How I Found Humor in My Fertility Treatments
After dealing with her fertility issues, author Karen Jeffries decided to help others struggling with infertility learn to laugh through the stress with her digital community, Hilariously Infertile.
People often ask me how I found humor during my fertility treatments. They often accuse me of having rose-tinted lenses since I have children and now it is easy for me to see the humor because of my positive infertility outcome; my two daughters. My response is always the same, there were numerous times when I cried myself to sleep, when I found it hard to find my smile, but there were even more times of joking and laughter that outweighed all the tears.
I had no idea I was infertile; it never crossed my mind. My husband and I started "trying" to get pregnant and I never got my period, for months, lots of trying, no period, but also no pregnancy. I had no idea what was going on with my body. We went to my ob-gyn she started me on Clomid, nothing happened. The next month Clomid again, nothing, I did not even ovulate. She called me and left me a voicemail saying that she thought I had Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). She told me to contact NYU Langone Fertility Center. There were no laughs or smiles that day.
Three weeks later, we had our initial meeting with Frederick L. Licciardi, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist at NYU. He did an exam and explained to me what PCOS meant. After the exam, my husband and I were in his office as the doctor very calmly and professionally explained the intrauterine insemination (IUI) procedures to us. He explained that I would need to come into the clinic for morning monitoring, then when my follicles and blood work were looking "ready" my husband would come into the office and "give his donation." He actually said that. As you've likely guessed, in this context my husband's donation meant sperm in a cup. I started giggling deep down inside, but I didn't want to be disrespectful or inappropriate. Dr. Licciardi continued to tell us that the lab on site would then, "clean and buff" my husband's sperm. Clean and buff! Those were the words he used! The seventh-grade boy giggles were about to boil over inside of me, but I tried my best to keep it together. My husband and I walked out of his office and I remember saying, "Dude, I'm super jealous of your sperm going to the spa! All I get is that ultrasound wand." And that was the beginning of how we found humor on our journey.
There were many hard times, but the humor that my husband and I share got us through. We laughed about him giving his donation. I cried about my first failed IUI. We laughed about our second insemination and having learned my lesson the first time, I remembered to take my phone to the exam table so I had something to do while his sperm swam and swam. We laughed about the shape of the transvaginal ultrasound wand and the amount of lubricant jelly the doctor uses at such an early hour in the morning. We laughed about how much action my vagina was seeing these days, and we compared it to my fun-loving college days. We laughed about his sperm count every month, he always wanted to know. We cried tears of joy when we found out we were pregnant.
For our second daughter, we laughed and giggled through five medicated cycles and four IUIs. We agreed to move forward with IVF, a daunting decision for most couples. Once again, we found ourselves laughing through much of that process as well. The weird videos teaching me how to inject the shots, the newly found drug den taking place in our kitchen every night. The many connections to Breaking Bad, which we were simultaneously binge-watching, at the time. We would laugh about how I needed to dim the lights in the kitchen and light a candle before injecting myself, apparently setting a mood helped me stab needles into my stomach. We laughed in disgust at what a mess the progesterone suppositories were and giggled uncontrollably when we decided that my husband needed to wear a condom during intercourse while I was using the progesterone suppositories for fear that if the cream made contact with his skin he would sprout a better working uterus than my own.
While I was on maternity leave with my second daughter, I was helping a friend and a family member through their infertility cycles. I was explaining to my husband how Jen's follicles were measuring at 17mm so she was probably going to have her IUI on Sunday, and Allison was ovulating so it was go-time at their house. My husband suggested that I start writing a book about infertility to help women. I barely had time to read books let alone write one, so I laughed him off and went to watch some television. A week or so later I started writing, Hilariously Infertile: One Woman's Inappropriate Quest to Help Other Women through Infertility. In less than five weeks, I had a complete first draft of my book.
I started sending my book to literary agents and publishers in my naiveté, not realizing that I need to be famous or married to someone in publishing to be published. Very few people responded, but those who did said they did not believe it to be a large enough market. A large enough market! It was that comment that fueled my fire and kept it ablaze every day since then. Infertility is one of the biggest medical markets in the country, and that is just the USA. Hearing someone say, "It is not a big enough market" infuriated me because that means that no one is talking about it, which means that people all over the world are suffering in silence.
I made it my mission to not only inspire people to talk about infertility but to get people to laugh about infertility through the tears. Over the past two years, Hilariously Infertile flourished on social media. I receive emails and messages every single day from woman all over the world telling me that all they did was cry until they found my content and now they are laughing too. Infertility is a sad, grim, and somber time in most people's lives, but with some light inappropriate humor, we can add a little laugh here or there, and that is what I am trying to do for couples all over the world. I always say, "If I can make one person laugh, who is having a bad day, then I did my job."