"So when are you going to have another one?"
For a long time, that was a painful question for me to answer. More often now, since I'm over 40 and my daughter, Miriam, is a teenager, I'm asked: "Do you have any other children?" My reply always catches in my throat: "No, she's my only one."
I've spent the last 15 years brushing off the subject of pregnancy with a shrug, a light-hearted comment, or a curt remark, often while fighting back tears. Before I had Miriam, I endured a variety of fertility treatments, and my husband, Joe, and I were thrilled to finally hold Miriam in our arms. We figured our infertility problems were over.
Joe and I figured wrong. We staggered through treatments—this time bearing the extra medical expenses on one less income, since I quit my job to stay home with our daughter—before we decided to stop. Because we still longed for another child, we opted to pursue adoption. But our adoption plans either went awry or were prohibitively expensive.
I've discovered I'm not alone. I'm one of more than half a million women in the United States who know the joy of parenthood while experiencing the heartbreak of reproductive failure. I have secondary infertility.
Like most people, I assumed that despite my initial fertility struggles, because I bore one child, I could have more. But secondary infertility's even more of a shock to those who've had no previous problems. "If someone would have told me I'd be infertile four years ago, I would have laughed my head off," says Lesley, an Illinois woman. "How could someone who got pregnant twice without trying be infertile?"1