Often, when I tell people that I struggled with infertility they seem confused. I have a daughter, to whom I gave birth at a very young age. How could I be infertile?
Unfortunately, bearing one child is no guarantee that you will be able to have more. I learned this firsthand. Secondary infertility is an inability to become pregnant or carry a child to term following one or more successful pregnancies. The causes of and situations surrounding secondary infertility are as varied as the women who experience this type of infertility.
When my daughter was four years old, I began experiencing symptoms of pregnancy. After a couple of months and more than a couple negative home pregnancy tests, I went to the doctor, thinking something must be wrong with me. A pregnancy test there showed that I was indeed pregnant.
Ready for a second child, my husband and I rejoiced. The next day, however, I began spotting and having some pain in my lower abdomen. We went to urgent care, where a less-than-compassionate doctor said that I was overreacting and that I was simply a little sore from my exam the day before. We humbly went home and went to bed.
That night, I woke up in excruciating pain. I was spotting more than before, but not bleeding heavily. I called the on-call number for our physician’s office, who told me I was probably miscarrying. They said I could stay home and wait it out, or go to the hospital for medication if the pain got to be too much. A few hours later, I could take no more. My husband rushed me to the hospital (thankfully our little girl was spending the night at Grandma’s) where a probe sonogram determined I was experiencing an ectopic, or tubal, pregnancy.
After emergency surgery and a visit to my doctor, I was told they saw no reason why I could not conceive again and carry a baby to term. We mourned the loss of our second child for some time and decided to try again.
Month after month, my period arrived like a blow to the gut. We stopped “trying” to have another baby, hoping it would just happen again. When our daughter was nine years old, it did. We went to the doctor as soon as we suspected that I was pregnant and a test confirmed it. Due to my prior experience, they monitored me closely with frequent blood tests and sonograms. Sadly, my third pregnancy was also ectopic and we were soon mourning the loss of a second baby.
Although my doctor still found no apparent reasons for my secondary infertility and tubal pregnancies, I never became pregnant again. While I was truly happy for them, my heart would break a little every time I learned about a friend or family member adding to their families.
I kept my heartache to myself, though. I did not feel I had the right to speak about these feelings. In fact, I felt guilty for having them and the responses I received from some confirmed my inclinations.
“At least you have one child. Some people don’t have any,” was a common sentiment.
While I agreed that I was exceedingly blessed to have my daughter, this did not diminish my longing for another baby or my grief over the two I had lost. After a while, keeping the pain buried deep inside got to be too much. I started sharing my feelings with those closest to me. Once I explained the longing and sadness I was experiencing to those that really cared about me, I found tremendous support.
When I was 35, I underwent an emergency hysterectomy due to hemorrhaging caused by fibroid tumors. One might think that the finality of this would tear my heart to shreds, but oddly enough, it had the reverse effect. Knowing that there was no longer any possibility of conceiving resulted in a profound sense of peace.
There are still many times when I wonder what it would have been like to have the houseful of children I imagined we would have, and what it would be like for our daughter to have a sibling. Our second child would be graduating high school soon, and our third would be entering middle school. I am content with this life, though, and the many blessings in it.
If you are suffering from secondary infertility, reach out to others. You do not have to feel guilty and you have a right to feel pain and find comfort. Although the ache might never completely dissipate, as you count your blessings and share your grief with loved ones it will become easier to bear.