Secondary Infertility is the Red-Headed Stepchild

I read an article recently entitled “­Mother who spent £20,000 on FOUR rounds of IVF says she was made to feel ‘selfish’ because she already had a child – and reveals her battle to conceive felt like a ‘shameful secret.’ (www.DailyMail.com, March 30, 2017).  Note the “FOUR”, as if that’s SOOOO much.  It’s not.  Most of my patients do whatever they need to do to build their family.  If a doctor told them to stand on their heads and cluck like a chicken, they would do it.  And they are often judged negatively for it.

Secondary infertility is the red-headed stepchild of the reproductive world. Secondary infertility gets no love at all.  It is confusing and maddening.  This is an ache.  Yearning. There is nothing logical about wanting a child or children.  We just want it.  The pain and obsessiveness of the chase is very similar to primary infertility with one big difference: people are fresh out of empathy for you.  Even people who are trying to make their first child don’t quite understand your distress.

I’m learning to live without you now

But I miss you sometimes

The more I know, the less I understand

All the things I thought I knew, I’m learning again…

“The Heart of the Matter”

By Don Henley

Let’s say your first child was conceived in the bed with some pleasure or in a doctor’s office.  Great! That went well enough.  Let’s repeat a successful process.  Wait. Things aren’t working.  Time is passing.  Things are getting more confusing.  It can be a crushing blow when attempts at the second child go flat.  There is a sense of panic because you are trying to make sense of something that makes no sense.

WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON HERE!?

Inseminations worked before.  Why aren’t they working now?

IVF worked for us.  Why can’t we get good embryos again?

Nobody ever told me that I might not be able to get pregnant again!

Why am I having miscarriage after miscarriage?

When did my AMH (Anti-Mullerian Hormone) level plummeting?

Unfortunately, there are seldom answers to these important questions.  Urgency and anxiety grow in the absence of data and certainty.

This is when the questions and “helpful” comments start from others.  Let’s list them, shall we?

  • What’s your problem? At least you have a child.
  • You’ve got what you wanted. Why can’t you just be grateful that you have a child?
  • Aren’t I enough? (This one seems to be is a specialty of the male species.  She loves you a lot but she needs something more.  Read my earlier blog post No Fellas, She Needs a Child, Too.”)
  • Maybe it’s meant to be. Move on. Get over it.
  • It’s not the end of the world if you have one child.
  • This is God’s way of saying (________).
  • Why would you spend money to have another child? (Hint to the helpers: why wouldn’t you?)

Exhausting, all this “helpful” advice.

I understand your pain.

I wish other people did, as well.

It is hard to explain to your child that he or she may or may not get the sibling they ask for.  You are trying.  So hard.  It’s not your fault.  You are a good person.

Your very real medical problem is being dismissed by others who cannot understand that your family is not yet complete.  Ask yourself how many children you have wanted.  I’ll bet that the number comes to you right away.  I don’t know of any research that explains that instant number that everyone seems to know.  I know that you are setting the table for another person.  You have invited them but they are not here yet.  And they may not be coming after all.

This is when empathy from others would go a long way.   It’s National Infertility Awareness Week from April 23-29, 2017.  If you have the energy, teach the people around you about your pain.  Because it’s real. I’m doing my best to do the same.

Please hang in there.  Hold on to the dream, if there are different paths to take that might make the dream come true.  And if you are at the end of the journey, your grief is real and true.  Your tears speak to what might have been, and who you are now.  Give yourself the time and grace to heal. Because you will.  And new dreams will form…

#ListenUp #NIAW



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