Secondary Infertility

Dear Sherah,

There’s this meme I love (question to self: since when do I start sentences with “there’s this meme I love”?) that goes like this: 

I hate when people pour my cereal for me. They don’t know how much I want. They don’t know what I’ve been through.

Oddly, that was the first thing that popped in my head a couple weeks ago when I read that the definition of infertility is trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant for at least a year. 

Not so fast, Doctor Google. You don’t know me. You haven’t done any examinations. You haven’t collected samples. You haven’t asked invasive questions. You assume so much based on so little. But there it was, on one site and then another, on baby blogs and medical websites. One year. Infertile. I learned that secondary infertility (inability to conceive a child after having at least one) is more common than primary infertility. Part of me wanted to dismiss the label, and another part of me wanted to embrace it. Oh! I’m not just impatient or ungrateful. I’m dealing with infertility. Now there’s something. 

(Unfortunately I don’t have easy access to a doctor who could figure out whether it IS something, and if so, what. But I might track down a woman here who sells ginger tonics for everything from infertility to diabetes.) 

So, I imagine if I were telling you this in person, you’d give me a hug and ask how I’m feeling. Thank you. Truly, I’m doing fine. It’s been a disappointing experience but not an emotionally volatile one. I’ve only wasted one pregnancy test over the course of the entire year. I went through tons of tests in the four months before getting a positive with Anders. I think those “can detect pregnancy up to five days early in fifty percent of pregnant women” kits are a moneymaking scam perpetrated on vulnerable women, and that the people behind them should be ashamed of themselves. 

The one test I wasted this year was the very first month, when I was maybe fifteen hours late and feeling a twinge of something that could be described as nausea. When I felt my hope plummet with that singular line, I drew my own line. Not this way. Not again. I decided that I wouldn’t take another test until it was merely a formality. I’d let the joy and excitement and nerves unfold over a couple of weeks instead of all at once in a bathroom. It’s worked the other way, too. My body eases me into the disappointment. A familiar ache here, a spot on the chin there… By the time I know, I already knew. The test, on the other hand, is like, “Not pregnant. Have a nice day.” And then I’m like, “Up yours too, you stupid stick!” 

(Really, I’m fine.)

I’ve spent a lot of time this year contemplating hopes and expectations. When you want something immediately and then spend a long period of time waiting for it, one of two things happen. Either your desire steadily grows and blossoms, leading you to a deep knowing, or the desire starts to fade into a different kind of knowing—a peace. “This may not happen. That’s okay.” The tricky part is distinguishing the peace from the self-preservation, but I don’t spend too much time worrying about that. I’m not trying to feel one way or another… I’m just along for the ride at this point, waiting to see which ride I’m on, exactly.  

So if peace is the end of this road, then I think I’m getting there. I would still be very happy to get pregnant. I still have the desire. But it’s easing, gently. Anders really wants a sibling, and he says painfully tender things like, “Can I please have a baby or a sister?” And, “How come my buddy gets a baby and I don’t?” And, “It’s taking a long time for God to put a baby in your tummy.” I comb my fingers through his hair and say, “I’d love to give you a brother or sister. But you know what? You have a mommy and a daddy who love you. You’re already very lucky.”

When I read that giant paint swash definition of infertility, I said to Pete, “Wouldn’t it be something if Anders was our miracle baby?” He said, “Well that’s the most beautiful way to look at it.“ Maybe we’ll get pregnant next month, or maybe Anders was our miracle baby. Either way, I’m very lucky. 



Photos  by Beth Laurren Photography (top two) and Tripp Flythe (bottom)