When I was looking to start a fertility support group, a friend told a friend about it. Even though this woman was distraught over her infertility and definitely needed support, she declined to join our group because she already had a biological child. She suffered from a condition known as secondary infertility, which means that she was able to conceive a child but then later was unable to conceive again.
The woman believed that she did not deserve the same support as the other women in the group because she already had a child. Even though I also already had a child (through adoption), she saw this as different because I was still struggling with primary infertility (unable to conceive any children). She and I both already had a child, so why did she view herself as less deserving of support than I was?
I believe her perceptions were shaped by society’s perceptions of secondary infertility. When an infertile woman adopts a baby, she is generally supported when she chooses to adopt a second time. After all, she is unable to “make” a baby, so adoption is how she grows her family.
From what I have observed, people who have a biological child are generally not provided the same support. Several women struggling with secondary infertility have told me that they often hear, “Why can’t you just appreciate the child you already have?” One woman replied, “I do appreciate my child, which is why I want another one.”
This double standard toward people with secondary infertility really makes me angry. People with primary infertility who are adopting a second time receive lots of support, but people with secondary infertility are told to “appreciate what they have.” Why is this? In both cases, the families have one or more children but are not yet complete. Why is it only okay (by society’s standards) to adopt when you have no biological children in the home?
People struggling with secondary infertility need our support, too. They are struggling with the loss of the dream of another child, just like those of us with primary infertility. It breaks my heart that they cry alone because they have been given the message that they do not deserve the same amount of emotional support.