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PREVIEW: When Will My Second Baby Get Here and How Do I Cope? by Janet Philbin

Are you ready for your next baby and are you having a hard time conceiving?  I want to talk about secondary infertility, a topic that does not get much space in parenting magazines.  Secondary infertility is defined by Resolve (The National Infertility Organization) as, “The inability to conceive or have a full-term pregnancy after having children without difficulty.” As a clinical social worker, I specialize in working with women and couples who struggle with primary and secondary infertility.  Secondary infertility can also occur after a couple or woman goes through primary infertility. Though Resolve defines it as “after having previous children without difficulty”, I disagree. I believe anytime a couple or woman experiences difficulty becoming pregnant after having a child she is experiencing secondary infertility.

The distinction that I want to look at between primary and secondary infertility is the emotional one.  If you are reading this magazine that means you are more than likely already a parent. And for the purposes of this article, I will refer to the woman but please know the emotional issues that arise with secondary infertility also affect men.  If you are a man reading this, I am speaking to you as well.

Secondary infertility is full of pain and grief.  This grief is called disenfranchised grief. It is grief not socially sanctioned by society at large. When society does not recognize our grief as real it becomes something that is kept a secret. You may feel like you are not allowed to be experiencing it. When there is already one child in a family, others make assumptions and easily voice those assumptions without giving consideration to the deep pain being inflicted.  Some of those assumptions may be: she does not want more children, she is selfish for not having another child or they are not trying to have more children. The woman is asked very personal questions about wanting/not wanting more children. When these questions are asked, she is forced to make a decision. Does she share her pain of not being able to conceive again, which is full of societal stigma, or hide the truth? In the hiding of the truth, the emotional pain deepens and it is carried within, causing even deeper emotional wounds, like shame and blame.

Oh, rats!  It’s so frustrating when you get cut off just as you were getting really interested.

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