SIS Logo - sepia - version 2 - 300 x 300 For awhile I have thought it would be interesting and helpful, especially for those still in the trenches who want more children, to profile other families who have dealt with secondary infertility. Many of these people I got to know during our journey through secondary infertility (via community forums and/or blogs). Being able to share with them what it was like to be in similar shoes trying to expand our families helped me to cope and find hope.

I am excited to be launching this new series during National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW). In the coming months I plan to share more interviews here, this being the first, with those who have dealt with or are still dealing with secondary infertility, in an effort to raise awareness of a disease that affects 1 in 11 couples, or approximately 4 millions Americans, and accounts for about 50% of all infertility cases, according the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2006).

My intention is for these “Secondary Infertility Stories” is to bring comfort and hope to those still in the trenches, as well as a reality check in regards to possible outcomes. I also think it will be therapeutic for me to revisit and shine light on some of those who helped me survive “the unique hell that is Secondary Infertility,” as Jjraffe wrote about in her most recent Faces of Adoption/Loss/Infertility profile of Esperanza from Stumbling Gracefully (a dear blogging friend who has also struggled with secondary infertility).

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Sommer’s was the first blog that I ever remember reading. We met a few years earlier, in January 2003, after we both got our first Big Fat Positive (BFP) pregnancy tests while trying to conceive our first children. We were in a September 2003 Estimated Due Date (EDD) Buddy Group on Fertility Friend and had the opportunity to share candidly about the joys and challenges that came with our first pregnancies there.

Many of us kept in touch after our babies were born that year. In fact we even made a pact to stick together for at least ten more years. It’s hard to believe that our tenth year of friendship and motherhood is upon us. These days we connect mostly via Facebook and the blogging world, as I rarely visit sites like Fertility Friend or Connected Moms with community forums anymore. Though they were my saving grace back in the days before web logs were mainstream or even on my radar.

I remember one day back in 2006, I was checking in with some of the buddy groups I was in on Connected Moms (a community forum that Sommer founded, hosts and facilitates to this day). One included part of our original September 2003 EDD group, which at that point was increasingly made up of members who had been able to conceive and give to birth to more children after their first. Another group was for women who were also trying to conceive another child and not having very good luck. That day I saw that Connected Moms was inviting people to start their own blogs on the site.

I wasn’t sure what to think about the idea, as initially it seemed like such a self-involved thing for a person to do. What would I write about? Who would read it? I was used to the community aspect of Buddy Groups and didn’t understand how that could be applied in the blogosphere. Certainly it would be a lot more work to have to go and visit each individual blog, as opposed to being able to just read and comment on posts within our community forums.

At some point though I realized that Sommer had started her own blog, called Just One More…, on a platform that wasn’t connected with a community forum and I began reading her entries religiously. I knew that Sommer and I shared the unfortunate diagnosis of secondary infertility and was also aware that she and her husband were trying In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) after years of unsuccessfully trying on their own to have another child, as well as utilizing other fertility treatments first. I was fascinated to learn in great detail about Sommer’s experience with IVF and how she was processing her journey through secondary infertility.

In April 2007, as we were in the midst of our first IVF cycle, I decided to start my own blog, having been inspired greatly from following Sommer’s. I named my blog “Three of a Kind Working on a Full House…,” as a take off on the Garth Brooks song “Two of a Kind Working on a Full House.” The rest of my journey I have chronicled here, including our four Assisted Reproductive Technology cycles, including two IVF, one IVF converted to Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), and one Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET), the birth and death of our second child/our daughter Molly , the birth of and parenting our third child/our daughter Abby , as well as parenting our first child/our son Sean, and life in general.

I feel honored to being sharing Sommer’s journey through secondary infertility (SIF) with you. I am also very grateful to Sommer for the time she gave and the thought that went into answering the 27 questions I posed about her experience with SIF.

Sommer, thank you again for all the ways you have supported and inspired me on my journey through parenting, secondary infertility and loss. I know your words here will bring comfort and validation to those dealing with SIF. I also hope that reading your story will educate those who have loved ones struggling with SIF, as well as to equip them to be more sensitive and supportive .

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1) Please share a brief summary of your story/journey.

I guess the short version is:

Tried for 18 months for our first. Went for testing and were told that we had Male Factor Infertility (MFI), a 3% chance of conceiving on our own, and we should pursue IVF. We took a month off try to think things through and got pregnant that month.

My cycles resumed when baby girl was 9 months old, so we started trying right away, knowing it could take time. A year later, we pursued testing again.  Were again told we needed to do IVF, but since we’d gotten pregnant once before, we went for a second opinion.  That doctor was willing to do IUI for us. After three, she started talking about IVF and after the fourth; she said we were wasting our time. We went back to the first doctor for IVF. The first failed, and the second time, we got twins.

We opted to not prevent after the twins, and got pregnant on our own once more when the twins were almost 5 years old.

Here is the full version: Our Story

2) How old were you when you started trying to build your family? 

24

3) How easy was it for you to conceive #1? 

We did not prevent for 18 months. The last 8 months we were actively trying (charting and timing intercourse). We had done a semen analysis (SA) on my husband and received the news that we were dealing with MFI and had a 3% chance of conceiving on our own. We were told we needed IVF; I got pregnant two weeks after the SA was done.

4) What was your first pregnancy like? Any complications?

My pregnancy was relatively uneventful, except for hyperemesis gravidarum (HG).

5) Describe your labor and delivery? How long were you in labor? Vaginal or C-section? Do you ever wonder if the delivery of your first or subsequent pregnancies affected your ability to conceive again or sustain another pregnancy?

My water broke at 1:00 a.m. when I was 37 weeks 3 days pregnant. We got to the hospital by almost 3:00 a.m. and labored on our own until about 7:00 a.m. I was at 10 centimeters by 10 a.m., and pushed for two hours before my daughter was born, vaginally, without an epidural. I do not believe anything unusual happened that would contribute to future fertility issues.

6) What were your early days of motherhood like? 

A little stressful as our daughter had jaundice and was on a “bili blanket” at home. We had trouble establishing nursing, and I got postpartum depression (PPD). But those things aside, I loved being a new mother.

7) How soon did you start TTC#2? How did that go initially? 

Knowing it might take a while; we started trying to conceive (TTC) #2 as soon as my cycles returned, which was at 9 months postpartum. We tried on our own for over a year with no luck.

8) Did you experience any miscarriages, pregnancy losses, stillbirths and/or neonatal deaths during your SIF journey? How did that effect your experience wanting and trying to have more children? 

We never achieved a pregnancy on our own when TTC #2.

9) How many children do you have now? 

Four

10) How long did you try between the birth of your first child and your subsequent children (if you were able to have any)? 

Our second and third children (twins) took 3 years and 4 months to conceive and they were born (9 weeks premature) when our first child was 4 years and 1 month old. Our fourth child was conceived 4 years and 8 months after our twins were born. We were not trying, but not preventing pregnancy that entire time.

11) What interventions, if any, did you try? Did they work? 

After over a year of trying on our own, we decided to seek a second opinion about our MFI. The new doctor we saw said since we got pregnant on our own before, we should try IUI, so we did. We agreed to try 6 IUIs before we gave up trying to have a second child.

After the third IUI, the doctor said that the sperm were looking worse and maybe we should consider IVF. After the fourth IUI, she said that we were wasting our time with the IUIs, as things looked even worse. We started the referral process for IVF, and due to some issues we had with the clinic not contacting us in time for certain tests, we switched doctors – back to the original doctor who told us we needed to do IVF.

Our first IVF, we had 9 eggs retrieved, and 7 were mature. They allowed 4 to try to fertilize naturally, and performed Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) on the remaining three. The three that were ICSId fertilized. Two of the non-ICSI eggs fertilized abnormally and died. At that time, we were told that in addition to the MFI, my eggs had “hard shells” and the sperm were not able to easily fertilize them.

The three embryos we had were transferred on day three, but no pregnancy resulted.

We took six months off to recuperate from the mental toll of the entire process, and to save funds to try just one more time. This time, we got 10 eggs, and all were ICSId. By day 5, we still had 4 – two of which were looking good, and two that looked poor. The two good ones – both blastocysts at this point and one hatching – were transferred on day 5. The other two arrested in the lab and we had none left to freeze.

This time, I got a positive pregnancy test, and an ultrasound at 5 week 5 days showed that BOTH embryos had implanted. After a very complicated pregnancy, our fraternal twin sons arrived 9 weeks early.

12) Is your situation resolved now?

It is only resolved in the sense that we feel our family is complete. We still have fertility issues.

13) What has been or was the hardest part of living through SIF for you?

There is so much less support for those with SIF. People think you should be happy to have just one kid, because some people can’t even have that. And you ARE happy to have that one (or more) child(ren), but your heartaches for the one you can’t have. I wrote a post about how it feels: It’s been a while… (December 2006).

14) How did SIF impact your relationship with your spouse or significant other?

It was stressful for both of us in different ways. Stressful for me because I was sad and frustrated. Hard for him because he was content to just have one child, but wanted to support me. I think it was hard for him to see me hurting so much. I remember when his boss told me that after I called him to tell him the first IVF failed, he got off the phone and cried. He was so strong for me, but it was hurting him, too.  At the same time, I think it really brought us together as a family – him supporting me and both of us having a deeper appreciation for the miracle of our first child.

15) Did you and your spouse/signifiant other always agree on the best course of action for dealing with your SIF? If not, how did you both handle that? 

Originally, he did not believe in any treatments (when we were TTC #1). I was so relieved when we got pregnant on our own. When it came time for TTC #2, I was scared, knowing how he felt about intervention (that it was “playing God”). I was so happy/relieved when he came around on his own for the second time. I think starting with IUI was easier for him. When that didn’t work, he was on board for IVF. We agreed to try just once, so I was really surprised when he said he wanted to try it again (we did not have any frozen embryos).

16) How did you and your spouse/significant other come to an agreement on future treatment and/or when to be done trying?

We agreed to six IUIs and then to be done. I felt ok with that, as I really thought IUI would work. When the fourth ailed and the doctor said she wouldn’t do any more because the sperm were looking so bad, my DH was on board with IVF without me having to even ask. I feel like we were really lucky how things worked out, how we each agreed without having to really discuss it. After the first IVF failed, though, I felt ready to pursue adoption (partially because I assumed we were done with treatments, as we’d only agreed to one IVF). It was at that point that he told me he wasn’t ready to adopt, but then told me he wanted to try IVF one more time.

17) What do you wish more people could understand about SIF?

See my favorite blog post mentioned later (in response to #24).

18) What did your loved ones do to show you their love and support and what do you wish they had done differently?

My mom was really supportive. She tried for 5 or so years to have me, even taking Clomid, so she remembered what it felt like (and I was her second child, she had no trouble conceiving her first). I remember her crying with me when I cried because she said she just knew how it hurt and she was hurting with me.

I don’t feel like my husband’s family really understood the emotional aspect – never having difficulty conceiving themselves – so I had to endure some of the usual comments: “just relax”; “go on a vacation”; “be happy with the one you have”. It was harder to talk to them, but I also feel like they gained a better understanding of how people struggle by talking to them.

19) What’s one of the craziest and/or most insensitive things anyone ever said to you related to SIF?

“Just be thankful for the one you have” is the worst. Of COURSE we are and forever will be thankful for her. Wanting the family we dream of and should be able to have like any other fertile couple makes us no less grateful. Please don’t dismiss our hurt that way.

20) What have you learned from your journey through SIF? 

That the pain of infertility NEVER goes away. I will never forget my mom crying as I was telling her about what we were going through, and my sadness. She, too, struggled for many years to conceive me, and she said how that pain just came back to her and it hurt her to hear me suffering the same hurt.

Even now, with our family complete, I still get pangs of jealousy over those who conceive easily and my heart breaks for those who can’t.  It changes you – forever.

21) Is there anything else you want to share about your experience with SIF?

Talk to people. I hate when I come across those who are struggling, but keep it to themselves. It’s not a dirty secret. You need and deserve support. Tell people. They will either support you, they won’t understand and you will educate them so they can support you and be more compassionate and understanding in the future, or they will judge you and you will know what kind of friend they really are. I have found so many people think they will be judged or criticized, but the reality is that very few people truly react that way. Yes, there are some deeply religious people who think it is “wrong”, but I have found that the majority of people will support you. And if they say or do insensitive things, it’s not because they aren’t a friend – it’s because they don’t understand. Educate them!

22) What resources (books, blogs, etc.) helped you cope with your SIF experience?

Mostly just the love and support of my friends and family who read my blog, as well as those friendships I made at ConnectedMoms.com, IVFConnections.com and TCOYF.com helped me through.

23) Do you have any favorite song(s) or quote(s) that gave you comfort and hope during your SIF journey?

This YouTube video has always touched me:

24) Will you please share a few of your own favorite blog posts related to your SIF journey?

This is my favorite SIF post: I Would Die for That (June 2007)

25) When and why did you begin writing and sharing publicly about your experience with SIF? When did you begin your blog and why?

It started as a way to contain my thoughts in one place, as I’d been posting on a message board, and I figured people didn’t want to constantly see more infertility stuff from me. After a while, it became a place to just pour my heart out and release the frustration, fear and sadness I felt about it all.

26) How did writing/blogging help you survive your journey through SIF?

People began to respond to my posts with their support and their own stories, which really helped me see I wasn’t alone. And now, looking back, I am glad I have chosen to be so open about what we’ve been through because I’ve met so many couples along the way who choose to keep their infertility a secret – which I will never quite understand why – and they struggle in silence. It’s no way to be, and at least when people like me (and you!) share our stories, they can feel less alone than they do keeping their secret. And maybe it will encourage them to come forward and seek support, too.

27) Please write a letter to yourself back when you were in the trenches struggling with SIF. Think about what you would tell yourself to help you make it through such a difficult and uncertain time in your life.

I don’t know how to write a letter to myself back then. I could say it will be ok and everything will turn out they way you hoped, but I don’t think that’s fair to others reading, because it might NOT turn out the way they hope.

I have been extremely lucky.

My mother-in-law recently told me I have a “horseshoe up my ass.” I think she’s right.  😉

So I would rather just tell anyone who is currently reading and suffering through SIF that communication is important.

Communication with your partner – check in with each other and respect each other, even if you don’t agree on treatments.

You are a team.

Communication with your doctor – ASK QUESTIONS!

I see so many women posting on message boards asking about things their doctors told them.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR!

Learn about what is going on with your body and your treatment so you can take charge of what is going on.

Having some sort of power in a reasonably powerless situation is… well, empowering!

And talk to those around you.

Seek support, educate those who don’t get it and be open.

The love you will receive in return will help get you through.

Photo Credits (scroll over each photo for details) include: Sommer Cronk, Anda Photography and Tiffany Burke Photography.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lori Lavender Luz April 25, 2013 at 3:42 pm

What an auspicious first profile in this series, Kathy! Though SIF is not something I experienced, it enjoyed learning what it was like for Sommer. Beautiful family.
Lori Lavender Luz recently posted..“Real” in Adoption and how it Splits our BabiesMy Profile

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2 Kristin April 25, 2013 at 6:40 pm

Huge thanks to you, Kathy, for writing this series and to Sommer for being willing to share her story in your space.
Kristin recently posted..Happy Birthday, Shot@Life!My Profile

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3 Delenn April 29, 2013 at 9:10 pm

This is such a wonderful profile and so great you are doing this! I wish there had been something like this when I was TTC…I always felt so lonely out there being a SI.

Thank you!

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4 Em May 5, 2013 at 5:55 am

It’s so cool to see bloggers come together like this, especially about secondary infertility! Love this idea.
Em recently posted..snafuMy Profile

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5 Tina May 24, 2013 at 11:56 am

I have a beautiful 9 year old boy. My husband and I always wanted to have 2 children. We started trying again 7 years ago. After trying for a year, I had myself tested and I was fine. We found out my husband after having one child was essentially sterile. He also had low testosterone and had to be put on injections so our chances of ever having another child were over. I have grieved over this child. Many do not understand they say be thankful you have the one beautiful boy. They dont understand how thankful we are and how much we love him. But there will always be an empty space in my heart. We cannot afford any treatments or adoption. My little guy will be an only child. He will never have a brother or sister. But he has a great family who loves him dearly. We dont know what happened to my husband. If he was always low but was able to have one healthy child before things just deteriorated. We waited almost 3 years to try again after our first. I look back and wish we would have tried again instantly. I feel for anyone that is going through this. I can completely empathize.

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6 Tracy McKay August 2, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Thank you so much for all of your stories! During my struggle with secondary infertility I felt so alone and couldn’t find the kind if resource and support I was looking for. I decided to write a memoir, not only for my own sanity, but also in the hopes it would help women experiencing this same kind of loneliness. After a year of trying to get an agent’s interest and after being told by one agent that infertility is too “touchy” of a topic, I decided to publish it via Amazon and Smashwords. It is titled Making Meant to Be: One Woman’s Journey with Secondary Infertility and is available on Amazon and numerous other e-reader sites. I hope that with enough people sharing their stories, women suffering from secondary infertility will feel more informed and supported. Thanks so much for taking the time to write your thoughts!

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7 Alyssa Chudzick December 27, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Tracy:

I have read your book several times. Thank you so much for sharing your story. You have no idea how much your words have helped me.

Not to sound creepy, but I have looked for you numerous times on FB and the internet so that I can send you a letter of thanks. If you get this and are willing to share your email, I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to finally be able to do that.

My email address is akaebrown@aol.com

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8 Kate October 4, 2013 at 4:22 pm

After 9 years of suffering from secondary infertility I am now almost 6 months pregnant with another baby boy. And I have Prophetess Asheika Stewart to thank!The whole process has it’s ups and downs as anyone having gone through it knows, but Prophetess Asheika Stewart prayed for me and my husband, and gave us her support and every step of the way, she recommended me her herbal pills.
Prophetess Asheika Stewart did not give me false hope or empty promises and she definitely doesn’t sugar coat things. Instead she called me and give me advise and ask to know how I was feeling, she opened up to reassure me after a small scare, and she always called herself with pertinent news. Her service are warm and kind and understands the sensitivity behind this process. The only thing left to say is thank you, thank you, thank you…For making me a mother again and for giving my son the sibling he’s been longing for!

you can always visit her on prophetessasheikastewart@yahoo.com

Christine

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9 Char February 8, 2014 at 11:02 am

Thanks for sharing this! I’m currently going through secondary infertility, and have been looking for resources where I fit in! I don’t fit in with any of my mommy OR infertile friends (as far as experiences with motherhood goes) so thank yo again!
-Char
http://www.lifesbettertogether.com/
Char recently posted..A Journey (part 2) — The Dreaded Due Date.My Profile

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10 Kim Leonard April 25, 2014 at 9:35 pm

I got pregnant at 24 and had an easy delivery with no complications. Next, my husband and I did nothing the first five years to avoid pregnancy in hope of a second child. We went to an infertility specialist who said I had 2nd Infertility. At 34 I finally got the news we had waited ten years for: PPT. Positive Pregnancy Test.

I delivered a baby girl with no problems thanks to a little test tube at U of Chicago. They told us to come back if we wanted another one. We both decided we were content with two beautiful children.

FIVE years later and much to our DENIAL: PPT ! We couldn’t believe it. We finished our family 16 years later. I now have a 20-9-5 year old children. I never gave up and had my heart broken many times. It yearned for a family. My last child I delivered at 39 y/o. God has been good to our family. I am not terribly religious but I believes He answers prayers on His timeline.

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