Secondary Infertility, Sadness & Jealousy
I wrote to you getting on 4 years ago (“Is it REALLY different when it’s your own kid?”) and thought you might like to hear my answer to my own question. I have a new question too, so this is long!
It IS. It really is amazingly, astonishingly different when you have your own child. After 3 long years of hope and heartache, I finally got pregnant and my little one is now 18 months old. Now, I appreciate that I was phenomenally lucky to get the best, sweetest, most loving and generally adorable baby issued in 2015, but even the crappy bits are much more fun when it’s your own. Accidentally drug-free labour? I can do it. Painful breastfeeding? Yeah, but look at that face. Being up for 2 hours in the middle of the night (last night)? Well, I didn’t love it but I did get told a version of ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ in odd words and hand gestures and my heart just melted.
Despite not having had 6 hours of sleep in a row since 2015, I am madly in love with this adorable tiny person. Falling in love isn’t something I felt I could bank on though, so for anyone else in my former situation, here’s what I found to be true:
That family is not my family. In my family, we have different priorities, different ideals, different ways of handling adversity and sharing the load. Even if my kid does all the things that make their lives hard (and more) then I will have the power to do what I need to do to make my life work. Don’t look at other peoples’ kids and wonder if you could parent them – your own will be different because you are different.
Right, on to my new question.
I met a lot of other moms when I was pregnant. The first of our crowd to have her second gave birth this week and I know about a dozen other people who are pregnant. It is absolutely breaking my heart. I thought I would be over all the jealousy and envy because I have a wonderful, darling child of my own already, but I’m not. We have been hoping and trying for another baby since this one was born with no hint of luck. I am so freaking jealous of how easily people fall pregnant and am really hurt by some of the casual comments from people who know my history. (I haven’t been shy about sharing it – we are ‘unexplained sub-fertile’.)
So my question is: how do I stop feeling jealous?
I’m smiling, congratulating and contributing to gifts so hopefully no one has noticed if I’m also a bit quiet, but it’s eating me up inside. We both really want a big family, and in theory I should have 10 years – plenty of time to have a heap of kids – but in practice that sort of makes it worse, as there’s no deadline. I don’t want to spend my whole thirties scheduling sex, wishing on stars and growing bitter. I also can’t draw on the support I used to have, as I have a child now which means that both the medical profession and online groups (rightly) think I’m not an urgent case anymore and don’t want to know.
I’m at a loss, and it’s alienating me from my friends (as I don’t want to talk to them, because it’s all scans and tiny onesies) and making my other half sad (because I’m so sad every month, and when I get more news). I have no one to talk to about this. I am also torn between focusing on the child we have (extended breastfeeding, saving for college e.g.) and trying harder for another (quitting breastfeeding to increase fertility, spending our savings on investigations/IVF).
Lucky once, now cursed again
Secondary infertility. It is every bit as painful and isolating as regular ol’ infertility, with the added complications of:
1) Being slightly more “invisible” than primary, because there’s a visible child there so people just assume you’re “fine.”
2) The unavoidable but confusing guilt that comes from just feeling your own dang feelings, because SOME PEOPLE still haven’t had ONE BABY, you UNGRATEFUL INGRATE.
3) Instead of the annoying “so when are you gonna have a babyyyyyyy?” question (answer: I’M TRYING, SHUT UP), you get people asking when you’re gonna have another babyyyyyyyy and also, don’t you know that only children grow up selfish and desperately lonely, you don’t want your baby to grow up selfish and desperately lonely?
(answer: SHUT YOUR PIEHOLE BEFORE I SHOVE MY NERVOUS BREAKDOWN INTO IT.)
I thought having one baby would “cure” all the pain and memories of struggling to get pregnant. And then I realized I wanted to get pregnant again. And every month that I wasn’t, I was every bit as sad and disappointed, and wondered if our first baby was just a fluke and all we were ever going to get. We’d been obsessively trying for well over a year when a good friend told me that yeah, they were probably going to try for their second as well. She got her positive test that very next month. I cheered and smiled and laughed with her, then went home and cried for the better part of the afternoon while my two-year-old piled books on my head. It was…not my finest day.
When you want to be pregnant and aren’t pregnant, or are told flat-out that this natural, fundamentally part of womanhood is possibly off the table for you (barring intense interventions, which are a draining, expensive crapshoot) — it affects you. Of course it affects you. Even if you have a child who is the light of your life and your everything…it’s normal to want to expand your family, and to feel frustrated and sad when it doesn’t happen as planned.
And just like someone struggling with primary infertility, it’s hard to avoid all the negative feelings that crop up while “everybody else in the world” is getting pregnant and having babies. (Because it ALWAYS seems like it really is “everybody else in the world” but you.) Obviously, pregnancy is not a zero-sum game, and infertility of any flavor is no excuse to be openly rude or angry with you pregnant friends. I mean, the pregnant friends who didn’t actually “do” anything to you besides have better luck and maybe say clueless-yet-naively well-meaning things, not any pregnant friends who are being openly rude or cruel or thoughtless to you (“can’t you just be grateful for what you have/just relax/just adopt” — the latter are just not nice people and shouldn’t be a pregnancy pass if you’d rather just cut ties.
I know you feel very alone in all these feelings right now, but I assure you, you are not. Remember that “invisible” thing I mentioned? Not everyone will necessarily share their struggles, especially women who maybe conceived “easily” for round one but are just now navigating the murky, uncertain path of secondary infertility for round two. There may very well be a mom in your circle who assumed she’d be pregnant again, only to be suddenly dealing with fibroids or PCOS or miscarriages or a menstrual cycle that never came back quite right, but is afraid of speaking up lest she be deemed “ungrateful” by the aforementioned not-nice people.
And if there isn’t, I would encourage you to seek out some new support groups, either online or off, that are specifically limited to secondary infertility. They will understand, I promise. And no, anybody in the medical community or online groups who thinks you’re not an “urgent case” or don’t matter as much now or ANYTHING like that is not “right.” They are wrong, and they are not the doctor or online group for you. If you really don’t feel like your doctor is taking you seriously enough or willing to map out an action plan and timetable, dump them. Ain’t nobody got time for that, especially where fertility is concerned.
Obviously I wish I could wave a magic wand and just FIX EVERYTHING AND MAKE YOU PREGNANT, but I can’t. (Do the TTC boards still yammer on about “baby dust” these days? Gag.) I do want to give you full and total permission to go on and feel all the conflicting things you’re feeling. I realize how frustrating it is to realize that having one baby didn’t “cure” whatever caused your infertility in the first place, and even more frustrating to realize that you still have to navigate stuff like jealousy and the monthly, crushing disappointment of the negative test result. And you can feel alllll those things and not have it take away from how grateful and happy your baby makes you. Take care of yourself, shield yourself from the baby showers and hullaboo if you need to — send a gift along with your regrets, opt for some one-on-one time with your baby rather than non-stop mom groups full of pregnant people, and try to seek out some supportive resources for secondary infertility. You are not alone, and I know you now have a ton of people here rooting for you.
Photo source: Depositphotos/borjomi88
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