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Secondary Infertility, Sadness & Jealousy

Secondary Infertility, Sadness & Jealousy

By Amalah

Hi!

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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Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Comments

  • SarahB

    Ugh. That’s tough–and tough not just in the not getting pregnant, but not getting sleep too.

    That stood out to me, the lack of sleep. Can DH cover you so you can wear ear plugs and get a couple nights of good sleep and then see how you feel? Or go to a hotel for two nights and sleep and rest? Everything’s easier with sleep — and harder without it.

    Having had a hard time getting pregnant with my second and having had PPD during that much wanted second child’s babyhood–self-care often falls by the wayside and yet is necessary to figuring out next steps. (Of which I see various possibilities, but I think the key next step is getting some sleep.)

  • Ann

    I know that this won’t help much with the emotions but I do suggest with this proplem to take a look at your diet. I have a sister-in-law that suger acts as a birth control for her. I don’t know if this is the problem or not. I just know that most people don’t think of it.

  • Guest

    18 months is a long time, and any minute you aren’t pregnant that you want to be is too long. If you are counting from your first child’s birth, if it helps, however, please do keep in mind that even women who do not struggle with fertility won’t be able to get pregnant for the first year or so after you’ve given birth, particularly if you are exclusively breastfeeding. It took me several months after I had fully stopped lactating — not after I’d weaned — but after I stopped lactating to notice signs of fertility return. I got pregnant a few months after that. In other words, after my son weaned it took a few weeks for my body to really be “done” producing milk (we’re talking a tiny amount). Even that small amount was enough that my body did not seem to be able to not return a state where I could get pregnant. I was in a similar mental place as you around this time (first was conceived through IVF), and was starting to panic about whether I’d get pregnant with #2. However, once my body really had some time away from being pregnant or nursing, I saw fertility signs I never saw with my first, and we were able to conceive our second without intervention.

    If you are like me (and of course not all women are), but if you are still nursing at all, you just might need to stop before you can get pregnant. Mentally, it might help to not count those months when you were very initially post-partum (like the first three months) or any months where you were nursing exclusively. So – for me, I nursed for 12 months, then weaned around 14 months post partum, then noticed fertility signs returning around 15 months pp, and got pregnant within 6 months. Technically probably about 2+ years from when #1 was born, but I tried to limit my view of “trying” to only that last 6 month window when it seemed possible — although technically we were “trying” from 6+ months post partum

    • Sal

      I’m going to ditto this. We bf’ed until my daughter was 2.33, I never went back on b/c after she was born, and I got pregnant again about two weeks after she weaned (okay, after I weaned her). If you need to have another baby now, like NOW, you may want to wean.

    • Anon

      I just wanted to say that yes, you can get pregnant the first year after birth, even you are breastfeeding. This does not happen to everyone, but it does happen and I’d hate for anyone to think of breastfeeding as a family planning method if they are not ready to conceive. And if you don’t believe me, consult your OB/GYN!

      To the OP: I am so sorry for your grief. I have a friend dealing with secondary infertility and it’s dreadful.

  • Lydia

    I have PCOS, so I had a lot of trouble getting pregnant with both my son and my second child, who I am miraculously pregnant with right now. I totally get what you’re going through. My family doctor and the fertility clinic he eventually referred me to (for my second) never treated me like my secondary infertility wasn’t as important because I already had a kid, so you’ve either been unlucky or are drawing on the wrong sources.
    I was still breastfeeding when I started trying for a second, and I also wondered if I should quit, but all the breastfeeding-friendly resources I looked at reassured me that it shouldn’t really affect fertility- that’s only for the first 6 months or so post-partum.
    Anyway, best of luck to you. I have faith- it happened to me.

    • Polopoly

      Breastfeeding CAN affect fertility for a while. With my daughter, I nursed her for 2 years and didn’t have a menstrual cycle til I completely weaned.

  • pants19

    I’m so sorry for your struggles. Wantibg another baby is a legitimate desire, and does not mean you aren’t grateful and happy with your first.

    I wasn’t able to ovulate while breastfeeding at all. I got my period back, but my OB said they were anovulatory cycles. We were down to nursing for maybe 5 minutes a day at bedtime, and it was enough to suppress ovulation.

    After I stopped nursing, I still hadn’t ovulated 3 months later so I did a round of clomid at my OB’s request to see if I just needed a little help, and it worked! I was able to ovulate and we conceived our second.

  • K

    Thanks OP, for writing in. This sucks – sending you big hugs. I want baby number two too, and for the moment, it’s off the table for us (the intervention we need is just too expensive for us – which makes me feel even crazier because I’m watching the clock tick and I swear, EVERY woman at my work is preg or just delivered, and all of our son’s pre-k friends are preg (with baby number 3 or even 4) and the birthday parties are starting to be phrased as “come celebrate Lucy’s 5th and meet baby Frank” – uh, no. No thanks). I’m with Amy – give yourself a pass on the hangouts that include baby showers or pregnant friends. For some reason I do better with the actual babies when they hit about 3 months old or older, but actually pregnant or just delivered just makes me cry. So I just politely decline – we’ve got yard work! Or a vacation out of town this weekend! Or something. And also on the self care – I do notice a difference when I take a little time. I’ve started running again, and I’ve taken myself on a few shopping trips and other dumb stuff, planned a vacation with my non child having friends who are happy to look at pictures and listen to me gush about our kiddo without asking me when we are going to have 2. It’s helping, at least with me being more okay with where I am at mentally. Good luck, biggest internet hug, and take good care of yourself 🙂

  • Rose

    We tried for over 6 months to get our second child. But, really, we didn’t not try for 2 years, so I understand a little where you are coming from. Between the first, who only took a few months to conceive, and the second, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease as well. We actually had set up appointments with a fertility doctor since the labs that my PCP ran at my annual visit were so far off. The month I started trying to figure out what the new problem was just happened to be the month I got pregnant. I have no idea what my test results were, since we didn’t finish all the tests, but I know that there were abnormal results. But I got pregnant, so he wouldn’t see me anymore.

    I would find a doctor who will take you seriously. There are lots of options before IVF, starting with just basic blood work to see where you are currently. Scheduling sex is not romantic at all, but it does help with conception. It’s the only thing that worked for me.