Secondary infertility can occur as a result of illness, certain types of lifestyle choices, or by damage to the reproductive system.
This is her story.
I know, you read that title and are all “whaaa??” Unfortunately that is what happened to me after my fourth and final pregnancy. I’ve been pregnant four times and have one living child.
My first pregnancy was completely uneventful and totally successful. I gave birth to a wonderful baby girl in May of 2006. She is the light of my life and it goes without saying that I love her more fiercely than I’ve ever loved anyone.
My second pregnancy, in June of 2007, ended in a “planned” termination. I chose the word planned because it was a decision that my husband and I made together. It was undoubtedly the hardest decision of my life. I had to do what was right for me and my family at that time in our lives.
My third pregnancy in December of 2010 was my first ectopic pregnancy.
I started spotting four days after I got a positive home pregnancy test. I called the doctor’s office and for the two weeks following that positive pregnancy test I went every other day to the doctor’s office for a blood draw to check for increasing hormone levels and for intermittent ultrasounds to try and find the pregnancy. My levels increased, not at the normal rate but they were increasing. However, in all the ultrasounds that I had done the pregnancy was never found.
Late one Saturday night I began to have severe cramping and went to the ER right away. After thorough exams and an extremely painful ultrasound it was determined that I was going to need emergency surgery. Right then. At 3:30 in the morning.
I was alone and scared. A few hours after the operation, when I was in a not so drugged state, I was told that my body was trying to expel the pregnancy and I was beginning to bleed internally from the damage. The result of the surgery was not only the loss of my third pregnancy but the loss of my right ovary and fallopian tube.
My fourth pregnancy in August of 2011 was my second ectopic and final pregnancy. Again like the first ectopic I starting having severe cramping a couple of weeks after my positive home test and headed to the ER. Unfortunately the timing of this couldn't have been worse; the day I went to the ER and found out that I was again having an ectopic pregnancy was the due date of the baby I lost from the first ectopic in December.
Fortunately this ectopic was found right away on the ultrasound that was done in the ER. Since this pregnancy was found and could be clearly diagnosed as an ectopic I did have the option of receiving an injection to terminate the unsuccessful pregnancy. The doctor and I chose the shot because of the fact that another surgery could be risky and I stood a chance of losing my remaining tube.
In hindsight opting for the shot was by far, for me, the worst decision. After receiving the shot I had to have weekly blood draw appointments at my doctor’s office to make sure the hormone levels came down to zero. I went to these appointments for seven weeks after the shot was given. Each week was a reminder of the failure of my reproductive system. The failure of myself as a woman.
A few months after my second ectopic pregnancy I elected to have an IUD placed. After the placement a routine ultrasound was performed and my doctor found something “odd” near my remaining ovary.
After an additional ultrasound was performed four weeks later it was determined that I had a couple ovarian cysts, that we would keep an eye on them and that they would probably go away. They didn’t go away. Seven months later I found myself faced with the decision of having surgery to go in and clean out the cysts. My doctor and I were hesitant to go the surgery route because of the risks. I ultimately chose to move forward with the surgery as I just wanted this nightmare to be over.
As a result of the operation in May of 2012 a damaged - damage sustained from the previous ectopic pregnancy - portion of my remaining left fallopian tube was removed. The portion of the remaining tube was “clipped” off as they would do in a tubal ligation. My doctor knew my wishes going into surgery and she did discuss this with my husband prior to completing the ligation and I am glad that she made that final determination.
I ended up not having ovarian cysts but rather small pockets of damaged tubal tissue that had filled with fluid. Those were also removed.
It took a total of five years to get here but I am now at a point in my life where I will no longer be able to have any more biological children. I never thought this day would come. Even as a child I dreamed of being a mom to many children. Adoption is not totally out of the question but for now I need time for my soul to heal.
What I do have now are answers and closure. This door has closed but perhaps another one will open. I can take this information and move forward with my life and be the best possible mom to the one child I do have.
Secondary Infertility is a grief that knows no bounds.
This is her story:
We started trying to get pregnant after a pregnancy scare.
My now-husband and I were newly engaged, my period was late, we were both convinced I was pregnant. Finally, I took a pregnancy test and discovered I wasn't pregnant. We were both disappointed, and decided to start actively trying to get pregnant. Our wedding was a year away, so we figured if we got pregnant within the next two months, the dates would work out.
It didn't happen
Three months before our wedding, we started trying to get pregnant again. A year later (ironically the month we'd stopped trying as I'd just started a new job), I finally got a positive pregnancy test.
I spent the first half of my pregnancy nauseous and vomiting. By the time I'd started to feel better, I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia and spent the remainder of my pregnancy on bedrest. It didn't help that my OB was an idiot, however, my daughter was born at 38 weeks via c-section - we are both very lucky to be alive.
When she was four months old, I started to develop extremely familiar symptoms. I took a dozen pregnancy tests, all of which said I was pregnant. I hadn't even had my period yet - I was breastfeeding. My husband and I were absolutely shocked as it'd taken so long to get pregnant with our first.
My second pregnancy was much easier until week 30 when I, once again, developed pre-eclampsia Thankfully, I had an amazing doctor and while we were preparing for a very premature baby, I was placed on hospital bedrest and given medications to manage the preeclampsia. I was then able to go home (no bedrest).
My second daughter was born at 37 weeks via repeat C-section.
That was five years ago next month.
We've been trying to get pregnant for the last four years. I'd taken two rounds of the birth control shot after my second daughter was born. When I stopped the shot, my always normal and dependable cycle went crazy.
Sometimes it would be 28 days long, others 32 days. Once, I had a 40-day cycle. Every once in awhile, I'd miss a period altogether. My periods themselves have been fairly normal but that's the only normal thing about my cycle now.
Two months ago, after more negative pregnancy tests than I care to count - that's what happens when you never know when to expect your period - my husband and I decided to go see my gynecologist.
She sent him for a sperm analysis while I underwent blood tests and an ultrasound.
We'll be seeing her soon to find out the result of the tests, and likely begin to take Clomid to help induce ovulation. We can try two or three cycles with Clomid before she sends us into the city to a fertility specialist.
Today is day 34 of my cycle; two days past my longest average cycle. As usual, I was certain I was pregnant.
I tested today.
It was negative.
I don't know how much more heartbreak I can take.
We badly want another baby, it just doesn't seem like it's going to happen. I know that with treatment, we'll have a better shot at getting pregnant, that next month I could become pregnant, but today, I'm scared I won't have another baby.
My husband's work benefits will cover up to $15,000 in fertility drugs but no procedures, so if we want to get really aggressive, we foot the bill. We're not willing to spend thousands of dollars to maybe get pregnant. We have two kids to support, our futures to plan, so that isn't going to happen.
Nobody knows we've been trying to conceive.
We keep hearing "When are you going to have another?" or "Are you going to try for a boy?" It's knife to the heart every. single. time. We usually shrug it off and say "We'll see."
My mom has made it clear that due to my pregnancy complications, she doesn't think we should have another baby (even though it was only poor medical management of my first pregnancy that put us in danger). Knowing she's against this adds more stress - we don't want to hear her say that we shouldn't be trying, or that it's a sign I shouldn't get pregnant.
I know we already have two kids and I am so thankful, so blessed to have them, but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt that we can't seem to add another child into our family. I want a big family; I want my kids to have lots of siblings to lean on, to grow up with, to support each other when my husband and I are gone.
This all feels so unfair.
I made a choice many years ago not to have any more children. At that moment, it was the right choice. My life was not meant to have any more, at that time. Now? Things have changed drastically.
A baby is all I can think about. Every single time someone I know announces a new baby coming into their life, it stings.
It is so hard to put on a happy face - even for your best friend who tried desperately to have a baby- when you know it will never be you. It is even harder to watch people who have no business bringing a baby into their chaotic lives, popping them out like a machine.
That is all I want. It doesn't matter if that one is a boy or girl. It doesn't matter the race, color, nationality... nothing matters. Special needs? No problem. We would love him, or her, all the same!
Yes, I know there are options. They have been researched, to the ends of the earth and back again.
Tubal reversal: Not an option. I am not a good candidate and it would likely be a waste of $5000 or more.
IVF: Crazy expensive. Again, not our best option due to my "advanced maternal age" and hormone levels. Plus, I've watched someone go through IVF. The physical and mental anguish is more than I could go through, especially with no guarantee of a baby to show for it in the end.
Foster to Adopt: This would the most likely choice. There are so many children out there who need a loving home like we could provide. But do you know how many children we could learn to love, and then say goodbye to before we were finally given one to make our forever child? How many times can you leave a piece of your heart walk out your door never to be seen again?
Adoption: Sure, we could call up an agency and get things started. If we had $40,000 or more to spend on a domestic adoption laying around. I don't even want to know how much the cost would be for an international adoption.
We recently came very close to having our dream come true.
We were connected with a young mother who was considering putting her unborn baby up for adoption.
She and her baby's daddy were not together anymore. He claimed the baby wasn't his, and said he would sign the papers. Everything seemed to be lining up to make this possibility a reality.
She was 31 weeks along, and had not yet found out if the baby was a girl or boy. She asked if we wanted to know. I got a text that said, "The baby is a boy."
I cried with joy. A son.
We were going to have a son!
We chose a name for him. We planned some home renovations to get his room ready for him. We made all the calls to find out what we would have to do legally.
The paperwork came and I started to fill it out. Learning in the process that an identified private adoption is only $5000-6000, and even that would be reimbursed.
We met the birth mom. We really liked her, and she liked us. We talked for hours about the baby, and other stuff. We assured her we wanted her to be a part of his life. We would want him to know where he came from. He would know that he is loved by her.
With paperwork taking 6-8 weeks, we were in a time crunch. We learned we would be allowed to bring our son home with us, even if the paperwork was not finalized. It would just say "in progress."
And then it happened.
She had a change of heart.
My heart changed too. It broke.
She has a new boyfriend, who told her he would stick by her whatever choice she made. Although she has no job at this time, she figures he will support her and the baby until she is able to do it herself. I want to wish her the best, but in reality, they are young, and the chances are not good that they will stay together.
Not a day goes by that I don't think about that baby boy for hours.
What is he going to look like? What is his little personality going to be like? Will he like sports? Cars? What is his favorite color going to be? Will his hair be curly or straight? What color are his eyes? I can't get him out of my head, or my heart. He was to be my son. I love him!
I don't know how I am going to deal with it the day she sends me the text that he was born. I know she will send me a photo of him.
His birthday will be burned into my heart forever.
I am trying to be strong for my husband. He feels it wasn't meant to be right now, and it will happen one day.
But I'm losing hope. This has been such an emotionally draining experience. How do I walk forward and try again?
I mourn for the son who will never be ours.
I love you already, baby boy.
So many of us struggle with infertility, yet we do so in the shadows. The unspoken struggles of eerily white negative pregnancy tests.
The heartbreak of another month gone; our wombs longing for children.
Something so natural, something so normal, something we cannot do. It divides us from the rest of the world.
This month, The Band, we're inviting all of you who have struggled with infertility and miscarriage to bring your stories to the light.It's time to shine the spotlight on infertility and destroy the shadows we live in.
Here in the Cruz household, we never to do anything in half measures. That applies to medical issues as well as everything else.
In early 2006, my husband Vic was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. While it's not a diagnosis anyone wants to get, our attitude at the time was that at least it was a treatable and a manageable disease...little did we know.
I remember one of the first things Vic's doctor asked him at the first appointment where he learned about managing his diabetes.
*Dr. Thomas looked at Vic and asked, "Have you noticed any decrease in your sex drive or ability to perform?"
Vic laughed and said, "We have a three-month old baby. Any change in sex drive has been chalked up to exhaustion."
Dr. Thomas told Vic that erectile dysfunction is a frequent side effect of diabetes (due to impaired blood flow) and if the sex drive didn't pick back up as the diabetes came under control, Vic should let him know.
Eventually, Viagra was prescribed and Daddy's Little Helper took care of the issue. When we decided to try to complete our family, Viagra was obviously part of the plan but I didn't think it would have a major role.
Less than three months after we started trying again, Vic's diabetes decided to rebel. Blood sugars that had previously been fairly well in hand spiraled out of control.
A pancreas that was feeling ignored by the body decided that since the body wasn't using its insulin, it would stop making insulin at all. Although he was still technically a Type 2 Diabetic, he was now completely insulin-dependent. At this point, Viagra became a big part of our efforts, not because it helped, but because it had stopped working reliably.
While Vic's endocrinologist eventually got his blood sugar under control, it took massive doses of insulin to do so. Those massive doses of insulin controlled his blood sugar levels but they never allowed the Viagra to work well again and the doses of insulin definitely never allowed us to ditch Daddy's Little Helper.
In fact, the massive doses of insulin caused (and still cause) all kinds of other issues such as weight gain (Yes, it really is a side effect of large doses of insulin.) which exacerbated the diabetes. And, while Vic's blood sugar levels were mostly controlled, his weight went up, his energy levels went way down, and he started to develop peripheral neuropathy.
And, let me tell you, that peripheral neuropathy is a real bitch. When people talk about peripheral diabetic neuropathy, they think about it affecting the feet, maybe some numbness and pain. What no one ever tells you is that peripheral diabetic neuropathy can also cause some loss of sensation in the genital area.
So, at this point you have blood flow issues and loss of sensation coupled with the Viagra not working, which meant that our efforts to conceive came to a screeching halt. Honestly, I was in mourning - not only the loss of a potential fourth child but also the loss of our sex life. I loved and do love my husband. Nothing will change that... but I missed our sex life.
At some point, Vic had to change endocrinologists. This turned out to be a truly fabulous thing. His new doctor finally got a handle on his blood sugar and, a little over a year ago, that endocrinologist finally tested Vic's thyroid function - something that should have been checked from day one. Vic turned out to have a pretty severe case of hypothyroidism. His under-functioning thyroid was a major cause of his lack of energy. Then, about three and a half months ago, Vic switched endocrinologists once again because, while he loved the doctor, the office staff sucked.
Once again, the doctor change turned out to be a wonderful thing. His newest doctor is truly sharp and on the ball. She was the first one who mentioned to Vic that not only is the thyroid frequently affected by diabetes but, often times, testosterone levels hit the bottom of the barrel when a thyroid is so severely affected.
Sure enough, once again it was a case of doing things in grand fashion. When it was tested, Vic's testosterone levels came back as being abnormally low. It was strike three against any possible efforts to conceive and it was a classic case of male factor infertility, diabetes-style.
It was infertility: take two for the Cruz family.
That's why I went silent about infertility for so long. While it was part of our infertility journey, it wasn't mine to tell. At least, not without permission. Also, I just couldn't quite deal with it all until there was a possibility of some solution, some resolution.
Finally, I want to say a special and heartfelt thank you to my wonderful husband, Vic, for allowing me to share this story. It takes a special man to have the confidence to share a story like this. When I asked Vic if it was all right to share this, he not only said yes, but he told me that he thought it was really important to get this information out so it could possibly help someone.
To quote Vic directly, "When your body says fuck you, start getting tests done."
So many of us struggle with infertility,
yet we do so in the shadows. The unspoken struggles of eerily white negative pregnancy tests.
The heartbreak of another month gone; our
wombs longing for children. Something so natural, something so normal, something we cannot do.
It divides us from the rest of the world.
month, The Band, we're inviting all of you who have struggled with infertility and miscarriage to bring your stories to the light.
It's time to shine the spotlight on infertility and destroy the shadows we live in.
At six-years old, I was burned by hot cooking oil. That same year, I had my appendix removed.
I gained a cesarean scar at the age of 27, and again at 30 and 35.
These are only the big scars among the visible scars on my body.
I barely notice these scars anymore. I really only think of them when chronicling my medical history.
These are not the scars that mark me the most. These are not the scars that mark my soul.
The scars that mark my soul are much more subtle. They are something not even a doctor could find.
They are the scars left behind by infertility.
Infertility stripped away my faith in my body.
When you grow up and dream of a family, you assume that when you want to start a family it will happen without delay or trouble.
With infertility, that is proven false.
I no longer automatically believed that my body would do what it was supposed to do.
I no longer believed every pregnancy would bring a baby.
Infertility destroyed my faith in medical odds.
Sure, we had occasionally ended up on the wrong side of the medical odds before infertility; once we started down the IF highway, the odds were never in our favor.
Time and time again, things should have worked out but then they didn't.
I honestly think that the next doctor who tells me it only happens to 5-10% of patients might get bitch-slapped because it seems that I'm always one of them.
Infertility stripped me of the pure joy I had previously felt when a pregnancy was announced.
I'm still happy for my friends when they announce their pregnancies, but the happiness is tainted by worry and a little side helping of "why not me."
Now, years later, the scars of infertility have faded. They are no longer a throbbing, painful reminder of all we fought against and all we lost.
They've, instead, faded into a silvery map covering my heart and soul.
Every now and then something triggers the memories and longings, and those scars become painfully real again.
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