Secondary Infertility, A Silent Pain (A Continuation of “A Visit From Beyond”)

secondary infertility

Our daughter was now four years old and a lively preschooler, but there was still something missing.  After we dropped our children off at school, it seemed that all of the other moms had babies in their arms to take home with them.  At first, people would say to me, “It’s time for another one.”  Eventually they started to say, “Well, at least you have one.”  Then, they stopped saying anything at all, and so did I.  Perhaps this was the first time in my life when I questioned if pain can be quantitative.  If one person’s pain can be measured against another person’s pain?  Is it less painful to lose a child or to not conceive a child after you have already become a mother once?  Would it have been more painful if we had not yet had a successful pregnancy?  Perhaps?  But, in secondary infertility you also carry the burden without the empathy of others.  So you bear the pain in silence.  This is the next part of my story . . .

When we decided that it was time to have another child, we were shocked when I became pregnant right away.  We felt relief that we would be spared having to try for months or years to once again conceive a child.  But three months later, I miscarried.  There were no dreams this time to tell me that “everything will be okay.”  There was no reassuring heartbeat on the screen when we had this sonogram.  When we came back to our house to tell my father-in-law, (he had been watching our daughter for us) he just looked down at the ground and said, “Aw, geez.” I think one of the worst parts was disappointing him.  When we had our daughter, he was recently retired and the hospital we were in had liberal visiting hours for grandparents.  I loved my father-in-law, but had never had a lot of one-on-one time with him.  He wasn’t a really talkative guy and there were usually other family members around.  But in the days after the birth of my daughter, he spent every moment he could in the room with me, holding his new granddaughter.  He had other grandchildren, but they lived in other states.  This was the first time he had a grandchild he could see grow-up on a daily basis.  The two of them became like “two peas in a pod.”  He had a special name for her, “little lady,” and she just adored him.  As she grew older, they would take long walks together, just the two of them.  Since my own father had died years before, I was so thankful that she had this grandfather to bond with.  So seeing his pain at the loss of our second child, hurt me almost as much as my own pain.  When I was being wheeled into the operating room later that day, the doctor said to me, “Just think of it as a flower that didn’t grow.”  If I could have gotten up from the gurney and punched him in the eye, I would have.
Over the years that followed, we spent a mini-fortune on home pregnancy tests and ovulation kits.  I had charts of my morning temperatures and became well versed in the science behind conception. Yet, there had been no more pregnancies.  I became depressed and was having a hard time enjoying my daughter’s childhood because I was so focused on the disappointment of not having another child. We finally went through fertility tests and found out that there were procedures that could enhance our chances of conception.  But these procedures were not guaranteed, they were expensive and intrusive and I was getting older.  I was now in my late 30’s and the chances of me conceiving again were diminishing daily.  In the end, we decided not to have any procedures done.  I couldn’t put myself through that.  After all, I did have a child (as everyone had been telling me) and I had already “missed” too much of her childhood.  So I decided to focus on her and on getting myself back to a healthier state.  I started to exercise and finally lost the baby weight from my previous pregnancies. That June, I noticed that I didn’t get my cycle.  But I thought that it was because I was exercising.  I wasn’t going to be fooled into buying another pregnancy test only to have to deal with the disappointment and the depression, once again.  But the weeks passed, until finally one day I said to myself, “maybe?” That night, my husband slept in our third bedroom because he had a bad cold and didn’t want to get me or our daughter sick.  Early in the morning, I awoke and took the pregnancy test.  I was surprised when I saw the tell-tale plus sign appear . . . I was pregnant again.  I left the pregnancy test on the night stand next to my sleeping husband.  In the morning when he awoke, he assumed the pregnancy test was negative because I hadn’t woken him.  But then he noticed the test lying on his nightstand.  When he saw the plus sign, he came out into the hallway all excited.  I was happy, but I was also very cautious.

In July I started to bleed again.  This time I left my daughter at a neighbor’s house and went directly to the doctor’s office.  He performed a sonogram and I could see that there was still, indeed, a heartbeat.  I was reassured for a minute or two.  When I arrived at the doorstep of my neighbor to retrieve my daughter, I broke down in sobs.  She didn’t understand.  She said, “but the sonogram showed that the baby was okay.”  I said, “That was a half-hour ago.”

If I could have lived through the next months continuously attached to a sonogram, maybe I would have been able to enjoy that pregnancy, but I couldn’t.  I didn’t want to attach myself to this child who was growing inside me, when I was so sure it too would end in loss.  In September we found out that my father-in-law had pancreatic cancer.  (To be continued.)   Author of The Tin Box Trilogy

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