Secondary Infertility: Dealing with Your Emotions at Work

secondary-infertility-emotionsIf you’ve planned on adding a second child to your family but have had trouble conceiving (also known as secondary infertility), how do you deal with your emotions at work when no one in your office knows what you’re going through? Reader A wonders…

I am dealing with a difficult situation and I was wondering if you would consider posting something on it. I had my son 2 yrs ago and have been hoping to have another child soon after. We started trying when my son was 9 months old and have been unsuccessful for over a year now. We are finally going to a fertility clinic but the process is grueling and I find myself crying all the time. The other aspect I can’t seem to be able to control is insane jealousy towards current pregnant women or those with 2 kids (including you:). I am trying to deal with these emotions and be thankful for my son but most days it is very hard to act like everything is fine. Would love to have yours and other’s perspectives on this.

I’m so sorry you’re having a rough time of it, A; big hugs to you. I debated whether to post this question at Corporette proper, or here at CorporetteMoms, and ultimately decided that there are important differences between a conversation about this among moms versus non-moms.  So let’s discuss. (Note that over at Corporette, we’ve talked about miscarriages and the office and handling frequent doctors’ appointments (including pregnancy-related ones), as well as how to deal with hormones at the office.)

First, A, you’re not alone — a few of my friends have had problems getting pregnant a second time; I suspect many women have struggled with this. I also see shades of other dilemmas in your question — every mom who became a mom and then realized the life she’d imagined for so long wasn’t happening, or wasn’t happening easily. Maybe it’s because your child has special needs; maybe it’s because you suffered through gender disappointment; I imagine for moms of older kids there may even exist personality disappointment — e.g., you imagined long happy hikes with your son, maybe even for family vacations — and yet your child hates the outdoors. There is a serious frustration that comes from realizing you really, really cannot plan a family or its dynamics as much as you perhaps hoped you could in your youth — perhaps especially so if you are already a mom. So what should you do?

  • Go forward. I mean, there’s nothing else you can do, right? But I need to say it. Don’t get stuck in these negative emotions. They’re real, you’re right to have them, but you have to go forward as best you can.
  • Get help. Talking to a therapist — perhaps one who specializes in postpartum issues — or perhaps even finding an online support group is a great option. When a problem like this drags on it can be difficult to talk to friends or family about it; a therapist can help you sort your emotions and won’t mind if there is a repetitive thread in the conversation. I know that HelloBee has a board for infertility issues, and of course always feel welcome to post here; perhaps other readers can share some of their favorite boards for moms suffering from infertility.
  • Reframe your thinking. You may not be ready for this part yet, but eventually you may need to reframe something as basic as “family.” Maybe you always wanted a big family, but all you have is one child — or maybe everything you imagined about motherhood relates to raising girls, and you have boys (or vice versa). Kate shared a great analogy I hadn’t heard before in her post on special needs, the Italy/Holland analogy — it’s like you’ve prepared for years for a trip to Italy, and suddenly find yourself in Holland. It’s beautiful and amazing in its own right — but it isn’t Italy. And you still kind of wish you could go for Italy. If you ultimately decide to stop trying for #2, give yourself permission to mourn the death of traveling to Italy — but enjoy Holland.

Readers, what are your thoughts? Have you suffered from secondary infertility — how did you deal with them, particularly at work or around your child?

Pictured: A soft summer night in the marsh, originally uploaded to Flickr by Trey Ratcliff


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  1. Anonymous says:

    So this is probably not very mature, but when I find myself getting envious (or snotty) toward people that are pregnant or who have small babies, I start listing off all the things that I can do with my older child that they can’t do. I can save even more for college. I can go on hikes. I can go to the zoo and he actually enjoys it. I can sleep through the night. There is a quote that I read to myself almost every day (especially if I’m feeling down) that reads, “The mind can focus on what it has or what it thinks it doesn’t have, but it can’t do both at the same time.” I VERY much hope to have a second (and even maybe a third?) child at some point, but I can’t let the whatifs of that phase negate the awesomeness of THIS phase.

  2. I’m not in the same boat, but am dealing with similar thoughts of envy and jealously that can have the effect of derailing my entire day. My coping mechanism is to try to shut down any unhealthy dialogue running through my head by saying “I have nothing more to say.” It’s not foolproof, but it helps me stay more in the moment. Also, frantic cleaning and cooking also seem to help!

    Wishing you all the best on this part of your journey.

  3. Philanthropy Girl says:

    I haven’t been through A’s experience, but after the death of my first child I certainly dealt with the inability to control emotions at work, and the jealousy towards other moms who had healthy living children – so I feel your pain. And I’m so very, very sorry.

    Shortly after my child passed I took a new job, where people didn’t know my story. I actually had a sit down with HR and explained my situation, and the surrounding issues of depression and anxiety. This is definitely a know-your-own-office situation. At my office there was a lot of sympathy and support, but sadly not all HRs will be this way. I was given flexibility to get to counseling, come in late on rough mornings and make up my hours at a more emotionally stable time, and so on. Perhaps by working with someone compassionate in your HR department you can at least not feel like you’re carrying this deep burden by yourself, and feel like you can give yourself a pass to weep in the women’s room if necessary.

    I can’t advocate enough for getting counseling of some form (sympathetic friend, professional, religious counseling if that is your bent). Having an unemotional outside source of feedback is so helpful.

    Kat and Anon at 2:57 have both suggested something along the lines of “be grateful for what you have.” There will come a point in your journey you’ll be ready for that, but now may not be that time. I found it very helpful to have a counselor help me figure out what my immediate needs were. All I could see was this impossible need of “having my child back” – and the frustration and depression that followed upon the realization this “need” would never be met. My counselor helped me see the needs I had that could be met – someone to listen, freedom to grieve at my own pace in my own way, a meaningful project, and so on. Perhaps taking some time to reflect on what your current emotional needs are, and looking for ways to have those needs met, would allow you to feel like you could function a bit better in your work environment.

    The jealousy – it seems to ebb and flow. Gratitude is a great combatant against jealousy, but those feelings will probably linger for a long time. I’ve found that acknowledging that feeling is more helpful than trying to suppress or ignore it. This doesn’t mean acting towards others in a mean or malicious way, but simply recognizing jealousy for what it is, and acknowledging that it is a normal part of your journey. For me, that seems to keep it from raging out of control.

    I have found to be a very useful resource for women dealing with child loss and infertility. Perhaps you will find some support there to encourage you. Wishing you all the best!

    • Excel Geek says:

      So many hugs to you. Your strength shines through in this comment.

    • +1. Philanthropy Girl, this is a wonderful post. You are strong and brave and wise. Thank you for sharing your story. I am not at all in the same boat but found it very helpful for another situation.

  4. Kat
    Thank you so much for posting my question. I feel a surge of gratitude to you and all of the ladies who replied.

    As fate will have it I am actually 9 weeks pregnant today (crossed fingers). I wrote this to you at one of the lowest points in the process and I appreciate you posting it.

    To all who replied above, I truly appreciate the support and took your words to heart!

    • Lyssa says:


    • Congratulations and best wishes!

    • Congrats! And even though you wrote the question at a low point, I guarantee there are so many women who currently feel the same way. Infertility and similar issues can be so isolating. I wish we (society) would talk about them more.

    • Philanthropy Girl says:

      Prayers and good wishes to you!

      As JJ mentioned, this is such an important topic and not one we discuss as a society enough. Thank you for being brave enough to reach out when you were feeling so low.

    • Oh man CONGRATS! So happy to read this and thrilled that you wrote in to share.

  5. I’m so happy to hear A’s good news!! but for anyone else out there … is a great resource. They’re a national infertility support organization with local groups and online forums.

  6. No Girl says:

    Thank you for raising this topic, Kat, as I’ve been struggling with my own disappointment issues. I’m a mom to three beautiful boys and while I love them to pieces, I always thought I would have a daughter. I find myself jealous and resentful when I see other parents with son/daughter combinations, and then feel guilty for having these feelings because I should feel blessed and grateful that I was able to have the children that I do. We are done having kids and I’m trying to accept the fact that I will never have a daughter. It’s just part of the realization that in life, you don’t always get what you want.

    ps. I’m curious, Kat, if you have/had gender disappointment about having two boys and if so, how you dealt with it.

    • Would love to see a topic on this. I have two amazing boys and am seriously considering adopting a girl. I could have another biological one, but want to ensure the chances of a girl.

  7. Mom of 1 says:

    I’m super psyched for A’s good news! And now a little jealous myself.

    My daughter was born when I was 44, and some complications during the delivery meant slow healing – and not getting back to s*x all that soon, despite the clear need to if we were going to have another bio kid.

    After trying for a year and a half – all the while hearing the months tick by, and my egg reserve dwindling – I’ve pretty much given up on having another bio kid (at 47) and we’re now working on adoption.

    My daughter is the BEST EVER, and we were tremendously lucky to conceive her without intervention, and for me to have an easy, trouble-free, at my advanced maternal age. I had hoped lightning might strike twice, but it seems unlikely at this point. So I guess my main point is: there are lots of ways to make a family, and adoption looks like a great option too.

  8. I had a miscarriage earlier this year at 13 weeks. Just after announcing my pregnancy to my boss and a few other coworkers. It was a relief that they knew because I didn’t have to either hide what was happening or explain that I was pregnant and now was not. Im expecting again (due in two weeks) and the fact that people knew what had happened has made things a lot easier. Everyone was more understanding when I was not at my best (getting in late, grumpy, less productive). My second pregnancy has been much harder than my first and I’ve been pretty open about that as well. For me its been great to have people that understand I have had a tough year and I also feel more engaged with my job and company because people have been so understanding. Obviously you have to know your office but I think its worth considering discussing with HR and/or a supervisor so you can have an ally.

  9. Midori says:

    Do you have any pointers for the “envied” ones who want to be sensitive but don’t always get it right? I have 2 beautiful, healthy boys, for whom I am grateful. I know there are others in my office who ache for a child (or another child), some of whom I know about, and others who have never said anything to me about it, and sometimes I feel like I put my foot in my mouth. What should I say or not say to them, and how can I be supportive?

    • I wonder about this too. My husband’s best friend is a competitive person, and he and his wife tried for almost 2 years before they had their son. We know that they began trying again immediately, and that it took them well over a year for her to get pregnant again. I warned my husband to be cautious in his approach (we unintentionally got pregnant when our daughter was 9 months old), but he cavalierly announced the news anyway. The couple seems a bit cold to us now, and I’m not sure how to deal with it.

    • Philanthropy Girl says:

      I wish there was an easy answer to this. I feel like I’ve lived with my feet in both worlds and nothing seems easy. You can’t shelter someone from the fact that you’re expecting again, or that you’re able to get pregnant while others are not. After the death of my son, both a close friend and my sister got pregnant before we were able to conceive again. They were both very thoughtful in letting me know privately before announcing publicly. I don’t think this lessened the hurt in my own heart, but I was so grateful for their sensitivity in not wanting to just drop a bombshell in public.

      In a less familiar setting (at work, at church, with more casual friends), I neither expected nor such treatment. If you have a good relationship with these people, if they have confided in you their struggles, I think giving them a private and sensitive heads up is appropriate. For those more casual relationships, I think the sensitivity of not talking about your children/pregnancy all the time is about as much as you can offer. That, and accepting that there is jealousy and hurting hearts and allowing your coworkers to feel what they feel. Try not to be offended when they are cold or distant -it is a part of their journey toward accepting whatever life brings them. If they do open up about these issues, listen well and be supportive.

      It isn’t much, but those things were helpful for me, and they are what I try to offer others now that I have a healthy, living child of my own.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s so kind of you to ask. The heartbreaker for me is “be glad you only have one to deal with.” Or “you’re so lucky you don’t have to deal with sibling fighting.” My husband and I tried so hard to have another child so our son would have a sibling, but it just didn’t work out for us. We both have brothers and sisters and feel blessed to have them, especially as our parents have passed on. For those still trying, telling a trusted friend or two at work what’s going on makes a huge difference.

  10. Meg Murry says:

    I don’t have advise for people going through something like this in regards to dealing with it at work, but for your personal life, my advise is: take a break from Facebook. I was at a point in my life when I felt like everything was going wrong: my job was in a precarious place where there were lots of layoffs and no end in sight, I was taking on all the added stress and work of covering for those laid off positions, my husband’s business was doing poorly, and although we had 1 child already I had just been diagnosed with PCOS, so I feared that even when we were in a stable enough place in our lives to have a second child I would have trouble getting pregnant. Then in one day, I found out I got rejected from a job I really wanted at my dream company, I found out a colleage I had never liked got hired for a different position at that company, and that 2 of my friends were pregnant with their second children on Facebook. I bawled so hard that day, and then disconnected on Facebook for a few months.

    Over time it all worked out – I got a better job, did not actually have (major) trouble conceiving a second child when the time came a few years later, and overall life just got better. But for a few months there disconnecting from Facebook was absolutely 100% necessary to keep me from seeing everyone else’s joy when I was so miserable, since so few people post the truth on Facebook about their struggles, only the happiness.

  11. NewMomAnon says:

    Gosh, I got a little dust in my eye when I read the topic…when my husband and I decided to have a baby, we both had this great image of two kids close in age who we would take to the park and out for long walks, and teach to play baseball and ride a bike and take on vacation, and do all of these things together as a family. And then my husband fell apart during pregnancy, and I somehow knew that this was going to be an only kiddo, and I mourned …. something? Maybe the ability to do it over again without the fear that came from all the unknowns of the first one? But there was a coziness to a family of three, and I started looking forward to that.

    And then my husband walked out, and I dealt with the fear that maybe there wouldn’t be a “happy family” of even three to go to Disney or take bike rides. I’m still greiving that – I miss dinner time with the three of us, and I miss the three of us cuddling in bed on weekend mornings. Those moments are gone. I love the peace and calm of not having a mentally unstable spouse around, and it is wonderful to be able to follow my dreams and my schedule without negotiating with a rogue actor, but it is definitely a trip to Holland when I was expecting Italy.

    Therapy helps. I’m also trying to be purposeful about noting things that make me happy in my new life – I am thinking of starting a gratitude journal, even though it sounds hokey to me. Also, connecting with friends has been really helpful; being open about days I’m struggling, inviting people along to enjoy things that might otherwise feel lonely, and being more social.

    I sometimes get pangs of jealousy when I hear about husbands who take baby in the morning so mom can sleep, or families taking trips together, or see couples holding hands while pushing a stroller. But usually I find when I talk to a mom that we have similar struggles and similar fears, regardless of her family status. This site has been helpful for that – when I posted yesterday about the toddler tantrums, it turned out that lots of moms are having that experience, and that made me feel very connected to the world of moms.

  12. First, congratulations on your pregnancy! Second, for what it’s worth — sometimes, you can just let yourself be jealous. One of my co-workers was trying for years to have a baby. He didn’t tell us at first and finally he just exploded (not recommended). One of the guys who had kids told him that he was allowed to be jealous sometimes, and it was a brilliant thing to say. After that, he would tell us how it was going throughout so we were able to talk to him about it and joke about how rude it was when another woman in the office got pregnant, etc. Made it lighter and easier because we all knew why he was more on edge then he used to be. They ended up not being able to have kids, and the whole office was there to support him and help when they got the news. I think everyone is surprised when people are supportive of their problems, but I think most people are understanding so its best just to be open from the beginning. Way less stressful.

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