Doree Shafrir writes about culture for BuzzFeed, and her work has appeared in such media as The New York Times and The New Yorker (perhaps you've heard of them?). To boot, her debut novel, Startup: A Novel, just came out last month—so she certainly has her hands full. But one project she's working on rises above them all as the most personal... and the most comforting to many would-be parents out there.
That's Matt and Doree's Eggcellent Adventure, the IVF podcast she started with her comedy writer husband Matt Mira. (Egg-cellent! Get it?) Now more than 30 episodes deep, the show is a way for the couple to talk through their infertility issues and the IVF process—both with one another and for their listeners. It also spawned a growing Facebook group of 2,000 fans hungry for frank, scientific, demystifying, and downright normal talk on the topic. Here's Doree on the project.
Parents.com: What motivated you to start the podcast?
When we started doing IVF, Matt had been talking about it openly among his friends and it turned out [several had either] gone through IVF, or were thinking about it. That was the first time I realized a lot more people are going through this than I [knew].
So he asked his followers on Twitter if we should do it, and 80 percent said yes. The people had spoken!
What's different about your show from other IVF discussion opportunities out there?
Here's this subject that is so fraught, so serious, so emotional, so complicated. We decided we're not going to be somber and serious; we're going to be honest. There might be funny parts, but we're going to talk about it in the way that we talk about anything else. We didn't feel like there was anything else like that out there. I found that when I was on an IVF message board, it was so overwhelming and stressful—and all the acronyms!
Right. You're anti cutesy terms and acronyms. Why?
I find it infantilizing and it perpetuates this notion that dealing with IVF or infertility is this secret club, and people who are outside feel like outsiders. It's something that we should talk about openly and in a way that feels accessible, because it's important for people who are not going through IVF to be empathetic toward people who are. The only way that's going to happen is if it's something that they can understand.
And then the kitschy names for things—like calling frozen embryos "frosties." If other women want to talk that way, fine—I'm just not going to participate.
Why do you think IVF and infertility are so stigmatized?
Historically, infertility was often blamed on women—even though now we know that at least 25 percent of infertility in heterosexual couples is caused by the male partner. We're still dealing with that legacy. It's compounded by our culture's continuing discomfort with women who wait to have children. Think about why is there so much stigma of being a single woman in our society. It's all connected—all of these ideals of femininity, and what it means to be a "real woman," are all wrapped up in this idea that women should be married and procreate. And when those things don't come naturally, there's shame and stigma. I absolutely don't believe that there should be. That is in part why I am trying to normalize the conversation around infertility.
What's been the response?
We don't have trolls! I feel lucky. We do occasionally get questions about, "Why don't you guys just adopt?" It's a thing a lot of couples struggling with infertility hear from other people who are ignorant about the process. The question oversimplifies adoption. It's very complicated, very expensive. They're two different processes!
Other than that, the response has been so positive. We recently played a voicemail from a 25-year-old woman who said after she listened to our episode where we interviewed a gay male couple, she decided to donate her eggs. And the fact that we can establish this community and also make people think about infertility in a different way who aren't going through it themselves—that's really powerful.
How does it feel to be podcasting the process in real time?
It's funny to have total strangers email you saying, "I really hope your transfer goes well!" You do feel like all these people are rooting for you and want you to be pregnant. Part of me wondered if I would be letting people down when I shared that my transfer hadn't worked. But no—I got all these encouraging emails.
On the other hand, later I would hear from people who were just starting the podcast, and they'd say, "I'm not caught up yet, but I'm sure you're pregnant by now!" And I was like, "No. Maybe don't say that."
It's weird: You're unspooling the plot of your own life in real time. And that was obviously a direction of the plot that I didn't want. But this is really life. We can't manufacture any drama, we can't manufacture a narrative, this is just what's happening.
Do you think working on so many simultaneous professional projects is preparing you for baby?
I am definitely someone who needs to have a different things going on. And I'm curious to see how that's going to work when I have a kid, because I just don't think I'm going to have the energy or the focus to be able to do that. But, certainly the multitasking I can handle. I'm good at that!