Raising children is wonderful, isn’t it? When you have your own children, you spend every day in a state of bliss mixed with wonder mixed with frustration at the small creatures that you have to train into adulthood. You go from wanting to hide in a closet with a glass of wine to avoid the knocking, mashed-potato covered minion that you created yourself, to standing and staring while they sleep in total awe that you have created this little piece of immortality. It’s a rollercoaster of a ride and for most people, having one or two children is the goal in their life. They get to have a family, their first born gets a sibling and everyone is happy.
Except, there are a minority of people that suffer with secondary infertility. If you haven’t heard of it, you’re not alone. When you try for and conceive your first child, there’s a part of you that feels a flood of relief. It’s like ticking a box to say that your body can function the way that it was built to by nature. You can create and carry life within your womb; it’s a blessing. So, when it comes to trying for another baby and nothing happens, you’re not immediately concerned. After all, you’ve got a toddler tearaway running around chattering to imaginary friends and tormenting the cat. You’ve already confirmed that you can carry children, so it’s bound to happen again eventually, right?
Well, no, not quite. Secondary infertility is the struggle to conceive children again after a successful conception and pregnancy of a first child. It’s not something that’s talked about, mainly because there are a bunch of clichés that people hit you with when you try to explain that you’re struggling to conceive despite months of trying. Some of these are:
“Oh, well at least you CAN carry a baby.”
“Even if it doesn’t happen for you again, at least you have the one child already.”
“How can you be struggling, you’ve been pregnant before!”
Each of these clichés is a needle in the heart of a woman yearning for another baby to carry, nurture and birth. The thing is, secondary infertility has no rhyme or reason to it. It has no pattern, no predictability and you can find yourself desperately clawing for information as to why you managed to conceive once, but despite regular ovulation and sex, it’s just not happening again. Some couples try for years before turning desperately to affordable IVF. They go through heartache trying to figure out what’s ‘wrong’, but if the medical professionals run their tests and scans and can find nothing, this is often far worse. At least if there’s a reason to blame, you have a focus, a thing to think, ‘yes, this is why I can’t get pregnant, and now I can fix it.’ Once you know the problem, you can find a solution. Secondary infertility unfortunately has solutions that are more than just the sperm meets egg plan.
When you have a child already, there is an added layer of heartache for secondary infertility: you already know what you are missing. Your body has already experienced the joy of pregnancy, labour and birth. You’ve already got the war wounds of scars and stretchmarks on your belly to represent fecundity and fertility. And now your fertility has abandoned you and the guilt of not being able to provide your child with a sibling and your partner with another child can be crippling. Secondary infertility is no less devastating than infertility when you are childless in the first place; they are both hard situations to be a part of. The key here, is learning to cope with the diagnosis. Understanding any changes in your life since your first child was born is the first place to look. Sometimes, secondary infertility can be due to age – especially if you were much younger with your first child compared to now. Fertility diminishes over time, and your choices in when you choose to try for a baby can affect your egg quality and the regularity of an egg being released.
You should be as proactive as possible about medical help. It’s not just about finding the best fertility doctor, either. You should read up on acupuncture and homeopathy so that you can learn the ways that you can help your body to regulate properly, to ovulate with good quality eggs. While you’re researching the best doctors and help out there, you should do as much research as you can about the tests that you can expect. Testing for secondary infertility can be invasive, which you should be okay with before you get started. Make a plan for you and your partner to face it all together and embrace how you feel. The pain you are going through isn’t going to go away immediately and the anger, sadness and anxious feelings are all normal responses to being told that you are not able to have children without help. It’s a hard blow to the heart and can make you feel rather empty on the inside.
The important thing to remember if you get a diagnosis of secondary infertility is that you haven’t done anything wrong. You need to accept that this is the situation, but that doesn’t mean that you have to give up on your dream of expanding your family. You do have a child to concentrate on at home, which can provide an excellent distraction while you’re attending appointments and having tests done. It’s important that you accept how you feel and keep moving forward, finding a way to have more children that you desire. Worrying about what’s doing to come next can really rob you of the joy that you feel today. There will be tough questions ahead for you; some you’ll ask and others you’ll receive. The way to handle it is to keep as positive as you can and be truthful. Secondary infertility is not something to be ashamed of.