Are there differences between primary and secondary infertility? Having experienced both, I would say that there are. The NHS describe secondary infertility as someone who has had one or more pregnancies, but is having difficulty conceiving again. Primary infertility affects around 15% of the population, compared to 5% struggling with secondary infertility.
But what are the difference between trying for your first or subsequent baby? Are there any? I think that there are, and I’m speaking here from my own experience. Of course, everyone’s journey and experience will be different. Even if they look similar from the outside, the way people feel about it can be really different.
If you’re going through secondary infertility, I wonder if you can relate to any of these. Or maybe what you’re finding hard is different. Feel free to leave a comment below or drop me a message because I’d love to hear from you.
Here are the 5 differences I noticed about secondary infertility.
Secondary infertility is… feeling under pressure
I felt a different kind of pressure the second time around. Not only were we waiting for a baby for ourselves, we were also trying for a sibling for our son. With this came even more guilt because I thought a sibling would be good for him and that he would love to be a big brother.
Then there are the unhelpful comments “when are you going to give your son a brother or sister? He obviously wants one”. This was said to me a month after my missed miscarriage and it took everything I had not to break down.
People seem to fine to ask about your plans for children, as soon as you’ve had one. As much as they ask the minute you get married. It’s a really hard thing to deal with at either point.
It’s impossible to avoid triggers
When trying for your first it feels like pregnancy and babies are everywhere and it’s hard to avoid. With secondary infertility and you have a baby/toddler/child there is no avoiding the main triggers which bring up difficult emotional reactions.
When you go to the park there will be (seemingly perfect) families with two or more children. As you go to the mum and baby groups you’re surrounded by pregnant women. Wherever you take your child, this is where other children and families hang out. Avoidance is impossible. So, you go to these places and pretend everything is fine when really your heart is breaking.
Triggers are hard to avoid, but when they do come up, remind yourself that it’s ok for you to be upset/angry/frustrated. However your feeling is completely valid. Sometimes though, we tell ourselves we shouldn’t be upset or we’re wrong for feeling jealous. So we make these uncomfortable feelings even worse. You can avoid this by allowing yourself to feel the way you’re feeling.
It’s obsessing over age gaps
I became OBSESSED with age gaps! And I know this is a common one. Walking around the shops (well, in fact anywhere) and seeing a mum with two children I’d be calculating that age difference between them. This was basically a guess on my part, although I am quite good at guessing the ages of children due to the years I worked as a Health Visitor. But it would always result in the perfect age gap.
I think so often we create these stories in our head about other people’s experiences. Like how easy it was for them to get pregnant, or how wonderful their life is. When of course, we don’t know that’s true. This type of internal comparison isn’t healthy or helpful for us. Even though it’s hard to avoid, you can recognise that this story might not be true. They might have struggled, if not with getting pregnant, perhaps with something else.
I’d also recalculate each and every month, what the age gap would be if I were pregnant that month. This added more stress and even more pressure that I was putting on myself. How many school years would there be if I got pregnant now? What if it’s not now and the age gap is even bigger? Will that mean they won’t get along? Will he be too used to having us to himself to welcome a baby? What if it doesn’t happen and he’s an only child?
This way of thinking is exhausting isn’t it. It’s helpful at this point to remain present, rather than trying to guess the future. What do you know now? That you are trying for another baby. And it’s safe for you to trust that this will result in a happy ending.
It’s waiting for mum friends to be pregnant before you
There seemed to be an ever-increasing number of pregnancy announcements from mum friends having their second babies. As friends announced their pregnancies this again felt like I needed to be in a hurry to catch up, not to feel left behind so we could be on maternity leave at the same time again. Of course, in some ways this feels really silly and unimportant in the grander scheme of things. But friendships and avoiding isolation is so important for us as social beings and particularly so during motherhood which can be a very lonely time.
It’s being told “2 is so much harder that 1”
It’s hard to hear others complain about what you long for most. But so many people were telling me how hard it was having two children. Lack of sleep, breastfeeding issues, this was not what I wanted to hear. This also brought with it feelings of guilt that I wasn’t being an understanding friend. They were having a hard time but I really didn’t want them to talk to me about it.
Having space in your heart for a child that isn’t there at any stage is a horrible and painful thing.
Secondary infertility hurts too
Perhaps my feelings were the same the first time around but that’s further away so I can’t remember it as clearly. The pain of not being a mum was horrendous and very nearly broke me so many times. When I think back to that time, I honestly don’t think I could have gone on another month. But secondary infertility wasn’t easy either. Having space in your heart for a child that isn’t there at any stage is a horrible and painful thing.
I’d love to know if you can relate to my experience of secondary infertility, feel free to comment below or get in touch.