The second time around with anything sometimes inadvertently takes on a lesser value—second career, marriage number two, secondary infertility, etc.
With such complex limbic systems, you'd expect a more revolutionary response from the human species. Yet, a head tilt might be the most momentous reply to whatever "secondary" news you deliver.
When it comes to complications while trying for a second child, you may even hear, "At least you already had one child, right?"
But if you're like most people who are facing secondary infertility, these off-hand comments can cut painfully deep.
Here are keys to helping you face the dismissiveness of people while successfully moving through your own grief.
Acknowledge Your Emotions
Couples dealing with secondary infertility have some idea about the reality of what they want. Otherwise, they wouldn't be marching onward into the dawn of such a significant life challenge for a second (or third…) time.
As a parent already, give yourself permission to feel your true emotions.
For example, it's natural to experience a tender and fierce love for your child while at concurrently sensing a painful emptiness inside. Some women (and couples) might view the awareness of this void as an insight into what they imagined for their future—which included an addition to their family.
Remember, emotional ambivalence can be uncomfortable. But it is normal and even expected when faced with secondary infertility. You may vacillate between existential gratitude for the child(ren) you already have and sobbing into that special tiny outfit you so careful tucked away in anticipation of a younger sibling.
It's important to acknowledge your inner reality—how you feel, what you want, etc.—and allow yourself the space to experience those emotions, regardless of what decisions or realities may be up ahead.
Understand That People Truly Don't "Get It"
It can be so painful to hear dismissive comments about your fertility or family-building journey from the people you love the most. Even close relatives may not fully grasp the pain of secondary infertility. In fact, they may be the same people encouraging you to be thankful for what you have or advising that “just relaxing” will make pregnancy happen.
The brunt of these words cut deep, it's true. Yet, most people with whom you are discussing such a personal matter, truly and honestly care about you. Therefore, you might try and clue them in to the depth and breadth of the real grief you are navigating.
However, if you recognize that someone really doesn’t "get it" or isn’t really all that interested in “getting it,” it’s time to give yourself permission to set some boundaries for awhile. This doesn’t have to mean you never speak to Aunt Betty again, but perhaps give yourself gentle permission to take the weekend off from the extended family dinner.
Embrace Your Allies
Knowing that most people don't purposefully shove a dagger in your heart might help a bit. Yet, it's not uncommon to feel exposed when the dismissive attitudes shower down on you. Far too often, this leaves you needing a proverbial umbrella.
Now is the time, if there ever was one, to let your allies step in and provide that cover and protection for you. Employ a fiercely loyal friend, maybe even one who has navigated their own fertility and family building journey, if you need some support when it comes to less understanding friends in your circle.
Let your partner do some of the heavy lifting. Your partner is likely navigating their own grief process, but it may give them a sense of purpose to be tasked with declining Aunt Betty’s (see above) invitation to Sunday tea.
Give your friends and family who do “get it” concerning secondary infertility a chance to be there for you. Let them run interference with anyone they can who might be headed your way dismissively just because you already had one child and have the audacity to desire a second child.
Struggling with secondary infertility can be incredibly difficult, straining your emotions and even your relationships with the people you love most.
As a fertility counselor, I am passionate about empowering you with valuable coping skills for your fertility journey and beyond. Please visit here to learn more about how I can help you and schedule a free 20-minute phone consultation.