My husband and I have been blessed with two beautiful daughters. In between our girls, we lost a precious son to stillbirth, and last year we had an earlier miscarriage. With each of our children, we never had trouble conceiving. Infertility is not a word that I ever imagined would infiltrate and affect our lives. A little over a year ago, I began having ovarian cysts that were so severe that I had to have several surgeries, two of them being only a month apart. The second surgery cost me one of my ovaries. Less than a year after the first surgery, the decision was made to complete a full hysterectomy. Between the constant cysts and endometriosis, I was miserable. Each surgery meant at least two weeks of barely being able to get around and another week or two of bouncing back to myself. By the time I recovered from a surgery, another cyst would come.
It was an incredibly tough decision, but it came to the point that I was in so much pain and enduring so many surgeries that it was difficult for me to parent our daughters, and none of the available treatments were providing any relief. Because I do have two beautiful daughters, I have often felt like I shouldn’t talk about the difficulties of having a complete hysterectomy in my 20’s. I am leery of being met with comments like, “But you have two beautiful children”, or “Two kids are plenty” because these are things I heard before I even had the surgery. So I spend a lot of time letting those feelings out in private outlets, such as art or journaling. For as long as I can remember, I have had a strong desire for a big family. I have silenced that desire in what feels like a survival mechanism in order to avoid hurtful comments.
I’ve wanted to adopt since I was a teenager, and it is something that has always been on the table for my husband and me. While we longingly and prayerfully await the day that adoption becomes part of our family story, I still struggle. The definitive nature of the hysterectomy just gets to me some days — no more precious little kicks, no more beautifully round bellies or expectant-mother glow. I will most definitely never experience those things again.
Secondary infertility carries its own set of worries. When those of us with this struggle voice it, we are often met by well-meaning people who say things like, “Well at least you’ve gotten to experience pregnancy”, or “At least you have one” (or two, etc.), when all we want is someone to say “I’m sorry; I know that must be hard.” Yes, those things are true with secondary infertility. We are blessed to have experienced pregnancy. But those “at leasts” don’t mean that a dream and a plan and a longing hasn’t been crushed. They don’t mean that it doesn’t hurt. Struggling with these feelings and grieving those lost dreams and plans does not mean we aren’t grateful for the pregnancy (or pregnancies) that we were able to experience. Grief is normal with any infertility experience.
If you know a friend struggling with secondary infertility, just listen. Don’t try to console her with “at leasts”; we know we are blessed with the child(ren) we have. Just sit with us in that hurt. It makes a huge difference.
If you are struggling with secondary infertility, you are not alone. It’s okay to feel how you feel and to express those feelings, guilt-free.
In recognition of National Infertility Awareness Week, we are seeking to raise awareness about this struggle by sharing stories from local moms who have been in, or are currently in, this difficult place. Through this series, we hope to provide encouragement for women who are facing infertility, as well as perspective for those supporting them in the battle. Thank you to the courageous women who have shared a piece of your motherhood journey as part of this series.