• Our Secondary Infertility Journey: Part 1

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    Last week I announced our happy news after years of dealing with secondary infertility, and I promised I would talk more about our struggle in the next couple of weeks. Our journey isn’t over, of course. We have to make it through this pregnancy and then even after that face the reality of what this could mean moving forward in growing our family. I was floored by how many of you shared that you were dealing with or have dealt with the same issue. It’s always comforting to know that you aren’t alone in a particular struggle, especially one like secondary infertility that can be a bit misunderstood and feels really isolating.

    I know many, many people have had or are having an even more difficult and even longer journey than ours to conceive even their first. My heart goes out to any of you in this situation. Clearly primary infertility is a much larger beast in and of itself. However, I see secondary infertility as a very unique situation that is widely unspoken about, poorly researched and not well supported both medically and mentally in my experience. And yet, so many people deal with it silently and painfully behind closed doors. It comes with it its own set of very unique challenges that I’d like to share with you all.

    But first, I wanted to talk a bit today about the specifics of our journey and how we got to this point. Next week I’ll talk about the emotional component of secondary infertility and the struggles I face in that respect.

    Keep reading to hear more about our process…

    We didn’t really have any issue getting pregnant with our son.  So when we started thinking about having another child 4 years ago, it didn’t occur to us that it might be difficult. Months went by. After a year of trying I went to visit my obgyn and she suggested we talk to the reproductive health team about discussing options. But of course, we were optimistic that we wouldn’t need any kind of help and continued for another year or so trying on our own. Finally after a couple years we met with a doctor in reproductive health. He had suggested trying a few inseminations (IUI) which are relatively noninvasive procedures where they time everything perfectly. It often works, but sometimes takes a few tries.

    We were hesitant for a couple reasons. One, the doctor was very optimistic about the ability for us to conceive on our own, two, we were young (compared to many other couples in San Francisco wanting to conceive). So we waited again for a few months. Still, nothing was working. About a year or so ago we started to dive seriously into fertility treatments. After 3 inseminations we did have a success, but sadly a miscarriage a few weeks later. Once again, optimism! Let’s try more! 3 more inseminations and nothing. I was devastated.  There was so much optimism that the failures were that much more pronounced emotionally.

    Right after our 6th and final insemination, (I was sooo done with them) to our utter surprise, we conceived on our own. Only to have yet another miscarriage a few weeks later. It was horrible. I found myself feeling depressed, which is not a struggle I normally deal with. It seemed completely cruel to not only have failed insemination after failed insemination but now to start onto a whole other path of recurrent pregnancy loss which just left us feeling very anxious about doing any more treatments at all. We did a bunch of testing about the losses and no red flags came up. But we were still hesitant to do ANY more treatments if they were just to end in miscarriage again.

    It was a really really difficult time. I found myself withdrawing from friendships and family. Normally I cling to my female friends (other mothers) in difficult times, but every female relationship seemed just a painful reminder of what we couldn’t produce- a sibling for our son who was getting older and older each day, and how hard we were fighting for something that it seemed as though others didn’t have a hard time achieving at all. It felt like we were stuck in limbo month after month, year after year watching painfully on the sidelines as everyone else seemed to be growing and moving forward with their families.

    After doing some research and soul searching we decided to cut to the chase, commit financially, and do an IVF (in-vitro fertilization). We knew pregnancy was possible- our son was a constant reminder of that- and wanted to do the most aggressive thing we could to get there, and as quickly as possible mostly for my own emotional well being. There was a lot involved. Orientations, classes, testing, medications, more classes on how to use the medication. It was huge and took over our life for a while. Then late in the process we, along with the doctor, decided to cancel the IVF based on a mediocre response to the medication I was taking and start over again with a more aggressive protocol. It was a hard decision but if we were going to commit to this expensive and invasive procedure, I wanted to feel like we were giving it our very best shot.

    The cancelled IVF was turned into one last shot-in-the-dark insemination, so we wouldn’t waste the multiple eggs that were available. Surprisingly--it worked! Even though the 6 before hadn’t, this one worked for whatever reason!

    And things have been progressing beautifully since. The first few weeks of pregnancy I was paranoid with the idea that we would have another miscarriage (and where would that even leave us? trying another IVF only to have a miscarriage again?). Luckily things have been smooth sailing so far. I’ve had several ultrasounds and appointment to hear the heartbeat and just hope and pray things continue well for us. I know we won’t be truly comfortable and excited until this baby is safely in our arms but things are looking up for sure! What a huge weight it’s taken off our shoulders to see that glimmer of light at the end of such a long, dark tunnel.

  • 48 comments

    1. Jillayne said… June 19, 2013 12:59 pm

      I understand and empathize with your story! We were young and we got pregnant with our first easily. And then when we wanted to have another, it failed in miscarriage multiple times. We were heartbroken.

      Now I look back and remember how much it hurt – emotionally to not understand why it failed.

      I also now look at the three children that followed those years of pain and just rejoice with joy.

      Good luck with that sweet new addition. May he/she be healthy and strong.

    2. Alice said… June 10, 2013 2:09 pm

      This is amazing and I admire your perseverance. I think I sat next to you at Rebecca Wrights birthday party back in the fall. I am always so grateful for the opportunity to raise children and am heartbroken and hopeful for those would=be mothers who have difficulty conceiving! I know that due to all of your previous experiences, you won’t take your future experiences for granted and will cherish even the difficult moments:)

    3. rob said… June 3, 2013 6:27 am

      it took us 18 months to get pregnant with our second. since it took us exactly one try to get pregnant with our first, those 18 months seemed like forever.
      i’m so glad you’re having a healthy pregnancy and hope everything goes smoothly until you’re holding that new baby.

    4. Jo said… June 2, 2013 12:48 pm

      Thanks for this post. I can relate – I had 5 miscarriages after my son was born (and 3 before I had my son). We went for a full range of testing and were left with no answer as to the cause. I lost my courage and stopped trying for another. I will always feel like I let my son down to not have a sibling. Good for you for your optimism and perseverance. Best of luck with your expanding family.

    5. Kelley said… May 31, 2013 9:37 am

      Thanks for sharing your story. My husband and I dealt with infertility for 3 years. We are relatively young and tried on our own for 1.5 years. After seeking fertility help and all other options failed, we turned to IVF. I was terrified of a another negative outcome and was on pins and needles during our 2 week wait in March. We couldn’t believe it when we found out we were pregnant. 1 month later, we found out we were having twins! And 1 month after that, during a visit with a new perinatologist we found out one of the embryos had spit (it was missed in the 8 week scan) and we are now having TRIPLETS! We couldn’t be happier.
      Congrats to you and I wish you all the best through the rest of your pregnancy.

    6. Melissa @ Bubby & Bean said… May 29, 2013 12:33 pm

      I remember briefly talking with you about this in San Francisco last summer. How wonderful of you to share your story – and your amazing news! I’m so happy for you and your growing family, and wish you the very best in the upcoming months!

    7. megan said… May 28, 2013 4:35 pm

      Liz I’ve followed your blog for some time but never commented. I’m so moved by your story that I had to tell you. Thank you so much for sharing. So few do. It took me three years to conceive my son. A year of three miscarriages, followed by two years of infertility. Those three years were so lonely. Some of my friends had two children while I was still desperately trying for number one. I got comments like “God has a plan, You are still young, Why don’t you just adopt, etc…” It was horrible. I think the more people know about infertility and miscarriage the better! I now have two children and like many women who have commented, I cannot believe my good fortune. I’m so excited for you! Congratulations!

    8. Lindsey said… May 27, 2013 12:57 pm

      Omgosh, Liz! I always assumed that you only wanted one child and were happy to move on with your career and the rest of your life. I hate to think that you were suffering with this all alone inside. You have such a warm, loving presence and you hid it so well. I am SO HAPPY for you all. Best of luck with the rest of the pregnancy! xoxoxo

    9. Melanie Burk said… May 27, 2013 10:28 am

      Oh Liz! I am so so happy for you! What a struggle you have gone through, and I am so glad you are sharing. I know so many women who struggle with infertility… and I think they all agree that it feels like such a lonely battle. Reading this helps to make me determined to be more aware and thoughtful. It’s amazing what women go through to have children–either struggling with infertility, adoption, morning sickness, postpartum, etc … and reminds me we all need to be aware that each struggle is unique and difficult.

      I wish you all of the best through this pregnancy, what a terrific mother you are, and how luck your kids are to have you.

      • Liz Stanley said… May 28, 2013 9:08 am

        Thanks Melanie! Each struggle is unique and different and it’s important to remember that. Some may have difficulty conceiving, and some may have horrible pregnancies or loses or health problems. Everyone is given a different and difficult road!

    10. Pirillinca said… May 27, 2013 2:40 am

      Hi Liz, it’s the first time I comment here because I usually read your blog from Google Reader.
      But when I read this I had to stop by and say something, too.
      You did the best thing by talking about it on your blog, because no one usually does, but we are a lot of people!
      I had a miscarriage at 12 weeks, due to a trisomy, in February. We were very happy to give our daughter a brother within a couple years. Something went wrong, probably it was just a random trisomy, but of course now I am scared that this could happen again. The next pregnancy will be super checked, I guess, but we must stay positive and go ahead with courage.
      And we should really talk about it more with no embarassment, so no one will feel alone in this adventure! 🙂
      Good luck!

      Camilla

      • Liz Stanley said… May 28, 2013 9:10 am

        I’m so sorry about your miscarriage. It is really scar to get pregnancy again after a loss like that. hard to even enjoy your pregnancy at all when you’re so scared of every little thing that could go wrong!

    11. Caroline said… May 25, 2013 5:51 am

      Liz, thanks so much for sharing your journey. My first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage so I know the pain of that for sure. I never talk about it and have found most women don’t either. Sometimes I pinch myself when I look at my children and I feel so thankful. I think that experience influenced the way I parent and my mindset about everything really…
      I admire you so much for taking the time to tell everyone a little more about infertility. I am certain your voice is helping others who may be suffering in silence.

      So happy for you and your family! Wishing you guys all of the best!

      • Liz Stanley said… May 28, 2013 9:07 am

        It’s true, I look at my son and start to see him as a little miracle. It does make you appreciate what you have so much more

    12. Khali said… May 25, 2013 1:57 am

      Congratulations! I’ll be praying for you during your pregnancy xx

    13. Helen said… May 24, 2013 5:18 am

      Thank you so much for telling your story. We’re onto our 3rd try – it’s been hard to not find each time ‘a failure’, ‘my’ failure. And it’s hard when it’s so difficult being around your loved ones that have found it so easy to fall pregnant – even the ones that don’t offer advice!!! I want to commend you on being so open about this – it has really meant a lot. Wishing you nothing but the very best!

    14. Mary H. said… May 23, 2013 2:58 pm

      Thank you for sharing. It does mean so much to those of us who feel alone in the struggle with secondary infertility. We had our first child so easily and it never occurred to us (and I suppose to others) that we wouldn’t be successful when trying for a second. You perfectly summed up my continually conflicting feelings of being so grateful for our first but still wishing for a second. Its a strange place to be. Still trying though. Wishing the very best to you!!

      • Liz Stanley said… May 23, 2013 7:47 pm

        I agree, it’s a strange thing to feel both gratitude and longing together but that’s the core of it- a lot of guilt too. I’m excited to talk more about it next week

    15. Tina said… May 23, 2013 12:34 pm

      Oh Liz, thank you for sharing your story. I really appreciated it and the comments below, especially about the point on sympathizing vs. empathizing. So true! I never have been able to articulate it that way. During my infertility and IVF I couldn’t shake the sense that people felt sorry for me but also in a judgy sort of way, like if it’s not mean to be it’s not meant to be. And they couldn’t understand the fear and sadness. Of course I had a few friends who went through the same thing, and I couldn’t have done it without them. We too live in SF and are young compared to the many couples we encountered at the clinic. We now have a baby girl in our arms and are over the moon, but the desire to expand is there and we know this battle is not yet over so your words are very comforting.
      A tip from one SF mama to another, check out Natural Resources in the Mission…great resource!

      • Liz Stanley said… May 23, 2013 12:38 pm

        Thanks for your thoughts Tina. I agree it’s hard on relationships with others, planning on talking about that more next week. Congrats on your baby girl and best of luck on the ongoing battle!

    16. Carrie said… May 23, 2013 11:15 am

      Congratulations, Liz!! I love your blog! Thank you so much for sharing this. I really needed to know that I’m not alone in this struggle! I’m trying for my first and just suffered a second miscarriage this week. Such a hard thing!

      • Liz Stanley said… May 23, 2013 12:38 pm

        I’m so sorry about your miscarriage, xoxo hang in there

    17. Mae said… May 23, 2013 10:43 am

      Congratulations!!! I haven’t gone through as long of a struggle as you, but I did finally get pregnant after having one miscarriage, so I know how all-encompassing and stressful and heartbreaking it can be. I’m now 26 weeks along, and so excited, but even just losing one makes me feel jaded – until I have the baby in my arms, I think I will worry. But that must be part of being a mother in general, no matter how old your child is. 🙂 Thanks again for sharing your story.

      • Liz Stanley said… May 23, 2013 12:39 pm

        It’s true, we always worry about our kids- it never ends! Congrats on your pregnancy

    18. Jasmin said… May 23, 2013 9:09 am

      Again: so so so happy for your family! And thank you so much for sharing!

    19. Julie said… May 23, 2013 8:53 am

      Congratulations! Best wishes to you and your family!!

    20. Priska said… May 23, 2013 1:31 am

      Congratulations Liz! And thank you for sharing your story.

      I think it is so important to talk about infertility and the emotional rollercoaster ride that comes with it. And worst of all the isolation. I also dealt with infertility for about three years, undergoing laparoscopy and abdominoscopy and going through 6 rounds of inseminations (3 had to be stopped due to overstimulation, 3 failed). During this time all of my friends got pregnant. And all of them right away. My heart ached because i was not able to be happy for them. I only felt desperate and alone. I finally conceived our precious boy through our first IVF and my husband and I couldn’t be happier. We did go through 3 more IVFs for a second child – the first one failed, the second time I got pregnant but had a miscarriage and the third IVF failed again. We finally decided not to try again. So our son, now 4.5 years old, will be an only child. We have made peace with that. I don’t think about the painful years before we were able to conceive our son every day, but still – I’m always aware of it.

      The best of luck to you from Switzerland!

      • Liz Stanley said… May 23, 2013 12:41 pm

        Seriously that’s amazing you guys have come to terms with your one child family. That was something I struggled to do and never could. We both come from large families. It was so hard finding out my friends were moving on and growing their families all around me. It’s still painful and you totally feel guilty and a jerk for not feeling that happy for them. Oh, it’s so hard! Thanks for sharing your story, xoxo to your sweet family

    21. Vale said… May 22, 2013 9:39 pm

      Liz, first, Congratulations! I’m so, so happy for you!
      I wanted to say that I’m not particularly educated about infertility, and I didn’t know the name ‘secondary infertility’ at all. Thank you for sharing your story.
      I have a good friend who has struggled with this, and it’s so hard!
      A person may be staying private about their struggle, while others are making judgements about their only child (and how much better a sibling would be?) Now that I understand the problem, I never assume that a person wants to be ‘one and done’. I no longer rush to conclusions. What I’m trying to say is, thanks for communicating – it affects us all, and people can learn from your story.
      Also, I’m just thinking what a cute big brother H will be! My little brother is 9 years behind me and I LOVE him dearly!

      • Liz Stanley said… May 28, 2013 9:12 am

        Thanks, that’s good to hear. It is hard with secondary infertility- people assume that because you have a child you are a choice in having another. It’s a lonely condition for sure

        • Nettie Atkisson said… June 2, 2013 9:44 pm

          Oh my goodness Liz. What a horrid roller coaster. And I know many women with secondary have people assume they are just to career focused and therefore not having more babies. Meanwhile behind the scenes they are in limbo living in hell. One woman in our congregation at church who tried for 7 years had people tell her she was selfish and should have children. Twist that knife and then twist again. The deepest yearning of our souls and a process that takes over your life to make it finally happen. A very cruel thing.

          Your writing is great and so great and really gives voice to what I have heard from so many women in this situation. I have a few months of infertility as I have poly-cystic ovaries but my sisters and friends have gone through years. My deepest empathy for your ride on the brutal roller coaster of fertility. Geesh!!!!! I have to imagine it did just stink seeing all these people who just have sex and get pregnant! After so many treatments my sister was weary and suddenly they conceived and carried to term on their own. GEESH. Just plain stinks.

    22. Miranda said… May 22, 2013 8:48 pm

      This is such wonderful news, Liz! I wish you a happy, healthy pregnancy.

      I especially appreciate that you talked about how getting pregnant isn’t necessarily the end of your struggles. I had my second baby 7 months ago and we dealt with infertility for years with to get both of our children. Getting present doesn’t eliminate the shadow of infertility…but it certainly is an amazing blessing!

    23. Sonia said… May 22, 2013 6:41 pm

      Wishing you the best. It took us five years to get pregnant with our first, like you trying naturally for awhile and several inseminations. We got pregnant with our first IVF and consider myself blessed. I still remember how painful it was to hear friends say they were pregnant. We now have two boys. Our second blessing was a surprise!

    24. Kelly Smith said… May 22, 2013 4:41 pm

      I am so happy that you have decided to share your story, and most importantly that you are expecting! I have experienced both infertility and miscarriage and those who have, know that it is a beast. Congratulations, my prayers are with you.

      • Liz Stanley said… May 22, 2013 5:15 pm

        I agree, both are the worst especially in combination with each other.

    25. Chantal said… May 22, 2013 3:53 pm

      Congratulations to you and your family!

    26. Katie said… May 22, 2013 2:57 pm

      I’m so glad you’re expecting! Congratulations!

      We had infertility issues (just over 2 years to get our first) and then while I was pregnant with my first, we were told that our likelihood for secondary infertility was pretty high due to male issues and that we wouldn’t have to do much to prevent pregnancy. But, lucky us, we were pregnant again when our first was 10 months old.

      Two beautiful healthy girls! I’m grateful and would happily take my two years over most infertility struggles. I don’t consider myself or my husband infertile anymore.

    27. PARIS BEE kids blog said… May 22, 2013 2:18 pm

      Thank you for sharing your story! I can only imagine the heartbreak all you have been but I rejoice in your current good news and can’t wait to follow your pregnancy journey! Your new baby will be loved!!!

      xoxo PARIS BEE kids blog

    28. Jen said… May 22, 2013 11:04 am

      We’ve been struggling with infertility for four years, still trying to have our first baby. I’ve had two solid years of acupuncture, herbs, vitamins, eating a fertility diet…the works! Going for IVF #2 next month, feeling positive and hoping and praying for a baby. I’ve definitely felt withdrawn and isolated too, and I agree with the comment above that you sort of feel like there’s a part of your life that is tucked away and hidden. Thank you for sharing your story, it really gives me hope and helps me to feel part of a larger community. Congratulations to you!!

      • Liz Stanley said… May 22, 2013 1:54 pm

        Oh Jen! Best of luck with your IVF #2. I have friends who had a failed IVF #1 and then got pregnant during an adoption process. My heart goes out to you and your partner. xoxo

      • Marisa said… June 17, 2013 1:13 pm

        Hi Jen! Hi Liz!
        Liz, thank you so, so much for sharing your story in these posts. And congratulations!! I’m also so thankful to everyone sharing some of their stories within the comments here.
        Jen I just wanted to say I am exactly where you are on the journey. Tons of acupuncture, herbs and preparing for my 2nd IVF. This has been one of the toughest, most painful and oddly most rewarding experiences of my life. On the verge of losing hope every month, I can’t seem to give up on knowing that I’m meant to be mother. Instead I am giving in to this journey, trying to follow where it’s leading me. I’m not fighting the discomfort and the pain anymore. I’m letting myself feel it, then I pick myself up and keep going. One day, one cycle at a time, grabbing on to the joyful moments when they come and holding on to them as long as I can. It’s so comforting to know I’m not alone. Jen I will be thinking of you.

    29. Natalie S. said… May 22, 2013 11:01 am

      Liz, my heart goes out to you. I’ve also had a couple of miscarriages following the birth of my son and it is just so devastating. Thank you for sharing- I am so optimistic for you this time around. Hang in there!

    30. Conchi said… May 22, 2013 10:46 am

      I wish you the best.
      I am going through the same process and I know the fear and the paranoid of a new misscarriadge. The happiness for your friends being pregnants mixed with the worst of the sadness.
      And then hear the people saying that it should be no problems because you already have one son. Only bas luck. It is clear that they didn’t go through this luck.
      Happy for you and somehow for me, because there is always hope

      • Liz Stanley said… May 22, 2013 1:53 pm

        Ahh the ‘bad luck’ comment is the worst! Best of luck in your struggles and hang in there. I know how it can suck the life out of you

    31. Sandra said… May 22, 2013 10:08 am

      Been there. For the first. And then tried briefly for a second but couldn’t go through it all again – bird in the hand and all that.

      But the isolation! The isolation and the secrets and the miscarriages during three years of trying to fall pregnant was in hindsight the worst part of it.

      We’d moved to a new city a few years before and it had a HUGE impact on making friends and building a network. We did it – but there was this part of our life that was tucked away and hidden. Still is – not many people talk about infertility and/or miscarriage.

      I find that infertility – primary and secondary – are a very “survivor-ish” experience. People can sympathize but only those who have lived through it can really empathize with the toll.

      Life goes on and I don’t think about it every day but I DO appreciate the luck in having my darling girl.

      • Liz Stanley said… May 22, 2013 1:52 pm

        I agree, like many things it’s hard to completely empathize without having gone through it yourself. And it’s true- I don’t think we could go through this same process with a 3rd although I am thinking if we did we’d just go straight to IVF and skip all this waiting around optimism business! It is something that stays with you as part of your identity, even after conceiving, and part of your family story.

    32. Heather from Poppy Haus said… May 22, 2013 10:01 am

      Thank you for sharing your story. I have not personally struggled with infertility, but I can count on two hands the number of friend I have that spent well over a year, in some cases several years trying to get pregnant a second time. I know that by sharing this you are emotionally supporting so many women(and their partners) struggling with the same thing.

      • Liz Stanley said… May 22, 2013 1:49 pm

        Thanks Heather. It’s so surprising how many people deal with this, either in public or private! Best of luck to your friends on a similar road

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