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Playgroups, Pregnancies & the Pain of Secondary Infertility

By Amalah

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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.

Photo by jaaron

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 [email protected].

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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chiquita
Guest
chiquita

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.

Elizabeth
Guest
Elizabeth

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.

Lisa M
Guest
Lisa M

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… Read more »

Amy
Guest
Amy

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.

Ellen
Guest
Ellen

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… Read more »

Jess
Guest

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?

Molly
Guest
Molly

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… Read more »

Polly
Guest
Polly

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… Read more »

Formerly Gracie
Guest

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?

Question Asker
Guest
Question Asker

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… Read more »

Jenn
Guest
Jenn

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… Read more »

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

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… Read more »