Secondary Infertility is a very real condition that affects thousands of couples.
Most people have never even considered that it exists, because once you have one kid, in theory, it should be possible to have many more. But for some couples, it’s not.
*I write this post from a very personal place. And I’m writing it because during my lowest time, during the days when I absolutely could not find the hope I was so desperately seeking, encouragement came to me from women who had suffered and were suffering from the same situation and were brave enough to put it out there for the world to read. To those ladies, I thank you. And for those of you who need encouragement, here’s my story. I pray that I can help provide comfort and hope, pointing readers to the One who answers prayers.
My husband and I got married in 2001. We always knew that we wanted kids, and talked about having three or four. We spent our first few years together working, finishing graduate degrees, and enjoying marriage.
In the summer of 2005, we spent nearly a month in Europe on a tour with high school students (I was teaching history at the time). When we got back, we decided that it was time to start a family.
A few weeks later we were expecting our first child. Easy as that.
Our son was born in April of 2006. And our kid was so awesome and amazing that we knew we definitely wanted more down the road. Parenting was something we both loved, and without a doubt, we wanted our son to have the joy of siblings.
In 2007 I decided to take a break from my job as a high school teacher and stay at home with my son, hopefully to have a few more children and get them all in school before going back to work.
The plan was to start trying for more kids that summer. But on my very last day of work, after the students were already dismissed for summer and the teachers were working post-planning days, I had some crazy-horrible pains on my right side.
I remember asking a colleague at lunch that day, “What does appendicitis feel like?” He laughed and said, “If you had appendicitis, you’d be throwing up.”
Well, I wasn’t throwing up, but an hour later I could no longer stand up. And I felt feverish. Within a few more hours I was in the emergency room, and in the wee hours of the next morning, I had an emergency appendectomy.
And that delayed our timeline for more children for three to four months until I had fully healed from the surgery.
When those healing months had passed, I assumed getting pregnant would be as easy as it was the first time.
But months and months later…nothing.
I started charting my basal body temperature and I began reading everything I could on getting pregnant. I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t happening when it had been so easy the first go-round.
I started to obsess. Everything in my life was focused around ovulation and getting pregnant. My mornings began with BBT charting and my days progressed with searching books and the internet for solutions to my “problem.”
Meanwhile, my son was getting older and my control-freak self was beginning to get upset about the growing age gap that would exist between my kids. If I could ever have another one.
Finally, after nine months of trying with no results, it was time to talk to the doctor. Thankfully, my doctor is a saint. He’s the kind of man who really listens to his patients. And when I told him there was a problem, he listened. And he tested me for everything.
His willingness to help so quickly is rare. Because it takes the average couple 9-12 months to conceive, most doctors won’t even consider that there might be an infertility issue until at least 12 months without conception. This is why charting my BBTs was important– my doctor could look at my charts and see that there might be an issue.
After a series of needles, exams, tests, procedures, etc., on both myself and my husband, it was determined that for some unexplained reason, I was no longer ovulating.
It was assumed that either I was experiencing complications from scar tissue from the appendectomy that was affecting an ovary, or that all of this was a by-product of a micro-adenoma that had formed on my pituitary gland when I was in high school. But I’d had surgery in 2000 to remove it, and complications had never arisen. Until now.
A couple of months after the testing began, I started on Clomid. In case you aren’t familiar with the drug, what it does is help stimulate the ovaries to produce more follicles. Each follicle contains an egg, and in a normal woman, once a month, hormones tell the follicle to rupture and release the egg. Clomid increases the chance that an egg will be released at ovulation by creating more follicles. Many people are under the impression that Clomid greatly increases your chances of multiples. It does increase them, but only by about 10%.
With each month that passed with no results, my dosage was increased. Not only was I taking the medication, but I was having regular ultrasounds to see if follicles were developing, and then HcG shots to induce ovulation.
My doctor told me that he would give me four months of these treatments before my husband and I would need to see a specialist. Well, a specialist was not an option for us. We knew that the next step after medication was invitro-fertilization or IVF, and we did not have the money for such a procedure. We also did not have the money up front to pursue adoption with any seriousness, although it was something we had talked about wanting to do.
My last chance came. I was to report to the doctor for an ultrasound, and if the follicles had developed properly, I would receive an HcG shot that would hopefully induce ovulation within 24 hours.
I went for the ultrasound. The ultrasound techs didn’t say much, except that I only had one follicle, and it looked too large to be valid. And when I was ushered back into the doctor’s office that day, I knew the news was not good.
“I’m sorry,” he’d said. “I can’t do anything else. It’s time to see a specialist.”
Apparently the follicle was no good, and there would not even be an HcG shot that day. There would be no ovulation. I didn’t even get my last chance.
I was given referrals for the local IVF specialist and a doctor in Atlanta. But I knew that this was the end of the road for us. We’d be a family of three.
Eventually I had no choice but to accept it.
About two weeks later, I decided to take a pregnancy test, even though my body was a mess of uncertainty. I knew it was a waste of money for me to do so, but being on the Clomid had regulated my cycles, yet I was late.
The test was positive. I was unbelieving however, and took two more before I could allow myself to even hope a little bit.
I didn’t really get excited it until I sat in my doctor’s office and a blood test confirmed it. Baby #2 was on the way.
I remember asking my doctor, “Are you surprised?”
“No,” he’d said. “It can happen. And I know you’ve been praying about it.” My doctor is awesome.
Without the HcG shot, without the forced ovulation, somehow, we had managed to get pregnant. My only explanation is, of course, that God can do anything he wants to do. I assume that the “large” follicle that showed up on the ultrasound that month was large because it had already ruptured on.its.own.
In June of 2009 our beautiful second son was born. We call him our miracle baby.
I don’t know if tertiary infertility exists (smile) or if I’ll ever have to deal with it. I’m leaving that up to God.
Now, there’s a lot more to all of this than just the medical facts. The real part of the story is the spiritual journey that I went on during this time. And also, I want to address how all of this affected my husband. He wasn’t immune to the frustrations just because it was my body that was messed up. I’ll be posting the second portion of this story on Monday.
Share with Me: Before you read this, had you ever heard of secondary infertility? Is infertility a condition that has touched your life or the life of someone you know? Have you ever given any thought to how infertility can affect a person, a family?