I have been watching Parenthood on Netflix…yet again. I love that show and have seen every episode at least a few times. Last night, I was watching the episode where Julia finds out she likely cannot conceive another child, and the tears just started to flow. I found myself crying, and, at first, I was sort of confused. Yes, we are infertile and trying for a second child. I definitely have that connection with this fictional TV character’s situation. We tried to conceive for several years to no avail, and the pain of those years plus the stress of infertility treatments nearly broke me. However, I wasn’t crying about that.
I was crying because the pain of being infertile while also being a mom is sort of sneaky and complicated. The world sees you as a mother chasing around a toddler, and has no thought nor expectation that it might be difficult (or impossible) for you to have more children. Well-meaning strangers or casual acquaintances ask when you’ll have another, and you have to decide whether to nervously laugh your way out of it or delve into your infertility track record.
We have been trying to conceive a second child for a few months, and I have been forging ahead, keeping my head down, and trying not to let the lack of conception ruffle my feathers. I imagine I am being strong, but at the same time, my tough exterior is sort of my cover story for denial and avoidance. I comfort myself with the thought that I have been pregnant before, and hopefully I can be again. But, at the root of all of it, there is a lot of fear. Fear that maybe it won’t happen. Fear that our family might just be the three of us. And what the hell does that mean?
Knowing that the odds are stacked against us in having more children, and living and breathing infertility each day, I can now say that the pain of it feels different with a child.
Infertility the second time around is like a slow burn. It doesn’t hit quite as hard and fast as it did when I was childless. The pregnancy announcements don’t feel like they’re trying to kill me, but they’re still hard to face. The stories of siblings getting along, fighting, sharing, loving each other (I get it, I have two siblings of my own) mixed in with “big sibling/little sibling” t-shirt photos on Instagram stings even more.
At the end of the day, I have my daughter. I cling tightly to her little body, and I know how lucky I am to have her. There is a wide array of emotions- gratitude, longing, worry. You feel guilty and sometimes greedy, but the desire for another child lingers. There are a lot of “what ifs” and quietly drawn up plans that feel like if you talk above a whisper you will jinx the whole thing. That is the scourge of infertility. There is so much that is unknown and out of your control. It is all wrapped up in a big bundle of hope that you watch float away with every passing non-pregnant month.
I see my daughter starting to comprehend more and more. She’s two, and I dread the day she asks me why she doesn’t have a little brother or sister. I dread the thought that she may feel left out or like she’s missing out on something. I go back to the fact that it is out of my control. I know that I am doing as much as I can possibly do with the resources available to me at this time. I have to make peace with that. But, in this moment, there is only longing and hope, and doting on my one perfect blastocyst who now walks, talks, and bosses me around all day.