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Selfish. Unfair. Guilt stricken. Shameful.

Those were just a few of the words that regularly stabbed my lamenting heart as I longed for a second child.

Yes, I was grateful for my healthy, beautiful boy who made my dream of motherhood come true, but why did I not feel complete—was he not enough? Was I doing this motherhood thing all wrong and didn’t deserve a second child? Why did I long to give him a sibling so badly knowing millions were aching for their first—how could I be so insensitive? So many questions, so many buts and so many whys. Despite the constant internal chatter, I couldn’t quiet the longing, and little did I know what adventures were ahead.

Infertility is a journey I wouldn’t wish on an enemy.

It rocks you. It rules you. It overtakes your thoughts, emotions, body, and life. While my initial journey to motherhood did require medical intervention, it was minimal and nothing like my journey to have my second. I quickly learned terms that soon became a part of my everyday vernacular, including “secondary infertility,” defined as the inability to conceive or carry a baby to term after previously giving birth, “low AMH,” showing the likelihood of fewer eggs than expected at my age and associated with lower success rates, leading us to the recommendation of “oocyte donation,” or finding an egg donor to better enable me to carry another child.

While as common as primary infertility, the secondary infertility diagnosis hit us like a ton of bricks, leaving us in a state of confusion about where to even begin. My husband and I thought we may need some assistance—sure, an appointment with a reproductive endocrinologist; fine, some blood work; okay, a slew of ultrasounds.

However, we never envisioned nearly four years of trying, five positive pregnancy tests, and ultimately, four losses.

Quickly realizing the journey may not be easy, I made a career change for less stress, and I left a job I loved to work for a company that offered infertility benefits since the cost of treatment can (and often does) add a whole new layer of complexity and stress. That’s a decision I will never regret, otherwise, I’m not sure we could have continued to pursue such an aggressive treatment regimen.

RELATED: The Silent Struggle of Secondary Infertility

In the midst of the uphill battle, experiencing setbacks, failed treatments, change in protocols, and a bruised body and soul, we conceived after our first round of IVF (in vitro fertilization). Overjoyed, we finally were done—we made it, we had graduated from our reproductive endocrinologist, and we won this battle.

Our OBGYN assured us that our chance of another loss had decreased significantly now that we were in the second trimester. Since we were in the clear and let’s be real, nothing is official until it’s announced on social media, we shouted our pregnancy news from the rooftop. IVF worked for us, and we’re having another baby. But we were wrong.

Our baby’s heart stopped beating in the second trimester.

Genetic testing proved he was healthy and chromosomally “normal” with no growth abnormalities. “Crap luck” was the official diagnosis, unfortunately. We cried. We grieved. We mourned his loss. We swore we were done.

Our families begged us to stop trying as they couldn’t continue watching us experience this rollercoaster of a ride, with failure after failure wrecking our lives, particularly as we already had a child. Again, back to the guilt—maybe we shouldn’t continue down this path. Our son had already seen enough—nightly injections, constant trips to the pharmacy and labs, and countless appointments with techs he now knew by name. But all I could hear was it’s not time to give up.

After his loss and two more IVF transfers (both ending in early losses), we opted for a hail-mary, give-it-all-you’ve-got IUI (intrauterine insemination). Having tried this before, several times unsuccessfully, we went into this attempt with low expectations.

Stunned by a positive pregnancy test, apprehension was everywhere—early monitoring detected a low rising hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone produced during pregnancy), fluid was detected on an ultrasound versus a sac, and no fetal pole when our specialist assumed there should be one.

Lo and behold, day after day, scan after scan, this baby proved us wrong.

While that pregnancy kept us on our toes until my daughter entered this worldhealthy and full-term at 41 weeksI can now breathe. She’s here. She’s real. She’s ours.

Infertility, whether primary or secondary, is soul-crushing. No words can ease the pain, remove the worry, or make it okay. And while we are fortunate to have a happy ending, not everyone does, and that’s just as soul-crushing. Infertility is a club you never expect to be a part of, but always will be once you’re in.

RELATED: Finding Wonder in the Waiting of Secondary Infertility

Even with a healthy baby in my arms, my heart can’t help but skip a beat thinking about the woman in the thick of her journey as she sees another pregnancy announcement, as she walks by the cute woman rubbing her belly, or receives another baby shower invitation. It’s crippling, and a pain that makes you want to hide in a dark hole, rocking back and forth, with the inability to grasp why this is happening and how you’ll ever survive it.

I was that woman and those feelings still leave me breathless, even from the other side.

It’s impossible to think at the moment that it’ll be okay, but it will be. And so you will. You will find strength, support, and the grit to survive another day, to overcome another setback, and to muster up the strength to continue—whether with your journey or the acceptance to move on, wherever that move may take you. And while the hurt never goes away, it does hurt slightly less as time passes.

To the woman in the thick of it, I beg you to hold on to hope. Because the tomb is empty, there is hope. Cling to our Savior. Remind yourself of the truth. Believe the Word. Take it all and place it at the feet of Jesus—He’ll never disappoint, will never fail us, and is the only One we can place our true hope in.

God never wastes anything. If it’s not good yet, God’s just not done yet.

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Kristina Shipp

Kristina lives in Ohio with her husband and their two kids. Outside of the messiness of motherhood, her favorite things include fitness, camping, coffee and reading. She is also passionate about infertility and her journey to finding Jesus.

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