Secondary Infertility/Pregnancy Loss
I know this isn’t exactly a “holly jolly Christmas” kind of post for this time of year, but the reality is people experience loss year round, and the Christmas season can be incredibly isolating and heartbreaking for them. As much as I’m enjoying this time of year, which is my favorite time of year, I’m also feeling the loss of our baby this past January. It was on December 15th last year that our pregnancy was confirmed, so it has really been on my mind this week.
Secondary infertility is the inability to either get pregnant or stay pregnant (pregnancy loss) after one or more live births, and it is much more common than most people realize. Approximately 30% of infertility cases are secondary infertility; over 3 million women in the US alone. And yet, until we were in the midst of our own secondary infertility I had never heard of it before. I didn’t know it was a thing.
Miscarriages are even more common: 1 in 4 women will experience pregnancy loss. I am so glad that the stigma and secrecy around miscarriages is starting to fade; more and more brave mamas are stepping forth and sharing their stories and grief with the world.
Recurrent miscarriage, on the other hand, is far less common; less than 5% of couples will experience 2 or more consecutive losses in a row, and only 1% will experience 3 or more consecutive losses. Going further, only 30% of that 1 % of couples are also experiencing secondary infertility.
To be honest my brain can’t even wrap around those statistics. A mathematician would be able to figure it out better, but a mathematician I am not. Basically, it’s not at all common to experience 3 consecutive miscarriages after having a full-term pregnancy, let alone after having 2 full-term pregnancies. As if pregnancy loss isn’t isolating enough, let’s throw that in there.
So, needless to say, when we were in the middle of our personal hell, we felt more alone than ever. Our 3 consecutive losses happened between August 2014 and April 2015, an 8 month period, and it was during a time that 1) pregnancy loss wasn’t being talked about like it is now and 2) we weren’t on social media then anyway. Now that we are, and now that pregnancy loss is finally being discussed and grieved openly, our hope is that all couples experiencing loss can find community and support.
Secondary Pregnancy Loss
Secondary loss brings on a slew of complicated feelings, and just like all pregnancy loss, it also brings on a slew of unwanted comments. In the midst of my grief and pain, I also felt guilt because “at least I already have 2 (and then 3) kids.” It didn’t help when others would say similar things to me. Aaron shared our ectopic (and 4th) loss to a coworker last year and was asked: “don’t you guys already have enough kids?” We also heard comments from people to “take it as a sign that God doesn’t want you to have more kids.”
That one. That one gets me the most, I think. That one doesn’t even make me sad like the others, no, it makes me angry. No one else has ANY authority over how many kids God wants us to have, and having pregnancy losses or experiencing infertility does not mean that God does not want you to have children.
It’s not a punishment, it’s not restitution for past sins, God does not work that way. Every child, living or not, is a blessing. So if we get pregnant and we experience loss, it is not our fault, it is not God’s revenge on us, it is none of the above.
I don’t understand the carelessness with which people throw words around. If you don’t know what to say, just say you’re sorry. If you can’t express condolences authentically, KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT. You are doing more damage than you know. Pregnancy loss rips through your very soul, regardless of how many children you have at home. Don’t let your careless words tear a broken person down even more.
It’s sad because after our 4th loss in January, fewer people showed empathy towards us. It was almost like it was expected, or second hat. It’s happened to us so much, so what’s the big deal, right? Except that every life matters. However short, however long. Every. Life. Matters. Every life deserves to be remembered, every lost life deserves to be mourned.
Pregnancy loss is traumatizing. It takes time to work through and begin to heal. When it’s a secondary loss, you also have the added stress of having other littles to take care of. It’s hard to let yourself grieve when you have these little people counting on you to be present. On one hand, it was a helpful distraction, having two little ones to take care of during our first 3 losses, and then 3 littles during our ectopic in January.
But that also meant that the day after my d&c with #3, instead of getting the much-needed rest and alone time to mourn, I was having to chase after our 2 & 4-year-olds all day. Three days after, I had to summon the strength to give them a joyful Easter.
And like I mentioned in my original miscarriage post, other people move on much quicker than the ones actively grieving. It makes it even more difficult to feel like no one around you cares or understands or even remembers. People say and do insensitive things, even though I’m sure most of them are unintentional.
The day after we went to the hospital to get the shots for our ectopic loss in January was Isaac’s birthday. We went on with his party, and while eating lunch I had to endure hearing a conversation about baby names for a couple that was due 3 weeks before our due date. It was agonizing and felt like salt being poured into a wound that had no time to begin healing. I know it wasn’t malicious, and it was none of their faults that we lost our baby. I felt no bitterness towards them, but it felt incredibly insensitive to speak about in front of me at the time.
There’s also the guilt that we sometimes feel, that mourning over our loss means we’re somehow less grateful for the children that we do have. Or that we’re not allowed to be heartbroken over it because we already have kids, and there are women suffering from infertility and pregnancy loss that have no living children. But mama, please understand that you have every right to mourn your loss, and you have every right to mourn that loss out loud.
We need to stop comparing grief. We judge other people’s grief (and our own!) and decide whether or not they (or we) are “worthy” of feeling grief. I don’t care if you have 0 children or 20 kids, pregnancy loss SUCKS. Having 2 children already did not erase the pain of losing our 3 babies, and having 3 children did not erase the pain of losing our 4th baby.
Yes, we are immensely blessed to have 3 children here with us. I will never disagree with that, and I love my children with all of my heart. My heart aches for all of the mamas out there who don’t get to hold any of their children, and my heart aches for all of the women out there who long to be mamas with everything they are. I will not, however, compare our grief. Grief is grief is grief is grief. It all sucks, all of it. Grief and sadness and mourning; the circumstances surrounding it should not matter. What matters is that someone is hurting, and they need support, love, and zero judgment.
My fellow secondary loss mamas out there: I feel for you. I feel your pain, I know your pain. I know the isolation that you feel, I know the almost embarrassment you feel of speaking about your loss. I see you. And please know and trust that God sees you. God is in the darkness with you. I know you may not feel Him right now, but He is there.
You are not alone in this. There are more of us out here, and I hope more and more of us get the courage to speak out about our experiences and losses. Whether you have one kid at home or a bunch; whether you’ve experienced 1 or more losses, your losses matter. Your heartbreak matters. Your grief, your baby (or babies), MATTER. Don’t forget that.
For the full detailed story of our losses, go here: