Things I Didn't Know About Secondary Infertility

I thought I was pretty well versed in the emotional aspect of infertility. When gearing up to start TTC again, I'd hoped it would be smoother sailing. We would be more prepared this time, we knew our doctor and our IVF clinic & were prepared to go in guns blazing, and hopefully walk away with a little less money in our pockets, but another beautiful baby at the end.

Life tends to throw you curveballs though, and these are some of the things I've learned along the way.

You don't seem to fit in anywhere in infertility land.

You're not a first timer, and you now have a kid - so you don't fit in with the primary infertiles who are still coming to terms with not yet conceiving a baby without assistance. You have a child already, so how could you possibly understand the struggle? {Sidenote: I have been there, with our own case of primary infertility, so I DO know... but they don't know that.} You're also not one of those lucky folks who struggled the first time, but conceived naturally/easily the second time around - so people don't always get how hard it can be to be doing this all over again. Sure, they can empathise about the overall suck factor of infertility... but there's no first hand experience of having to re-live the worst time of your life all over again & with no end in sight. Add in the extra joy of the miscarriages & it just makes the whole thing a big mess. Thankfully, people don't have to walk exactly in your steps to be able to offer sympathy & a shoulder to cry on - that's something I'm always grateful for.

You feel like you're not allowed to complain.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I am so grateful for Georgia. Every day of my existence, I'll be grateful for our sweet, cheeky girl. She is my everything. But there is nothing fun about secondary infertility. It sucks. It really sucks. The idea of our family finishing here is so hard to deal with, when your heart is screaming at you that you just aren't ready to be done. Comments like 'at least you have one child' hurt - because we know that. We know we're lucky to have her. But damn it, we're allowed to be upset that we can't give her a sibling right now, and that our choices have once again been taken away from us.

You feel guilty all the time.

We're spending so much time, money, emotional effort into expanding our family - at what point do we stop and give it all to our existing child, instead of essentially throwing it away on a what-if? I don't ever want my daughter to feel that we're not satisfied because of her, that she wasn't enough for us to stop trying & focus on being a single child family. Is that what people think about us... will she think that of us one day? Or will she know that we want another baby not only for ourselves & our joy of parenting, but for her - because we both grew up with siblings, and because we don't want her to be alone when we're gone. I love my daughter with my whole heart, but I have so much more to give - does that make me a bad parent?

You spend your days pretending everything's fine, so your little one doesn't see the stress.

The one thing I refuse to do is ruin my toddler's childhood by pining away over the stress of infertility - which is easy enough, when she's little. We started back at the IVF game on her first birthday, when she was happily oblivious. Now, it's getting harder. When we found out that we had lost the baby at 11 weeks, after expecting all to be in the safe zone, it was absolutely devastating - and when all I wanted to do was cry and scream and wail, I had to pull it together, because I didn't want my little girl seeing her mama crumble. When we got the news that another pregnancy was ending, that a miscarriage was imminent, all I could do was count the seconds to her nap-time so that I could lose my shit without her witnessing it. When IVF cycle after IVF cycle got cancelled, or ended with me on the bathroom floor sobbing over another negative pregnancy test... it doesn't matter, because she will never know those things. But man, I've gotta tell you - keeping up appearances is exhausting.

You realise how hard it can be to figure out fertility appointments.

If you thought infertility and IVF was hard first time around, it's even harder with a temperamental two year old in tow. I don't like taking Georgia into our clinic, because I feel like it's a little insensitive to the women still trying for their first - but sometimes, it's a necessary evil. If I can't get a babysitter, or if my appointments are at crazy times, she has to come with me. Our clinic is a 30 minute drive away, so lugging her into the car and keeping her busy is work in itself.. and don't even get me started on how you manage her while you've got an appointment with dildo cam, or the million & one blood draws.

You're constantly comparing things.

We got lucky on a fresh cycle with Georgia. We got lucky after two years. Maybe we need to wait that long again this time around. Or maybe I need to wear the same underwear, or lucky socks, or jewellery, or have the same doctor doing the transfer, for it to work? You find yourself obsessively googling stories of successful pregnancies, of BFN's turning into BFP's after 12dpo... it goes on and on and on. And don't even get me started on how easy it is to start comparing yourself to others, because that's a whole other story altogether.

You expected it to be hard, but you didn't expect it to be THIS hard.

I'm not silly - I knew that we wouldn't be one of those miracle couples who got a surprise pregnancy second time around. Hopeful maybe, but I'm a realist: we knew it'd be hard going. But in all honesty, I thought we would have a second baby in a shorter time frame than it took with Georgia. Why? Well, because we were cutting straight to the point this time around. No faffing about with trying naturally, we'd jump straight back into the IVF and get this show on the road. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that we'd have back to back miscarriages, or cancelled cycles, or multiple BFN transfers - or be sitting here, all this time later, with nothing to show for our efforts. It has been a very harsh reality check, that's for sure.

You need support. Like, a LOT of support.

I can't stress this enough. Infertility is an emotional rollercoaster, and secondary infertility is like getting back on the same rollercoaster, but without a safety harness. You just don't know what to expect. Having family & friends, and outside support if you feel you need it, is essential. It's part of the reason why I love the blogging community so much - you connect to so many people who make you feel less alone, even in the darkest times. To everyone who's helped, and is still helping - thank you. xx

What things have surprised you about your own journey?

22 Comments • Labels: , , ,  


Chon said...

You feel like you start every post with a disclaimer

"this is my [x] IVF transfer and I am so happy for my [son / daughter]"

just in case you inadvertantly offend someone which you don't want to do. I agree it is a totally different type of stress and I had someone say that it isn't technically secondary infertility it is still primary your diagnosis hasn't changed but it's just v2.0

I thought we had it. I thought the second time was going to be a breeze, that I would need IVF but maybe like one go or I would have frozen but I had nothing and just shit eggs and it was just a complete joke.

And the fit in. Yeah. I have really struggled this time. I know people get it, but getting it the second time around and the same shit AGAIN is a totally different thing.

Chelle said...

Great post hon. So lovely to hear how you feel about it all. Lovely in a, makes me more able to understand what you're going through. I hope I can be of some support in some tiny way!

My sister in law has had many years and years trying for her child. She's several years down the track for no2 and it's possible it won't happen at all. I felt huge amounts of guilt when we fell quickly for both our kids, at the unfairness of it. She, in her amazing grace and wisdom said 'fertility isn't your challenge, you'll be challenged in other ways'. This is so true. Fertility is her (and your) major challenge in life. It'll test you, break you, make you and define you. I have my own challenges and it's important to know that. Whether it's your first or second of fifth, it's challenging. And it's yours. Not to be compared. And you don't know how it's going to end or pan out. And whichever/however it does, you're going to be ok.
Much love xxx

thesaurus_rex said...

I feel like I could have written this post myself, and agree with you on all points.

The other day, while I indulged in an episode of teen mom, my 22 mos. old overheard that one of the kids on the show was going to be a big brother. She looked at me with puppy dog eyes and said in the saddest voice ever, "molly, sister? molly, brother?" over and over again, my heart breaking a little more each time. I told her that me and daddy were trying real hard, and fought off tears all day long.

Heatherj said...

I am 9 months into my journey towards #2 and each day brings new challenges and new heartache. We spent so many years trying to prevent conception because there was no way we could afford to have 2 children under 4 because of childcare costs however during that time I yearned to have another. Then when we could finally relax because the financial pressure was off, just like the first time, is hasn't happened. I feel so angry at the moment that life can be so fucking unfair. How can x get pregnant when they can't afford it/without trying blah blah blah when I am doing everything I possibly can. I think sometimes having a first child almost makes it worse as you know what you are missing out on. You know the joy and happiness if parenthood, you know that every challenge is so so worth it. Every night you pray that this month you will be the 'lucky' one yet still it doesn't happen. I hope that it happens for you soon too. Big hugs from a fellow infertile across the pond xxx

Just T said...

I hope you can find a group that deals with support on secondary infertility. I know personally that there were many people with hateful comments when I suffered through it. Even though my daughter was already a teenager I was told I should be happy that I had one.

Don't ever feel like you need to make up for your hurt by constantly saying how grateful you are because you are entitled to be hurt and upset for wanting another baby. I hope things work out for you.

Just Myself said...

Everything you said is 100% absolutely true. Although I am NOT part of that infertile 1st kid club, I struggled with secondary infertility for years upon years. The jump from son #1 to son #1 was five years long, with 4 miscarriages ... and finally I got a doctor to listen to me and he put me on Clomid. I *naturally* concieved two of my four boys, but carried one of them with no assistance, and the other two were concieved on Clomid. The last two I had to take progesterone to keep the pregnancies. But I have had 16 miscarriages total through my journey, the last one being on Easter this year. Even though we are no longer trying, it still happens now and then :( But this is an AWESOME testimony .... thanks for sharing.

Just Myself said...

Oops ... forgot ... from ICLW (#10)

Unknown said...

Sending you so much love xx

Audrey said...

Aly, you are on my heart every single day. I'm so sorry this is so painful, and I keep hoping and praying for good news for your family. I see how amazing Georgia is and think it makes perfect sense to do whatever it takes to have another baby as perfect as she is. Sending you all tons of love, every single day.

Kato Potato said...

The unfairness never stops stinging, but I'm always keeping hope out that you'll get another sticky transfer. This is hard, hard work.

RHMummy said...

I sometimes think I have no right to complain because of having a happy and healthy 4 year old that was conceived two weeks after getting married.

But, I know I've been through enough since then that I've earned the infertility struggle badge as much as any woman.

Good luck to you!

Mrs. Agony said...

I find it so odd that there are people in the IF community who are rude/dismissive to those suffering from secondary IF. It took me four years to get pregnant with my first, and in that time I knew lots of women struggling to have a second, third, or even fourth child. I never thought their pain was less than my own. (Exception: the Duggars being sad they couldn't pop out #20, esp. after what poor #19 went through.)

The only time I found myself really irritated with someone in my personal IF community (from an in-person Resolve group) is the woman who couldn't get over the fact that she needed IVF to get pregnant. Like, she cried about not being able to have her baby naturally. I get that it didn't match her picture of how babies "should" be made, but she had healthy eggs and her husband had healthy sperm - she just had some endo they had to work around. Meanwhile, my eggs were all dried up and my husband's sperm was on life support. I would have KILLED to have had her problems.

Maybe it's all subjective. I don't know.

At any rate, I'm sorry you've had to deal with negative reactions. To me, wanting a child and not being able to have one is the same regardless of how many you had before (unless, as I said, you're Mama Dugger).

ADSchill said...

Oh Aly, this really hit home. In fact, I think it's a really good run-down about what secondary IF is like. I'd like to re-post this on my blog if you'd let me.
I could have written every word of this almost. I feel all of these things and don't quite know how to express it all to people I know. The shittiness of secondary IF and TTC again is what keeps me hesitant to keep going. We did 6 months of TTC on our own last year and I was so frustrated with it that we took a break. Now I am planned more natural cycles w/ and w/out Clomid and I don't want to!!! Unfortunately IVF is never going to happen again because of expenses, so this is what I am stuck with - holding onto hope that I will somehow be that lucky girl. I can only imagine how it would feel dealing with miscarriages and appointments with a toddler in tow. All I can offer is support and hope for you. Hang in there and thank you for the thoughtful post.

Katelin said...

This is such a great post that I'm sorry you have to write. Thinking of you so much Aly, xo

Feisty Harriet said...

I wish I knew a thing to say or do to make this easier for you. But I don't, and I can't quite relate or empathize with my own personal experiences. But I want you to know that my heart goes out to you, I think about you often and want all the good things for you.

Love and hugs,

annie said...

Thank you for writing this. You have said, so eloquently, exactly what I have been feeling. I was trying to explain to someone how this second time around has really kicked my butt....emotionally and physically. I think this time around it almost stings more because I have my daughter. I know what an amazing gift she is and how incredibly blessed we are to have her and the thought of not being able to give her a sibling is crushing. She has brought me so much joy and changed our world completely. I want to be able to experience this again. I feel selfish for that, considering there are so many still struggling to have one. I hope you get pregnant soon with your take home baby and G's little sibling. Sending you love and lots and lots of baby dust xo

Non Sequitur Chica said...

I have a friend that has been going through secondary infertility for a number of years now. Before I was able to get pregnant with Izzy, she always felt as if she needed to say that she was so grateful for her son. It's hard because you are so happy for what you do have, but want to complete your family.

I am lucky in that I have a RESOLVE secondary infertility group in my area. Some of the other ladies are also trying for #2 so it helps to be in the same boat as them.

Karen said...

Here from Mel's Roundup this week.

Yes. Yes. YES.

The thing that I didn't expect the second time around was when we stopped treatments. All of a sudden, I "chose" to have an only child.

Because it WAS a choice.

But it wasn't really my choice, either. After two more years, more IVF fails, and two miscarriages, we just couldn't do treatments any longer.

I didn't expect to be the only person I knew who had an only child (not) by choice.

I call it my "Funny Kind Of Lucky." Because we got so, so, so lucky to have Owen in the first place. But it's a funny kind of lucky, with lots of pain surrounding it.

Hugs and lots of love.


Heather said...

I know what you mean about the guilt, about wanting more. I can totally identify.

Turia said...

Here from the roundup. You have basically popped into my head and written EVERYTHING I have been thinking over the last couple of years.

I knew we were likely to have trouble the second time (read: need IVF/ICSI again) but I had no idea that the cycle that brought us our son was in fact a happy accident and not the magic bullet that would be all we needed for more babies. But here we are, five blastocysts later, and all we have to show for it is a mid-first trimester miscarriage.

It is so hard. Because if it worked once, how can you wrap your head around the fact that it might not work again? That you just got incredibly lucky with the cycle that worked?

I also wrestle with the resentment at pouring so much time, energy and money into an imaginary family rather than spending it on the family I DO have.

Lots of luck to you. I hope you get your rainbow baby. We thought we were done but might be mad enough to try one more time. Still on the fence.

AnneR said...

Here late from the roundup and I hear you. Planning a 3 year old's birthday in a week and in the midst of FET #2 (we were lucky). And yes, I use that disclaimer all the time - with people, friends, family, RE's office, etc. So luck to have our son (IVF) and be able to try again. But this is all so exhausting and as much as he healed bits, the pain of infertility is still there. Very much so.

monnie said...

So so true.

After 3 years on the very painful primary fertility merry-go-round (actually...merry-go-round is probably a bad analogy...there was nothing fun about it!), we had our son. A miracle.

I figured I had paid my dues. Felt the sting of fertility issues and could now move on, knowing that our family would be growing again.

But then, secondary infertility hit...this time with no happy ending. IVF cycles were unsuccessful and I was now 40. The IVF clinic made it fairly clear that it wasn't going to we stopped.

Our son is now 7, nearly 8. Beautiful boy who is a daily reminder of how blessed we are...and how much we wanted a 2nd happy ending.

It's tough. You now live in the 'kid world' of birthdays, school pick-ups, play dates and sporting clubs. But, I don't feel like I quite belong. Of course, we sort-of belong, but in our country, only-children families are still eyed with some suspicion. We are the land of 2.5 children and anything less than 2 is seen as "a bit odd".

There's all the comments about how easy life must be for me, with just one. In one sense, it is easier - the washing machine isn't quite as full, the calendar isn't bursting with busyness, our home isn't filled with charming chaos...but it's also so much harder. The ache never leaves. It's there in each of us - my husband, my son and myself. We have a wonderful life together...lots of laughs and fun times, but there is always a sense that someone is missing. You know, that moment you catch yourself laughing and then suddenly realise how sad that makes you.

I don't know you come to terms with it. I guess it's about acceptance, but even 3 years later, I'm still struggling on that path.

I feel like we're not quite a family - and as much as I try to convince myself otherwise - the 'family deals' and commercials on tv, always send a painful reminder of what a 'real' family looks like.

It's painful...with a pain that is often not recognised or validated, which can make it that bit more painful.

Thank you for writing such a beautiful post that, although filled with the pain of secondary infertility, also allows for a place where it can be talked about.

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