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Parents

Secondary Infertility: The Isolating Road No One Talks About

I had a breakdown one day as someone complained about being pregnant on Facebook for the 239,847th time.
The emotional rollercoaster of secondary infertility.
The emotional rollercoaster of secondary infertility.

“So when is the next one coming?”

I don’t know. Ask my uncooperative ovaries.

“Don’t you want to give P a sibling?”

More than anything.

“Are you and S okay? Something stopping you from having more?”

We’re fine. Except the debt and the pressure and the sadness forcing a wedge between us. Nothing says intimacy like timed intercourse and shots in the butt.

Welcome to secondary infertility. Now that I am on the other side of the phase of trying for a baby, I feel like I can finally talk about it.

I never would have thought I would have to go through it. But I am sure there are a lot of us out there who can relate. I had no trouble getting pregnant with P -- in fact, he was a happy surprise.

So a year after we had him when we stopped the birth control and entered into what we thought would be the fun “let’s see what happens” phase, we were excited. I wasn’t defeated yet. I was positive that I had no issues.

“Welcome to secondary infertility. Now that I am on the other side of the phase of trying for a baby, I feel like I can finally talk about it.”

But as each month passed, I started to worry.

How many months has it been? 11? No. That can’t be right. Almost a year?

I remained convinced it just wasn’t the right timing. It was going to happen.

What month are we on now? 22? Twenty-two months? What are we doing wrong? What am I doing wrong?

Off to the doctor I went. As I sat there in the cold room with tissue paper sticking to my nervous, sweating body, I still wasn’t defeated yet.

There’s got to be an easy explanation. A quick fix. I mean, I had P! I am fertile. I am ready. I am fine.

Not fine. I was diagnosed with PCOS. If you are new to my blog and don’t know what PCOS is, it is an endocrine disorder that affects 1 in every 10 and is the leading cause of infertility in women. Not only did I have no idea what it is, but I was informed of all the things I WOULDN’T be able to do.

“You’ll struggle losing weight.”

“You may suffer from anxiety and depression.”

“You may not be able to conceive naturally. If at all.”

Liar. I have my son. You don’t know what you are talking about. This can’t be true.

I went home. I cried. I drank a lot of wine. I cried again.

And I didn’t know who to talk to.

Over the next year, I walked the journey of secondary infertility alone. Looking back, part of that was my fault. I felt inadequate, like my body was failing us both, so I couldn’t talk to my husband. We were already going through so much. Why remind him of one more thing we are failing at?

I didn’t talk to my friends. The friends who were struggling to have their first. I felt guilty.

“I went home. I cried. I drank a lot of wine. I cried again. And I didn’t know who to talk to.”

I already have my son. I am being selfish. Some don’t even have that blessing. What is wrong with you, Shelby?

I didn’t talk to my girlfriends who were having babies like it was going out of style. Every day another Facebook announcement or a baby shower invite.

I can’t do this. I am angry. I am mad that their bodies aren’t failing them. I am mad that they think I’m like them. That not having another is a choice. This is NOT my choice.

I had a breakdown one day as someone complained about being pregnant on Facebook for the 239,847th time. “I can’t stand being pregnant. Is it over yet? Get this baby out.” I can’t remember all I typed back, but I couldn’t stop. As I chugged my last sip of my third glass of Shiraz it was something that came out along the lines of this:

You ungrateful person. Some people are longing for that. Some people even know the beautiful gift it is to carry a child and desperately want to have the privilege to do it again. And can’t. You should be more thoughtful with what you say and more grateful for the blessings that you have. But if you ever do fall pregnant again, and just "can’t do it," I know there are many women who would gladly take that on for you.

I probably should have handled that better. Note to self: Don’t drink and Facebook comment.

If you are going through secondary infertility, you may be having the same feelings I did:

Guilt. Let me just say, I fully understand that I am luckier than some who are unable to get pregnant at all. But that does not lighten the burden of my pain. There is a stigma attached to secondary infertility that you should be grateful for what you have. You feel stuck in a state of wanting to grieve for your struggles and longing for another child all while feeling like you’re not qualified to have those emotions.

“Let me just say, I fully understand that I am luckier than some who are unable to get pregnant at all. But that does not lighten the burden of my pain.”

Resentment. Because I wasn’t talking about it with anyone, I built up resentment towards those around me who didn’t know the struggle I was facing. And looking back, I know they couldn’t help me if they didn’t know the private Hell I was facing. But when you are experiencing it, all you feel is anger and resentment. Every time you are asked, “So when’s the next one coming? Time's ticking," it took every ounce of strength not to tell them:

As soon as the shots in my ass and the hormones that make me want to punch you in the face start working.

But instead:

Hopefully soon.

Alone. Looking back, I wish I would have talked about it. Maybe I would have understood that this isn’t something that is my fault. I would have known that what I was feeling, although confusing and terrible, wasn’t wrong. Or at the very least, I would have known that someone else is feeling that way, too.

The thing is, whether or not you are lucky enough to have a child, when you feel like you can’t do something as natural as carrying a child or feel like your body is failing at something it should naturally do, it hurts. It aches. It is scary. It is real. And no one should feel should ever feel guilty or ashamed of that.

Follow more of Shelby's musings on her blog: Survivingshelby.com