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Kim Kardashian and Kanye West live their life in the public eye, so it should come as no surprise that they’re talking openly about their efforts to give daughter North a sibling. “Yeah, we’re trying,” West said on The Ellen DeGeneres show Thursday morning.
Kardashian has been even more candid about her desire to add to their brood. In the latest issue of People, the 34-year-old reality star reveals that number two “can’t come soon enough.” She’s even documenting her struggle to conceive on the upcoming season of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. “It’s been more challenging to get pregnant the second time around,” she told reporters during an E! International Press Junket earlier this month. “When you’re not planning it, it happens. It’s just how God works. And when you want it so bad, it’s not happening.”
I never thought I’d say this, but here goes: Thank you, Kim.
I spent nearly a year trying to get pregnant with no luck. The hardest thing about that time, other than the constant negative pregnancy tests, was how incredibly lonely I was. I barely told anyone that my husband and I were trying, because that would involve also admitting that we were, in my estimation, failing. I was ashamed, and embarrassed.
These days, pregnancy is celebrated, almost worshipped. Baby announcements, bump watch, naked pictures of pregnancy bellies — they’re everywhere. But the lead-up to all that is still so quiet. People don’t admit that they’re trying. They don’t reveal if they’re struggling. And that can make the conception journey an isolating one for those of us who don’t find quick success.
So bravo to Kardashian for being honest. She wants another kid. It’s not happening at the moment. That doesn’t make her any less of a woman, or businesswoman, or superstar. And if talking about her pregnancy struggles helps her fans feel better about their own burning desire to have a family, especially in the face of infertility, then she’s become that much more of a role model.
I, obviously, don’t know how long Kardashian and West have been trying. Maybe a month, maybe a couple of months, maybe a year. Who knows. Which is to say I have no idea if her current situation qualifies as secondary infertility, defined as the inability to conceive after the birth of one or more biological children, or just run-of-the-mill baby-making. But I do know that secondary infertility is not uncommon, despite being even more hush-hush than primary infertility.
“Every day in my practice, I hear someone say, ‘I had no idea I would have trouble because we had such an easy time the first time around,’” says Dr. Eve Feinberg, a Reproductive Endocrinologist at the Fertility Centers of Illinois and, full disclosure, the fertility doctor who saw me through IVF and helped me get pregnant with my daughter. “A big portion of that is age. If fertility sees a sharp decline at 38, and you have your first baby at 35, the second could cause some trouble.”
Feinberg says secondary infertility is just as common as primary infertility, but that it can come with even more emotional baggage. “It can be even harder, since you’re caught so off-guard,” she says. “Suddenly you’re faced with different decisions. When you’ve conceived a healthy child naturally, you may question how far you’ll go, treatment-wise, to have a second child.”
The shock and confusion is one reason that women are even more tight-lipped about secondary infertility, Feinberg says. Another reason? Competition. “Pregnancy is one more area in which women compete,” she says. “It’s ‘my husband looks at me and I get pregnant,’ or ‘I only gained in my stomach.’ Women use it as a benchmark of their womanhood. And the women who had no problem the first time around, they’re often ashamed because they were ahead of the competition, in their mind, and now they’re ‘down in the dumps’ with the rest of them. Women don’t like to lose their standing.”
If Kardashian — with her Internet-breaking and Vogue cover and her money-printing video game — can admit that pregnancy is something that hasn’t come easily, hopefully it will level the playing field for the rest of us. “Hollywood does a tremendous disservice by not talking about this more,” Feinberg says. “I love that Kim is throwing it out there. “
That is, after all, what she does best.