I’ve wanted to share my secondary infertility story for a while and finally feel strong enough. I think. Writing about PND and Anxiety has been so healing, I hope something similar can happen here. This is likely to be the first of several posts on the topic of secondary infertility so I hope those who only come here for PND & Anxiety content can bear with me.
Regular readers know that we experienced a miscarriage at 12 weeks back in May 2016. It had taken me a long time to feel ready to have another baby and risk going through perinatal mental illness again, but I decided my desire to give Caterpillar a sibling was stronger than my fear of relapse. I’d conquered PND and Anxiety before so I could conquer it again. Plus, I was prepared this time, I knew the signs to look out for and what support and treatment works for me.
Much like with Caterpillar, I was lucky enough to fall pregnant quickly and easily, within three months of making that tricky decision. But the day before I reached the 12 week landmark I began bleeding and a few hours later our baby was gone. It was the worst emotional pain I’ve ever felt in my life. Although PND still takes the prize for worst time in my life this was definitely the saddest time. The expression “heartbroken” takes on new meaning after miscarriage – it quite literally felt like my heart was torn apart.
That was more than two years ago and I’ve not been pregnant again since. Three months of trying and bam! – pregnant. Three months of trying and bam – pregnant again! Two years and three months of trying – silence, nothing but negative tests and tumbleweed. Nature can be a strange, cruel mistress.
We’ve had tests and we have answers. An answer. We’ve been told Caterpillar is a miracle, that he should never have happened. We’ve been given a likely cause for the miscarriage. We’ve had our hopes smashed. I’m unlikely to ever be pregnant again, unless we are blessed with a second, unexplained miracle.
There’s a name for this which I’d never heard until two years ago – secondary infertility. It’s something you almost never read about and yet it affects more people than you would imagine. Many of us have secret infertility fears before we decide to start a family, but very few of us consider the idea of struggling to get pregnant second or third time around. It’s not logical. It’s not rational. It’s simply not discussed.
As with PND recovery, experiencing secondary infertility means facing a heaving pile of emotions. Fortunately, my experience of mental illness has helped prepare me for this.
First there’s guilt – that lovely, useless beast. Well meaning people tell you to be grateful for the child you have and to think of those who don’t have any. And believe me, I am. The last two years, or the last five years really, have been one huge lesson in gratitude. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel sad though, or angry or scared. I still feel the emotions that those experiencing primary infertility feel, the only difference is I often wonder if I’m allowed to.
Sometimes the anger is unbearable. Was it not enough to lose the first six months of my son’s life to postnatal depression that I now have to lose my second chance too? Every two child family in my life has brought forth a rush of ugly jealousy at one time or another. Families with three or more children are nothing but greedy.
This rage isn’t rational or fair. It sickens me. But still it comes. Gratitude is the antidote and it’s an effective one.
Secondary infertility brings questions too, endless questions. The most painful of which revolve around Caterpillar. Is he lonely? Is he resentful? Will he grow up selfish or inflexible or spoilt? Will I ever forgive myself for not giving him a sibling? How will he cope when we’re old, sick or gone?
Then there’s pain, of course. It’s often unexpected and sometimes sharp. Mostly just a dull, almost irritating ache; a smudge on an otherwise wonderful life. Sometimes it lifts completely and gratitude takes over – freeing my mind from guilt and sadness and rage. But occasionally it’s brutal. It crushes down on me until I can hardly move. It hits me in the chest like a thousand knives and I have to catch my breath. A pregnancy announcement on my Facebook timeline. The sibling race at sport’s day. Watching my son play with someone else’s baby. Pain can slice you many different ways and I think I’ve felt them all.
It’s been a long time so there is also acceptance. As a dedicated follower of CBT, it’s almost second nature at this point to turn my negative thoughts to positive ones. Hubs and I have come a long way towards being comfortable with our “triangle family” (another new term I’ve learnt). We often note the benefits. We have more money, more independence, more flexibility. We have less stress and less stuff everywhere and less irritating noise. We wonder if this is how life is supposed to be for us. We look at Caterpillar and appreciate the miracle of his existence and are thankful beyond words to have him. We know that, deep down, given enough time – we’ll be okay.