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Infertility: When We Compete, No One Wins

By Nichole |

Picture courtesy of Pinterest. Click photo for source.

Recently, a reader left me a comment in which I could feel that her heart was breaking from her infertility struggle.

And my heart broke right along with her.

But then, she closed with this:

“I wish you the best of luck with everything, but I’m sorry I can’t muster that much sympathy for someone looking for their third children [sic].”

And I immediately went on the defensive.

How could she presume to know how difficult this is for me?

How could she know that the desire for a third child wasn’t just as fierce as the first?

She knows as much about my struggles as I know about hers.

She doesn’t know that my father died when I was two and I have waited my entire life to have a family.

She doesn’t know that my brother died from SIDS and there is a hole in my life where he should be.

She doesn’t know that we’re older parents and I worry about leaving my children behind when we die? That my children will only have each other?

She knows nothing about our extended family. She can’t possibly know that my husband’s mother died last year. Or that we live on the opposite coast from my family.

She can’t know those things, because she hasn’t lived my life.

That’s the danger with infertility.

It can all too easily become a competition.

Who tried longer, who went to greater lengths, who had to overcome the most to have a baby.

But, the part that’s tough to see is that no one really wants to win that competition.

Secondary infertility is incredibly difficult because all too often there’s a lack of empathy for those who already have children.

The Resolve website covers secondary infertility. Here’s a brief bit:

Sadly, couples with secondary infertility tend to receive less social support from others than couples who have primary infertility because the infertility is unacknowledged, the pain associated with infertility is invisible as the couple has a child, and there is no concrete loss in the family. In addition, couples experiencing secondary infertility may be recipients of criticism by others who think they should be grateful for one child and that it is foolish to go to extremes to increase family size. Of course, a couple can be extraordinarily thankful for their existing child and still long for more children.

Having two children doesn’t make me hope for a third any less.

To read more about infertility, please visit Resolve.

I’m here for anyone who might want to talk about their struggle.

When we compete, no one wins.

When we support one another in our struggles, amazing things can happen.

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About Nichole

nichole

Nichole

Nichole Beaudry lives in Sacramento, California with her husband Craig, their daughter Katie and baby boy Matthew. In her former life she was a college English professor, now she shares some of her small moments in her Practicing Gratitude column each week at SheKnows and works at AllParenting as the Assignments Editor. She was a contributor to Babble, and currently keeps a personal blog, In These Small Moments.

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0 thoughts on “Infertility: When We Compete, No One Wins

  1. Alison@Mama Wants This says:

    It saddens me, when everything becomes a competition, even something as difficult as infertility. I’m sorry she made you feel this way Nichole. You know I think of you daily and have all my digits crossed for you that you WILL soon conceive this child so wanted. Love to you. xo

  2. Laura says:

    I commend you for writing this post. Motherhood is often and unfortunately about competition and it simply alienates us instead of bringing us together. I hope you find more people reaching out in support than competition! xo

  3. Rachel {at} Mommy Needs a Vacation says:

    I am so sorry that you felt this way and it truly saddens me when people make everything about a competition…especially infertility. You know my thoughts are with you always hoping for that + sign! xo

  4. Death of Sinan Ozyol says:

    Sorry, but I also can’t muster that much sympathy for someone wanting her 3rd. I’m NOT saying that 2 isn’t enough, or that you should already be happy with what you have, or that dying family members shouldn’t make you want more. But all of those sad things can just as well happen to people who are still trying for their first. And as bad as you have it, you could still have all the same life tragedies but still working and trying for your worst. Good luck with everything. (And no, I’m not competing against you. Babies are not a zero-sum game so that wouldn’t make sense anyway).

  5. angela says:

    What an awful competition, as though one couple’s desire to have a child trumps another couple’s in any way. Even if someone suffering from primary infertility feels like their life would be absolutely complete with one child, that doesn’t make a woman suffering from secondary infertility any less valid in her wanting of a baby.

    Judge not, treat others how you want to be treated, and all of those things boil down to Be Kind. Why is that so difficult to do?

    I’m sorry this happened Nichole; I know this is a struggle for you, and to deal with unkind people on top of it is just a lot to handle. xoxo

  6. Sherri says:

    Bravo sweet friend, and I know this was a hard one to write. But it needs to be said and talked about.

  7. Erin Margolin says:

    Nichole,

    We are in your corner, girlie. You are so right. This other person knows NOTHING about you. And how insensitive to think that secondary infertility is any easier or less emotional/traumatic!! I’m honestly outraged by this. I’m sorry you have had to deal with this, but I’m grateful you’ve shared it and know that you are educating people as you do!

    xoxo

  8. Brittany {Mommy Words} says:

    Oh Nichole I am so sorry. I know I am not in the same situation as I am Fertile Mertle but just seem to lose my pregnancies easily. Having 3 children and losing our fourth I reached out and found so much support but also many who thought it made it all better to say at least you have three.

    I am not in competition with anyone. I wish that everyone could easily have the babies they want.

    It is so important to keep this conversation and dialogue open so that people understand that when a baby is wanted, whether the first or any later, the struggle is just as real and just as important.

    Hugs!

  9. Elaine says:

    I’m so sorry that she tried to diminish your feelings. No matter what the situation, that’s just wrong. xoxo

  10. Rusti says:

    that really sucks that she felt it was necessary to include that line, it would have been much better left unsaid. it may be how she feels, but she didn’t need to put that on you, and I agree, no-one wins when this is made into a competition. sending you love and *hugs*

  11. kiki says:

    It’s bloody stupid to ever compare one’s own pain to another’s. It’s pointless. It does no one any good. You might as well argue over who has it worse, the person who loses both their legs above the knee, or the person paralyzed from the waist down. Not saying that I never unconsciously do it in my head, but I do always try to check myself – you can never, ever know what it feels like to be someone else, to walk a mile in their shoes, and comparing pain does nothing beneficial, even silently. I think we should all try our best to keep things in perspective, and be grateful for the things that we have, but we do still need to respect that sometimes things hurt, and what devastates us…devastates us, regardless of what anyone else has gone through.
    Best of luck, and tons of sticky baby dust!

  12. Kimberly says:

    It truly saddens me when people feel the need to compete or to judge. We’re women, we’re moms, we’re human. And that means that we all have struggles and hurt feelings. We should support each other and offer a gentle hug instead. It would make the world a better place.

  13. Katie says:

    I have never understood the “i don’t feel sorry for you because…” statements. No one asked her to feel sorry or have sympathy for you in the first place. You are simply sharing your story. I have never ever in all my time reading you read “dear readers, please feel bad for me” from you.

    And fine, she can’t feel sorry for you. Who cares? I feel sorry for anyone whose heart is so hard and cold that they can’t feel for a mother aching for a baby. No matter how many babies she has already had. Each child is a different person. You’re not asking for another Katie or another Matthew. You feel that there is a soul out there who belongs in your family. A someone new.

    My SIL adopted–not because she can’t get pregnant–but because she felt that the soul was already in the world. That baby–HER baby–was waiting somewhere for her.

    A mother’s heart knows when a piece of her family is missing.

    No matter if it’s the first baby or the 10th.

    And until that piece is united with the rest? The family is incomplete.

    Love you, Chole.

  14. Kir says:

    I loved Katie’s comment. You never did ask for pity or sympathy, just a bit of empathy for what you are going through. The 4 years I spent in the throes of my own wish to find my own missing pieces were horrible…lonely and hopeless..and by then I had lost my dad, all my grandmothers, my FIL three months after the wedding he coulsn’t attend because he was so ill. For me to bering all my “stuff” into the conversation is becoming defensive and petty about the struggle , a struggle that needs each one of us to lay down our own emotional weapons and be there for one another until we are all holding the babies we so desperately pray for.

    Thinking of you…praying for that wish to come true.

  15. Kimberly @ All Work No Play says:

    No one has the right to judge your situation unless they’ve walked in your shoes.
    That’s the messed up thing with Motherhood…
    Instead of holding each other’s hands and supporting one another, we bash, critique…
    To think of how awesome society would be if us women banded together…
    So sorry Nichole xoxo

  16. Sarah says:

    i admit that i sometimes feel that same way that the commenter did you’re referring to, but i am working on it (envy is a powerful thing). we’ve just come to the 1 year mark of trying to get pregnant with our first with no luck, and it gets really easy to become jealous and angry towards those who already have kids.

    but along the way i’ve learned that everyone’s struggle is still a struggle, whether it’s the first or the 10th, as katie said. i wouldn’t want someone pushing my feelings aside simply because i already had a child and was struggling for more, and i’m getting better at reminding myself of that when those horrible feelings start creeping up (usually right around the time my period shows up. again.)

    so thank you for the reminder. and good luck on your journey. :)

  17. Jaime says:

    You know…every day I read blogs, and there are times that I don’t agree or I’m not moved so you know what I do? I just don’t comment. It so angers me that people have to lay their baggage and issues on others. She really had no right to make you feel that way.

    The most common thing I heard after my miscarriage was “Well at least you have a child. That has to make it easier.”

    Really? I know that many of these people where trying to find the right thing to say…but really? Having one child makes it easier to lose another?

    I hate when others try to make you feel guilty for your feelings…like your not entitled to mourn every single month that you’re not pregnant because you already have children. Like I wasn’t entitled to mourn a pregnancy because I already had a child.

    I’m sorry Nichole. I’m still pulling for you and looking forward to the day I get to read “I’m pregnant” on your blog…because I know it’s going to happen.

    xoxoxo

  18. By Word of Mouth Musings says:

    Oh Nichole, people are tactless and thoughtless and sadly not selfless …
    I had a miscarriage right before Christmas once and a ‘well meaning’ friend said to me, ‘Well, now you can drink wine over the holidays!’
    Thinking of you, virtual hugs xxx

  19. Kelley says:

    I struggled with both- primary & secondary. Both hurt a lot. Your post was so well-written. My heart goes out to you for all of the losses that you have endured!

  20. Jen says:

    Resolve offers separate support groups in my area for primary and secondary infertility for a reason. They are very very different experiences – it is very different to feel that you may NEVER have a child, or never have a biological child versus that you may NEVER have the number of child you desperately want and envision. I have spoken with women who sob feeling like they will never hear the word “Mommy” or never have stockings to hang on the mantle. This doesn’t diminish any pain (can you tell someone with a terminal illness at 35 that she doesn’t have it as bad as someone in the same condition at 15?).

    I feel sympathy for both perspectives there – the woman aching to have A child and the woman aching to have ANOTHER child. I wish we could see these as qualitatively different experiences without judging either way. I feel for both women in this situation. But the list of “she doesn’t knows” feels like continuing the competition – who’s got it worse. The point isn’t whose got it worse or do we understand everything about another’s situation. It’s compassion for all who are suffering – even if (as in this situation) both lash out a bit.

  21. Left a ridiculously long comment back in your site. Sending hugs. You are very brave. Keep sharing. You’re helping people along the way. Xoxo

  22. Tonya says:

    This really pisses me off to no end. What is wrong with people? How utterly insensitive.

    I’m so sorry that you had to write this post and defend ***YOUR** life, ***YOUR** history and ***YOUR*** longing.

    As always, I’m sending you warm thoughts, love, courage and baby dust.

    xoxo

  23. Abby says:

    I’m sorry that comment hurt you. I struggle with primary infertility but I recognize that your struggle is different, and probably in some ways harder. On our worst days my husband and I, to make ourselves feel better, talk about the life we’ll have if we never can manage to have kids. A life where we dote endlessly on our nieces and nephews, have a hip condo downtown, and travel to Thailand on a whim. That sounds like a fun life to us too and imagining it it how we get by sometimes.

    I feel like people with secondary infertility don’t have that option. They cant live a different life, their only option is to just keep living life the way they are feeling incomplete. That is a whole different struggle. I don’t think one is easier than the other, I really don’t.

    That all being said, I’m sure the person who said to you that she has no sympathy was just speaking from a place that is very hurt. Its an emotional journey, we all say things we don’t mean, and as much as we shouldn’t compete with each other, we should cut each other some slack too.

  24. Selena says:

    Thank you Nichole… This is exactly what I needed today…

    Hugs to you and looking forward to exploring more around you site.
    Selena

  25. Courtney @ The Mommy Matters says:

    My heart breaks for you having to deal with this. We’re only 5 months into trying for our second child, and it’s so hard…especially when talk of not being able to get pregnant right away is met with comments like “Just enjoy the child you have” or “when the time is right, it will happen.” None of those things help out the pain that comes with wanting a baby and not being able to have one right away.

  26. Paula @ Simply Sandwich says:

    I am so sorry to hear about your journey and also the comment made to you as well. Thank you for your very honest post -wishing you the best!

  27. Heidi Smith Luedtke says:

    This is one of the reasons we felt a need to keep our secondary infertility a secret. It can be extremely isolating and stressful to feel like you’ll be judged less worthy of compassion because you already have a child when others do not. ((hugs))

  28. Fire Wife Katie says:

    Other hopeful moms inadvertently make us feel guilty about the missing pieces of our families. And the sad thing is, too often, I buy into that guilt. I hide our struggles and don’t talk about it much because I don’t want to offend people. Why do I do that?

  29. Hopes@Staying Afloat! says:

    Oh Nicole,

    I’m so very sorry that she took that road. I’m sure she hurts, but there is no reason for her to assume that you don’t.

    You know I’ve got everything crossed for you that soon you will get that wonderful positive sign!

  30. Rachael says:

    Oh I feel this. We struggled for 18mnths to have our first child and we thought we may never become parents. It was so hard month after month when other round you get pregnant without trying.

    Finally we did and have a beautiful little almost 2yr old. We have now been trying for a 2nd for over a year and nothing. The pain this time is different not only do we want it for ourselves but to give our child a sibling. It’s also much harder to avoid pregnant people and little babies when you have another child that is going to playgroup and the like all the time.

    People are much less sensitive this time round I’ve been told so many times to be grateful for the child I have. Trust me I am. More grateful than most people could ever know. I go from feeling guilty my child doesn’t have a sibling to feeling guilty she has to come to dr’s appointment with me and round and round it goes. I don’t think anyone ever wins with infertility.

  31. Mom of One says:

    I don’t really read the above comment, “… but I’m sorry I can’t muster that much sympathy for someone looking for their third child…” , as competitive or even patently offensive. She’s just being honest about how she feels, and she is even sorry for feeling that way. I realize secondary infertility is not a struggle that should be minimized. I personally have been trying for a year myself – our plans keeps getting interrupted by the death of loved ones, including my mother from a battle with cancer. We are all entitled to our feelings, and personally, I DO feel a little extra sympathy for couples that want a child and don’t have any. Even on my darkest days, my own child makes me feel like I won the lottery of life. I just think there is a difference between becoming a mom and not.

  32. Leighann says:

    Your struggles are heartbreaking Nichole.
    You are so right when you say no one wins when we compete. Women need to build each other up. I have long believed this.
    What a powerful force you are, with your positive outlook and open arms.
    Good things come to people like you.

  33. Denise says:

    It is sad that everything becomes a competition. It’s also one of those things it is hard to comprehend if you haven’t been there. I have a friend who struggled with miscarriages in her quest for a second child and it was heartbreaking although I really can’t know how she felt and how much she longed for a second child. But because she kept trying, it was obvious it was a deep longing. And no one should belittle that.

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