I was vaguely aware during my pregnancy that infertility would hurt a second time around, but I wasn’t fully prepared for just how much. I had enough awareness at the time that I can read now through my journals and old blog posts and see that I wrote, “I am so grateful for this chance to experience pregnancy, realizing it may never come my way again,” or, “I spend my days watching her move and kick inside of me, treasuring every moment because this may be my only chance,” but even with that hint of future hurt, I still had a naivete about the true ramifications of secondary infertility.
When I was diagnosed with infertility the first time around, the grief came full force. It took my breath away, and I not only mourned my “broken” body, I mourned never having the experience of seeing two lines, watching my body grow with a baby, feeling that baby kicking, going through the deepening experience of labor, and having that newborn laid on my stomach for the first time as we met each other face to face.
Three months after we decided not to keep pursuing fertility treatments (they were causing incapacitating migraines), we were pregnant. It was a high risk pregnancy that involved bed rest and never-ending throwing up, but I treasured it. Every doctor’s appointment was exciting, and ultrasound days were the highlight of my weeks as they passed by. It was ten months of some of the hardest times I have ever been through, and at the same time, some of the most beautiful.
Now, I’m three weeks away from the end of the magical year I was told about — the year in which we had a window for conceiving again because “the recent birth should help my hormone levels be the best they ever are, thereby making this an optimal time for pregnancy.” I know I shouldn’t have, but it’s been like a silent timer tick, tick, ticking away the days away as I watch the calendar draw closer to my annual checkup, knowing that day officially signals for me, “The year is up! The window is now shut!”
The grief is different this time around, but just as intense. It brings about a sadness, that though it doesn’t ruin my life, colors a little corner of it every single day that I wake up. It comes in various ways.
A sibling for my daughter
At thirteen months, my daughter has this adorable love for babies. Her little face lights up into a huge smile whenever she sees one, and if given the opportunity, she leans in to give them a kiss. Her favorite book has two pages in the middle of it, with pictures of babies. She will beg to look at that book a million times a day, excitedly flipping the pages until she reaches the babies, and then leaning in with that open mouthed kiss of hers while going, “ooohhhhh!”
My brother and I are only eighteen months apart and he was my best friend growing up. Because of that I always had this idealistic dream to have my children close together so they, too, would be friends. With every cycle that passes, the dream fades further and further away. Soon the gap will be so wide, any future sibling will only be a younger nuisance to my daughter, not a best friend.
“You aren’t really a mom until you’ve had two kids.”
This was said to me one day by a woman who knew my infertility struggles. I think my mouth dropped open in shock. We were talking about how I wasn’t sleeping through the night yet and her response was, “Well, just wait until you have a second baby and a toddler. That’s when you really hit mommy-hood. You aren’t really a mom until you have two to take care of two at once.”
Is that truly how people see me? I only have one child so I’m “not really a mom yet”? Have not my sleepless nights, crying marathons, infant illnesses, and loving my child with all that I have, made me a “real mom yet”? I think it has, but to think that others think I don’t have a clue yet, because I “only have one child,” hurts.
Other hurtful comments
There have been other comments that have hurt just as much:
“You aren’t going to keep your daughter an only child are you? You know what they say about only children…”
“I’m surprised you guys aren’t pregnant again yet. You aren’t holding out on us are you?”
“So… when are you going to have another one?”
“You’re a great mom! Why aren’t you having any more?”
“You sure you don’t have an announcement to make?” (This, when I had the flu one week.)
The unthinking comments didn’t stop when my daughter was born. They just changed form.
I know what I’m missing
Before, it was a grief that I would never experience pregnancy. This time around the grief comes in knowing exactly what I’m missing. I miss having that baby inside of me, kicking and responding to her daddy’s voice. Oh, I miss it! Those are some of my most precious memories.
I long to have the experience of being in disbelief over two pink lines, the joy of telling family, and watching my mother-in-law be caught up in total captivation as she goes to our ultrasounds with us. I want to experience, all over again, the build up that precedes labor — an anticipation that exceeds any Christmas morning as I wait to see what my li’l one looks like and hold them in my arms for the first time. My heart craves that first encounter with that baby on my stomach, my husband crying from sheer joy, and then the wonder, oh the wonder, of that first nursing session!
I want it again so badly I can taste it.
I don’t know where I fit anymore
When we were not yet pregnant, I fit in with other women who were experiencing infertility like I was. Through our blogs we detailed our monthly cycles, doctor visits and their results, shared sorrow over miscarriages, and gave virtual hugs and support as we hit days in which we felt we could barely go on.
I’m still in touch with those women, but now it’s different. It’s not like it once was. I don’t belong anymore. Some have broken off the friendship completely, never visiting my blog, because my miracle hurts their hearts too much. Others are still waiting for their miracle, and while rejoicing over mine, it’s an unsaid thing between us that I got it and they didn’t.
Aware of the pain and grief that comes with never experiencing pregnancy all the way to the end, I am hesitant to write about my struggles the second time around. How dare I grieve this when I’ve gotten at least once chance? My dear friends will never say that to me, but I’ve been there. I know that deep down, there will be the unbidden thought, “But at least you got it once. I haven’t even gotten it once!” I know, because I once thought that way myself.
Because I once thought that same thing myself, I don’t begrudge them that thought. And because I don’t begrudge them that thought, the guilt begins that I am even experiencing grief when others are still waiting for their first miracle. The guilt causes me to hold back my true feelings and daily struggles regarding the situation. Very few are the women who are also experiencing a secondary infertility on the blog group — two in fact, out of close to eighty. Secondary infertility seems much more uncommon than primary infertility.
I don’t belong in the group of moms who have more than one child and I don’t belong in the group of moms who haven’t had pregnancy yet. I just don’t know where I fit anymore.
The biological clock is ticking
I’m 33 1/2 years old. I was supposed to have four or five kids by now. I love and cherish my daughter. Every day is a gift with her. And yet, just like I felt there was something missing from my life before she came into it, today finds me feeling as if there are missing pieces to my heart still waiting to be put into place. I know what those pieces are; they are all my future children. Like in the movie Facing the Giants, “I miss someone I don’t even know yet”. I miss them because I am their Mama and they are my children — even if they aren’t in my arms yet.