The Unique Heartbreak of Secondary Infertility: My Personal Story
Secondary infertility!? I didn’t even know it existed until I was told I had it… I think most women who get pregnant and have their first child uneventfully are surprised when they find that the second child doesn’t happen just as easily. For me, I had to endure multiple miscarriages before I realized that something was really wrong, that I may not even have the second child I so wanted… all the while having the doctors tell me ‘not to worry’ that I should ‘try again’ and it ‘would eventually happen.’ After all, I had gotten pregnant with my first child quickly and had an uncomplicated pregnancy. For all practical purposes, there was no reason why I should not have a second or third child if I so wanted. My eggs looked fine, my uterus looked fine. Six and half years later, I knew it wasn’t going to just happen.
After miscarriages with the first two IUIs, I quickly advanced to medicated IUIs, then IVFs and from there it was a slippery slope of extensive testing (including all sorts of immune testing), heparin treatments (though no testing warranted it), and egg donor cycles. Each time I was lucky enough to get pregnant, I would miscarry. I consulted with top Reproductive Endocrinologists around the country – sent my ever growing pile of medical records to them for review – and then listened on the phone as they gave me the diagnosis of ‘unexplained secondary infertility.’ To me the words stung … I started praying that they would find something wrong with me, with my eggs, with my uterus, with my husband .. anything, so that at least I would get an explanation for my secondary infertility. But every test came back normal. And so my diagnosis stayed… ‘unexplained secondary infertility.’ Which basically meant that they doctors had no idea why I couldn’t maintain a second pregnancy.
Not only does secondary infertility deprive the Intended Parents of a child they truly want.. but it comes with an added stigma. There is a guilt associated with it that is unique.. you are ‘unaccepted’ by many who are suffering from primary infertility – because you already have a child and there is the feeling that ‘why can’t you be happy with what you have’ when there are so many struggling to have their first. This causes many suffering from secondary infertility to keep their pain and their struggles silent.. to endure their sadnesses quietly… because it feels selfish to complain out loud. You’re not really part of the ‘infertility’ world because you’ve already had one child, and yet you are very different than the ‘normal’ world, where woman who want more than one child are able to have them without much effort.
I did finally add to my family through egg donation and surrogacy… and I truly believe it was the surrogacy aspect that was the real answer to my situation. I don’t know whether I’ll ever know what my ‘medical issue’ is… why I could never carry another child. However, since then, I’ve managed to find peace with my secondary infertility. A change of careers helped do that… I once was a television producer but eight years ago, I started a surrogacy agency (Agency for Surrogacy Solutions, Inc) with my best friend (who suffered from primary infertility and ended up using a surrogate as well to have her children).
Nearly half of our clients suffer from secondary infertility… and I can always hear their sigh of relief when I tell them I experienced the same thing… that they won’t have to ‘explain’ or give ‘reasons’ as to why although they are so happy with their first child, they just always dreamed of a larger family… I hear the tinge of guilt in their voices when they say that and I reassure them that there is no reason at all why we are not allowed to have what our hearts want. I truly believe that we live in a time where family building options are abundant (everything from egg donation, surrogacy, fertility tourism) and therefore we have the unabashed right to pursue our dreams. The response from my IP’s is always the same, ‘it’s so nice to finally find someone who understands what I am feeling.’ And I do understand. And I am so happy that we are able to help so many others who find themselves struggling with secondary infertility…