When I was in my early twenties, and had just gotten engaged, the mother of one of my close friends didn’t come to our engagement party. I heard later that it was because it was too difficult to experience while having a few older unmarried daughters. At the time I didn’t understand. Unfortunately, now I do.
We’ve been struggling to have a second child (secondary infertility) for almost two years and every Facebook pregnancy announcement, shul mazel tov update, and meal train email hurts. Brissim, kiddushim, and making meals for families are all hard. I’ve stopped participating in these activities because it’s just become too painful.
People tell us that with secondary infertility at least we have one child so it must be easier than primary infertility. People say that we should count our blessings. People tell us that what we’re experiencing isn’t “really infertility.” But because secondary infertility is not as obvious as primary people are less sensitive about it. If you realized that a friend was having difficulty having a first child you wouldn’t keep showing them pictures of your 6 month old but with secondary infertility people just aren’t aware. They don’t think twice about complaining about their kids in front of you and you can never get away from it. The reminders are around us on a daily basis. All of our friends are parents. All of our child’s friends have a younger sibling or two, yes every single one of them. They talk about being up all night, baby gear, feedings and it’s all a reminder of what we don’t have. And we can’t hide from it.
We know that people aren’t intentionally being mean they are just, as my husband puts it, ignorantly thoughtless. People don’t realize that just because you had one child easily, that it is not a given that you’ll be able to have another.
“You’re so lucky you don’t have a second kid yet, it’s so hard handling these two.”
“Well your kid’s an only child but with my bunch…”
“When are you going to give your 3 year old a sibling? You know the closer they are together the better it is for their relationship down the line”
“Oh you’re having an issue with your child sharing? Well it’s probably because she doesn’t have a sibling. Don’t worry, once you have another it will go away.”
This is just a sampling of comments I hear on a nearly daily basis. You may be thinking what is my goal by sharing this? It is simply to raise awareness.
Don’t automatically think that it’s my choice to have a large age gap between my kids. Don’t say how easy I must have it. And if you’re a grandparent, don’t ask when I’m going to give you another grandchild.
You know that neighbor with the 6 year old and 1 year old; don’t tell them how lucky they are that their kids aren’t so close together in age so the older one can help. And that friend who never goes to brissim anymore, don’t pester her because you have no idea how difficult it may be for her. I’ve personally stopped going to them, because they’re too painful and I would just end up walking out after a couple of minutes anyways to “watch my toddler.”
Every person going through infertility feels differently about it. Some want to talk about it and share openly while others don’t but whatever the case, you can’t judge. We all take different paths and have different ways of coping. I personally slowly told my family over the course of a whole year. It was very difficult in the beginning but by now I’m a pro at telling over our story. I think it’s important that those around me know and understand what I’m going through but I also told them that I don’t want every conversation to be about infertility. I don’t want to have to give them the latest update with my round of treatment, my husband’s latest semen analysis and what the doctor thinks we should do. But I did tell them I would give them updates when there is anything worth sharing.
I’ve come to know many women who struggle with infertility over the past few years. We all feel different emotions. We are all struggling, but it may manifest itself in different ways. We communicate differently – some of us may shout out every treatment step from the rooftops while others may quietly and particularly share with only a select few. Some people want to be around others all the time while some need to be alone. Whatever the case may be, be sensitive, on the look out and be careful what you say because you never know what your neighbor is going through.