Lori Shandle-Fox is a professional humour writer who is here to tell you how can you fight with infertility without losing the smile and spark of your face. Here she is taking you on her roller coaster ride of IVF and IUI, which she has defeated with ‘infertility humour.
I really believe that my friend Jhansi purposely tells her American friends that she is in an arranged marriage just to see that look on our faces. It’s that look that says: “I’m living in 2017. What year are you living in?”
The truth is, if I’d been in an arranged marriage, I probably would never have become so intimately acquainted with infertility or the horrific treatments people do to combat it. Not to generalise, but of those women in the U.S. who want to get married and have a family, we all seem to fit into one of three categories:
1) “I’m 18: Let the ‘wife and mother’ mantra begin. Wife and mother. Wife and mother. Wife and mother.”
2) “the First college. Then a career. Then and only then… wife and motherhood.”
I was in the third category:
3) “I’ll go about my business doing what I want to be doing and if I find the right person when I’m 20, fine. Or 30, fine. Or 35, 36, 37—wait, what’s going on? Where is he? What the heck just happened?”
When the Cupid Struck
I was two months away from my thirty-ninth birthday when I met my future husband. (He is exactly two weeks older than I am, but apparently, Mother Nature only had an issue with me.) Honestly, age had a lot to do with our rush to get engaged and married. Age– everyone and everything’s age.
I didn’t really care that I was almost forty. But my eggs weren’t getting any younger, and neither were our parents.
After waiting all this time to find the right person to marry, I really didn’t want to have a courtship that lasted only about a week and a half. But we knew that time was an issue. So, we got engaged six months after we met and married three months after that.
Is ‘Fertility’ Genetics? I think So!
I’d been into fitness and healthy eating since I was a teenager and typically reveled in the belief that I always felt and looked younger than I was. I thought somehow, no matter how old I got, all of that youthfulness was going to rub off on my reproductive system magically. And anyway, my mother had my sister at thirty-six, and me at forty with no medical intervention (none would have been available.) So, there had to be genetics working in my favor too. Right? I mean, that makes perfect sense. (Feel free to call it “denial” if you like. If I were reading this instead of writing it, I would.)
When I Started My Battle with Infertility Humour
So, it was a rude awakening when I tried to get pregnant for an entire year without success. Were we doing it wrong? Were we not doing it enough? Should I be drinking green tea? Should I be inhaling dairy products? Should my husband avoid sitting on hot leather seats with shorts? (From what I’ve been told… that last one’s probably a good idea whether you have infertility issues or not.)
When we finally, begrudgingly, dragged ourselves to a fertility clinic a year later (as I was nearing forty-one), I was told that my reproductive system, my eggs, in particular, couldn’t have cared less that I’d been eating right and running since 1986 or what great feats my mother had achieved. Here it started my infertility treatment.
I knew it was a bad omen when I first walked into the waiting room and approached the computer to register myself. At first,I was fine. “Name”. Got it. “Address”. Know it without looking at my driver’s license. Then I got to “date of birth”.
“Month” fine. “date” fine. “Year of birth”. Wait, where is it? My year wasn’t visible on the screen, so I scrolled and scrolled and scrolled. 1984. 1974. I kept scrolling, hoping the damn thing would have another decade in it. Mercifully I finally found it. Thank God. I dreaded having to tell my problem to the nineteen-year-old at the desk and her saying:
“Your date of birth isn’t there? Wow. That’s never happened before. Let me ask my supervisor what I should do. Shall I bring over a chair for you while you’re waiting, Ma’am?”
I have to admit; I was a little jealous of the younger women in the waiting room. I know that’s not fair. Nobody was there because they wanted to be. I remember fixing my hateful gaze on one young woman in particular. I’m amazed her face didn’t burst into flames. She looked to be about twenty-two. “Damn you!” I thought. No matter what her issue was: If she was born with her uterus in backwards, or her ovaries were in her throat, or she limped because her Fallopian tube was wrapped around her knee – even if she were born a boy, she had years and years for them to switch out all of her reproductive parts before she was anywhere near menopause. They had more chances of successful infertility treatment, or at least what I thought so.
But since nobody could stick a telescope into me and count how many usable eggs I had left… the only thing that was certain was that my conception window was squeaking to a close… it could take a week or five years, but soon it was going to be shut tight and boarded up permanently.
Infertility Attacks Your Soul Too
Any infertility treatment is an awful nightmare. There’s physical, mental, emotional, social and financial pain. We all go through some if not all of it. One thing though: Whether it’s attributed to the man or the woman or a combination platter of the two, or maybe nobody’s quite sure what’s causing it, typically, no matter what we torture ourselves within our own minds, it truly is nobody’s fault.
With one exception… and I was living it.
Age was the Reason Behind Infertility
Age-related infertility was my fault. After all the infertility treatment tests and probes and questions…there seemed to be no other cause. I had simply waited too long to try to get pregnant. It’s quite a sobering thought to think all of this anguish could have been prevented.
The irony of it was that if I were thirty-one, I would have mentally slapped myself around for weeks or months: “How could you have been so stupid? You should have known better! I can’t believe we have to go through all this just because you were too lazy to go to a bar and find somebody to marry when you were in college like your roommate did!”
But if I were thirty-one, I probably wouldn’t have been confronted by age-related infertility. I had to deal with it because I was forty-one. And at forty-one, I had already moved well past pummeling myself into baking powder for something I could no longer change.
When I Found Infertility Humour to Defeat The Problem
My husband and I went through three failed IUI attempts. (Four if you count the one where I told the doctor at my new clinic that my follicles grew well at the end of treatment by themselves without further meds. Then he decided he knew better and ordered that I take another dose of the Follistim and then my levels went sky high and they had to cancel the IUI. Not that I’m saying it was his arrogance’s fault. Okay, I am. “It was your arrogance’s fault. Dr Jerk.” You read it here first.)
To be honest, I was very disappointed, naturally, but actually also a little relieved that the IUIs didn’t work. IUI is really like high-tech sex. It’s how I’ve always imagined lab people reproduce. He’s in one room. You’re in another. You don’t have to kiss or shake hands or anything. See my infertility humour! I was happy even when things were not good.
Somebody totally different, wearing a white lab coat and latex gloves brings a sample cup over to you, asks you to identify the name written on the piece of tape on the cup… which always unsettled me… I mean… yeah, that’s my husband’s name on the cup… so I can verify that the tape on the cup is mine… but I can’t really vouch for what’s in it or who put it there. Who knows what took place during that walk down the hallway?… and then the nurse quickly slips the contents of the cup into your body. No hugging. No touching. No Friends reruns on TV in the background.
So, I said that the failures were a disappointment but also somewhat of relief and infertility humour. If IUI, being so close to natural conception, had worked, I might have felt that really nothing was wrong. Maybe we just hadn’t tried hard enough on our own, and now we were going through all of this for no reason. But since they did fail, I knew that it was confirmed: If we were ever going to have a baby, we really did need help.
When I Added Infertility Humour to My IVF Journey
We then moved on to the next infertility treatment i.e, IVF. I went through one egg retrieval. I was anxious at first because believe it or not, in my forty-one years, I had never had any surgery before or been under anesthesia. My fears evaporated as soon as I met the anesthesiologist: An Italian man who looked like he had fallen off the cover of a romance novel. Not only was I no longer afraid of being unconscious, but I also considered asking him to be my sperm donor. (You’re right: There was nothing wrong with my husband’s sperm, but that was hardly the point, was it?) I was so starry-eyed looking up at him if he’d forgotten the drugs at home, I probably would have let him knock me out with a hammer.
They retrieved thirty-one eggs out of me. Five days later, sixteen embryos still looked good. From my experience, fertility clinics fear nothing quite as much as creating a multiple pregnancies and typically put in no more than an embryo or two in hopes of avoiding it. But of course, I was an exception. I wasn’t the twenty-two-year-oldupside-down uterus, knee-knotted transgender woman, choking on her ovaries in the waiting room. I was theforty-one-year-old hunched over bitty who couldn’t find her date of birth on their computer.
I didn’t have ten, fifteen years to do these procedures over and over,trying, again and again, to get it just right. So, they put four embryos in me. And still, I didn’t get pregnant.
When I Got Pregnant, Not Once but ‘Thrice’
They had frozen the rest of the embryos. And as much as I’m sure the doctors hated putting in those first four embryos, obviously, I wasn’t any younger on the next try, so they were about to do it again. This time, three made it safely out of the deep freeze. They put them in. Finally,I got pregnant. In fact, I got pregnant, pregnant, and pregnant. I’m sure I made the clinic so proud. Triplets… just what they’d hoped for.
A Piece of Advice
If you’re going through your own infertility “adventure” right now, remember two things:
1) There’s alwayshope. There are similarities to all of our stories but a zillion different way to succeed and
2) You’re never alone. There are literally millions of us who have been there who are always rooting for you and sending you positive thoughts even from thousands of miles away
Lori Shandle-Fox is a former NYC stand-up comic and professional humour writer. Her little eBook: Laughing IS Conceivable: One Woman’s Extremely Funny Peek into the Extremely Unfunny World of Infertility can be found on all Amazons, Nook, & Kobo. It has been downloaded by thousands looking to de-stress from infertility and is recommended by top fertility experts around the U.S. It is a nice book which actually lets you enjoy infertility humour.Tags: humor infertility Infertility infertity humour true IVF story