After I gave birth to one baby, I assumed it would be relatively "easy" to get pregnant and give birth to another. I became pregnant with my daughter so easily, after all, that I had no reason to think I would experience trouble carrying any other baby to term. But after more than five years of struggles, losses, and disappointments, it's safe to say that there are so many things I wish I knew about secondary infertility, before I experienced it. Perhaps if I had known then what I know now, I wouldn't have been so unkind to myself for so long.
According to the Mayo Clinic, secondary infertility is "the inability to become pregnant or to carry a baby to term after previously giving birth to a baby." My partner and I didn't "try" to get pregnant again until our daughter was 2. I didn't feel rushed or like I had to give my kid a sibling right away, and figured another pregnancy would simply happen when it happened. After months of trying I found out I was pregnant, but miscarried shortly after. And for months, I grieved.
It was another year before I found out I was pregnant for a third time, and for a second time I miscarried. That's when my doctor explained secondary infertility, and asked if I had already discussed the possibility of fertility treatments. I was hesitant to start that process, especially after hearing some stories from loved ones, so my partner and I ultimately decided to wait a little longer. Thankfully, that's when I found out I was pregnant with my son. So while I was able to get my happy ending — my rainbow baby — there are things I wish I'd known about this exhausting, overwhelming, heartbreaking process.
It Won't Always Make Sense
The thing about secondary infertility is that it's unpredictable. While some of it can be attributed to issues such as impaired sperm production or complications from another pregnancy of surgery, according to the Mayo Clinic some if remains a mystery. In my case, my Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) had worsened, I'd gained weight, and it's possible that my depression and previous hypertension made conceiving a second time more complicated than I had originally assumed it would be.
I wish I'd known that so much of this was out of my control, and not my fault.
It's Awkward & Uncomfortable
It feels odd, to go through daily life on auto-pilot and watch the world go on around you while you feel like your life has hit pause. It's awkward to explain to inquiring minds why your child doesn't have a sibling yet.
I wish I would have known that the silence surrounding secondary infertility was going to make me feel so awkward and uncomfortable. Perhaps, if I had, I would have at least been able to better prepare myself for those uncomfortable moments.
You'll Rely On Old Wives' Tales
When I decided I was ready for baby number two, there was little I wouldn't do to help things move along. All the old wives' tales about putting my legs up in the air, or eating specific foods, or pointing my body in a certain direction? Yep, I did them all. I guess I wanted to feel a sense of control in a completely uncontrollable scenario, even if rationally I knew my attempts weren't going to make an impact.
I wish I would have realized the real reason why I felt the need to "help" my body in ways that weren't all that beneficial, so I could've cut myself some slack.
Not Everyone Will Understand
I swear, as soon as you pop out baby number one everyone starts asking about baby number two. I wanted nothing to do with another pregnancy, though, because I was still recovering from postpartum depression, adjusting to life as a mom, and trying to build my new "normal." People didn't understand my choice to wait, and they didn't understand why I "wouldn't" give my daughter a sibling years later, when I was trying, either.
But perhaps the hardest part was knowing that people didn't understand how heartbreaking it all was. Since I had one baby already, I was often told to "count my blessings" and be thankful for what I had. And I was, don't get me wrong, but it didn't make things any easier. I wish I knew I was entitled to my feelings, regardless of whether or not anyone else understood them.
You Don't Have To Explain Anything To Anyone
I didn't owe anyone an answer when they asked why I only had one child, or why my daughter didn't have a sibling. I didn't have to discuss my pregnancy losses or how hard my partner and I were trying for another baby.
It's Not Your Fault
I can't adequately articulate how guilty I felt after experiencing one pregnancy loss, let alone two. I couldn't give my daughter a sibling, so I was a failure. I couldn't carry another pregnancy to term, so I was somehow a "broken" woman. The guilt was relentless.
I wish I had known that it wasn't my fault, and that metaphorically beating myself up was never going to help. I needed to be kind to myself, not blame myself.
You'll Experience Moments Of Peace
There comes a moment when, at least for me, you feel at peace with the entire process. I stopped fighting, stopped blaming myself, and simply focused on everything I had. My partner and I decided to give ourselves a break, and that's when I started to feel strange and decided to take one more pregnancy test.
That test was positive, and I was able to carry that pregnancy to term.
Secondary fertility is difficult, and it's often discarded or negated because us moms "already have one child." But the pain, the disappointment, and the sadness it causes is real. It's time we acknowledge it, and hold space for women to share their stories... including everything they wish they'd known beforehand.