By Lucy Coffin on 28/09/2016
Secondary infertility is a very different thing to primary infertility. I have had both and I know each bring insufferable pain, and each in different ways. I have written so much in the past about primary infertility and it feels like I need to now address specifically the pain experienced when you have a child and yet long for another. So this blog is intended for the women currently tortured by secondary infertility who have asked me how I ended up feeling ok again. How did I stop feeling like I would only be ok if I had another child. How did I work out what action to take and not take when at this time you are overtaken by fear, panic and overwhelming sadness.
It’s not a story that says I figured out how to have another baby and therefore I am now all fine and all is well.
It is a story about how I made peace with it regardless of the outcome. How I came to find myself again, regain my life and ease away the sadness that hung over me for years.
Yes. I have been lucky enough to be having a baby now, but I can promise you I became beautifully fine before all of that story unfolded. Before that time I was very much not fine. I know that this is the bit that a lot of women going through secondary infertility will ask me about.
How did you make it ok again?
How did you find ease without it having to depend on whether that second child could come along or not?
I am not saying I am right, or that this is ‘the way’. I hope with all I have it does not come across as smug or self righteous. It is just an honest account of the key things which turned things around for me. So if you are battling secondary infertility and it is threatening to rob you of your life (and even the joy you can have with the child you have) then I hope this is useful.
If you don’t know my history, please feel free to look at my past blogs on the subject ‘Why there won’t be anymore babies for me for quite some time’ & ‘The shock ending to my personal story’.
Essentially in a nutshell I have a son who I conceived through IVF for male factor issues. My marriage later broke down and I am now in another relationship. We were unable to conceive our own baby and found out that I had severe endometriosis and blocked tubes.
Because I probably should write this is less words than an actual book I will try to make it concise and clear without detracting from the deep and immense journey this has been for me.
In case you are thinking I am someone who has the capacity to be fully reasonable, grounded and wise at all times I should let you know that I have done the following in response to my emotions and reactions:
Sobbed uncontrollably in a ‘should potentially be sectioned’ type fashion on a number of occasions.
Seriously almost dragged the wooden baby crib I had been saving down from my loft so I could smash it into a thousand pieces in the garden. I basically could not find a hammer / axe / hitty thing or I for sure would have done it.
Avoided at all costs events like baby showers or even nights out with women I knew were pregnant.
Picked a huge fight with my best friend when she was pregnant with her second, which we nearly didn’t come back from.
I HAVE FELT THE FOLLOWING: ANGER, RESENTMENT, BITTERNESS, CONFUSION, SADNESS, AN ACHING HOLE IN MY HEART THAT I THOUGHT COULD ONLY BE FILLED BY A CHILD, A LONGING IN MY BEING THAT CRIPPLED ME, A SENSE THAT I MAY LOSE MYSELF FOR EVER.
Some women reading this will struggle to understand. Usually because having one child is heralded as the default consolation prize. I get it. I completely get that. I was and am SO grateful for my little boy. The sadness I think comes from knowing how wonderful it is and grieving for the dream you had of getting to do it all again, imagining siblings, wanting to see your child playing with (or yes realistically probably beating up) their brother or sister.
We all have our fantasies and it is hard to watch them endlessly played out for other people.
So in the interests of trying to not write a million words, here are the things that helped me get to a new place.
- I allowed myself to feel what I felt. I make no apologies for feeling sad that I wanted to have another baby and that looked unlikely or impossible. I stopped trying to cover it up and apologise for it.
- I chose the right people to help me. I knew there were plenty of people who didn’t understand and I stopped expecting them to. Sounds silly but every time they dismissed my feelings it took my energy away. So I stopped having any expectation that I would gain comfort from them and I no longer leaked this strength. I carefully selected one or two people who DID get it and I gave myself permission to go on about it just as much as I wanted.
- I found a counsellor who supported me without pushing me to just get over it.
- I sat and worked out what I wanted to do next. I figured I would be pulled towards IVF, or adoption or taking action for my natural fertility. But I didn’t. It all looked dark and unappealing or utterly overwhelming.
I DECIDED IF IT MADE ME RECOIL, FEEL SICK IN MY GUT OR JUST TERRIFIED THEN IT EITHER WASN’T THE RIGHT THING TO DO OR IT WASN’T THE RIGHT THING TO DO YET.
- I looked for something more straight forward. What did I want to do next? I think I just needed to not take action. To wait. To grieve, to do gentle things every day that felt ok to do. To hang out with my safe people and just go with the flow of each moment.
- I let myself explore all the different options without committing to them. We often I think imagine that by exploring an idea, we can’t change our minds, or that we would be accused of not being sure. Actually trying stuff on for size is a huge winner for me.
- I pondered how it would feel to never carry another baby again. What would that mean? How did I feel about adoption? What were the great things and the worrying things about that? What was the outcome I was really trying to achieve? Could I express my maternal instinct in other ways and still get the satisfaction? What was I attached to? Being a mum or being pregnant? Or looking after people?
- I recognised that I was wasting time I could enjoy with my son by being miserable around him about my SI. I tried to think of things we could do just us that would maybe be really hard with another kid.
- I recognised that we could build an incredible friendship because I had that time and space with him. We could be pretty spontaneous.
- I explored what might be hard about having another child
- I remembered that a lot of really dark things have happened to me in the past and have led to things I would never change. That we can think we are spiraling down a really unwanted path and we fight it and push against it. Then once that bit is done we realise it brought incredible insights, gifts or opportunities. I wondered whether this might be one of those times.
- I wondered whether I didn’t have to control it. Whether maybe if I just kept honouring myself in every moment the universe would just guide me in some way to know what to do next. That I could surrender the detail a bit, and that maybe it would all work out regardless of the actual outcome.
- I trusted that it was ok to not really have a plan or do anything if there was no obvious pull. I didn’t want to ‘panic buy’. I knew deep down IVF wouldn’t work because I was burnt out and not well. I knew adoption would be amazing but I needed to be ready to have the time and space to dedicate to it. I knew there were some lovely things about actually it just ending up being the three of us, and that to have the best time with that I also needed to make more space in my life. So my next action was obvious. Work on creating more balance and time. Reduce hours and stress. It was a practical thing I could latch onto and do.
- I had to realise that it isn’t only a one way street. Good days are followed by bad days. There is no nice linear pattern to the healing process, it’s up and down rather than starting down and heading only up. It took a while to just let that ‘be’ and not over analyse it. Sometimes we all have bad days even when everything is going well…. so I stopped blaming SI for EVERY thing that felt bad. But I also stopped expecting each phase that felt better to be followed by one that felt even better than that.
- Working on other things that I needed to do for me took me on a self discovery journey that ended up being all about me and nothing to do with another baby.
- I forced myself to look at why a situation might be better for not having another baby rather than worse. As one example, we always go to our annual county show. It is such a family event, kids everywhere. My Autistic son HATES crowds so we could never take him. Instead we would go on a day he was with his Dad. I would miss him, and stare at the bumps and buggies wishing I was having a family day out. Then I wondered what it might be like to turn it on its head. I made a thing about looking instead for families looking fed up and stressed out. I decided to see it as a couple day for Joe and I instead and embrace the freedom of getting the bus and drinking cider all day and sampling all the foods!
- I handed it over. Just kept saying to my higher self / the universe / divine intervention if I need to open a door just let me know which one. If I am not, then please bring me peace.
I genuinely ended up in a place where I had a direction where I was drawn to but I was not attached to it as the only outcome that meant I was ok. I could see all the logical paths ahead (stay as we are, adoption, IVF etc) and I began to play with how each had ‘goodies along the way’ (as Lissa Rankin would say). There were great things about each path including the one where we didn’t have another child. I could enjoy expanding my work, save up for the big treat family holiday, enjoy the perks that come with having an older child. I actually watched the stress having two or more kids seemed to be putting on a lot of my friend’s families and relationships to make sure I didn’t have permanently rose tinted glasses on.
I started to get excited by the idea that things were going to unfold and I had absolutely no idea how. I didn’t need to control it or engineer it. Just do what felt deliciously right in each moment from the smallest things to the biggest.
I felt great about planning to go to an adoption information evening. I felt great about signing up to a self care for your uterus course that happened to drop randomly into my radar.
Nothing really added up to the fact I ended up naturally pregnant. It wasn’t planned or engineered specifically for that exact ending.
But my point here is that whilst I am utterly blessed and delighted; my happy ending was not dependent on a specific outcome. I was ready and sure that a happy ending was happening regardless of how it looked.
And truly honestly that is how it went for me.
Resource wise I found these things really helpful:
- Books by authors – Martha Beck, Lissa Rankin, Brene Brown, Tosha Silver
- Psychospiritual counsellor - I felt naturally drawn to Graham Glynn
- Mindfulness to ease anxiety – I loved the book and CD by Mark Williams
- Choosing friends carefully
So that, in a very tight edited down nutshell is pretty much what happened. I hope maybe it can shed some light for you if you need it to. I know in many places it may have hit buttons too and I get that. I also know how shit that feels when you read something and it sparks you. But sometimes we need that button pushed to go a certain way I guess. I find it hard to get anger out so sometimes I have to get fired up about something entirely unrelated to start tapping into it.
If anyone has any specific questions or comments do get in touch. I would love to hear from you.