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.