Secondary Infertility

As a mom, there are a few questions I hate answering: When are you due?  Um, never, that bump is left over from the baby who’s now in preschool.  When are you going back to work?  I don’t know!  I’m not ready.  Are you planning to have another one?  Lady, unless you’ve got Kleenex in your purse and 20 minutes to spare, let’s not go there. 

The moment my daughter was born, my bonkers first thought was, I want to do that again.  I wanted to make another baby, like, immediately.  The miracle was so huge, and the joy/love rush so potent, I was hooked and knew I’d need another hit. 


Unfortunately, we’d gotten a late start on our family and I was already 40, so as soon as it was physically possible, we started trying for baby number two.  When it didn’t happen right away, I panicked (because panic and conception mix oh-so-well) and ran to a fertility doctor.  

There were tests, drugs, shots, an unsuccessful insemination, three failed in vitro fertilizations, and along the way, several early miscarriages.  I tried vitamins, supplements, herbs and acupuncture. I lost weight, did yoga, ate pineapple cores and prayed.  I gave up caffeine and booze for a year, and all I learned is that I’m a real bitch without my coffee. 

We’re still trying–the free, old fashioned way—and I’m struggling.

They call it secondary infertility.  You have the first baby, and you think, Wow, my body’s so good at this; I could have like 10 more kids.  Should we have 10 more kids?  And while you’re negotiating whether to have one more or 10 more (with a partner who thinks you’re nuts, but humors you), your body just up and quits.  In my case, the glitch is declining egg quality, but I know other, younger mamas who can’t seem to make a second baby either.  It’s wildly frustrating.  And it hurts not to be able to create the family you envisioned. 

As a mother, you want to give your child everything.  I want my daughter to have a sibling.  She may not consider that the same caliber gift as a doll house or tricycle, but I’m taking the long view.  I grew up with a younger brother, and even though we fought like criminals for the first 10 years, we’re BFF’s now, and I treasure him.  I realize I can’t guarantee a close sibling relationship, but I want to provide my daughter with that person who will know her always–the one who understands what it was like to grow up in her house.  The one who’s still there when I’m gone.  

This is a morbid obsession of mine.  Any discussion with my partner of our fertility woes generally ends with me sobbing, “I don’t want to leave her alone!”   He is certain she will not be alone—that she will have good friends and someone to love.  We love her so much, surely others will as well.  But I’m a mom and I want insurance. 

Call me crazy (or laugh in my face), but I’d also like to experience raising siblings.  I imagine it’s hard—much harder than what I’m doing now.  But that’s my Everest.  I want to take on the challenge of the schedules and the sharing and “it’s not fair.” I want my chance to threaten, “I will turn this car around!” though I’m not sure back seat squabbles exist anymore, what with bucket seats and iPads.  I want to see how different or similar my two kids would be.  I want the messy and the dirty.  I want it all.  Are you listening, ovaries?

One of the unique struggles of secondary infertility is that everyone you know is pregnant.  I’m not exaggerating.   I have a preschooler, and when you socialize with preschool families, most moms are either knocked up or toting a brand new bundle of joy.   Conversations at the playground focus on the ideal age spread between siblings and whether to go for a third.  These perfectly legitimate questions start to grate on me like humble brags.  You know, Should we get the Ferrari or the Porsche?   But I don’t want my friends to feel stifled around me, so I imagine that I am someone who has these same choices, and try to consider them thoughtfully.  I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s possible to be genuinely happy for others while still being insanely jealous.  At least there are always cute babies available to hold. 

Then there’s the problem of the gear.   Each time my kid outgrows something, I struggle with next steps.  Do I save toys, books and clothes for another child who might never come?  What about the nursing bras and breast pump rusting in my closet?  So much stuff.  I wound up sending most of the outfits to our new niece and the bulky swings and bouncers to a neighbor baby, but I don’t think I can bring myself to ditch the crib.  We’re going to be vacuuming around that sucker ‘til I hit menopause. 

Emotional triggers are everywhere, and I’m nothing if not emotional, but it’s not always easy to find comfort.  Some friends shy away from the topic, as though infertility might be contagious.  If I do share our difficulties, the well-meaning response tends to be, “At least you have one child,” which of course makes me feel horribly guilty. I know there are tons of infertile couples who would give anything to have just one child.  And I have several single, childless girlfriends who would love to be mothers but didn’t quite make their biological clock deadlines.  In their company, I am a glutton yearning for extra helpings. 

I know that in time I will, if I must, learn to accept the status quo.  It helps that the one kid I have is pretty incredible.  Sure, she has tantrums and her favorite word is “why” and she exhausts me, but she is the yummiest, funniest, most amazing human I could have ever hoped to bring into the world.   I am lucky.  I am grateful.  Yet when I see her playing baby, feeding her “little brother” (a stuffed owl) his pretend bottle and rocking him to sleep, it’s impossible not to want a real baby.  I want to experience the miracle again, but in a new way: more assured, less afraid, and with my daughter by my side.


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  1. Posted November 14, 2013 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Great read, you’re doing fine, keep at it and the man upstairs will take care of the rest!

    I also sent you a message on your contact page. If you could be kind enough to read it and get back to me I would greatly appreciate it.


  2. Posted June 9, 2014 at 4:24 am | Permalink

    As a mother who started later I totally agree and understand everything you wrote about- and you did it so well! I gave away the toys and blankets because it was too hard to see them and wonder. I was lucky and did get #2, but to be honest that crazy drive for another did not really go away. I think it’s hormonal and natural, maybe… But I know that considering the difficulty we had I will just have this longing for as long as I do… I hope it gets easier for both of us.
    I wish the best for you, keep drinking coffee!

    • Posted June 9, 2014 at 7:10 am | Permalink

      Marie, I’m so glad you wrote. I really like to hear success stories. We are still trying and I am losing hope a bit. The hormonal thing is so true – nature built this in and it’s hard to fight it. I’m drinking my coffee as I write this :)

  3. Posted June 9, 2014 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    I’m so sorry to hear of your struggle with secondary infertility. I blog about hope during infertility, and I really appreciate you shedding some awareness on the issue. Best wishes to you and your family.
    Lisa {Amateur Nester recently posted..Love is Better…My Profile

    • Posted June 9, 2014 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      Thanks. I’m looking forward to reading your blog – it helps when we all talk about it.

  4. Posted June 9, 2014 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Thanks for your honest insight on this issue. My sister-in-law had a really hard time having her first and was never able to have another. We aren’t really close, but this does give me some insight into some things she may be thinking/feeling.
    Rabia @TheLiebers recently posted..Henry’s Super Seven Birthday BashMy Profile

    • Posted June 9, 2014 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      I’m glad to hear that. People don’t talk about it a lot but it’s hard.

  5. Posted June 9, 2014 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    Hi, visiting via the SITS girls! Very moving post. Something similar happened to my sister. Wish you the best with your blog.

    • Posted June 9, 2014 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

      Thanks so much. Hope your sister is managing okay.

  6. Posted June 11, 2014 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    This is a very heartfelt post. Thanks for sharing. Visiting from SITS
    Lisq recently posted..Bulgur and Broccoli Patties with a Kick!My Profile

    • Posted June 11, 2014 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

      Thank you.

  7. Posted June 18, 2014 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    Wonderful post! I identified a lot with what you were saying… especially: “I want to provide my daughter with that person who will know her always–the one who understands what it was like to grow up in her house.”

    I grew up an only child and wanted my daughter to have a sibling. With my first, we thought, let’s have a child, and immediately got pregnant. When we wanted a second we got pregnant, had a miscarriage and kept trying for about a year before we conceived. It was emotional and trying… we almost gave up but I’m glad we didn’t.

    Thank you for such an honest and vulnerable post. Visiting from SITS.
    Jennifer | The Delib recently posted..Overcoming ObstaclesMy Profile

    • Posted June 18, 2014 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      Thanks for writing, Jennifer. I love to hear success stories.

  8. Amanda
    Posted July 3, 2014 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    Amy – thank you so much for your profound post on secondary infertility. I have a beautiful and charming five-year-old daughter and realize I hit the jackpot there, but I am filled with longing over number 2, which just isn’t happening. It truly does seem like pregnant people are everywhere — usually on number 3 or more. All I want is two! I swear! I, too, am reaching the end of my reproductive years, so I am trying to find a way to make peace with the possibility that I will only have one. But I’m still looking for ways to cope with my baby envy. Knowing I’m not alone helps tremendously.

    • Posted July 7, 2014 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      Amanda, so sorry you’re going through this. One of the preschool moms just announced she is expecting her 3rd (Greedy bitch! Jk, sort of) and I went through it all again.

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