Entry #66: Two Plus One


There is a big damn difference, y’all

So yesterday I was reading a blog and it had me thinking all damn day, so much so that I told my husband, “well, guess this means I’m going to have to write about it on my blog.”

The blogger was a woman who had the good fortune to have her infertility treatments end up in a baby. It was making the attempt to say that her talking about her kid in her blog wasn’t meant to offend anyone (okay, fine, no problem, we get it), but then really focused on the term “life after infertility”, in a way that I read as an assumption that eventually we’ll all get pregnant, that we’ll all get past infertility and have a kiddo. She talked about her struggles as a new mom, her fears, her insecurities (all fine), but then wrote it from a perspective that because she went through infertility treatments, she was still in our club.

So, gently, I said that I understand what she was trying to say and in no mean wanted to diss her attempt to empathize with those still on the front lines, but that it’s important that she keep in mind that not all of us will join her club (my words, not hers) and that many will have to end their chapter without a child. Not everyone can afford to keep going, not everyone wants to keep going after the mental and physical strain of doing multiple treatments, and because of that, many of us will not have “life after infertility”. I explained to her that while it might seem unfair, someone who has now given birth is no longer looking at infertility with the same perspective as those of us who have never seen a positive pregnancy test or never brought a baby to term. It’s just not the same. She is on the other side of the fence now, and the level of empathy, while there, will never be the same as it was before she had her baby.

Two things were said by this blogger in response that I thought quite interesting:

1)Have you considered adoption?”

You gotta be shitting me. I honestly had to laugh at the adoption question as it’s so textbook for a person who has NOT gone through infertility to say, so having someone who DID go through it and has a baby now? Whoa – don’t you know better? For me I don’t freak out because we are actually in the adoption process, but there still ultimately is an assumption that adoption is a guarantee of a child. What many people don’t realize is that when you sign contracts with the agencies, there is a specific line in there that you sign off on where they tell you that there is no guarantee you will end up with a child. This blogger was adopted so I let her off the hook, but still it was so eerily close to the phrases we all know and abhor during infertility. AND JUST BECAUSE WE ARE TRYING TO ADOPT DOES NOT MEAN WE ARE SOMEHOW ABSOLVED OF OUR INFERTILITY.

I am a huge proponent for adoption, from making it easier and more affordable for all, and firmly believe that if you are eligible and have the financial resources to adopt, that should considered because parenting is ultimately not about DNA but about love. Mind you I say “considered”, not “done”, because there is a lot of homework involved, a lot of hurdles, and a lot of time (similar to IVF) where you wait and wait and may not get a kiddo (not to mention countries like Australia who pretty much tell couples who want to adopt to go jump in the lake because the wait time is like 7-10 years!). And along with that? It takes a different sort of preparation, a different sort of openness, a different sort of leap, to adopt a child. I want everyone to have the excitement about adoption that we have, but know that’s not in everyone’s cards to have.

Adoption is not a cure for my uterus’s failure to accept an embryo. It is a wholly separate thing from my infertility. My body has given the middle finger to THREE donor egg blastocysts, the ones that were supposed to be practically a slam dunk compared to attempting to use my own.

2) “You are (on the other side of the fence) until you start struggling to get pregnant again.”

Oh no she didn’t. Secondary infertility is a condition, yes, but it is NOT the same. In no damn way is it the same.

You have a baby. You have a baby. YOU HAVE A BABY. WE DO NOT.

Yes, you want another. Very valid.

Yes,  you are struggling. Very valid.

But you are in a different chapter in the book of infertility. You are not in our chapter.


Yes, you want another. I totally get it. But guess what?


So when you start trying again, you can come home after the ultrasound and hold your existing baby in your arms and kiss and hug your baby  and dream of having an even bigger family.

But the rest of us are out walking our dogs or flipping on the TV because we don’t have a child. We don’t know what any of it is like. We have never looked into a child’s eyes that comes from our womb. We have never seen our partner’s tears as (s)he holds the baby for the first time. We have never changed its diapers or awoke in the middle of the night to feed it or put actual clothes on the baby because guess what? Ours are still in the empty room we’d created last year for the baby, in the dresser under the children’s books that have been purchased over the year, next to the stuffed animals.

Yes, secondary infertility is real, and devastating in its own way – but it’s a different reality, period. Please folks just admit that, accept it, and stop trying to act like it’s the exact same thing. It’s not.

Every blogger knows that when she’s going through these treatments, that if she gets pregnant, there’s a good chance that the followers who are still in the throes will probably stop reading many of their posts, and when the baby arrives, will probably unfollow. It’s just too hard…even when we know what they went through. I’ve talked a lot on my blog how I try to see pregnant bellies and babies as inspiration, and feed off the energy that I get from little ones. Whenever a toddler kisses my dog in excitement, I feel better. Whenever my first graders I read to snuggle up to me, enjoying the book we’re reading, I feel better. But afterwards my husband and I always hug, with that knowing sigh that these kids have parents…and we are still only imagining what that’s like.

My husband said it perfectly last night as he was thinking about it himself on his commute. He said “it’s like we’re in the ocean, flailing around in the water without a life preserver, trying not to drown, and so when we look up and see some of our fellow strugglers are now in the lifeboat and looking down at you saying “oh gosh I know exactly how you feel” – it kind of feels like a kick in the gut. Because we’re still desperately trying to keep our heads above water.

Again, this is not a discussion about who has the right to grieve, but rather drawing a line between the two that I think many are too afraid to say.

We sat in a RESOLVE support group meeting last year, surrounded by couples who, like us, had been struggling to conceive and carry a baby to term, whether it be through assistance via donor eggs (like us) or through IUI or IVF, like most others…and even a few who were openly considering adoption. I felt kindred spirits there in the room with us. And there was one woman who was about twenty times more vocal than the rest of us, wailing, and my husband squeezed my hand. She must really be in the darkness, we thought, she must really have tried and failed for so, so long, we thought. And then she mentioned her 7 year old daughter. My chin was not the only one that dropped in the room. All of these women telling their stories who had never been pregnant, had never seen a positive, were fighting with their bodies just to sustain life within them after multiple miscarriages, who came home to emptiness…and she was wailing, talking about how her daughter is suffering because of her secondary infertility, literally wailing as we all sat there  and looked at our laps. It was incredibly uncomfortable to put it mildly and took all of our Northwestern passive-aggressive norms to STFU.

There has got to be a different group for the SF folks, so they have people who understand, and don’t want to punch them like those of us who haven’t been blessed like they have. There has got to be a separation, and it’s got to be admitted that it’s. just. different. Valid – but different. Again, it’s not a “whose pain is deeper” but saying out loud that THE EXPERIENCE IS DIFFERENT.

I guess I think of this question I’d ask myself when it comes to primary vs secondary infertility: if I was told by my RE that I’d be guaranteed to have a baby, yet never be able to have a second one, would I be okay with that?

Fuck yeah I would. Fuck yeah and never look back.

Perhaps that’s where much of the frustration lies is in that perceived lack of gratitude that we see in some of the posts out there, that their valid struggles are at times lumped with our primary infertility struggles in the most unfair of ways…with a constant reminder of what we do not have and a defensiveness towards their side of the fence that just because we on the primary side of it call it out, doesn’t mean we’re automatically invalidating the secondary, we are just not going to call them one in the same.

As one commenter (who by the way noted that she’s pregnant, with no infertility issues)  said on a SF article I read, “I can guarantee you, despite the pain she feels, she wouldn’t trade places with other childless women.”

And as I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, I suppose with all of this is, like with the lifeboat example my husband gave, I think many of us would like to see people who, once they do get that winning lottery ticket, reach out and do something that advocates for those still struggling, paying it forward rather than constantly reminds us of what we don’t have. I’ve thought about what we can do should this work out for my husband and I on our 4th and final try. I want to do whatever I can to help others in the struggle, whether that be on a macro level by fighting for mandatory infertility insurance coverage or at a micro level by helping couples get the support, financially or emotionally, during this most shitty time of their lives.

If I get the gift, I’m going to be fucking grateful. And being actively grateful means paying it forward. As Gandhi said, be the change you wish to see in the world.


15 thoughts on “Entry #66: Two Plus One

  1. I agree with everything you’ve written. And through my failed attempts via DE for a sibling, every time it’s failed I’ve said “at least we have”E”.. I never understood the secondary infertility thing…now I’m kind of living it but it’s nothing at all like primary infertility and anyone who says it is, is kidding themselves or very forgetful.
    I’ve got it all crossed for you lovely with your next attempt, I really do.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I agree 100 percent that secondary is different and in my opinion easier than primary. I have suffered both and that is my strong opinion. There is a huge, thick blaring line in our hearts, homes and society separating Moms ( of any kind whether it is donor, adoption etc) and those that do not have a living child they are raising. That is the cold hard truth. Sure I look at my son and feel deep longing to give him a sibling but I am fortunate to have this problem and to have passed the HUGE hurdle of becoming a Mom. I find it so disappointing when fellow bloggers make it to other side and become worst than smug fertiles. Anyway– long comment here but I am with you.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you thank you thank you…I was nervous in writing this as there are so many blogs out there about SF that are just calling it a “grief competition” and telling those with primary infertility to stop being so frustrated, it is good to see that there are folks out there who get it. I’ve already had to grieve the retirement of my ovaries and get into the donor egg mindset for the past year, so no matter what happens with us, it will be because of another mother’s assistance (eggs, giving up for adoption, or both).

      Great comment too about the societal separation between parents and non-parents. Thank you again.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Most welcome. I am sorry you even needed to be validated here. It is not a competition (and certainly not one we all want to partake in) but those with the title Mom should have some gratitude and perspective and certainly empathy for those still desperately fighting for it. Best of luck my friend. Rooting for you.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I agree with what you are saying completely. Not everyone ends up with a child, adoption is complicated and, while often considered and undertaken in association with infertility, is really not the same issue, and struggling to have a second child is infinitely different to struggling to have one at all.

    Trying to consider things from the original blogger’s perspective, I can understand where she is at, though. Maybe. Sort of. What I found myself experiencing while pregnant and after my baby’s birth was a strange feeling of alienation, I guess. I had a baby, yes, but I had spent a long time not being able to conceive, so long that when I finally did, I couldn’t quite fully shift myself into the mindset that I was actually going to have/have a baby. I still related to women struggling to conceive far more than I did with other new and prospective mothers, the latter from whom I felt quite distant. At the worst of it, I felt that, if I should begin to really see myself as a mother, it would be pushing my luck somehow and something terrible would happen.

    All of that said, though? Still empathizing greatly with a group does not mean you are still in that group, even if you feel like you are. It’s an important distinction.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks for helping me organise my feelings on this – I felt somehow wrong for not seeing SF issues of other bloggers as being the same as my own issues. I felt envious, as well as sympathetic….but you’ve put it all into words, which helps me understand it all a lot better.
    I was reading a blogger who got pregnant naturally after a couple of years or so of unexplained infertility. She’s half way, knows the gender and I nearly clicked ‘unfollow’. But she said she’d been writing to her local member of parliament to campaign for 3 ivf cycles on the nhs for couples who are eligible, rather than just the one that so many trusts limit it to.
    So I’m still following, because she is trying to pay it forward. Even though it’s hard to not feel envy.
    Thanks for all you write – you’re an inspiration on this long and lonely journey!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes. So with you here (and have written something similar on my own blog).

    Also I find it REALLY difficult to deal with people who think they suffered “infertility” because it took them 2 years to get pregnant naturally or whatever. Yes I get that the two years must have seemed like a long time, and it must have felt like infertility at the time… But you have had a completely different experience to going through IVF and miscarriage. It is NOT the same and it feels like a kick in the teeth when they say it is.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yes yes yes. The idea that someone who was “on the other side” of IF would say “have you considered adoption?” ??!?! seriously? Unbelievable! It hurts more to hear it from someone who we’d think would understand, who would know better, who would be our more privileged advocates. Secondary infertility, while real, and I assume very trying and difficult, is simply not the same thing. It is not. I truly hope that our secondary sisters will realize that and speak to that truth. I am so thankful to all that do.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I hope you can hear that….me giving your blog a big round of applause! Brilliant and brave post. I think we are lucky that a lot of our secondary infertility friends on here do differentiate between the two and I love them for that. I have experienced on a board I used to post on some insensitive and defensive responses when I dared to suggest that they were blessed with their baby, I was not trying to say that their struggles were not painful just not the same. I sometimes find it hard when I am talking to my friend who is struggling with secondary too, she has been through multiple miscarriage hell and I feel a bit bad when I say to my husband ‘but she has something I will never have’ – a genetic child. I dare not even wish for more than one child, as lets face it one would be a massive miracle. Thank you for posting this!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve been meaning to comment, and I never seem to have time! You are so, so, so right about this. The line between having no children and having a child is a much bigger barrier than the line between one child and more than one child. In the first scenario, one person is a parent, the other is not. In the second, both are parents. It’s so incredibly different. As someone who would love to have more than one child, I can definitely understand the difficulty faced by those with secondary infertility, but as someone who can’t have any children, well… I’ll happily trade places with anyone who has secondary infertility.

    Liked by 1 person

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