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Secondary Infertility – The “Unknown” Infertility Issue

by Christy on August 12, 2009
category: Pregnancy,Uncategorized

 

sad-couple1 The journey down the road of infertility goes down many paths. Our society mostly understands and acknowledges the infertility of those who have never had children. Few people even realize that many couples, as many as 20%, who have had one or more children, may struggle with what is called secondary infertility. Secondary infertility is basically the inability to get pregnant or carry to term a subsequent pregnancy after having a child.

My personal story started long before I ever met my husband. At the age of 16, I lost an ovary to an aggressive cyst. I was told then that my chances of getting pregnant were slim, especially once I hit my mid-twenties. I married my husband when I was 25 and we were blessed to get pregnant our first month trying. We were devastated when we learned at about 9 weeks that our precious baby had passed. We waited a month, tried again and were again blessed with a pregnancy. This baby is now 4 years old and is one of the biggest joys of my life. Right after his first birthday, we were surprised to find out that we were pregnant again. Sadly, only days after getting the news, we lost that baby as well. From that point, we decided that we wanted another baby and thought that having three pregnancies happen so “easily” must be a good sign and that the miscarriages were terrible and unfortunate flukes. We tried for many months before seeking fertility treatments and testing. Our doctor suggested the Clomid route as the first fertility treatment. After 5 months on Clomid and no success, we basically decided to step back and see what happened. Luckily, the next month, we conceived our beautiful daughter who is now 20 months old. But many couples are not so lucky.

Now we are back on a similar path. The problem with our fertility is mine. I have crazy cycles and a shortened luteal phase (the time from ovulation to period; it must be at least 10 days to sustain pregnancy). Most recently, I suffered from another large hemorrhagic cyst that had to be surgically removed and am now dealing with potentially major complications from that surgery. The emotional toll of our infertility runs deep.

As said previously, most people don’t realize that just because you have one or more children doesn’t mean you can continue to have them without difficulty. Families dealing with secondary infertility often get little to no support from others in their lives. They are instead told “relax and it will happen” or “just be happy that you have the child/children you already have”. While this is VERY common for families to hear, it is not the least bit comforting or encouraging. Secondary infertility is a condition that causes the families struggling with it to deal with loss; the loss of a child, the loss of the dream of having a large family, the loss of the desires to give their child a sibling.

It’s difficult to express true and total joy for our friends who seem to get pregnant (and stay pregnant) at the drop of a hat. Baby showers are painful experiences. Visiting friends after their births are tough. Just seeing one of my closest friend’s pregnant belly brings pain to my heart and tears to my eyes. It’s not a jealousy thing, but rather sadness for the loss in our lives. I wish her all the blessings God can bring to her and her baby, but I so very much long to be pregnant again right with her.

If you are struggling with secondary infertility, there are a few things you can do to help find comfort and support during this difficult time. Visit The National Infertility Association’s website for more information, find support groups, and talk about your struggles with those in your life. The more they know, the more they can understand and be there for you.

Are you struggling or have you struggled with secondary infertility? What has been the most difficult aspect of this struggle for you? What do you wish everyone else understood about your situation?

Photo Courtesy of subnet24

19 Responses to Secondary Infertility – The “Unknown” Infertility Issue

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Stephanie
    August 12, 2009 @ 7:43 am

    Christy,

    I am sorry to hear about this. Honestly, I have never heard of this, I thought the condition was only for women who were not able to conceive at all. I didn’t realize it could happen even after a woman has given birth already to at least one child. I appreciate you sharing your story, and giving helpful hints on what not to say or what to say to someone with this condition. May I ask a personal question? If I may clarify, are you and your husband not going to try anymore, or did I misunderstand and you are going to keep trying? I will pray for your situation and that God brings comfort to your family whatever the outcome may be. Thank you again for sharing this story. Honestly, its the intimate stories that people share that I love because they pour their heart out into writing it.
    -Stephanie

  • Comment by Christy
    August 12, 2009 @ 8:48 am

    Thanks Stephanie… For me, there really is no question too personal! We would like to have at least one more child. I recently have undergone a surgery to remove a cyst so that I can still have more children. I’m suffering with some complications and praying that it does not affect what little fertility I have left. I wrote this blog because I know there are a ton of women out there like me (I know of at least two others in my own circle of friends) who struggle but keep it silent because people don’t “get it”. We are all so incredibly thankful and grateful for our children we do have, but also long to have more to love. It’s a real thing and I just wish more people knew and took the information to heart like you did!! Thank you!!! :-)

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Amy
    August 12, 2009 @ 10:45 am

    Thank you for your post Christy. After easily conceiving and carrying 4 babies to term I recently had a miscarriage. I had nothing but support from my friends and most of my family, but surprisingly (or maybe not?) it was my mom who had the ‘less-than-gentle’ response of “but it was so early in the pregnancy so it doesn’t hurt as bad”, and “you already have 4 kids so you should be happy”. I honestly didn’t realize I wanted more children until I found out we were pregnant! Now more than ever I want another child!! You’re right, it is so hard to see other pregnant women. The sadness returns and you are reminded again of your loss. My problem right now is that I don’t ovulate in every cycle. I think it’s a low progesterone issue. A friend who is pregnant with her 1st baby is my biggest struggle right now because she has not even acknowledged my loss and continues to talk of nothing but her own pregnancy (constantly). It’s extremely difficult to be with her! I think some people just don’t know how to respond so they say nothing. Please say something! Even if it’s just a hug and an “I’m so sorry for your loss.”

  • Comment by Christy
    August 12, 2009 @ 10:47 am

    (((AMY))) I completely understand!!! Acknowledgement is HUGE!!! I will pray that you will get your 5th blessing soon!!!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Stephanie
    August 12, 2009 @ 11:51 am

    @Amy. I am sorry to hear about your recent loss. I cannot imagine how hard that is, nor will I even try to imagine it. Perhaps your friend doesn’t know what to say or do? Have you told her your feelings?
    I think any woman with infertility desires to have more children, or children period.
    Someone my husband used to work with, his wife, had 9 miscarriages before she was finally able to give birth to her daughter. I am not sure of their situation as far as more kids went since they have moved and we have lost touch. But I know she never gave up, and always had faith.
    *There is a story in the Bible in Samuel about a girl named Hannah. If I remember correctly, she thought she couldn’t have kids. She asked God for a boy and she was blessed with a boy. Then I think God blessed her with many children (I may be wrong) But I do know, because she asked and had faith, He gave. This is what my husband’s coworker’s wife had to do.
    “Ask and you will receive!”
    I am glad you ladies are being strong and not giving up!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Trina
    August 12, 2009 @ 12:05 pm

    This is a great post. We are dealing with this right now. We have a 2&1/2 little girl and since we started 2 months ago , we got pregnant and lost the first pregnancy. We have now had a total of 4 miscarriages in all and it is so tough when you are told “But you have your daughter”. It is hurtful even if not meant in that way. We tend to stay very private about them but also as a couple we are trying to stay as positive as possible.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Jenn
    August 12, 2009 @ 12:06 pm

    I think the hardest part of all this are the less-than-helpful comments/suggestions from others. I would think with secondary fertility issues the comments would focus in on how thankful you should be to have a child/children. But for someone wanting a successful pregnancy, none of that is helpful and it belittles her experiences at that moment.

    If a good friend is going that path when you talk, I think an “oblivious” telling of an anecdote about an insensitive co-worker who keeps telling you to just relax and be happy with your current children might do the trick. Strategic passive-aggressive behavior can sometimes be our friend.

  • Comment by Christy
    August 12, 2009 @ 12:19 pm

    Trina and Amy, I am so very sorry for your losses. And yes Jenn, I think the most hurtful comments are about “being thankful for the children [we] have”. Many times the comments come across as making us out to be selfish for wanting more or that we aren’t appreciative of the gifts we already have. It does belittle the struggle. Wow… you women never cease to amaze me at your loving and gentle spirits!!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Natalie
    August 12, 2009 @ 1:08 pm

    I have a question…I have never experienced this situation, but I have a dear friend who is going through the same thing. Do you think it would be insensitive of me to send her this article or helpful? Honestly?

  • Comment by Christy
    August 12, 2009 @ 1:29 pm

    I think it could be encouraging, but I would preface with a personal note about how you read this and thought it could encourage her or that it made you want to understand her situation more so you can be a support for her (which I’m sure you already are!). If I was the friend, I’m sure I’d love that you were thinking of me and wanting to help and love on me.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Amy
    August 12, 2009 @ 2:55 pm

    Stephanie – so funny you mentioned the story of Hannah in the Bible. Just a week or two after I lost the baby I woke up feeling like God wanted me to read in Samuel. I couldn’t remember how it started so I thought it was pretty strange…until I read it. Wow! God is good :)

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Stephanie
    August 12, 2009 @ 9:25 pm

    Amy, I am glad you posted back, I was worried I might have said something wrong. That is crazy cool that God led you to that chapter! My heart aches for anyone in this situation or anyone who have gone through this. Thank goodness for TMC and the ladies posting stuff like this as well as other posts so we can support each other.

  • Comment by Christy
    August 13, 2009 @ 7:08 am

    There is a great book called Hannah’s Hope by Jennifer Saake that I would recommend to anyone struggling with infertility, miscarriage or adoption loss. It uses the story of Hannah as an inspiration of God’s love and faithfulness to us during these specific trials. It’s also great to use as a support group tool if you would like to start one. Blessings!

  • Gravatar August 14, 2009 @ 10:41 am

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  • Gravatar
    Comment by Estie
    August 31, 2009 @ 6:23 pm

    I am so glad I found this discussion on secondary infertility. I have 4 children ranging from 18 months to six years old and I have been trying to have another child for the past 5 months. I never had any trouble conceiving before…I am getting frustrated and unsure about what is really going on. Last month I used one of those ovulation kits and it looked like I had a positive sign from day 16 to day 21. My husband and I had relations on all those days except for one, including 2 days before day 16. Well it seems that on day 34 I got my period. I get so anxious throughout the month and I keep wondering will i be pregnant this month??? I make myself nuts…I keep saying to myself ‘stop thinking about it’ but I can’t get it out of my mind. My husband I think thinks I am blowing things out of porportion, ‘afterall i have 3 daughters and one son.’ I also want to mention that I am 35 and I know after 35 things get more difficult…My last cycle, before this one was 45 days…that was crazy…I went off bc in April and I guess I just expected that things would happen for me…
    Any advice ou there?
    Thanks!!!
    E

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Estie
    August 31, 2009 @ 6:27 pm

    Also,
    can someone explain to me how to understand those ovulation predictor kits…when should one be having relations?
    Thanks!!!
    E

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Amy G.
    September 9, 2009 @ 7:33 pm

    Thank you for writing about this and helping to shed light on what is all too often a loss grieved in private, due to a sense of shame and embarrassment for not being one of the blessedly fertile and guilt for having had a child already.

    I’m 35 and the mother of a 6 year-old little boy who is the absolute light of my life. My husband and I have always wanted a second child, and after trying for 3.5 years, during which my OB-GYN repeatedly said she felt we were just having “timing issues,” we finally sought help from a fertility specialist this week. He’s optimistic that Clomid and IUI can help us, provided my FSH test comes back with a good number early next week.

    It’s hard being in this position because it is so obscure, and such a middle-space of sorts. The friends of mine who suffer primary infertility don’t understand my sense of loss and make me feel guilty for wanting a second when I’m already blessed with my son, but my friends who get pregnant walking past their husbands in the hallway just tell me to “relax” and ASSURE me that it’ll happen. It’s infuriation and embarrassing and agonizing all at the same time. People do not understand that secondary infertility IS a loss – a loss of the dream we had of what our family would be, a loss in our hearts where our other child should be. I wish people understood that.

    Thanks again for writing about this, and best of luck to you!

  • Comment by Christy
    September 9, 2009 @ 7:53 pm

    Amy G…. you will be in my prayers. It is so hard to get people to understand it all. That’s why I wrote about it. I am a part of an online group that met through an online chat type board. We all support each other through it and I can’t imagine how little support I would have without them. I was so surprised when I found that nearly 20% of couples have or are experiencing this. No one ever really talks about it because they feel guilty or embarassed. There is nothing to feel guilty or embarassed about!!! Again, my prayers are with you! Please keep us posted on your progress… you can always contact me through this post or by emailing us at The Mom Crowd! Blessings sister! Be encouraged!

  • Gravatar October 14, 2009 @ 5:39 am

    [...] miscarriage with The Mom Crowd readers and I have also shared a part of my story when talking about Secondary Infertility.  It is a very personal and difficult situation to be in and most of the time, the families get [...]

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