14th June 2018
Akiko Ganivet writes about her experience of secondary infertility and shares a message to women facing the same struggle.
I am sick of taking folic acid. After nearly three years of trying for our second child, the morning ritual of opening up my pillbox seems more and more futile with each passing day. When my period comes, after days of wondering and hoping, I now tend to skip my pills to show defiance. To whom, I’m not sure, but it makes me feel better, which at this stage is all that counts.
My first child was conceived naturally after only three months. She is four years and four months now, full of life, dances and questions about her big-girl life ahead. Officially, we started trying for our second child when she was one and a half. The first year was one of incredulity. Why wasn’t I getting pregnant? We’d done it so easily before. I was so very hopeful that each month I’d have to make a mad dash to the chemist to buy sanitary napkins and a resupply of folic acid – I never bought more than a month’s supply. The big tub of pregnancy and breastfeeding multi-vitamins however, sat idly in my cupboard and eventually expired.
The second year was one of false hope and sighs of resignation. I yearned for a second baby to make our happy family complete. I have a younger sister with whom I still share clothing and gossip, and I desperately want that for my daughter. I also want her to learn that love has to be shared – something second child would afford. Every day I stepped into a world full of mothers with second babies and sometimes a third on the way, and it was hard. Dropping off my daughter at day care or going to the local park became a constant reminder of my own failure to conceive.
Of course, already having had one child was a blessing. But because I had her, I felt that I had no right to whinge about my sudden onset of infertility. Every month a week after ovulation, I wondered if the lower abdominal pricks of pain were a sign of implantation of the embryo. I wondered if my constipation was a sign of pregnancy. I was agonizingly obsessed and when I finally got my period, it was always a huge let down. My friend joked that I should buy shares in a company that makes pregnancy test kits. Maybe I should have.
A year ago, I sought help from an IVF specialist. With his help I learned that my husband’s sperm was fine; it was I who was the problem. We tried two cycles of IUI (intrauterine insemination) and one cycle of IVF (in vitro fertilisation), which ended up with five frozen embryos. The specialist was too mechanical and cold and I felt no connection to him. So I changed specialists. The new guy was fantastic: he told me that yes, I WILL get pregnant and that we could do this together. It was just what I wanted to hear. Then he asked me why I’d not had surgery to check for endometriosis, which could be the cause of my infertility. My first specialist hadn’t even mentioned it.
I beat myself up about not having the endometriosis surgery done before trying IVF. I had made a point of not Googling my problems; I’d thought I would get too much conflicting information. But what if I had? Damn it, I would have known to ask for the surgery before we went the pricey IVF route. Eventually, after teary nights that only my husband knows about, I had the surgery, which revealed I had “significant” endometriosis. My second specialist reassured me that now that it was treated, I would have a higher chance of falling naturally pregnant. That was eight months ago. I am still not pregnant.
Today, in the waiting room of the IVF clinic to plan my third cycle, I see women come out of their appointments in tears. I feel guilty sitting there with my daughter, because many of those women are having problems conceiving their first child. We refrain from sharing our stories, perhaps because it is too painful. I’m afraid of not being able to say the right thing; we’re all desperate and sensitive in our own ways.
Like many four-year-old girls, my daughter is obsessed with weddings. Recently I asked her, “When you get married, how many children will you have?” She said that she only wanted one so she can have a pet cat as well, like we do at home. But I know that in her sweet little heart of hearts, she is patiently waiting for the arrival of her sibling. She once drew a picture at pre-school of me with a big belly and a pretty accurate drawing of a baby in it. Next to my belly was a smiling picture of my daughter. I knew then that this journey was not just about my husband and I. When my period comes, yet again, I will do my best not to be defeated.
While often we refrain from sharing our stories. My message to women would be that talking about these struggles can give us strength in the face of adversity.
I know I am lucky, and I am so grateful. Our daughter is full of life and still loving being the ‘favourite’ only child. I love the mother-daughter time I have with her, particularly when we catch up at the end of the day in bath together. I have no regrets about the pursuit of a sibling for her.