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Playgroups, Pregnancies & the Pain of Secondary Infertility

Apr09

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Photo by jaaron
Hi there, Amy.
I’ve read your column for a long time and love your advice. I even live in the same county and my daughter (who is 6 months younger than Noah) was in (frustrating) early intervention too. Super helpful to read your account. I need some help and I hope you might be able to give me a perspective that I just can’t find.
It took me 2.5 years to get pregnant with my 3-year old. After trying for #2 for a year, the RE [Reproductive Endocrinologist] says the chances are slim at best. I’m a neurotic mess/heartbroken over this for many reasons but what I’m trying to deal with now is my play group – 15 first-time moms who get together ~2x/week. I’m not close friends with them all individually but the group is still my saving grace for dealing with being a SAHM of a sometimes-difficult kid.
In the last year most of the group has had kid #2. The remaining 3 who weren’t pregnant just announced that they are (after trying for a total of 5 months between them all). I thought the hard part would be knowing that they’re all pregnant. It turns out, instead, that it’s the mundane chatting (no sushi! I’m so tired! should i buy a new crib?) that’s killing me. I don’t begrudge them their happiness but they have no idea how hard it is to listen.
I don’t know what to do. I want it to not matter and move on. But instead I’m the life of the party – I make snide comments around them (you’re 22 weeks? so you’re not due for over 4 months? you know that’s means you’re almost 5 months, not 6. months don’t actually have 4 weeks) and cry when I’m alone. I miss it when I don’t go but am miserable for two days after I do go. But I, um, don’t have other friends, at least not in this state. Too melodramatic to just move on after 3 good years together? They’d notice but wouldn’t miss me terribly. I couldn’t possibly tell them to not discuss the main event in their lives simply because I’m there. If it were just a single event like a baby shower, I just wouldn’t go and be done with it. But since it’s my main calendar filler, I need to find a balance between the ‘why can’t I just suck it up’ side and the soul crushing other side. Help! Please?

Balance? What is this “balance,” you speak of? The whole trying-to-conceive business left me so jaded and bitter and cranky that I STILL have trouble dealing with other people’s pregnancy news sometimes, even after having baby #2. I distinctly remember being nine months pregnant with Noah when someone I sort-of secretly disliked announced their second pregnancy (we JUST started trying last month! isn’t that HILARIOUS?)…and hiding in my office for an hour to irrationally seethe with jealousy while simultaneously cursing my endless Braxton-Hicks contractions. I knew I was being beyond crazy, and yet…those feelings of failure, disappointment and envy over what comes so easily and naturally to other people are REALLY hard to shake.
So I wish I had an actual SOLUTION for you, something beyond a sympathetic head pat and a lament over how difficult it can be to find a group of mom friends in the first place — so difficult that I think we’ve all maybe tried to force ourselves to enjoy someone’s company now and again, and suffered through awkward playdates with crazy people, or had our hearts sink after that super cool woman we chatted up on the playground turned out to be only visiting from across the country, or show up on that night’s episode of COPS (Dammit! And we had so much in common!)
If I were you, I guess, I’d take a really hard and long look at the pros and cons of sticking with the group. On the one hand, pretty soon all of those pregnancies will be over and done with. On the other hand, the pregnancy talk will turn into baby talk, complete with actual delicious little babies, which might not be any easier. On the one hand, you need the outlet and miss it when you don’t go. On the other hand, you’re “miserable for two days after [you] do go.” Yikes, dude. I know we mothers get a lot of pressure to keep our children constantly and properly socialized and all, but two days of misery and funkitude seems like too much in exchange for your kid to get the chance to bang around on someone else’s kitchen set.
Yes, wherever you go, whatever you do, there’s going to be someone else’s pregnant belly waiting for you. (Heh. HEH! Sorry.) You can’t run away sobbing every time you see one, but you also don’t have to walk into Fertility Central every week with a big fat smile on your face just to prove that you’re a “bigger person,” or anything. I gather the news from your RE is pretty fresh and you are still coming to terms with staying a family of three. Give yourself time to grieve that fact. Wallow a bit. Formulate a plan, whether that be a second opinion from a different RE or simply pledging to embrace being a mother of one.
Maybe try going to the playgroup every other week and trying some new social outlet on the off weeks: go to the most popular playground, a new music class, a kiddie concert at a local coffeehouse. Volunteer at preschool or camp. Scour the Internet for a local mom’s message board or blogging ring that has get-togethers. Check BigTent or Meetup.com or propose your own outing on Facebook. If you don’t find anyone you click with, well, you head back to the playgroup the next week as usual. It’s kind of like a really immature breakup from high school — don’t ditch the playgroup until you’ve got something new and better lined up. Maybe the time away will be good for you, maybe you’ll really miss it and learn to tune out the negatives over time. Maybe you’ll enjoy the time away more than you think or realize that you’d rather break off and stay friends with just a couple of the moms individually. I don’t know, but I do know that I don’t see anything wrong with what you’re feeling or your need to maybe step back from it all while you lick your TTC wounds for a bit.


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Isabel Kallman

http://www.alphamom.com
Isabel Kallman is the founding mom of Alphamom.com.

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12 Responses to “Playgroups, Pregnancies & the Pain of Secondary Infertility”

  1. chiquita Apr 09 at 9:08 am Reply Reply

    Have you talked to these moms about it? Maybe you don’t want to announce in the group (hey! I probably can’t have another baby!) but it is a huge thing going on with you and it sounds like you haven’t shared how hard it is. Maybe that would help. Of course, then there is the possibility they will walk on eggshells around you which is possibly just as annoying.

  2. Elizabeth Apr 09 at 9:18 am Reply Reply

    This may be totally counter to your personal feelings on IF, but what if you came out to them?
    I was pleasantly surprised by the number of Clomid/IUI/IVF babies in my playdate group, mostly because I didn’t feel like I needed to keep mine under wraps. While it sounds like this group is not highly likely to have many moms in your same situation, would they be a bit more sensitive around you, if they knew?
    They may not, as pregnant women can be a very self-centered demographic, but it’s something to consider.

  3. Lisa M Apr 09 at 10:43 am Reply Reply

    Try asking one or two of the moms that you really like to get together for individual playdates. Not that you want to leave the playgroup, but smaller get-togethers might be better for you and your child. It might also help you get to know these other moms even better, and form real friendships. And if you decide to confide in one about your fertility struggles, she can also be your best ally in changing the subject when you are in the big groups.
    Also, please consider talking to a counselor if things don’t improve. There’s no shame in seeing a psychiatrist for therapy, and even anti-depressants. Infertility messes with everyone it strikes, and sometimes you might need a little help. Just something to consider (from one that’s been there). Good luck.

  4. Amy Apr 09 at 10:56 am Reply Reply

    I agree with Lisa M. about the counseling. I’ve found it to be incredibly helpful to talk through the feelings of “everybody else is pregnant why not me?” It might also help you to learn to handle with the stupid comments well meaning people make. After two miscarriages, being told that at least I can get pregnant isn’t very helpful if there’s no baby in the end.

  5. Ellen Apr 09 at 6:44 pm Reply Reply

    I agree with Amy and the comments left above, great advice.
    Here is what worked for me.
    I was in the exact same situation, almost 3 years of trying with my first, and in a playgroup with other first-time moms. Everyone got pregnant, some with their third(!) while I was still trying for a second.
    When my son was 3 I put him in a part-time preschool. It took a little while, but eventually many of the parents got to know each other through birthday parties and school events. I met many other moms who had one child or this was their youngest child – anyway they weren’t all pregnant or talking about babies. Exposing myself to that group of moms really made a huge difference in my outlook. Amy gave you that advice to look for new groups, and that worked for me.

  6. Jess Apr 09 at 7:55 pm Reply Reply

    Seeing as how I don’t have kids I don’t even know if these exist…but what about a playgroup or meetup group made up of more women who are not all blessed with magic uterusus…uterusi…uteri? Maybe you don’t need to stop going to play groups…but just find one where you can relate to the moms more?

  7. Molly Apr 10 at 10:03 am Reply Reply

    I’m so sorry you’re experiencing this. Everyone has left wonderful comments, but I just want to advocate Ellen, Amy, and Jess’s solutions. Play groups made up of SAHMs usually include far more Moms trying and succeeding to have other children than play groups made up of a more diverse population. In my experience (recurrent mcs and no children) simply being around my SAHM friends, so many of whom are now pregnant with or having their second child, while my husband and I still try, can be excruciating (even though they know our issues). In addition to counseling, which offers a constructive outlet for sometimes-irrational but still-painful feelings, it is an excellent idea to mix up the Mom demographic–whether that means going the part-time pre-school route, the popular-playground route, or something else. That’s not easy, I know, but it has been my saving grace to find (and sometimes create) communities in which I don’t have to think every single second of every single day about the things I don’t have.
    Sincerely,
    Molly

  8. Polly Apr 10 at 2:48 pm Reply Reply

    I am in the SAME BOAT!!! And same county – maybe we should get together :) The only difference is that I work and my 2.5 year old is in daycare (a really small center onsite at the place where I work) and THREE of the moms of the other daycare kids (who are the same age or younger than my daughter) are all due with baby #2 this spring. These women are colleagues that I work with so I see them every day.
    We did IVF to conceive our daughter and worse than trying and not succeeding to get pregnant with #2, my husband refuses to try IVF again. It was incredibly stressful the first time, but this is definitely an issue between us. At least once a week, one of the daycare teachers mentions how most of my daughter’s classmates are going to have siblings soon and asks if we will be next? It’s just awful. I don’t really have any good advice for handling it – I thought it might help to hear that others are going through it. I try to tell myself to be so grateful for the little miracle we have and I’ve even made lists of the advantages of having an only child AND lists of the celebrities I can think of with only one (i.e. Courtney Cox and Sarah Jessica Parker). It helps take the sting out of watching the Jolie Pitts reproduce like crazy! I also try to tell myself “this too shall pass.”
    Polly

  9. Formerly Gracie Apr 10 at 6:09 pm Reply Reply

    We had a difficult time conceiving our second. Meanwhile, I had a bunch of friends having “accident” #2 and even #3 to contend with…
    I feel your pain!
    I suggest looking for another group less focused on motherhood and babies, babies, babies…
    Photography? Cooking? Something at your church or place of worship?

  10. Question Asker Apr 11 at 12:20 am Reply Reply

    Hi there. I’m the one who asked the question. Just wanted to say thank you Amy and commenters for giving me a few good things to think about. I’ve got a call into a therapist and am hoping to get an appointment soon. Boy would I love to be on anti-depressants but with a (very small) chance of still getting pregnant, I want to stay off them for now. But the idea of another playgroup – one with a more diverse group of moms, maybe even some who are going through IF or who are deciding to only have one kid – is a really good idea. Thanks again!

  11. Jenn Apr 11 at 2:56 pm Reply Reply

    As someone who is currently pregnant, I understand the desire to make it all about me, me ME! But this is also my 3rd and I’ve found knowing about the problems family and friends have had with fertility/miscarriages have made it a heck of a lot less about me. Yes, I’m pregnant, but I’m also a sister and a friend and need to take others’ feelings into account. I’d also like to think I can have a conversation about something other than pregnancy (I did talk about things other than kids before I had them, right?) I hope you can find others who are more sympathetic to your situation and hope that the therapist will really help you.

  12. Anonymous Apr 24 at 12:23 am Reply Reply

    I’ve read the responses to your questions and wanted to share my experience. I conceived my
    4 yr old son through IVF. Initially after having my son, I never thought about another child as I was thrilled to even have ONE! However, as time passed, I began to have the undeniable desire for another. Three years ago, I became pregnant on my own only to miscarry. My ob says that getting pregnant on my own was a fluke and that my best chance would be to do IVF again. I went through a very rough time coping….and suffered the same type of emotional torture you are while attending playgroups. Only adding to my misery was the fact that my husband did not want to do IVF again. I would habitually “tally” up the benefits of having an only child to “convince” myself this was how it should be…but then at playgroups when I saw my son’s friends with their siblings my heart would break inside. I can really relate to the playgroup situation. You need to take care of yourself right now though…it’s like you have an open wound and putting yourself in a situation where you end up crying afterwards is not going to help you heal…it’s unhealthy. Not saying to cut off from your group…but slowly backoff for awhile so you can focus on feeling better. I liked the suggestions of expanding your cirle of mom friends and interests….that’s exactly what I did and it helped me tremendously. Talking to a therapist is also a great idea. I now understand that for me, the desire to have a child never goes away, but I’m not paralyzed by the pain anymore. I’m at peace and am so grateful for the blessings in my life. My life is blessed. I am happy taking care of my son and sharing my life with my husband. I love being a family of three…we’re very close and have an amazing connection. I have strong healthy relationships
    with my immediate family and a few close friends. Hang in there…you WILL find your way again.
    Lyn

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