Motherhood, Pregnancy and Birth, Psychology

In the Mind ~ Secondary Infertility

in-the-mindIt’s pretty clear that the emotional and psychological effects of miscarriage and secondary infertility are still lingering in my life. My youngest – my fourth baby – is now eight months old, yet I continue to have some of the same old thoughts/feelings come up. They may not be debilitating the way they once were, but they certainly aren’t positive or uplifting, so I am eager and motivated to change them, if I can.

Strangely, I don’t feel like my body has failed me, which seems like the natural line of thinking. Instead, I feel almost as if something were done to me, or something kept from me. Like somehow the women who can pop baby after baby out, closely together in age (which is my unfulfilled desire), have been blessed, while I have not. It’s almost laughable that I would feel this way considering the four beautiful kids that I’m getting to raise.

I also find it unusual that I’d feel anything but joy because I actually love the spacing of my kids. The fact that I have two who are so much older and able to be companions to me as well as constant sources of help with the younger two, is actually really wonderful. That being said, it’s hard for me when almost every time we leave the house, someone makes a comment about their ages or hints/suggests that our situation is unusual. I want to scream, “I couldn’t help it!!”

Related post: Secondary Infertility

So, I have been researching the psychological effects of infertility lately and can identify with many of the findings. Harvard has a publication on the psychological impact of infertility on men and women, which I found interesting.

“One study of 200 couples…found that half of the women and 15% of the men said that infertility was the most upsetting experience of their lives.”

I wouldn’t say this is entirely accurate for me. While, yes, we struggled for over three years to conceive a sibling for our third child, and before that I went through two miscarriages, I was still definitely more affected by other things. Having children with asthma (and emergency room visits), a scary hospitalization for my husband, and months of panic attacks for me…all of these were much worse on me emotionally and mentally than baby-making issues. I’m thinking, in this case, that primary infertility must be much worse than secondary. Had we not been able to conceive even one, I don’t know how I’d have gone on. I feel utterly called to be a mother. It is a very strong force in my life. (Funny note: my husband has called me a bunny many times over the years because of my interest in reproducing, lol)

“Another study…concluded that women with infertility felt as anxious or depressed as those diagnosed with cancer, hypertension, or recovering from a heart attack.”

This is a sad one, isn’t it? And I have certainly felt the physical effects over it the years. From fatigue and lethargy to depression and anxiety, I’ve been affected by the inability to have babies when I want them.

The article also discussed types of therapies that may be useful in psychological recovery. One such therapy is called cognitive behavioral therapy, “which identifies and tries to change unhealthy patterns of thought or behavior.”

This sounds like something that might work for me as I seem to be unintentionally re-thinking the same thoughts on a regular basis. Thoughts like, “I can’t have babies easily,” “I’m disappointing to Stephen” (it would kill him if he knew I thought this way because I’ve never been a disappointment to him in our 19 years together even though this thought comes to my mind frequently) and “Other women get to have the babies they want, when they want them. They are lucky.” These thoughts are not healthy or good for me yet I don’t know how to change them.

The Harvard article points out that “patients may feel forever changed by the experience of infertility.”

At this point I sure do. I still think of us as just having a few children, and I’m assuming that’s because it was such an emotional and psychological strain on me. How can I think of myself as infertile when I’ve had four children? It doesn’t make sense. People respond to our family size as if we have lots of kids (simply because of the average American family size) but I struggle with this. It feels almost like an eating disorder; the way a person sees their reflection and thinks they’re fat when in reality they are skinny? That’s me with kids. I see one or two, not four. Am I forever changed? What will happen if/when we have our fifth and final baby?


So, I am now going to begin researching cognitive behavioral therapy and see what I find and if it can help me to have a healthier view of myself and my fertility.

39 thoughts on “In the Mind ~ Secondary Infertility”

  1. It’s so rude that someone would say something about your kids age difference. Why do people need to comment on every damn thing?? If you had had them really close in age they would say you pop out a kid every year. They are never happy and always choose to be nasty about other people’s lives. There’s nothing wrong with you. You had them when God decided they should come. You were able to have 4 babies. You’re perfect.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Haha! You’re completely right about them saying things if I’d had them close together! I hadn’t thought of that before. Hey, thank you for what you said… about everything. 💕

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  2. Big *hugs* Valerie. I wish I could wrap my arms around you for real. I’m happy that you’re researching this and are exploring options to help you through the way you see yourself. And you know, I totally agree with Cheila’s comment :D. Take care, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much. I need hugs about this. It’s been hard to be honest because I don’t WANT to think and feel this way, and it’s a little bit embarrassing, I guess.
      I’m definitely motivated to get better! ❤

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  3. I’m glad you wrote about this Valerie…it’s such a tough topic. And you have such a respectful, sensitive attitude towards all of this. Our kids are blessings, each and every one of them, and God chose when they would arrive. Unfortunately we suffered through secondary infertility as well. I can’t talk about it much still. I felt so bad about myself just like you wrote…the blame and shame…the long term effects…and then also get comments on how far they are spread apart. But I also get comments on how many kids (too many, etc) I have…no one knows how much we struggled. But it makes them all so much more precious. I’m glad you are researching this as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. XO I’m sorry you’ve gone through this as well.
      “no one knows how much we struggled” – Exactly. It’s difficult when you just want to move on but the comments bring it all back to your mind…daily. :/
      I definitely cherish them; I think it somehow changes our feelings about babies and children when they come after such a long and difficult road. Not to say that I love them more, but it has made me a better mother than I was, I think.

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  4. People make comments about my 2 being so close together, and I think they forget that I had a miscarriage and should have been having a baby this month. Just yesterday someone brought their newborn over to our home, and I was holding him (of course!) and the man said, “Doesn’t it make you want another one?” He was being sarcastic though, like implying it would be ridiculous for us to have a THIRD baby so soon after our first two. It was a hard thing to respond to, knowing that if I hadn’t miscarried I would have likely been holding my own baby, that would have been about 10 days older than this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, Rachel, I’m so sorry. Miscarriage is heartbreaking and comments don’t help, do they? I remember my due date month after losing my little one in 2002. SO hard. :'(
      It’s strange to me why there is so much talk allowed about babies, numbers of kids, and spacing between them, whether by relatives, friends, or strangers. Why do people do this?! I have never asked a woman or couple if/when/why anything about their baby-making habits. I don’t get it!
      Big (((hugs))) as you heal. <3

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      1. I’ve been very open about my miscarriage so I think most people know and are sensitive. I really haven’t gotten a lot of comments, but that one was just the right touch. I thought this person knew, too, but maybe he forgot.

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        1. I get comments from strangers. All the time. It’s bizarre as I would never suggest that someone’s childbearing was my business. I know people don’t generally mean anything but it still brings all the struggle from the past back to my mind. :/

          Liked by 1 person

          1. That is strange. I’m generally okay with things MOST people say, if they’re people that know me and who I know care about our family. But strangers? I don’t get that at all. The only comments I’ve ever made to strangers about their family are things like, “Your family is beautiful.” I can’t imagine commenting on child spacing and such!

            Liked by 1 person

          2. It certainly is strange. Things like, “How many kids do you HAVE?!” and “Is this everybody or are there more at HOME?!”, “Wow, what big age gaps!” “Are you DONE having kids now?” I’m like…..*crickets* lol No, I’m kidding. I usually just respond as kindly as I can and change the subject. :P I understand that having a baby, a child, and two teens isn’t the norm. It’s still hard to hear because I just want to “fit in” and not draw attention to us.

            Liked by 1 person

  5. I not long completed a course of CBT for my post natal anxiety. It was absolutely amazing. It really teaches you to be your own therapist in a way. It also helped tremendously with my obsessive/intrusive thoughts which I’ve struggled with all my life. If you go for it, I hope it helps just as much. Beautifully written post by the way. Really interesting research x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, that’s awesome!! Where did you take the course? I’m definitely only going to be able to pursue something online at this point.
      “It also helped tremendously with my obsessive/intrusive thoughts which I’ve struggled with all my life.” – This is ME. I’m so glad this kind of therapy worked for you! XO

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  6. Thanks for your post! I think you make a good point about primary vs secondary infertility. We struggled with primary infertility to conceive our son. And we are now struggling with secondary infertility. We find the journey this time much easier emotionally despite having a successful fertility treatment that ended with a miscarriage and more failed fertility treatments than last time around. I do think that our infertility will be an issue that we work through long after our family is “complete”.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, I can just tell, it would be absolutely devastating to being trying and trying for your first, because I think the hope of success must be less because you’re not really sure IF your body can do it. Once you’ve had a baby, you know at least that you’re capable, it’s just a matter of it working again. Know what I mean?
      I’m so sorry for your loss. XO (((hugs)))

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  7. I can relate to this a lot. We struggled to get pregnant the first time, then miscarried 3 times trying to have another. We were so hoping to have 2 close together. Now we are just sticking with our one daughter! Counting our blessings to have her, she’s our little miracle! But those thoughts of disappointing your partner, yep I get that. And what did I do that I can’t have babies like everyone else does?!?
    I don’t know why people have to comment on everything! People still comment on the age gap between me and my sister, and we are only 5 years apart, and grown up!! people don’t understand why we get on! How daft is that!!! I know people would comment if your children were close in age too. Some people seemingly just can’t help themselves! Argh!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I’m so sorry. My goodness, you’ve been through so much. :'( I love that you see the beauty and miracle of your sweet daughter’s life! She is blessed to have you both as her parents.
      “what did I do that I can’t have babies like everyone else does?!?” – Yeah, this is a big one for me, too. “Everyone” is so overused in my mind, lol – there are unbelievably high numbers of women out there trying for a baby. Ever been on message boards like Just Mommy? WOW It’ll put things into perspective. Infertility (whether primary or secondary), miscarriage, recurring miscarriage….there are SO many of us going through this. It’s sad, but also makes it clear that we’re not the only ones.
      (((hugs))) mama, and thank you for sharing your story.

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  8. I’m so sorry to read your struggles; it’s heartbreaking to read, but your love for your family and your children is golden and gets you through the rough patches (and rude comments from strangers!). It’s sort of amazing that infertility and miscarriages aren’t more known or accepted as common nowadays. People expect perfect fertility and perfect families,and that just doesn’t happen. But our families are wonderful, right? And your being thankful for that cements your family love. I don’t know if time will heal wounds, or if the research will, but I hope for all the best for you. Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Katherine. XO
      “people expect perfect fertility and perfect families, and that just doesn’t happen” – Yep, and I think it comes as quite a shock when there are struggles.

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  9. *hugs* I feel you a bit… I just turned 31 and my husband and I have lost 11 babies, and have no living children. It’s so hard to see friends and family pop kids out left and right with no problems. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my, huge (((hugs))) to you! I was working at Babies R Us during and after my first miscarriage (when my oldest was two) and it tore me apart!! I was so upset seeing all these pregnant ladies – it seemed like everyone was able to just LOOK at their husbands and conceive (and carry to term) their babies. :( I can’t imagine the loss you’ve been through, though. What is your outlook at this point? You’re obviously young enough to continue trying, but what do your doctors say, and how do you feel?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh my goodness! That would be horrible! 😢
        My husband and I actually want to foster and adopt (have wanted to since before we ever knew we had problems with carrying to term), so we plan to pursue that. My doctors have been of no help-they found small problems and we fixed them, only to keep losing babies.
        I recently came upon a lady with counseling experience who has some unique ideas on life and trauma and how it can affect even fertility and miscarriage! It’s pretty amazing, but it’s also faith-based, so I don’t know if you’re interested, but the class is now being broadcast live and also uploaded for later viewing.
        I’m hopeful that my miscarriages are related to my childhood trauma, because healing that would be a good thing anyway, and if I could carry to term after that…even better!

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Fostering and adoption are AMAZING and I think it’s wonderful that you want to pursue that. :)
          Hmm, very interesting! I was actually going through a period of severe anxiety, panic attacks, and even suicidal thoughts during the first time of secondary infertility….and it was all brought about because of childhood trauma that had resurfaced. How incredible to think that it might have actually been having an effect on my fertility. O_O Also, once I was in recovery, I conceived. And then, after another stressful period of time, I again had trouble conceiving, although I did get pregnant finally even though nothing had really changed.
          I am a Christian. I’m ashamed to admit that I felt like He’d abandoned me in the baby-making department. I know my kids are the ages and spaces that they are as part of a bigger plan, but it was definitely hard on me to wait.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Oh!! I’m a Christian also! ❤ I went through a VERY dark time, trying to figure out why God would “kill my babies.” 😢 I know that’s not how it is, but I heavily blamed God for all of my babies’ deaths.
            We are just finally coming out of that period, and it’s refreshing and encouraging, although of course it’s still very difficult.
            The lady who does these classes is in the LDS church, but I believe she is a born again believer, truly. And she combines her counseling experience, knowledge of brain science, and faith all together to help people do what she calls “prosper The Soul.” Basically, be made complete and whole again (the Bible verse that talks about being “fitly joined together” in the original text means all dissociated parts come back together to be made whole 😱). It’s quite interesting. I’ll post the link to her Facebook page.
            I know that once I got over the whole “this is new and weird” (I was raised very conservative, baptist) mentality, and after praying extensively for guidance and discernment and wisdom, I know God brought this woman to my town (she just moved her because God told her to lol) to help me heal. And she has stories of women with infertility and loss who came to her, she helped them with EMDR and therapy to pinpoint and move trauma (Ang trauma-childhood or recent), and they were able to conceive and carry!
            I’m currently in the middle of a very personal blog post about the events leading up to all this… phew! It’s emotionally exhausting. It was so bad… I totally identity with all the panic attacks, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts! And I’ve never struggled with depression or anxiety before, so it was all new and horrific for me. I should’ve died many times, but I know God saved me. I’m still trying to find exactly what that purpose is, but in the meantime, I’m just pressing into Him, and it’s a freeing feeling to finally see a glimpse of the renewing he’s doing in my life. ❤

            Liked by 2 people

        2. I’m happy to hear that you can see Him working through all this. It’s crazy how He takes these pieces of our lives and moves them about into the big picture He has for us!
          I’d take a look, but I’m actually not on Facebook. Thank you, though!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Yes! It’s taken a long several years getting to this point, though! 😖
            And that’s probably a really good thing you’re not on Facebook lol, so much drama these days! But I believe the page is accessible for anyone, even off Facebook, since it’s a public page, just FYI.
            I’ll definitely be praying for you in your journey, though! ❤ it’s not an easy road, and full of heartbreak and longing.

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  10. It took me almost 3 years to fall pregnant with Jack. I was actually in the process of undergoing fertility investigations when I spontaneously fell pregnant by complete surprise. There is still no certainty that there isn’t an underlying reason that it took so long. I definitely felt like my body was failing me and that if I was not able to carry a child that in some ways my life would be pointless and I wondered that my husband might leave me if I could not give him a child (he told me several times that he would not but it still played on my mind). I am not sure if I want to have another baby but the very idea makes me apprehensive because I am concerned it might lead to disappointment. The feelings around all this are so complex.

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  11. I will have to say it feels like a stab in the gut when women with multiple children complain about having trouble getting pregnant. When you’ve been through six rounds of donor egg IVF (including a miscarriage) and watch your two year wait for an adoption and right before that 6th round of IVF failed because the country closed its program, then you’ll truly be able to say that no one knows how you feel. It might be challenging, but what all of these people commenting have gone through, all of these people who have children at home right now? Those of us who’ve never been able to get pregnant don’t feel sorry for you. I’m not saying that to be an asshole, I’m saying it so you guys can focus on your blessings that a lot of us don’t have.

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    1. I wrote this post because I realized how crazy it was that I was feeling and thinking the way that I was. :/ I regret that I spent time longing for more when I could have just enjoyed what I had, especially during the years waiting for my youngest child. My focus was in the wrong place for sure.
      I don’t feel sorry for myself and I absolutely don’t expect anyone else to. I can’t fathom how difficult it must be to go through primary infertility.

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