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The Invisibility of Secondary Infertility: National Infertility Week

alec vanderboom

(For a full list of the blogger participating in this series please visit the Little Catholic Bubble. Special thanks to my friend Rebecca for her brilliant writing in this subject area.)

I came a little late to the joy of Motherhood at age 28. I became a Catholic one year after I married one. I got pregnant for the first time two weeks after I quit using birth control in obedience to my shiny new faith. My next conception followed nine months later. I had one sad miscarriage. Then I got pregnant six weeks later.

I was convinced I was in the "super fertile" club. We had a weird risk of losing babies in the second trimester. Staying pregnant might be a problem, but getting pregnant--no way.

We changed our life radically to better accommodate lots of little people. I quit my job. We moved from a slow economy to the then still bustling economy of Washington DC. My Art Professor husband quit Academia and found a better paying job in commercial art.

My life looked radically different from how I planned it out in college and I was happy. I was a Stay-at-Home Mom who shopped at Trader Joes, fed the toddlers gummy dinosaurs during trips to the Smithsonian, and read French novels on the couch during Nap Time. I made a circle of friends of Catholic Moms who were all intelligent, funny, and super fertile like me.

Then I hit secondary infertility at age 32.

For 2 1/2 years, my husband and I tried every single month to conceive and there was never a baby.

I think the hardest thing for me was having the loneliness. There was nobody to talk about my feelings with beside my husband. To the secular world we looked 'done'. To the Catholic world, it seemed normal to want to have a break after 3 kids under age 5. Even the good friends who know that I was so hopeful each month that "this would be it"--there was this distance. First they had one kid, while I was waiting. Then two. After a while, I felt like I ran out of words to bridge the gap between our lives.

The hard part of secondary infertility is that I really loved my kids. I loved my two girls. They were so different from each other. Totally sassy and spirited and fun. I wanted another girl. I wanted another boy. I wanted to watch my husband hug the newborn, and play Thomas the Train, and teach Molecular Biology in a ridiculous amount of detail to a pre-schooler. So many times, I watched my husband be cute with our kids and had the bittersweet thought "He's so good with them and he might never have this experience again."

When I was sad about getting my period again, I couldn't "opt out" of social events that contained kids. This was my life as a Mom. Playgrounds. Birthday Parties. Dinosaur Exhibits. I'd see little babies nestled in car seats and strollers and elaborate wraps. Sometimes I'd look at those newborn faces with such love and prayer. Sometimes I'd look away.

It's a weird thing to want more kids in a world that is full of birth control.

I have a beautiful small family of five kids, possibly six kids. (My youngest still has to travel through this dangerous period where I seem to lose babies in the second trimester) I think of my family as small. Jon and I married late. We've had miscarriages and secondary infertility and a rocky NICU stay. We're both in our 40s, so the window is rapidly closing.

Somedays I think "Small is mighty!" It's okay that no one else in America counts "six kids" as a small family. I do. I know how big my heart is. I don't have as many babies as I liked to have in my house. Two sons have died. Yet I'm okay. God and I are friends. I have hope every day that I get to serve him in ways that bring him joy.