The funny in infertility — my entry in the WaPo humor contest

I’m fairly sure the nurses thought we were nuts.

Well, I should clarify: Plenty of nurses have thought my husband and I were nuts, but in this case, I mean the nurses at the Genetics and IVF Institute in Fairfax, where we were trying to make a baby the modern way.

Infertility treatments are incredibly stressful experiences that nobody should have to suffer through, but they can also be hilarious. (My IVF motto: “You don’t have to be crazy to do this, but it helps.”)

It started the first time we walked into a darkened room, where a nurse waved an enormous ultrasound probe at me and I started laughing. Have you seen that thing? My husband made boom chicka wow wow sounds and I demanded a glass of wine and Barry White on the stereo if anybody was going to put something that big inside me. And the nurse stared at us.

“You mean nobody else has made porn jokes?” I asked. “Seriously?”

Apparently we were also the first folks staring at an ultrasound picture of ovaries filled with ripening eggs who tried to find the shape of a horsie or a duckie or maybe a smiley face. Who knew?

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The point is, we wandered into the utterly insane world of infertility treatments and decided that it couldn’t drive us nuts if we were already there. Besides, if you’re already laughing your ass off, it’s a lot harder to start crying. Fortunately for both of us, there was a lot to laugh about.

I’ll never forget the day I was in the waiting room, about to undergo some dreadful procedure, and I heard a startled laugh from my husband. I turned to find him waving something small and stuffed in my face.

“It’s a marketing gimmick,” he said, still snickering. “See, it’s got the cryobank’s name on it.”

I finally managed to get a look at the thing, which had little baby rattles and bottles printed on white fabric. It took me a moment to realize what it was:

A stuffed sperm.

“I must have one of these,” I said, clutching it to my chest. “You will get me one of these or I will kill you dead.”

He obeyed, and until the day I left, my stuffed sperm lived atop my work computer. (Right next to a stress ball.) People often asked if it was a stuffed whale or tadpole. “Not exactly,” I’d say with a slightly manic grin.

If there’s one thing that’s funnier than a stuffed sperm, it’s probably checking out of a hotel while your husband is carrying a sperm sample cup in his armpit to keep it warm. Just try and keep a straight face while doing that, I dare you.

Throughout this period, my friend Sara and I spent a lot of time threatening to write a book. (Working title: “How to Survive Infertility Treatments Without Killing Your Spouse or Anybody Else.”) Among other things, it would have included a handy pull-out chart to photocopy and distribute, of things to never ever say to someone undergoing infertility treatments.

For example, if you say “You just need to relax and it’ll happen,” then the woman you say it to will probably try to stick your head in a full bathtub while shrieking “Just relax just relax!” at the top of her lungs. Now you know.

I tried to tell a nurse about the book and she gave me the oddest look. What? Doesn’t everybody threaten to write a book about having vaginal probes and discussing your sex life with doctors? Maybe it’s just me. Well, and Sara. Why wasn’t she the one getting funny looks? Maybe she has a better brain-mouth filter than I do.

Of course, sometimes you just have to start laughing so loud they can hear you in the next room. Like when a nurse walks into the room, holds up a syringe of semen, and asks you if you recognize it. I think they meant the name on the label but I was momentarily worried I was actually supposed to be able to pick my husband’s semen out of a lineup.

And when the procedure was done…the nurse tilted the table back about 45 degrees and I found myself staring up at my feet.

Lying half-naked on a table, my legs up in the air, I looked at my husband and we laughed, albeit somewhat hysterically. (I learned recently they do the same thing when breeding dogs. I wish I’d known that then, because we would have spent the morning barking at each other, just for yuks.)

When all was said and done and then a few more things were done and then believe me I was done with the whole thing, I was pregnant. Nine months later, after rushing down a hallway for an emergency C-section, they wheeled me into the operating room and I looked at my husband. “Hey, I like that song they’re playing on the radio.”

Even he seemed surprised. “You’re thinking about the music?”

“What am I supposed to be thinking right before they cut me open like a melon?”

Let me tell you, if there’s ever a time you need a good laugh, an emergency C-section is that time. But a few hours later, our daughter Yael managed to emerge, mostly unscathed from nine months living in the womb of a crazy person.

Oh hey, remember that stuffed sperm? Yael, who’s seven now, sometimes asks about it when she sees it on our dresser.

“I’ll tell you when you’re 35,” I say. And then I give her a hug and tell her to clean her room, because that’s what mommies do. And amazingly enough, I’m a mommy, which is even funnier than going through infertility treatments and also a heck of a lot more fun. Except for the projectile pooping, but that’s a story for another day.


About mamamara

I'm a 40-something, work-at-home mother of two. I'm pro-vaccine, pro-medicine, pro-science, and an avid reader of information about all of the above, and I want to combine my love for my children with my love for science. So here we are!
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