“Just because I’ve just enjoyed a main course doesn’t mean I don’t want, shouldn’t have or don’t need a second course. I’m full after my meal but I’d still really love a pudding!”
It was an analogy I played over and over in my head every time I heard my friends say: “Well at least you have Zac” or “Just remember how lucky you are to already have one baby”. Time and again I wanted to scream back at them, “Haven’t you ever felt full but still been desperate for a pudding?” It was the only way I could think that I could ever make them start to understand how I was feeling. But I didn’t say it, ever.
I was well into my fertility treatment when I decided to write down my thoughts, feelings and experiences. I didn’t find any support in books or forums that offered comfort for a mummy who wanted another baby. The IVF community seemed to focus on couples trying for a first child, which only sought to ram home to me my feelings at that time, of guilt, greed and shame at wanting another. I didn’t want another Mummy to feel as I had.
It wasn’t until I completed this book that I found there was actually a term for how I felt and for our predicament which reinforced my desire to speak to more people who might be battling through invasive IVF treatment whilst trying to bring up a first born. I didn’t want that family to feel alone.
When friends see that you have now started your family it seems weaning is a time for a prompt to pry into when you’re going to pop the next one out and when your child starts school, it would seem this is an acceptable trigger to start questioning why you have failed to provide a sibling yet. People can be cruel in their assumptions and interrogations sometimes. I wanted to share how it feels on the receiving end.
Secondary Infertility, as I now know it is known, is extremely common with some reports suggesting it perhaps counts for six out of 10 infertility cases, and it’s on the increase. The emotions, practical hurdles and everyday situations that test you as you try for a second child are different to those when you try for your first. And yet, unlike with the first, you can’t escape reminders of babies when you have a toddler round your ankles all day or a nursery room your child has grown out off that is gathering dust waiting for its next resident.
It’s definitely true that most people think that if you can have one child you can have another. Why not? It’s probably this reason that there is often a lack of empathy. If you have a child you are quite rightly looked upon as having been lucky and so in forums or support groups where you might seek support when you are trying for your second, there is often an unwelcome stigma. In fact, we’re just not welcome. How dare a Mummy complain about wanting another child when she is lucky to have one already?
It’s a lonely place; almost a No Mans Land. You feel so isolated and distant from the fertile, baby world that you long to be part of and yet you are cast aside from the infertile community, who shun you as they seek just a little of what you already have.
I know, and always did know, that we were blessed with our first child Zac. I’m not sure I would ever use the word ‘lucky’ as we tried for three years and had 10 months of fertility drugs before we finally conceived. In 2007, our stars collided, our angels were watching over us and after both medical and non-conventional treatment, my body finally responded giving us our much wanted and loved baby.
Not once, did I ever, think or feel that Zac was not enough. Nor did I ever feel ungrateful or complacent that we had our son. He filled my life in so many ways but I did feel our family wasn’t finished and I did want him to have a sibling. I wanted another child for him as much as for myself. They were simply feelings I could not turn off.
Five years later, as our ride on the gruelling IVF rollercoaster, without success, began to take its toll, I started to believe that the more love I felt I had to give should be directed at Zac rather than potential future children. It was becoming more and more apparent that the treatment was distracting me from the attention he obviously needed. Those are days I can never get back and that feeling is something that will always weigh heavy in my heart.
I did start to think that Zac would be our only child and finally, after three years trying and 14 months of intensive treatment, that thought and the blessing that was Zac in our lives, slowly and quietly began to feel enough. The longing did start to subside. If we were to be a family of three, finally, after everything we had been through, I could start to feel that I might find it within me to feel content.
I have known the pain of seeing friends and family members have babies when I longed for my first child. I know that when you are in that situation, having just one child would make you feel like you had received the earth. And it did, for a while. I haven’t written my story without remembering those days but I wanted to try to shed some light on a similar painful set of circumstances and emotions that are sadly too often ignored or underestimated. Wanting a brother or sister for your child and feeling that you are failing has its own demons. And for anyone standing in judgement of my story, perhaps who are themselves desperate for a first child, I would say that their predicament is just one of many reasons Secondary Infertility hits you hard. I know your pain, I know I am blessed already when others aren’t, but I can’t help how I feel.
Perhaps a better analogy after all might be a bar of chocolate instead of a pudding. I truly loved and enjoyed what I had, but it only left me wanting more and for that I should not feel guilty.
A seat round our table, a place in my heart, I simply always felt I had more love to give.