I’ve been thinking for a few weeks of sharing some more about my experience with secondary infertility. Perhaps some for myself and maybe in case there is another women going through it right now ….In no particular order, here are some things I have learned. (I will add to this and modify it as I think of new things to add.) I will entitle this essay…
“Advice and Random Musings from a Woman who has secondary infertility to another one younger in the struggle”
- I’m not sure what studies say exactly, but in my experience, secondary infertility seems to be very rare. If you meet anyone with an even remotely similar experience to you, you are very lucky. While you are in the infertility experience, you will realize that there are many kinds of infertility and that no one’s story is quite the same, and that it can be hard or frustrating to try to relate someone else’s story exactly to yours. (Though all sympathy and empathy is appreciated.) Secondarily infertility in the late 30s or early 40s is not like secondary infertility during prime child bearing age. Having secondary infertility after having primary infertility is not the same as secondary infertility during prime child bearing age. If you are a person of prime child bearing age who “easily” got pregnant the first time, and were completely blindsided and shocked to find that you could not have more, I’m sorry to say, but you are in misunderstood minority of women. Most people will try to tell you that actually, you are wrong, you can have more!! Because why couldn’t you? You already had one! Even after medical tests have revealed the severe unlikelihood of this possibility, people will still continue to make you feel like you should you not accept reality and should keep beating your head with a stick. This will hurt. This will hurt because its complicated. People want the best for you and want you to be happy. They don’t want to you to go through this, but somehow in doing so, they will make you feel like you should not accept your lot and that somehow you are unacceptable in your imperfections. Then when you realize how excited you are about your hopeful future foster and/or adopted child, they will still tell you that you might get pregnant on your own. Remind yourself that they mean well, but that the best child is the child that God wants to give you. If possible, politely remind them of this.
- Just 2 months ago, I finally met a person who experienced secondary infertility in the same way that I had…complete and utter shock after having a first child normally. She had another child 5.5. years later, but being able to finally talk to someone who went through my exact experience was very meaningful and was a gift from God.
- While you are going through infertility, you will realize that some of your friends are not really your friends, some are really awkward, and some are social unaware. If you find even one person who is making an effort to be considerate or help you cope, consider yourself lucky! Be prepared for the loss of friendships…This is normal. In Matthew 24:12, it says love will grow cold in the end days, so one can conclude people going through suffering will have to go it alone more. However, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28).
- I was once in a group of women at church, where the conversation came to their children growing up too fast. I was in the height of my secondary infertility struggle. Most of these women had three or four children or were pregnant with their third or fourth and were complaining about their youngest growing up too fast. It was shockingly insensitive and I’m sure I spent a bit crying afterwards. I even tried to politely speak up and tried to say “yeah, imagine only being able to have one and then…” but the circumstances would have it that no one heard or they decided to ignore me.
- One “friend” who I used to speak with regularly before my infertility started, never once asked me how I was doing or how I was coping for well over a year of my struggle, though I regularly asked her how she was and how a situation she was in was going. (I even brought up infertility around her a couple times as bait to she if she could talk to me about it if she knew it was an okay topic and she never did.) We used to go on walks when our babies were in their strollers and talk…we had really enjoyable conversations. I was looking forward to a dear friendship. Luckily, she did nothing outrightly mean or insensitive, so I had time to grieve this friendship. Though tears were shed week after week wondering how I was placed in such a place going through such a thing with such shockingly little support.
- You will have other friends hurt you in such unique and specific ways that you won’t be able to share them in a blog…With only the strength and love of Christ, can you forgive them. As I write this I cry, because the hurt by friends when going through infertility is so unique and painful that I am so grateful Christ has helped me forgive and bring me peace.
- If anyone doesn’t give you the space to grieve or calls you ungrateful for being sad, know they are wrong. They are either wrong because they are putting a level of spiritual perfection on you that you obviously don’t have, or they have a poor understanding of human emotion, or much worse. Try to say something polite to them if you can, but with these people, you should probably put up huge boundaries if you keep talking to them at all. If this person is your priest, perhaps find out if there is another nearby priest you can talk to instead. Unless you are a Saint, infertility is a sad, hard and difficult thing to go through – if a priest is making you feel bad for grieving, I am sorry. After going through much infertility, I finally found a priest who made me feel like a normal healthy person for having sadness…and of course this strengthened me and made me stronger! If the non understanding person is your spouse, I am sorry. Hopefully, in this case, you do have a priest who can advise you.
- Eventually, secondary infertility may become a part of you in a similar way that you might hear a person speak regarding a disability. Infertility is really a hidden disability of sorts. Its a broken system of the body. But like we hear people with disabilities saying they wouldn’t change themselves and that God made them that way for a reason, you might also find your own peace and these same thoughts might go through your head one day. Hopefully not to a point of pride, but at this point, I see my infertility as being touched by God physically. I see all these women of varying lives, and different shapes and sizes getting pregnant and having babies like normal, but for some reason, God allowed something in my body to be broken for some reason so that I can’t.
- But first grieve and schedule time to cry. There was a time, when I would have a wonderful time with my son, he would take a nap, I would cry for two hours, and then he would wake up and we would have a great rest of the day. If you have a young first kid, going through infertility is so hard because you have to spend time grieving, but even more time caring for your first (who might be a complete miracle.)
- Society is at such a point in history that my infertility really is starting to seem like a very small problem. Some Christian women in the Middle East are being tortured.
- But don’t forget to grieve. Rationally you may know women in other countries are being tortured, but the capability, or lack of capability, to reproduce children is something physically, spiritually, and mystically bound to you and sadness, lots of sadness, is NORMAL. Anyone who thinks otherwise is is either unkind, doesn’t understand humans, may have a dissociative disorder, or is a well intentioned person who knows nothing about infertility.
- People will continue to complain to you about the challenges of having multiple children, the busyness, the taking to school, the to and from sports. This will be hurtful at first, but eventually you might see that these people just don’t understand…they have never been through infertility and honestly, may not value their children as much as you value your first and potential children, and so may not think having one child is a hardship. This is a very important thing to learn and will save you much heartache…as hard as it is to fathom, some women who have multiple children and are busy, really think having one child would be nice.
- Secondarily infertility will continue to rear its ugly head. Its much harder to make friends. Most women with one child go back to work earlier and send the child to day care. Woman who are home with multiple children want playdates with families of multiple children. Sometimes it really hurts when you are literally passed up as a potential friend because you just have one.
- On a related note, after a while, you will find some peace that you have an only child. God allowed you to have only one child, so in a way, you let Him help you shoulder the responsibility of having only one. “God, you allowed me to have only one child, please help meet his needs!” It hurts and is so painful to accept, but as we are open to God’s will, God will grant you and your child everything necessary for working out our salvation. That may be an eventual biological sibling, many foster siblings, an adopted sibling, or no siblings. It helps greatly now that I feel less guilty for having an only child. I am counting on God to help me meet my sons needs, and also to meet them Himself.
- Eventually you will start to enjoy the benefits of having only one…the special perks few women experience since few women stay home to raise one child even into the toddler years. Want to go to lunch at Chipotle with your child? Want to have a coffee date and color? Want to do homeschool today at Starbucks? Want to read a few board books at Panera? No problem! Your child will become your inseparable buddy and eventually someone else’s large family will not be a source of jealously because you will see that your child is unique and uniquely in your family for a reason, and you will enjoy doing fun things together that some larger families don’t frequently experience. (Though I’m sure hide and go seek is way more fun in a large family, this is a paragraph about the positives of having only one, the perks whether real or perceived : )
- “Give us this day our daily bread” as part of the Lord’s prayer has also become a plea for me to help meet our family’s need despite having only one, and also in these depraved times. I am in thankfulness of how much God provides and fills our weeks with activities and random fun encounters at the park and things like that! Just like when people experience financial poverty and see God at work through random giving, the poverty of infertility will also reveal God’s small everyday gifts in your life.
- “Little Fur Family” by Margaret Wise Brown is a wonderful book about a cozy family of three that will be nice to read to your only child while you grieve. Even if Margaret Wise Brown may have had some liberal reason for writing about families of three so often, its a cute cozy story suitable and comforting for the situation of secondary infertility.