How I Found the Humor in Infertility
A month after finding out my husband and I are likely never going to produce a baby together, I sit in the waiting room of a fertility clinic staring at an entire wall of baby pictures.
I'm feeling particularly sensitive about our inability to have a baby. You'd think that a fertility clinic, which serves many women who are likely feeling the same sensitivity as me, would be... sensitive to it. But no. Here is this giant wall of reproductive triumph. I picture Dr. Fertility Clinic in his no doubt very expensive socks receiving yet another thank-you card or another picture of a sleeping infant wearing felt antlers — an infant whose parents are so grateful to have “traded in silent nights for a bundle of joy!” I picture him loudly tacking the photo onto the clinic wall for all the other clinic doctors to see, like at those car dealerships where they bang a gong every time they sell another Hyundai.
My husband and I engage in a pun-off to pass the time, thinking of the uninspired card we’ll send the doctor when we inevitably get our baby. Because of course we are going to get our baby, right? I know IVF will be hard and expensive, but it is obviously going to be worth it to get our baby. We wouldn’t go through all this if we didn’t know it would make us the parents we so hope to be. Right?
So while we can’t really afford fertility treatments, we can definitely afford to laugh. After all, this whole experience is going to become strangely funny fodder for the story we tell our child about his or her conception. “Your dad gave me shots in my ass,” I’ll tell the kid, laughing. “Isn’t that silly and ridiculous and gross? But maybe less gross than thinking of your parents having sex?”
By the time we get through our seventh IVF cycle and have come to the realization that neither of us is going to have a biological child — that I am never going to experience pregnancy or nurse a baby — my heart is broken in half. None of it seems funny anymore. Not if I’m to remain childless. Not after all we’ve been through. Facing tomorrow is hard enough, let alone finding the resolve to laugh at our circumstances. My husband tells me that this is precisely when we have to laugh — when we are filled to the brim with pain and uncertainty.
He tells me this is the hard part. That trying to have a baby is the easy part — when there's hope to hold onto. "It's this, the aftermath, that we need to rise above,” he says.
I consider his words, let them settle on my wounded uterus and pride, and determine them to be wise and full of grace. (Although still easy for him to say because he hasn’t endured several years' worth of blood tests and invasive procedures and shots in his ass.)
I think about this wonderful man with whom I hope to parent and how lucky I am to love him — even if we don’t get to make a child to love together. I think of this and hold his hand and laugh anyway.
We choose to laugh at it all, any way we can. Because pinching your fat for an injection from the person you hope to maintain intimacy with is awful. Because having an ultrasound nurse ask you — a grown woman in front of an entire waiting room — whether you peed is absurd. Because seeing the number of new-baby puns people come up with to announce on social media that they’ve procreated is ridiculous.
I watch Tig Notaro’s Live, a brave and unprecedented performance discussing her breast cancer, and I am moved by her comedy. I am so inspired, I even write a performance of my own: a mostly true but completely honest comedic story about a couple struggling through in vitro fertilization.
IVF — especially its nonsuccess stories — is a tale that is seldom told outside of private conversations and support groups, and I'm proud to help amplify a topic that affects 1 in 8 people in the U.S. I hope when people learn my story, they will get a glimpse of what it’s like to struggle to conceive. I hope it will make people struggling to conceive feel less alone. Most of all, I hope it will make everyone laugh at the beautiful, painful absurdity of it all.
Wendy's series, How to Buy a Baby, will stream on CBC Comedy beginning Nov. 13.