Infertility….the Second Time Around~by CN Board Member Julie Richt

If you have dealt with infertility or going through it now, you understand the fear, pain, and distress that comes during that uncertain time.  I want to be upfront with all of the readers when writing about secondary or second time infertility struggles.  I have been torn in how I should write about this topic because I know the challenges many are feeling going through infertility for the first time, but I feel like I really lost my voice, advocacy, and vulnerability the second time going through infertility.  It was a really difficult time and became a dark road traveled, so I feel it is important to share my thoughts for all of those couples going through infertility trying for another baby.  Please understand that I write this blog not to offend anyone but to try and bring awareness to a group of those struggling with infertility where their feelings, hardships, and pain are suppressed and shunned since they already have a child.  It somehow becomes an unnatural topic of conversation for infertility if you already have a child as though your experiences and feelings are no longer valid because you have made it through once before.  But I want this community to be open, understanding, and supportive of one another regardless of what round of infertility you’re going through.  Infertility is hard, regardless if it is your first time or fifth time.  I know my second time was way more complicated and defeating than my first experience.

Most people hear about “secondary infertility” which means a couple will struggle to conceive or carry a child to term following the success of having a child without difficulty prior.  However, there is a big void of support for couples going through infertility for a second time – whether it be their second time dealing with infertility or secondary infertility.  I felt ease in opening up when going through infertility the first time, because there were so many more people going through it when I was, so it seemed more comfortable to reach out, ask questions, and support others in my similar situation.  However, when the second time came around, it was quiet…not a lot of people wanted to share their thoughts or “burdens” out to a group of people who might not have any children yet.  It was lonely and extremely difficult to navigate where to turn to with questions or emotional struggles.  I felt I couldn’t express the loss I was feeling, the fear I faced, and the pain experienced every month, especially as new challenges surfaced…all because I was already a parent and I should just accept that one child was “enough”. 

One is enough.  What a difficult concept.  For someone who comes from a large family, the thought of only one child was not an option.  I wanted 3-4 children and had a very specific dream of what my family would look like, but then infertility took over.  A little background on my infertility journey…we are an unexplained infertility situation. No issues with my husband, but rather numerous issues on my end where things were just average or below that.  Bottom line for us is that not one thing is entirely wrong, but also nothing entirely works either so through various opinions, getting pregnant on our own would just never happen. With my first, we tried for 3 years.  It was a fairly simple solution once we sought help: 3 months of Clomid, 3 months of injectable shots with 3 IUI’s and we became pregnant.  We were really open about our situation as we wanted to normalize the conversation about infertility with our closest friends and family – okay, let’s be honest, after 3 years of marriage we wanted to stop answering the dreaded question “when are you guys going to have kids?”.  We decided that if we just tell everyone what we are going through, it will allow us some breathing room.  Our first pregnancy also ended in PPROM and premature birth, so we had a whole other set of issues there but that is for another blog!  Easy to say now, but after an 8-week premature birth, I didn’t think infertility seemed so bad to be honest.  I really let all of that anger, disappointment, timelines, and fear go…because I was experiencing a whole new set of fears.  I do think because of that experience, I didn’t mentally prepare for things the second time around.  I really honestly thought, we’d been through it once before, we’d made it through premature birth, so let’s go round #2!  You know because all of the sudden we were ready, baby #2 was just a matter of medicine, IUI’s, and when we decided to do it.  HA!  The man upstairs laughing hard at me!  All of my average numbers tanked to well below average and we had even more challenges with a compromised cervix due to the PPROM with my first. 

This is where I hope readers get to…hear me…infertility first time around was HARD!  It was exhausting, confusing, uncharted territory, and unnerving. The first time around your emotions are high and you feel lost because everyone is getting pregnant and you are struggling, feeling like the only one who cannot get pregnant. And then everyone’s second baby comes and you are still in this dark cloud of despair trying to find a way out.  I am not down-playing that pain or that part of my journey. I went through it too.  But nothing prepared me for the emotions that come when trying for the second baby.  I was not ready mentally, physically, spiritually, or financially.  

Here are the things I was not prepared to hear/handle the second time around (which may be happening to some of you first time around too):

  • Feeling as though I was not appreciative of my first baby – “you should be grateful that you have at least one”
  • Not being present with my child while I worried about a future I could not control and/or predict – losing that precious time
  • Being judged for “choosing” to go through infertility when I already had a child
  • Losing my identity in cycles, medications, and appointments
  • Miscarriage.
  • Grieving what our family was supposed to look like
  • Carrying so much weight (mentally & physically) on being the “issue”
  • Why’s and What If’s
  • Why is it harder
  • Why us
  • Why does my body hate me
  • What could I be doing differently
  • What I have vs what I want – when do you give up
  • Quitting
  • Making financial decisions I was not prepared to make
  • (Trying to) Create boundaries (financially, mentally, and spiritually) I didn’t want to accept
  • Timelines
  • That IT JUST MIGHT NOT HAPPEN!

I lost myself because I didn’t feel like I had a community to identify with.  I was no longer a part of a community that wanted to support me because I had already had a child.  But the hard part was I was giving up on a dream and grieving the loss of what was never going to be.  I still have that pain, even with 2 children.  It started to feel like once you were “on the other side” of infertility, you were no longer able to relate to others.  THAT is the feeling I want to bring awareness to – once a warrior always a warrior, no matter the outcome.  I have my battle scars from the first time, and even more from the second time.  I felt like the second time had so many more risks – my health, the health of a viable pregnancy, the involvement of my daughter, her image/viewpoint of me going through it, and my relationship with my husband.  SO…I’m here today, to bring hope to a community for those going through it the second time or with secondary infertility – there is a safe space for you. 

Fifteen months into trying for baby #2, we shifted our mindset and began to envision our family to be what it is and we stayed.right.there.  We stopped allowing ourselves to dream bigger because infertility scared us too much. We were not ourselves anymore.  I was lost in the pain of failure and I completely lost my identity in the process.  I was blind, acting like a robot day after day, and I was avoiding all friends and family to survive, in order to “handle” the situation.  It was a defense mechanism, a coping strategy…NOT a great way to live my life.  I finally got to a point where I released control and we decided to take the leap of faith with IVF.  We couldn’t financially afford it (we had no insurance coverage throughout this time period) and we took a big risk financially to move forward with IVF.  All I kept thinking was “this better work, this better work”.  Otherwise I knew I couldn’t live with myself for the burden we put on our family.  I was so mad that we had to be in this situation even – we both worked hard, paid our dues, and financially we were not in a position to even be able to afford it, but we just wanted it so badly that we decided to go for it.  This is the anger part of our journey…we did everything right in our minds, but it didn’t matter…infertility won that battle.  So because of that, I put in so much work to ensure that our IVF cycle would work – mediation, supplements, acupuncture, smoothies, stretches, journaling, etc.  Well, it worked…for 8 weeks and then we miscarried.  That is when stuff got real!  I won’t get into all the details of what happened next, but I will tell you my doctor saved me!  After that, I had officially given up and only decided to go through another cycle because my husband and my doctor agreed it would be best to try “one more time”.  I was a shell of a person that next cycle – first time I couldn’t tell you what my numbers were, how many follicles I had, what their sizes were, what date of my cycle we implanted, blah, blah, blah.  I gave in to it all.  I was there, going through the motions.  That was the conception of baby #2.  I conceded to the universe that I was done and what happened next was no longer my investment, which now happens to be my second child.  What did I learn there?  That quite possibly when you surrender all of the fear, concerns, worries, future plans, and control, you allow something great to happen. 

The best things I learned how to do second time around:

1.) Therapy – find someone or a group you can talk to…I waited too long to find this source of support that I needed.  Thank You Conceive Nebraska!

2.) Find a doctor you trust and who is an advocate for you and your dreams.  Don’t loose sight of what you are fighting for.

3.) Trust your body – you know it best!  Doctors are VERY good at what they do, but sometimes your instincts are better…don’t second guess yourself if you truly believe something is going on and/or you should be taking a different course of action. 

4.) Meditate – Clear your head of the negative; refocus on the dream; remove the weight from your mind – BEST thing I found in a year into infertility treatments second time around!

5.) Do your research, especially on medication options (check out IVFmeds.com), diet (to improve egg quality), supplements, etc. – I found a smoothie that I believe helped me so much (and it possibly did or didn’t help my eggs, but it gave me something to focus on controlling and I think it made a huge difference when I started a regimen where I could redirect negative energy into a positive feeling – regardless it didn’t hurt even if it didn’t help).

6.) Timelines – GIVE YOURSELF SOME GRACE!  We all have a “timeline” we are working against and honestly letting go over this and resetting a timeline might be good for you; release some of the pressure.

7.) Don’t stop living your life by cutting yourself out of events with friends & family – take it in strides (you don’t have to do it all either).  Educate them on what is going on, be honest about why you don’t want to attend, how that makes you feel, and refocus that energy into something positive. 

8.) Journal!  Put your thoughts on paper to process your feelings and grief.  It is a part of the process and releasing your feelings is cathartic so be honest about your feelings and put them on paper where you can let loose. 

To bring this all to a closure, I just want all of you readers to view secondary infertility and/or second time infertility as a part of the journey.  For some, that will be the harder part of their infertility journey.  When going into infertility the second time around there are a lot more opinions and criticisms about “already being a parent” that you have to deal with while also fighting the hardest you have fought for anything.  And you’re fighting not only for yourself but for your child(ren), your husband, and for your dreams to come to fruition.  For me personally, that last 6 months of infertility with baby #2 I finally “let” someone into my world and she was going through infertility for her first time.  I felt so guilty for sharing my issues with her as she turned to me for advice, support, and comfort going through infertility for the first time.  But she had such an open heart and became a safe place for me – find your safe place!  That friend was hands down the person who kept me focused on what I was fighting for and I will be indebted to her forever for her grace, love, and compassion during a difficult time for both of us.  Her support made all the difference in the world for me and my husband.  So if you are going through this – first time, second time, fifth time…be that person for someone else going through this.  The world is so gracious in many ways, but it is also so hard when you feel alone and isolated.  Infertility is not a club we sign up for or choose to be a part of, so no matter what part of the journey someone is experiencing, be an advocate for our community and bring positive thoughts and hope to others.  #1in8 #wereinthistogether #hope

Sincerely, Julie “Infertility Warrior” Richt

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