Thursday, February 11, 2010

Infertility again

I'm not sure which cycle it was that I met Joanna.

We met on Hannah's Prayer. An online infertility and pregnancy loss support group if you will. A place that I received more understanding, encouragement, compassion, and strength than I can possibly put into words. I don't visit HP that often anymore. And that makes me sad. Time is the only reason though. I love that place. It will always hold a very near and dear place to my heart. I truly am not sure how I would have survived five years of barrenness without it. I hope someday I will have the time to go back and spend time more than just a few moments here and there on HP and support other women as I was once supported.

Anyways, Joanna was my "cycle" buddy for what I believe was my second try with IVF. You often will pair with someone who is going through IVF at the same time as you. You encourage and lift each other up in prayer during the journey.

I hate to sound like I was a bit calloused, but I really wasn't surprised when Joanna got a positive result and I got a negative. That's how it seemed to go with me. Every time I paired with anyone, they got pregnant and I didn't. One of my hardest cries was during my fifth and final IUI cycle. A gal I knew in person was going through her first. Positive for her. Negative for me. It felt so cruel and unjust. So unfair. You go through the normal emotions. You are truly so happy for them but so sad for yourself.

I felt the same way about Joanna. I was thrilled for her but so frustrated for myself. When would it be my turn? Would it ever be my turn?

I got to a point that I truly believed I would never have a turn. That isn't designed to be a bitter statement. It was just how it was. I just thought that that wasn't the direction my life was going to take. And I was coming to terms with it.

But I'm getting away from what this post was about.

Joanna and I have stayed in touch -- albeit not as closely as during that cycle. She told me later that she purposely avoided commenting on my blog or talking to me too much because she knew her little boy would remind me of the children we never got to meet. Her gorgeous little boy is now two and a half years old! Wow how time surely does fly.

But while I now have two children, Joanna is still seeking the Lord's blessing a second time.

Secondary infertility. The "Inability to conceive after having previously conceived a child."

I asked Joanna to help me in painting a picture of how secondary infertility feels. I didn't want to write a post on the topic as if I understood how it feels when I haven't gone through it. I suppose it may be something I deal with in the future. We do not know that we can have any more children with or without treatment. However, right now, I couldn't possibly say I am knowledgeable about secondary infertility.

But Joanna is.

Joanna got pregnant with IVF fairly easily. Why wouldn't she be able to a second time?

Joanna actually doesn't like to call her infertility issues "secondary". It implies that someone has had no problems conceiving a previous child or children, and is struggling for the first time with infertility. "But I don't think there's a name for repeat infertility," Joanna writes. "So I just call it: Infertility Again."

As Joanna wrote about her struggles to have a second child, my heart went out for her. She painted the picture perfectly and why secondary infertility can be so difficult. My blog has always been about helping to educate people on infertility, and I feel this is a topic that needs more discussion.

I am sure there are some of you out there who are dealing with secondary infertility in your own life or in the life of a friend. I paint this picture, with Joanna's help, so that you can relate, in some way to what they are going through. So that you can understand the pain.

Resolve, The National Infertility Association, explains on their website how important it is to seek support with this condition, just like one would while dealing with primary infertility.

To avoid the sense of isolation that often accompanies secondary infertility, and to maintain necessary social support, it is important to educate friends and family members about the common feelings associated with secondary infertility. For example, with some guidance by the couple, friends may understand that declining an invitation to a baby shower relates to pain and grief, rather than a lack of interest in another's family.

Here is just some of what Joanna shared with me:

I was thinking that one thing that makes infertility again so painful and more lonely is that just by the nature of what you do on a daily basis, you are forced to be around pregnant people. And usually these are people who are pregnant for the second or third time. Take the zoo, for instance. When I was dealing with primary infertility, I would never in a million years have gone to the zoo on a regular basis. I would have avoided it like the plague. The same goes for playgrounds, Story Time at the library, and any other activity that screams YOUNG FAMILIES!! But now, because I have a young child, I go to these places. Places where there are other moms of young children. And chances are, if they've had one child they'll have another with no difficulty. Inevitably you see moms with a huge baby belly who have children the same age as your own (or younger even), and you can't help but be reminded.

I feel like I don't fit in anywhere --and that no one understands. Women who are still dealing with primary infertility can't imagine that secondary could feel the same way. "At least you already have a child," they say.

The bewildering thing is that they're right and there is no reasonable explanation to how the ache can be so strong. People who see you with one child assume you could have two, and so they ask when you're going to give your child a sibling. And the most heartbreaking of all is when the child realizes that most people have siblings and voices to you that they'd like one too. As if it's that easy.

Resolve, explains on their website why secondary infertility can be even more painful than primary infertility:

Sadly, couples with secondary infertility tend to receive less social support from others than couples who have primary infertility because the infertility is unacknowledged, the pain associated with infertility is invisible as the couple has a child, and there is no concrete loss in the family. In addition, couples experiencing secondary infertility may be recipients of criticism by others who think they should be grateful for one child and that it is foolish to go to extremes to increase family size. Of course, a couple can be extraordinarily thankful for their existing child and still long for more children.

I also found this diary entry online from a woman with two children but struggling immensely with her desire for a third. Another amazing account that helps paint a picture of how difficult this can be.

I know my friend Kelly dealt with this when trying to conceive her second child. After a surprise first pregnancy, she and her husband were shocked when it took three (is that right Kelly?) tries with IUI to conceive a second. It was incredibly painful and difficult for Kelly. I remember it vividly. I also remember what an encouragement she was to me when I started struggling with my own infertility. She really came along side me.

I hope this post provides you just a glimpse into the journey through secondary infertility (or "infertility again" as Joanna calls it.) We all need people to stand alongside us in our time of sadness, whatever sadness that may be. If you know someone dealing with this, please support them and encourage them and pray for them the same way you would if they had no children.
If you know someone grieving anything at all for that matter. Walk with them. Be their friend. Hug them. You don't have to have the answers -- just the shoulder to cry on.
Also, I know that for those of you dealing with primary infertility, this topic is difficult to swallow. It's why, on HP, primary and secondary infertility was clearly separated into two separate posting areas. Remember that it doesn't matter what the pain is.
Pain is pain. Hurt hurts. We cannot possibly compare grief. We all need to support each other.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I wanted to share a few things that have been ministering to me from our Thursday Bible Study on transforming our speech. We meet every Thursday and inbetween, we have five days worth of studies to work through. I am so enjoying this study!

Here's a few passages that ministered to me during my devotional time today:

"When I look at my heart, I see all the spiritual features that identify who I am. My heart reflects my character, my thoughts, my desires, my emotions, my motivations, and the decisions I make. My face speak of who I am physically just as my heart speaks of who I am spiritually. My words merely give an external voice to the internal speech of my heart.

The image that comes to my mind is the water gurgling up from various underground mineral springs in the beautiful Canadian Rocky Mountains, our summer vacation spot. The water normally stays hidden underground, as part of the water table. But in certain areas it bubbles to the surface and overflows. In each case, the overflow reveals what is hidden. The water comes up hot, cold, or stained depending on conditions below the surface. Our hearts represent the ground from our words spring (Proverbs 4:25)."

I hope to continue to share various things that I am learning during this study so that you can benefit from it as well.


Today I went to MOPs. I am enjoying it more and more every week. The opportunity to be with other women in the same place as I am in my life seems to become more and more important to me the older my boys gets. I feel I need growing support.

At the same time, my heart has really been pricked to the fact that just two years ago, this group was not somewhere I could have been. I would have found so much of it painful. So many things too difficult to bear. I attended yet another baby shower this past weekend. What a wonderful time hanging out with fellow women, some mothers and some not. But how hard it would be to go if I were still barren.

I am also reading the Firstborn series of Karen Kingsbury's books. In it, the topic of singleness is discussed in detail. That longing for a mate. The wonder concerning whether it will ever be your turn? Will you be left behind?

I believe there are moments in life where being single is okay. A certain age bracket. But once you leave that age bracket, you find yourself feeling like you no longer fit in. Everyone who is your age has moved into marriage. Those of you who have shared this pain with me, know exactly what I am talking about. I am sure the rest of you can at least imagine it.

The same goes for infertility. There is a period where being married without children is expected and accepted. You have many friends who do not have children. And you fit in just fine. But one by one, all of your friends are having children. And then they are having their second and third child. And you aren't there. And as a result, you feel different. You feel like you don't fit in. When I sit around with women at MOPs, my friends in wifia, or I attend a baby shower, I am reminded how much these activities would be necessary and yet painful. I would need to attend because I wanted to have girlfriends. I needed friends. But they were all moms. And I wasn't. And that, in and of itself, hurt.

As a result, I was forced to ask those who loved me to "edit" their discussions. Please avoid certain conversations if you could when you are around me. Please act this way. Please do this. I don't regret asking for these things. I needed to ask for them in order to be able to function properly. But so much was so painful. I have realized how much people loved me to help me in the way that they did during those years.

Recently, my heart has been pricked to what I can do with this weight I will always carry with me. I was speaking to a gal I am friends with who recently found out she was pregnant after a journey through a year of infertility. How does she transition? It's difficult. She will, forever, have her heart pricked toward the world of the barren. And that isn't necessarily a bad thing. It is something I am glad that I have had pricked. I am glad I carry this weight. I am so much more aware of those that are different than I am. Of those that are hurting. Of those that might be pained by something I say or share. I am thankful for that constant reminder.

And I really want to try to "give" some of my "pricking" to those who have never been pricked. The Lord has been laying on my heart the desire to share with "non-infertiles" how they can help those they love maneuver through this difficult valley. What can they say? What can they do? I have already done a post on this in the past but I want to do more. I am not sure where the Lord will take this. A book? Speaking? Or just continuing to help via email and phone. I don't know, but I am trying to be cognisant of the Lord's leading.

Thank you to all of you out there who have contacted me to say that a past post helped you -- either in dealing with infertility or supporting someone who was going through. Or to ask me what you should say to someone you know. How you can support them. Thank you to those of you who have met infertility head-on and shared your journey with me. Many people feel guilty. They feel guilty sharing their pain when it is only a year old and mine was five years old. PLEASE do not feel guilty. Please share. This helps make me feel that those five years were worth something. That I went through them for a reason.

Elijah will be one year old in just a few days. I have no idea at which point I crossed over from one world to the next. John saw a patient the other day dealing with infertility, and, as he usually does, he shared his story. He came home and looked at Elijah. How did he get here? How, after all of the money and tears and months and months and months, did this little boy get here? We know of course. But it doesn't feel real.

The journey was so hard. And now it is over. And somehow, I want it to continue. Not that journey specifically but the journey through helping others heal and help. Please pray for the Lord to use my life in the way HE has intended. I look forward to watching him move.