It is a strange emotion, but something those of us who have struggled with infertility know all too well. In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, April 19-25, I am going to share my story of secondary infertility.
The National Infertility Awareness Week website states that 7.3 million Americans are dealing with infertility right now. If you are struggling with infertility right now know that you are not alone. A decade later, after years of mourning, I can say my family is how it was meant to be even if it didn’t always feel that way.
Growing Our Family
My story begins in the summer of 2010; we had just celebrated my daughter’s first birthday. It was a real celebration since she had faced a few serious health issues during the first months of her life. My husband and I decided that we were ready to start trying for the sibling we both wanted so much. I was able to conceive my daughter the very first month we tried, so I was expecting a similar result the second time. After months with no luck we started to try various things we had seen online or read in books; like modifying our diets, charting my temperature and other things that we thought might give us a better chance of conceiving.
A year quickly went by, then two. Finally, after three years of trying my OBGYN referred us to a fertility clinic. My husband and I both endured several tests, many quite invasive, to try and help figure out why things weren’t working for us.
Around this same time, my daughter began talking about having a baby brother or sister like her daycare friends had. It was so hard each time she would talk with so much excitement. At the same time, the chorus of “Isn’t it about time you gave her a sibling?” became more frequent from family and friends. They were well-intentioned and unaware of our struggle, but each question was like a dagger in my heart.
After a few months of frequent visits with ultrasounds, blood draws and scans our doctor informed us that due to a variety of things, the chances of us conceiving on our own without intervention was basically non-existent. And worse yet, even with medical intervention, our chances were slim. I remember sitting in his office and feeling like I had left my body. How was this possible? I reminded him that we conceived our daughter without any issues; as if that would somehow change his prognosis. He didn’t have an explanation for how we were able to conceive our daughter. All he knew was that it wouldn’t happen again without intense intervention and some luck. We left his office that day with a plan to try everything we could to have another baby.
There are limited medical interventions for couples trying to conceive. We tried for several months to get pregnant without success. Waiting each month to see if it worked was the hardest part. Each negative pregnancy test felt like an insurmountable hurdle we had to get to get over so we could try again. It became physically and emotionally exhausting for me and my husband.
One day we just decided that we couldn’t do it anymore. It felt like failure. Like my body had betrayed me. I couldn’t have the one thing I wanted more than anything. The one thing my daughter wanted more than anything.
When you can’t have a baby, you see babies and pregnant women everywhere. I would tear up when I walked past the baby section at Target. Friends at work were having babies left and right it seemed. My happiness for them was genuine, but it stung in a way that is hard to articulate. Looking at the boxes of baby things we saved I would wonder if keeping it all was bad luck? Meanwhile, the pleading from my daughter became more frequent, she just couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just have another baby. Neither could I.
I mourned for a long time; I still do.
I mourn not getting to bring another life into this world. I mourn the idea of the family that I thought wanted so much. I mourn not taking in every moment of my one pregnancy and my daughter’s time as a baby for the first and final time it was. I mourn that my daughter doesn’t get to be the amazing big sister I know she would be. I mourn that she doesn’t have a sibling to navigate through life
A decade later I have so much to be thankful for. I have the most amazing daughter. She is loving, kind and giving. She is the very best parts of my husband and me. Our family may be small but it is perfect. On the best and worst days, I take comfort in knowing that it’s the three of us in the crazy, amazing world together.
If you have experienced infertility of any kind, please know you are not alone.