This is a humbling post to write. Humbling, because I now sit here in the same position of a woman I once scorned, feeling all the way down how I know she felt, realizing only now what I was scorning. If I didn’t have a can of BBQ Pringles and my (second) glass of wine next to me, I swear I couldn’t write this.
Secondary infertility is something that, searching the internet, you won’t find much about. I kept googling for an article written by someone who was on my same path, who had my same story, that I could relate to; I found nothing. I found many by women who had struggled, but had received their blessings – the successes. I found still more who used the term to define their struggles to conceive child number 4 or 5 – still, I could not relate.
I remember when we first started actively trying for our son; all of my life I had been the Girl Who Went To College – the one who was breaking the boundaries by going to school and having a degree, a career. But my heart was rooted in the ground I grew up in – moms who had stayed home, cooked home-cooked meals, made dough from scratch, always had a washer going. I wanted that. I wanted babies. I got married, I loved being married. We decided we wanted babies – my family had a history of difficulty conceiving, so we thought we were starting a little on the early side. My husband used to joke that I would turn up pregnant after the first month just because I had said it wouldn’t be easy. It didn’t happen that way.
I’ll never forget the day I sat in my OB/GYN’s office, alone while my husband was at work, where he looked at me with apologetic eyes and told me how “it didn’t make sense” because I was young and healthy – how had we gotten to a year? He didn’t know; I didn’t either. We ran all the tests, made jokes about how I looked like a drug abuser because my arms bruised so easy from all the blood draws, got back perfect results every time. There was nothing wrong with me. There was nothing wrong with him. But we weren’t having babies. I had hit The Year – he glanced up at me as he labeled me in my chart with “Unexplained Infertility”. What was once a carefree desire suddenly became an obsession. I blocked every friend who became pregnant – I didn’t want to see it, I didn’t want to hear about it; I realized I was wrong and hard-hearted for doing it, my husband chastised me; I tried to explain that it wasn’t that somewhere deep down I wasn’t happy for them – it was simply that at that point my jealously was outweighing my joy. I sobbed into the carpet, yelling at God, about it while he was at work, beating the ugly mauve carpet with my fists.
We finally got our miracle – three weeks before our first reproductive endocrinologist appointment that we had waited almost 5 months and a mountain of paperwork for. It was unbelievable. We had felt like we had tried everything. I had become a slave to a calendar and a thermometer, my husband felt he had become a slave to my obsession. We almost lost our little guy at 22 weeks to preterm labor; we didn’t. He was finally born a tiny little 5 lbs right before Christmas. My answered prayer; the atonement for a million tears. And for the longest time, it was enough. I used to joke with friends that if I had gotten pregnant again before K was 1.5, I would have cried ugly tears. I wasn’t ready. But when he turned 2, it was like a switch flipped. I wanted another baby. Oh, how I loved K; but seeing him so sweet with friends’ newborns, how independent he was becoming – I wanted it so badly again.
For the first few months I wasn’t upset. We had just done another deployment – I couldn’t expect it to happen like magic. After all, K had not been easy. But now, here we are again at the year mark. Again we have done all the testing. I did invasive procedures this time. Everything was maddeningly normal. Again my GYN told me with spread hands that he had done all the testing in his power, and we were normal; in fact, I am what’s lovingly termed a “super ovulator” in that my progesterone levels are what normally accompanies multiples. My husband is fine. I’m fine. But we don’t have a baby. And every day I watch my son getting older. I watch the gap widen. I do the math in my head. And again I catch myself feeling the unexpected tears every month when I go to the bathroom and try to convince myself that maybe, just maybe, it’s implantation cramping, only to be disappointed when the bleeding comes. We had one miscarriage that we know of; I lost it a few weeks before we were going to announce (at Disney World) while on vacation at the beach. Again, I find myself hiding the news feeds of anyone who becomes pregnant. Again, I find that it hurts.
I’ve heard it all. I am a nurse – I interact with my patients on a daily basis; they’re kind, and they inquire about my life as I do theirs. Almost always it goes something like this: “oh, what a pretty ring! How long have you been married?” 5 years. “Oh! Do you have any children?” Yes, one little boy. “How old is he?” He’s 3. Then it comes. Every time. “So do you want more children? Are you planning for more?” I’ve even gotten such gems as “Don’t you think it’s time he had a sibling? You had one – didn’t you figure out how it’s done?” And even “Oh, so is your little boy just so bad you couldn’t handle another?” Yes, even that. And no, my little man is as close to perfection as I could hope a toddler to get. At this point I’m reluctant to even start the conversation. Luckily if it gets too nasty, bringing up infertility and miscarriage usually does the trick to end it.
Which brings me to my post. I remember, years ago, praying for JUST ONE BABY, and seeing a dear friend post about secondary infertility. My mind went to the obvious place of someone who feels they are struggling more than anyone else (haven’t we all been guilty?): “Why can’t she just be thankful she has the one? I would give anything for one! She has nothing to whine about. I would be thankful.”
Now, dear friend, I realize that you WERE grateful. I hate it when people imply now that I’m not thankful for my one baby simply because it hurts my heart to not be able to give him the experience of a sibling. Our babies are miracles. And now I see how it is entirely different when you want your second. And now I’m living in the vortex that you were back then; and I get it. I get it so deeply. I live in the world of hating myself every day that I pray for #2 when I know SO MANY women who are where I was, begging God for JUST ONE BABY, mentally scorning me for my “ungratefulness”. And I feel that sting, because I was there; I often feel guilty as I research infertility treatments, as I call adoption agencies for their outrageous fee schedules, as I debate with my husband just how far we’re willing to go, just how much we can afford. I have a brother; I see the benefit of someone else being alive that knows what it was to grow up in my house, that will be there with me one day with me when our parents die. I will not be alone. I want my son to have that. I see women walking with gaggles of children following them in stores and I mentally sigh, “I hope she knows how lucky she is.” And then I think of all the women I know who see me with my little blond-haired, blue-eyed sweet little man and think the same of me.
I’m living in the vortex. The strange in-between, wrought with feelings and desires and heartache and realization. I’m a mother of one, not for lack of trying. I’m more than I ever dreamed I would be, and also dreaming of just a little more. I’m tucking my son into bed with a million tearful whispered “thank you’s” and an extra few minutes of holding, a reluctance to shut the door for the night, and dreaming of once more bundling a baby. I’m cherishing every milestone because I know it may be the last time I ever see it, and I’m wishing I could redo it just one more time. I’m stretching with gratitude when I awake from the 12 hours sleep my toddler’s given me, and then I realize I would love to be waking up all night and rocking someone again. I’m loving his independence and missing his needfulness. I feel guilt as I ask God for one more miracle, but I feel hope because He is the God of wonders, and nothing asked by His children is too much for Him. So I’ll live in the vortex. And pray. And thank. And pray.