“Is that your daughter? She's adorable. So you just have the one child?”
I overhear a mom speaking to another mom and cringe. Even before the other mom tells me that she's been trying to get pregnant for years, even before she tells me about her failed attempt at IVF.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Secondary Infertility is the inability to conceive or carry a child to term after already having a child. Secondary infertility, much like infertility can lead to feelings of: isolation, dissatisfaction with your body, anxiety, feelings of sadness, problems with your relationships and grief.
Secondary infertility also presents a new set of challenges:
Feeling like a bad mother-There are different reasons why you may feel like a bad mother. You might be feeling this way because you cannot get pregnant again. You might feel this way because infertility may be causing anxiety or depression and may effect your parenting. You may feel like a bad mother because you want to give your child a sibling.
Disconnection from your child- You may feel disconnected from your child. It may be hard for you to make sense of parenting a child that is here and grieving the one that you do not have. Infertility can be all consuming. You may have trouble staying present with your child.
Feeling split between wanting more kids and wondering why you had them in the first place-It is hard to have a child. Really hard. You may be having opposite feelings of wanting another child and at the same time feeling not cut out for parenting all together. It is really hard to think about having a child when your current child is taking all of your energy and mental space.
Feeling shame because you already have a child- You may be feeling shame about wanting another child. It is common to hear comments like “well at least you already have one” or “some people can’t have any”, “appreciate what you have”. You may also have trouble connecting with others that are struggling with infertility because you have a child and they may not.
If you are struggling with these symptoms you are not alone.
Ways to cope with secondary infertility:
Find support- Find someone that you can talk to about your feelings. Whether this is a professional, a support group, a family member or a friend, it is important to talk about your feelings and get validation that those feelings are real for you.
Make me time- In a culture that prides itself on being “so busy” take some time for yourself to do self care. Self care is not selfish, it is not a luxury, it is necessary. Taking time away from being a mother, partner and trying is important. Finding something for just you is important. This could be exercise, massage, getting your nails done, taking a class, sometimes even just grocery shopping by yourself can feel therapeutic. Make this a habit and set boundaries so that it happens on a regular basis.
Make special time to connect with your child- Find some time to spend time with your child in the moment. Whether this is reading a book at night or playing a game time find to be present with your child and connect.
Take some time with your partner-Spend time together outside of trying for another child. Go on a date. Have dinner without your child around. Make time to talk to each other.
Take a break- You may feel that it is necessary for your mental or physical health to take a break from trying.
Sit with the discomfort- know that these feelings will dissipate. Let them wash over you. Name them, acknowledge them, and let them pass. It is common for women going through infertility to feel a lack of control. This can be one of the hardest things for women to process, especially when they are planners and are used to being able to achieve goals. It is hard to sit with feelings of discomfort. Using grounding and mindfulness exercises can help with sitting with these feelings.
If you are struggling with secondary infertility I Can Help.