While I don't personally suffer from secondary infertility, I have a lot of friends who do. Secondary infertility is "the inability to become pregnant, or to carry a pregnancy to term, following the birth of one or more biological children. The birth of the first child does not involve any assisted reproductive technologies or fertility medications" (Resolve.org, "Secondary Infertility"). This is an extremely sensitive issue, and not just from comments and misunderstanding from the "Fertile Myrtles."
I decided to write a little about this for a few reasons. The first is to encourage me to try to understand secondary infertility better. The second reason is because I saw the following question posted on RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association's Facebook page:
"One of our Facebook Community members wrote: 'I am upset with people sometimes. I just started IVF for secondary infertility. We are lucky to have one child. My last baby was a still birth. I can't stand it when people repeatedly tell me to be thankful for my only living child. My dream was to have two children. I don't know how to tell them off without hurting their feelings. Any advice? Really, I am getting close to blowing up at people.' Please leave your comment for her below:"
The comments that followed were all over the place, from telling the woman that "You really should be thankful for your child. Stop being so angry and enjoy the one you have," to some really good words of support. The surprising thing is that all of the comments, insensitive ones included, came from members of the infertility community.
I can understand both sides of the issue. For those going through primary infertility (like me) who haven't been able to have even one child, it's so easy to feel like the women going through secondary are being ungrateful for the child that they do have. When we would do anything to have even just one child, it's hard to see someone complain, "I can't get pregnant!" when they already have one. It's easy to think, "I would do anything for just one! Appreciate and love the one you have! At least you have one."
On the other side, I can understand that it's still extremely heartbreaking to experience infertility, no matter how many children one has. I think of the pain month after month, the disappointment when seeing failed cycle after failed cycle. That could not possibly be easy for anyone. John and I had always imagined having three or four children. True, we will be happy if we are blessed with just one, but there will still be a sense of loss for the other children we feel should be in our family. I'm sure those couples going through secondary infertility must feel something similar. It must be truly saddening and frustrating to begin your family, and then not be able to feel completed. I have also heard a lot of sorrow coming from, "not being able to give my child a sibling."
Those men and women with secondary infertility need and deserve just as much support and love as those with primary. It's harder to know who they are, and sometimes you may not even know the people in your life afflicted with it. It's easy to look at someone with children and think that they are not struggling. I guess the main point here is that you can never judge someone. Never just assume that they don't have problems, and don't assume they aren't grateful for their children. All of the friends I have talked to love and adore their children completely, but simply yearn for more. Not one has ever taken their child for granted. They understand what it really means to appreciate the gift that they were given.