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.