You may have come across a group on social media that makes funny skits about stereotypical behaviors of people living in the South. I have watched a handful of them when I’m mindlessly scrolling and they are very cute. One in particular comes to mind now. It starts with a newly married couple leaving the church and stopping on the top of the steps to discuss how this is the happiest day of their lives and steal a quick kiss. As they step apart from each other, three stereotypical southern grandmothers are behind them to say, “When are you two going to have a baby?” The rest of the skit is the couple living life and as simple things come up like the wife refusing a glass of wine at dinner, those grandmothers peek around the corner thinking this is a sign she’s pregnant but of course she’s not. At the end of the skit, the newlyweds are now new parents walking in with their brand new daughter and as they welcome her home, the grandmothers are waiting in the living room to ask, “So, when’s Miss Anna Beth gonna have a little baby brother or sister?”
As most women do at one time or another, I’ve dealt with these questions myself. Truthfully it wasn’t much of an issue to me at first. But as my son was about 2-3 years old, when some might think it was the perfect time for another baby, no one would truly be able to understand the punch in the gut I’d experience every time I’d be asked, “So, when’s Blake gonna have a little baby brother or sister?”
My reaction to this question was typically to shrug and say, “Oh, I don’t know.” However, the truth was we wanted to expand our family and just weren’t able to. Eventually, I went to the doctor a number of times and the end result was that I wouldn’t be able to have any more children on my own. This was something I was extremely confused by because I didn’t have trouble getting pregnant the first time around. I have come to know now that secondary infertility, or infertility after a successful pregnancy, is more common than I realized.
A Diagnosis of Secondary Infertility
Upon learning this information, numerous feelings surfaced. I felt like I had let my husband, who wanted a big family, down. Our son, who’s started school at this point, would see his new friends who all had siblings and break my heart when he’d ask when he was going to have a brother, too. Each month that would go by and we weren’t successful in getting pregnant I would feel like a failure.
And then came all of the opinions and thoughts from others. I would have to remind myself that everyone meant well but to say my patience wasn’t tested would be a lie. I’ve heard plenty about how my son needs a lifelong companion, and about how only children are bratty, spoiled and can’t play well with other kids. And every time I’d either internalize what was being said and feel guilty or find myself being aggravated and thinking, “Whether he has a sibling or not is none of your business.”
Secondary Infertility and Guilt
I also feel like Secondary Infertility comes with it’s own special level of guilt. As you work through emotions of frustration, heartbreak and grieving what will likely never be, you are also overwhelmed by the nagging feeling that you’re being selfish and spoiled because you already have a child of your own. So many people are longing to be parents and aren’t yet. It just didn’t always seem right to be complaining about not being able to have another baby.
Today, my son is 11, nearly 12, and this journey with infertility has been one with all of the stages of grief. At this point, it still hurts, of course, but as I’ve worked through it I’ve met with the reality that there is no wrong family. Would we have loved to have more children? Absolutely. But it is evident at this point that a bigger family isn’t meant to be and that is OK, too. My son doesn’t have siblings. Yet he has several cousins that he’s lucky to spend time with and make memories. And while he is admittedly a bit spoiled, he’s also a very polite, respectful, friendly kid who has always played well with others and made friends.
In addition to accepting that reality, the best thing I have done is to insist on a couple of things I just don’t allow myself to do:
- I no longer allow the opinions of others to affect my emotional well being. I have allowed myself to be honest. Initially, saying “Oh, I don’t know,” would mean I didn’t have to talk about it. Now being honest to those with all of that helpful “advice” and explaining that that’s something we wanted but not something we were able to have both gives me ownership of the situation and tends to make whomever I’m talking take the hint and change the subject.
- I no longer apologize for wanting more children. My heart goes out to anyone wanting to be a parent and not being able to be one yet. And I know they are experiencing their own emotional journey but it doesn’t make mine less valuable.
- I no longer apologize for my feelings in general. Sometimes I’m sad, sometimes I’m mad, sometimes I’m accepting and all are OK. Sometimes while I’m happy for them truly, I am jealous of a Facebook pregnancy announcement. You would think after nearly 10 years of dealing with this, those feelings would have gone away but they haven’t. And they might not but that too is OK.
If you’re dealing with infertility of any kind, whatever you’re thinking right now is valid and you’re going to come out of this on the other side alright. If you’re like me and the parent of an only child, if you’re met with the reality that this is what’s meant to be, they’ll be fine and so will you. And regardless what season of life you’re in, embrace all of your southern grandmothers. Know that they love you, give them a hug… and then politely change the subject.