"Is he your only child?" she asks. I nod, hoping that will end this line of questioning. But it doesn't.
"You don't want to have another?" she asks pointedly.
"We don't come by them easily," I say as nonchalantly as possible. "But the one that we have is a fantastic kid." I smile, as if to say: And that's that. No more questions. It's a response I've used before when other casual acquaintances have touched on this sensitive subject. Often it works. But today I've encountered a persistent one.
"This may be none of my business, but it's my experience that only children are more unhappy than ones that have siblings," she says. I take a deep breath and pretend to listen as she prattles on about her own two sons. I resist the urge to tell her about hours spent having blood work and sonograms at the reproductive endocrinologist's office, nightly progesterone shots for pregnancies in jeopardy, two miscarriages, a stillbirth at seven months. Instead, I listen politely and wait for an opportunity to change the subject.
As a parent living with secondary infertility, I know how fortunate I am to have a smart, funny, all-around-awesome child. I also know the beauty of watching a young child learn and grow. I long to have that experience again with another child.
Our basement is filled with toys, strollers, car seats and clothes our son has outgrown. They are symbols not only of our son's infancy, but also of a future we had imagined for our family. A future we now fear may be out of reach.
Secondary infertility is in many ways an invisible issue. Outsiders often assume that because we were able to have a child once, we can do it again -- that we are a one-child family by choice. Couples struggling with primary infertility understandably see our good fortune, rather than our pain. We are the lucky ones.
Yet, when we see the brothers across the street playing catch together, the soccer moms on the sidelines with strollers and diaper bags, our son eager to play with his baby cousins, inquisitive about when we can welcome a sibling to our home... We feel the ache for what we wish we could give our son -- and ourselves.
In our house, the joy of parenthood and the pain of infertility live side-by-side.
The author can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.