People often ask me, “Is infertility funny?” and my answer surprises them, “No. No, infertility is not funny.”
Infertility is hard, and heartbreaking and sad and somber, but there are some funny aspects to it, which is what my husband and I chose to focus on. The day I found out that I had PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome); I was a mess, a total wreck. I could not stop crying. I felt like my whole world was crumbling in front of my eyes. I am a schoolteacher and I have devoted my entire life to children, with the thinking that I would be able to have children of my own. When you plan your whole life around starting a family, and then you receive the news that you might not be able to, a few things happen; you immediately go to the worst case scenario, and you feel as though your world is crumbling. That is how it was for me, and I think that is how it is for many people.
After that initial jolt of the news simmered down a little, I got to business. I was very persistent about getting an appointment at my local fertility clinic. The first morning consultation with my doctor I was scared. I was trying to be strong, but I was nervous and frankly terrified. The doctor did his exam; he showed me my ovaries and explained everything to us.
After the exam, my husband, Jeff, and I went into his office to discuss our options. The doctor explained to us that we could start with a medication called Clomid and intercourse, Clomid and IUI (intrauterine insemination) or IVF (in vitro fertilization). I had done two months of Clomid and intercourse with my regular Ob-Gyn and I wanted to be slightly more aggressive. I chose, and my husband supported me, Clomid and IUI.
This is where the humor comes into the situation. My very intelligent and highly esteemed doctor continued to explain to us the morning monitoring process. Then he said that my husband will come in and “give his donation.”
What? His donation? I thought, What is he…..ohhhhh. I get it.
The doctor continued, “And the lab on site will clean and buff his sperm.”
That’s right people, “clean and buff his sperm,” he actually said that with a straight face. My eyes were almost popping out of my head. The inner seventh grade boy humor inside me was trying so hard to not bust out laughing, and this was my initial fertility clinic treatment consultation. It was this, paired with Jeff’s and my silly inappropriate humor that helped us find the humor during infertility.
We left the doctor’s office that day and I jabbed my husband with my elbow and said, “What the heck? How come your sperm get to go to the spa, and all I get is that wand every other morning?”
We immediately started laughing about how we imagined little Oompa Loompas from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory cleaning and buffing each individual sperm. From that moment on we tried not to take infertility too seriously. We tried to approach it lightheartedly. There were setbacks and sad times, but we tried to find the humor in it.
I would find humor at people’s reactions to me being super open about struggling with infertility. I work with teachers, mostly women, who can, at times, be nosey. One morning someone came up to me and asked, “I noticed recently that you aren’t drinking your typical Diet Coke in the mornings, are you pregnant?”
I would laugh out loud and respond, “Haha! No, I’m infertile and trying to get pregnant and be more healthy. That’s funny though!” and I would walk away.
I didn’t respond like this to be offensive, I sincerely thought it was funny. It is funny. The idea of people thinking I’m pregnant because I am not drinking caffeine, when in fact, I am not drinking caffeine because I can’t get pregnant is funny to me.
We found humor before every IUI, when the clinic told me about my husband’s sperm count in his “donation” that day. When I left the clinic, Jeff, my husband, would call me and ask me what his numbers were. We laughed at his different sperm count levels and talked candidly about what resources (porn) would help his levels. These types of conversations are things that most newly married couples would not talk so freely about, but when you’re going through infertility, it just happens.
We chose to look at the funny side of infertility. That’s the type of people that we are. I find that when I feel sad, or insecure, about something, if I can make fun of it, then I am in control of it. I am no longer a victim of my infertility. There were sad times for us, we weren’t a ball of laughs all the time, but we moved on and kept going, and found the humor in the next day, or the next treatment. That’s all anyone can do.
Eventually that humor helped us through my first pregnancy, and those early months of infancy, with my first daughter. I found that if you and your partner can get through infertility – getting through the newborn stage, isn’t as bad. My first daughter was conceived through IUI, my second daughter through IVF. The humor in our family has never stopped, it has helped us through two daughters with speech impediments, one daughter who needs to wear eye patches and endless debates about balancing the household responsibilities.
So, is infertility funny?
No, but you can laugh at the ridiculousness of it, and there is plenty of ridiculousness to go around.
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