found the most peace and contentment. I know women who ache for each child and have a difficult wait...and they have 3+ kids. When you are out of control and you don't know if, or when, you can conceive, there is grief and pain to acknowledge. I had an expectation... and even other people told me that once I had Ethan, the next one would come faster. I had the increased desire for more because I was having such a wonderful time with him. These factors make secondary infertility painful and unique. Primary infertility is a whole other dimension of painful emotions that I won't attempt to give voice too. My friends that have waited nearly a decade for a child, are in a whole other category in my mind. But all I can do, is try to bring awareness and sensitivity with my story...


  1. It's amazing to me how many people have come out about IF since I opened up about it. It makes me so sad to know there's someone else I know (even if indirectly) going through this difficult, life altering experience. The blogging community has been a huge help to me during this journey. I hope your prayers will be answered very very soon.

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    Talk soon.