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Shifting our idea of the perfect family: Experiencing secondary infertility

My name is Theresa and my husband’s name is Matteo. We have a beautiful little girl named Malia who just had her third birthday. Matteo and I started trying for a baby when I was 35 years old – once we both finished school, got our careers established and did some of the travelling we both love to do. Time seemed to fly by and suddenly (it honestly felt like that), when I hit my 35th birthday we realized we better get moving on starting our family. I grew up in a family of six with three loud, loving and hilarious brothers and Matteo grew up with two older sisters. We both pictured our family with at least three children, maybe more. We wanted to give our children the experience that we had – of having siblings around to play and have fun with, and later, to lean and depend on as we got older.  It only took us 4 months to get pregnant with Malia. My pregnancy was a fairly smooth one with a few minor bumps along the way, but everything turned out fine in the end. When Malia turned one, I went back to work but we decided that we wanted to start trying for another. We assumed everything would be fine and that we’d have no trouble getting pregnant again, given how easy it was to get pregnant with Malia. Little did we know.  We tried for 6 months without any success. That’s when I started panicking a little. Time was marching on, I was pushing 38, and every month I ended up getting my period.

We went to see our family doctor to see if there was anything that we could do to speed up the process. Our doctor sent us to a local fertility clinic, where Matteo and I had our fertility tested. The doctor said that my ovarian reserve was low, and recommended that we move forward with IVF as soon as possible. This was the first blow – that we’d have to shift our idea of how our family would be built – that our child wasn’t going to be conceived naturally. Once we got over the shock, we started to accept the idea that if medical intervention is what we need to become pregnant, so be it. Better that, then facing more months of not being able to get pregnant and feeling like a failure every month.

When we started fertility treatments we were hopeful that we’d be able to get pregnant through IVF. However, each failed cycle was another blow. After two years and three failed IVF cycles, we’re starting to wonder if we’ll ever be able to have another child. Our bank account is basically depleted, and we’re starting to see the impact of all of the disappointments on our marriage and on our relationship with our daughter. So after we put Malia to bed the other evening, Matteo and I sat down to have a heart to heart conversation about what we want to do next. We talked about the options – using a donor egg or pursuing an international adoption. But those options are pretty expensive and would take up a lot more time and emotional and physical energy. We decided that we want to be able to look back on Malia’s early years without any regrets. That means that as much as we can become distracted and consumed by our yearning for another baby, we don’t want to forget that we have a beautiful daughter right in front of us who brings us so much joy and love and who is growing up so quickly!

As painful as it is to accept that we’re not going to have the family we’d hoped for and dreamed about, we are starting to feel that maybe our family is okay as it is. Malia is lucky to be surrounded by so many cousins and doting aunts and uncles. Her grandparents on both sides absolutely adore her, and she couldn’t be more loved. She’s getting many of the benefits of having siblings that Matteo and I wanted her to have. It’s been really hard to come to terms with the reality that our family is not going to be as we pictured it. And I still sometimes worry about what we’d do if something happened to Malia, or if she’s going to end up being a spoiled and indulged “only child”. But I honestly believe we’ve done everything we can to create our ideal family. Maybe we left it too late. Who knows. What I do know is that our family of three will continue to be a family filled with joy, laughter and love.

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