So infertility in its simplest definition refers to when a couple can't get pregnant (conceive) despite having regular unprotected sex.
After many years of trying to conceive, trying every old wives tail, herbal medicine, prayer and fasting, you name it, and finally having to succumb to numerous rounds of fertility treatment in which some resulted in a loss. I was convinced that I was a living example of what it meant to be infertile. Only until I finally had my son, I discharged myself from this broad but vague label.
Think about it this way: Using the NHS as an example, if you are seeking any sort of fertility treatment such as IVF under the NHS, there is a standard criteria you have to meet also known as the ’postcode lottery’.
Whilst the guidelines will vary across different postcode areas, generally speaking if a couple have been able to conceive a child from an earlier NHS funded cycle, then you are no longer able to benefit from a free cycle should they fall into fertility issues in the future.
And so I say the label of 'infertility' is vague because after my recent loss I realised that I fell into that very grey area. Not only had I lost a child but I had also lost a tube , but where did this leave me
in within the narrative of someone who has already conceived , has a desire to grow her family but yet is again faced with the uncertainty of conceiving naturally again?
Secondary infertility is defined by the World Health Organization as, “when a woman is unable to bear a child, either due to the inability to become pregnant or the inability to carry a pregnancy to a live birth following either a previous pregnancy or previous ability to carry a pregnancy to a live birth.”
This definition very much sums up my current situation. It’s a lonely place because you have the guilt of thinking you have no right to be sad or worried about the future of your family and reproductive health because you have been lucky enough to already have a child.
Believe it or not one of the few comments I had after people learnt about my recent ectopic pregnancy were,
“Don’t you have peace knowing that you were able to conceive even when you weren’t trying ? “isn’t it promising to know that you can at least get pregnant naturally?”
Whilst I understand that these comments are supposedly well meaning, let me play this out to you :
The years of grief I have had during my personal journey of trying to conceive, IVF and loss has never been about me wanting reassurance and proof as to whether I would ever be able to to conceive naturally. speaking for myself the grief you have during the journey is about the sadness of the unknown and loss of deeper areas in your life - femininity, a happy marriage/relationship etc...
The pain of infertility has blessed me in many ways to look at things from different perspectives and so for me all I hoped and prayed for is that in one way or or another I would be blessed with the opportunity to become a mother.
Looking back at the meaning of secondary infertility , it takes Into account two eventualities
(1) the inability to become pregnant
(2) the inability to carry a child to live birth
I’ve experienced both, and the latter is no different to any other loss.
I have to address this in another blog post but some of the comments I’ve had have taken the level of unintended insensitivity even further. the worse being.
”At least it was early so....”
... So what ? Let me try and finish this sentence,
a) it’s easier to deal with ?
b) it wasn't really a proper baby ?
Or questions like ”How far gone were you?” , possibly the same as some one stupidly asking how old was the person that died?
The point is you wouldn’t say to someone who has lost one of their parents , “at least you still have the other”
After learning how old someone was before they passed . You wouldn’t, or at least shouldn’t say to someone who lost an elderly parent or relative “at least they lived a long life” . The person who is grieving has lost someone they truly loved.
Speaking from my position there are many things that were unknown about my pregnancy . Whether it was a boy or girl , what they would have looked like, behaved like, the wondering goes on and on, and the point is my son who I adore was once a foetus. Seeing now what potential that once 8 week old foetus has . It breaks my heart to know that I’ve lost something that I expect may have brought me even more love and joy, and those feelings are important and matter...
Maybe not to you, the NHS, my GP, the lady in the waiting room or the toilet who is waiting for her positive pregnancy test , but to me: Now the mother of 3 , but two gained their wings before they even had a chance on earth .
Call it what you want , but dealing with secondary infertility is not second nature to a mother who already has a child. It’s real, and has its own pain and sorrow.
Soon I‘ll be opening up about how this new journey and how I‘ve felt pressure to deal
with it has impacted my mental health.