Monday, January 31, 2011

The Second Time Around: Dealing with Secondary Infertility

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My friend Sue Glover has one child.

She and her husband, Timm, didn’t plan on being the parents of an only child. Following the birth of their son Reed, they wanted more children. But after months of trying to conceive a second child, Sue found herself at the doctor’s office awaiting the results of a fertility evaluation. Again.

The Glovers had been down this road before Reed was born. When a year’s worth of attempts to conceive on their own were unsuccessful, they sought professional intervention. They explored various medications for several months before Sue’s doctor recommended exploratory surgery to identify her fertility problem. Endometriosis was diagnosed and quickly removed. Two months later, she was pregnant with Reed. Sue believed that since the endometriosis was cured, conceiving a sibling for Reed wouldn’t be difficult. But it was. Sadly, Sue found that after surviving primary infertility, she would now battle secondary infertility.

“The first thing that went through my mind was a prayer,” Sue remembers. “Oh, God--not again.”

While debate rages among medical professionals as to whether secondary infertility is more or less psychologically devastating than primary infertility, Sue knows where she stands on the issue. For her, the second time was harder. “The first time I hadn’t been a parent, and I literally didn’t know what I was missing,” she explains. “But the second time, I had experienced giving birth and having a child of my own. I knew how wonderful it was to be a mom.”

As Sue and Timm began revisiting the antiseptic hallways of tests and treatments, they found that this time, endometriosis was not to blame. And with nothing to pin a diagnosis on, Sue found herself sinking further into an isolating abyss of doubt and discouragement.

“So many things go through your head,” she shares candidly. “You think, I must not be a good parent. I must be defective. I’m not enough of a woman. I’m a failure.”

Every woman journeying through fertility treatments knows well the cycle of buoyant hope and heartsick grief, lived largely within the span of a few heartbreaking days each month. For Sue, the mother of an energetic toddler, hope and thankfulness resided side by side with longing and grief, leaving her feeling caught between two worlds. She knew how fortunate she was to have her son, and yet she longed for another child, a sibling for him to grow up with. “I believed in miracles and I still had hope,” she recalls, “but each month I would still get upset. When your period comes, there’s a great sense of loss.”

After several months and various treatments spent attempting a second pregnancy, Sue realized she didn’t want to miss out on Reed’s life while trying so desperately to have another child. Although they prayerfully considered adoption, she and Timm never felt God leading them to move forward in that pursuit. Now in her forties, Sue says with quiet serenity, “We just felt like God wanted us to just have the one, and we’ve accepted it and moved on.”

When it comes to infertility, answers are hard to come by. Most women want to know why it has happened to them, and unfortunately, even today’s advanced science cannot always provide an accurate diagnosis. If you have a child but are finding a second conception difficult:
  • Consult your doctor. Explore your medical options.
  • Find a support group where you feel safe sharing your feelings, or form one of your own.
  • Most importantly, keep your focus on God.
Never discount the effects of fervent prayer, taking your hard questions to God but lifting them up in ultimate submission to His will for your life. Sue says, “At the end of this journey, when I had given up hope, I took my broken heart to God and said, You’ve got to heal it. And He did.”

Coming up in this series
Tuesday: Commonly Asked Questions about Secondary Infertility (SI)
Wednesday: Piecing Together the Broken Heart Secondary Infertility Leaves Behind

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