Updated: Nov 22
When my daughter was almost 2 and I was 37, my husband and I started trying for a second child because they deem you geriatric after 35 and we didn’t want to wait too long. I am an A type personality and wanted to get things done in a timely manner so I got my IUD and we started working on it. I assumed ok, it’ll be just like the first time. First try and we'd get a kid, right? I did have my doubts because our daughter was still little and needed me a lot. My husband's work and hospital schedule kept him busy and away from us a lot of the time. Plus we had no family close by so I would continue to be the main caretaker of our kid/s.
I was also seeking a redo for my birth experience. My labor was pretty smooth but I wanted my daughter with me, not in the NICU. I wanted to snuggle her, nurse her, and have that first golden hour with her but she had tubes in her nose and throat to help her breathe. I am forever grateful for the support she and I both received but it was not how I envisioned her first moments on this earth. It broke my heart seeing her intubated but I also saw her strength. Even at a few hours old she was feisty. She kept pulling the tubes out and they had to tape them down. She also wore out the nurses trying to put her to sleep. She had FOMO at birth and didn’t want to miss a moment out of life.
The next time around, I envisioned a home birth with a midwife and doula in our house. I even interviewed a few professionals in the field to see if it would be possible with my age and fibroid issues and they said yes. Yet I was going to get an awakening about how this next experience would be.
As I mentioned, I was nervous about having another child since I would basically have to do everything for our family so I was hesitant at first about trying. However, I knew it could take time and that we’d figure it out. Our family would definitely help us for a few weeks at the beginning which they did in Seattle. We’d probably use a postpartum doula also during those early days, which is what we did when we had our daughter. She was an amazing and knowledgeable support person and let us sleep more!
Our neighbors in Columbia are also a huge support for us and they all have kids our daughters age so they would totally step up. See I had a plan! But I sometimes think my feelings of doubt at the beginning of trying made it not happen. Like my intuition and body knew that having one child was what was right for me, but it was a hard transition feeling that way. I always thought we’d have at least 2 kids so they would have a sibling.
We kept trying for months but getting pregnant the first try again was not in the cards and I slowly began to feel bitter about my body not working like it should have. I had enjoyed being pregnant with my daughter and even those early days are filled with fond memories of infant love and amazement at the fact that I could make food for my baby. But this time around I didn’t feel that easy bliss. I felt betrayed by what my body couldn't do.
At the same time people would ask me almost daily when we were having another child- from strangers at the playground, especially men, to close friends and family members. When people asked specifically if we were having more kids, I simply say “I’m trying” or “I can’t” even though it is none of their business. I just wanted to shut them down and make them realize that not everyone can just have another kid or even a first one. I am now so much more aware of how I talk to other women and want to be careful not to intrude on their motherhood journey wherever they are. People would say "Just Relax" or "Just don't think about it" which drove me insane. Those were the most frustrating words you want someone to say- especially when infertility is a medical condition, not a mental process.
Each month I kept expecting a pregnancy to happen because why not? We would try, I would do the math and think about what month the baby would arrive, then be disappointed when my period came. At 6 months I went back to my OB/GYN and they did more tests, an ultrasound on me, and they tested my husband this time. Everything checked out from hormone levels, uterine lining, to my husband’s boys-they all looked good. I almost wished it had been a problem with my husband, not me.
My doctor said just keep trying so we did naturally because I wasn’t ready or willing to take the steps with a specialist or do more invasive treatments yet. Trying to conceive (TTC) started to consume me and each month was this let down. I just didn’t understand because I did everything “right and natural”. I ate well, was active, did acupuncture, saw a chiropractor, and practiced yoga and breathwork. I kept thinking about the future and this “baby” that wasn’t coming. I wasn’t present with my daughter and it broke my heart that I wasn’t appreciating what I already was blessed with. I wanted her to have a sibling, just like me and my husband did. I have two amazing sisters with whom I am very close to and I wanted that for her.
After about a year, we took a break from trying to conceive a human child and decided to get a puppy. That gave us a breather from trying because puppies are like having an infant who is awake at night and poops and pees itself and bites. Our focus became training our puppy to be a part of the family and not a monster, which took a lot of time and energy! We named the pup Nia, which means Purpose in Swahili. I believe she came into our lives with the purpose of completing our family.
At around 3 years old, my daughter started asking for a sibling adding to the pressure I already felt to reproduce. Everyone around her had a sibling or were having babies all the time- our neighbors, my prenatal yoga students, family members, and friends. We live in the South and it seems like everyone has 3-5 kids and with no problems. Like they sneezed and they got pregnant! It was difficult working in prenatal and postnatal yoga when I was TTC. Even though I knew the difficulty and the reality for many women who shared their stories- lots of them had to do IVF or other assisted reproductive technology. Some shared stories of miscarriages and years of TTC.
It was a difficult and painful period of trying to conceive with no success. We kept trying and trying and finally went to a reproductive specialist about 1.5 years in. We did a procedure called an HSG where they insert dye vaginally and take x-rays. The reproductive endocrinologist (RE) saw that one of my fallopian tubes was blocked and Leo was messing with my uterus. According to this RE, I wouldn’t be able to have another child without invasive and expensive medical procedures- an open abdominal myomectomy to remove the fibroid (2-5 days in the hospital and a 6-8 week recovery), IVF, and then a C-section (6 more weeks of recovery). She said all this information while I lay there on the table, legs spread, in the gown, butt hanging out, and said I should schedule the surgery and left the room.
It was the worst bedside manner I’ve ever had. I sat up and it just hit me. I started balling knowing that this was probably too much for me and my family to handle. She didn’t say let's talk in my office or make an appointment to discuss with your husband the options. Luckily the nurse stayed with me and comforted me while I cried and processed. I had envisioned a home birth after our baby was conceived the old fashioned way of just having sex with my spouse. This new scenario told me I was broken and it would take so much to fix. I went from trying to have a baby to YOU ARE INFERTILE! It was like my identity changed in one moment.
At home, I had a 3 year old child, a 6 month old puppy, a husband who worked crazy unpredictable hours, no family nearby and I had just launched my own yoga business. It did not seem feasible at the time to go through all of these procedures. Plus I would do so much to my body without any guarantee of having a baby at the end of the journey.
That night I was scheduled to teach a Prenatal yoga class and I did. I was the only one teaching yoga to pregnant women in my city at the time and I felt bad letting my students down so I went to class. It was a really difficult time but yoga was my passion and I wanted these moms to be able to have the benefits that I did while pregnant. I also knew many of them had challenging journeys toward motherhood and I wanted to be there for them. After class I called my sister and told her the news and cried. We spoke briefly about adoption, she works in that arena, and she told me to give myself time to grieve the news.
As a family we discussed my appointment results and the fact that yes I was now Infertile with secondary infertility. We made the heartbreaking decision not to pursue the procedures and stopped actively trying for more kids. I had never even heard the term secondary infertility from medical professionals even though I had been trying to conceive for almost 2 years. A friend who is a doula and struggled with miscarriages told me the term and I began going down the google rabbit hole to find out what it was and why it was happening to me.
I found out that about 50% of infertility is secondary. Even though secondary infertility is as common as primary, I didn’t know anyone else who struggled with it and I felt lonely and isolated. I started searching for books and resources to explain this and hear other women's secondary infertility stories. There weren’t many. I didn’t know how to wear this new identity or say it. “I have secondary infertility”, “I struggle with secondary infertility”, “I am infertile”, I wanted none of this! I didn’t want it to define me like a deficit. I found one memoir of a woman struggling with secondary infertility but in the appendix she ends up having a 2nd kid! A huge letdown.
I only told a few family members and my closest friends- it’s not an easy conversation to have at a family dinner or drinks with my girls. There weren’t that many women out there sharing their stories and even fewer resources for children to explain to my daughter why my uterus doesn’t work.
I also started researching other options other than having biological children like adoption and surrogacy. Adoption has been ever present in my life so that was part of my idea of our family building. My sisters are both of Korean descent and I loved growing up in a unique family. However, my husband and I didn’t have the same feelings about it and the time and energy needed to pursue these options was immense and were ultimately out of reach for us.
We explained what was going on with our daughter (who calls it my Fi-Bu-Roid) but she still wanted a baby sister (specifically) and kept asking. Then 2020 hit and the world blew up. I stopped teaching yoga in person and moved a few classes online but took a step back from working with expectant and new moms for my mental health. I also didn’t go out as much as we were on lockdown and that took some of the outside comments and intrusive questions out of my daily routine. Quarantining and getting off social media really helped my mental health.
I was overwhelmed with my daughter's school closing and being home with her and our puppy full time while my husband was working at a hospital with a lot of sick people. Like basically everyone, 2020-21 was a shit show of uncertainty so I let go of even the option of another child. It was almost a relief and I was able to let go of this pressure on myself. I tried finding other groups of women online who were struggling with secondary infertility. Unfortunately all the groups were women who were still trying to conceive and I wanted a community that focused more on having 1 child and being content with that outcome. I wasn’t able to connect to a group like that until I rejoined social media a year later.
While we were home together a lot more my daughter kept asking for a sibling. My heart was breaking for her and myself so I started working with a therapist. I needed help and support from outside.
The therapist recommended we write a story about how we were feeling. Together my daughter (who was almost 5 at the time) and I wrote the book On Brighter Days that we then published. We discussed all of our feelings about wanting a baby but not being able to have one and being okay with our family of three (plus one if you include Nia, who she often refers to as her sister).
A few months later, I also joined a moms group with women with Only children which has been so validating and supportive that this family size is the right one for us. At our January 2022 zoom meet up we discussed new year’s resolutions and someone brought up a word for the year. She chose Rebirth and I felt that word resonated with me. I was ready for a Rebirth during this year of the Tiger!