Unbearable: How To Explain Common Misconceptions About Secondary Infertility

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ideal familyHaving a child is usually a happy time in a woman’s life. Unfortunately, as we wait longer to have children, infertility and trouble conceiving can become a part of the family making process. Unbearable addresses these difficulties.

Infertility is difficult to explain, no matter who you’re talking to. It’s even harder to define when you have a three year old. Here’s a quick example of almost any conversation I’ve had about the subject since I started trying to have a second child.

“My husband and I are having some problems with infertility.”

“Um. But ya know. Um. You have a kid already, right?”

“Yes, we have a daughter.”

“But you could have a kid before so…. I mean. It’s not really infertility.”

“Actually, if you’ve been trying to have a child for over a year and it hasn’t happened, it’s considered infertility. There are a lot of things that could have changed. It could just be taking longer. Infertility is the general term.”

“Yea, but it’s not like real infertility.”

Misconception No. 1: Infertile is not the same as sterile.

This is the place where most conversations about secondary infertility get tripped up. People assume that infertility means you can never, ever have kids. The assumption is that an infertile woman must be missing her ovaries or some such nonsense. Infertility is such a loose term and it’s so misunderstood, I would avoid it all together. If you choose to share what’s going on in your life, try to speak more simply, such as, “We’re having a hard time getting pregnant.”

Misconception No. 2: You can get pregnant by having sex once, so getting pregnant is obviously simple.

It only takes one time! How can it be hard to have a kid when teenagers do it by accident? And if you’ve had a kid before, your plumbing can’t be screwed up. The complexity of getting pregnant isn’t widely understood. Most people assume that we all have a reproductive system and some of them work and others don’t. Aside from that, it’s all medical mumbo-jumbo. Instead of launching into a detailed explanation of all the hormones involved, here’s another time to keep it vague. In fact, I wouldn’t give any details at all. Stick with a simple, “It’s complicated.”

Misconception No. 3: You’re selfish if you can’t be happy with one child. Or two. Or three.

More than once, I’ve heard, “Well at least you have one. I feel sorry for the people who can’t have any kids at all.” And ya know, I feel compassion for those families as well. But I’m not sure why it has to be a pity-competition. Secondary infertility is still difficult and emotional. You want to have a child. You want to do something that you’ve always believe your body was made to do, and all of a sudden, you can’t. You’re trying, month after month, and you’re failing. That’s difficult. I don’t need anyone’s sympathy for that, but I don’t think it makes me selfish because I’m struggling to deal with a difficult circumstance.

Misconception No. 4: You must be too old now.

If you could have a child four years ago and you can’t now… You must be too old, right? That’s the logical explanation. Except that I’m 26 years old and struggling with secondary infertility. I had my first daughter when I was 22. I’m still young. I’m younger than a lot of women who are having their first child right. Age isn’t always the answer. Sometimes we wish it could be that simple though.