10 Times Infertility Was Actually Sort Of Hilarious

Photographed by: Megan Madden
We'll be honest. When we were young comedians and our thoughts turned to pregnancy, our main concern was how to avoid it. So when we were finally ready to start our own families, we were surprised to find that it was not that easy. About one in 10 couples deals with infertility in some way, and we became two more couples to add to the statistic. From the moment we and each of our spouses stopped using birth control to the moment we finished our final IVF cycles, we spent years failing to get pregnant. In between, we charted our fertility cycles, scheduled sex, injected ourselves with medicines, and went through countless medical tests and procedures. In the end, when the two of us realized we had this common bond, we decided to write a sketch-comedy show about our experiences. Which might sound odd, but it works: Though there are obviously awful, soul-crushing parts to the infertility process, there are also smaller, utterly ridiculous moments you just have to laugh at. So enjoy the journey as we reminisce about that moment when...
John Murray and Silvija Ozols co-wrote and star in Infertile: A Sketch Comedy Show, running bimonthly at the UCB Theatre in New York City and as part of the 2016 New York Comedy Festival. Their next performance is on Thursday, December 22.
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1 of 10
Illustrated by: Chloe Seroussi
…I mailed my sperm in BB-8.

John:
In the early stages of trying to figure out why, as a couple, you’re infertile, doctors need samples of everything. Sperm is the primary thing tested for a man, and not all the labs are super close by, so you may need to mail some of your seed to have it tested. Well, one day, a huge package arrived at our door. My wife and I dragged it in and were like, “What could it be? Who sent us a present?” We opened the box to find a styrofoam cooler and both thought, “Bingo! Gift basket!” Boy, were we wrong. We opened the cooler to find a dry-ice-filled metal container that looked like the robot BB-8 from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. After reading the directions, we discovered that this was supposed to be the container to send my semen back for testing. This container was the size of the real BB-8! Lotta pressure! (Sorry, I don’t make that much sperm.)

I’m not gonna lie: We were both disappointed that it was not a gift basket or a working robot. Just an oversized cooler for my modest amount of semen. When we mailed it in, we were not sad to see it go. Also, I want to clarify that this all happened before The Force Awakens was released, so we originally thought the container looked like R2-D2. In retrospect, it was totally BB-8.
2 of 10
Illustrated by: Chloe Seroussi
…I carried a cup of my husband's semen on the subway.

Silvija:
I went through several rounds of IUI (intrauterine insemination). That's basically where the doctor takes the man's sperm and places it inside the woman's uterus. When wacky Uncle Morty makes a joke about trying to get pregnant with a turkey baster, this is what he's referencing. (Also: Consider not inviting Uncle Morty to Thanksgiving this year.) IUI has to be timed perfectly: You have to be inseminated on your most fertile day of the month, and sperm can only live outside the human body for about an hour before they start to not be useful. Which means your male partner can either come with you to the doctor's office and "produce a sample" there, or he can do it at home and you take the sperm with you. (Unlike with testing, you cannot send it in a Star Wars robot.)

This meant that, more than once, I carried a specimen cup filled with my husband's semen to the clinic with me. I held the cup between my legs to keep it warm, tried to cover it with my bag so people wouldn't see, and "casually" cracked open a book. You know, just trying to give off that "Who, me? Just reading The Goldfinch! Definitely not carrying a cup of semen on a train like a crazy person!" kind of vibe. At some point, I worried that I would forget about the cup and spill everything when I got up. Then, I realized that when you have a cup of sperm nestled between your legs, you can't really think about anything else.
3 of 10
Illustrated by: Chloe Seroussi
…a doctor yelled at my wife.

John:
Truth be told, I’m a naive person. I live a somewhat sheltered existence, in which I believe that we should all be nice to each other. For a long time, I also lived with the misconception that doctors always know what they are talking about. Infertility really woke me outta that dream. Meeting with doctors while going through infertility is like having a meeting with someone clutching at straws. It’s not the doctor’s fault — it’s just that conception, even though we know a lot more about it than we used to, is still a mystery. The best doctors are the ones who 'fess up to it and say, “Ya got me, but let’s try some stuff and see what happens.” But not every doctor is open to discussion. In fact, one doctor yelled at my wife for looking up information about her condition. Let me repeat: He yelled at her for researching something about her own body. Needless to say, that was the moment I realized that Alec Baldwin’s doctor character from Malice wasn’t fiction. And yes, we stopped working with that doctor and found someone who was more open to conversation. Things worked better from there on out.
4 of 10
Illustrated by: Chloe Seroussi
…I cheated at a baby-shower game.

Silvija:
One of the most awkward parts of not being pregnant is figuring out how to act around friends who are. You don't want to spoil their joy, and they don't want to make a painful situation worse — unless they are awful people. (If your friends are awful people, consider inviting Uncle Morty to their house for Thanksgiving.) Of course, while I was struggling to conceive, I inevitably received several invitations to baby showers.

I was so determined to have a good time and not spoil the party that I went full-on Sheryl Sandberg and leaned in. I was the first to hit the registries so I could buy the "good stuff" (e.g. the sparkling music turtle projector). I sat next to the weird cousin and asked about her ear spacer. And I threw myself into shower games with fervor. You want me to decorate a letter of the alphabet so it can go on the nursery wall? Great, I’ll decorate five. And I'll take the letters no one wants, like Q and X. You want me to guess the circumference of the baby bump? Cool, I will analyze this more than I do my taxes. You want me to take a quiz of fun facts about the mom-to-be? I will win, and I will make her mom feel bad for not winning.

At a certain point, I became so involved in baby-shower games that I cheated at one. So this is my public confession: Catherine, I copied your answers to the "guess the baby-food flavor" game at Kim's baby shower. I'm sorry about that. Although I'm mostly sorry because your answers weren't right, and neither of us won. You thought that one flavor was "carrot and plum," really??? Come on!
5 of 10
Illustrated by: Chloe Seroussi
…I was full of paranoia and regret.

John:
Infertility will get you really crazy about all your life choices. It’s bad enough that you can’t have kids, but then you start thinking, Why can’t I have kids? That makes you look back at every one of your life choices. Like maybe in 2001 you shouldn’t have tried ecstasy. Or maybe birth control was a bad idea? Or even broader life choices, like you should have tried getting pregnant earlier! Did you really need all that free time in your 20s? Regret starts seeping in and gets mixed with a paranoia that your current diet and alcohol habits are also contributing to your problems. Which slowly turns you into a walking basket case during a process in which you're constantly being told to relax. (By the way, constantly being told to relax makes you do the complete opposite.) What's a couple to do? In the end, my wife and I decided to leave the past in the past and focus on the present. This way, we could work towards relaxing and focusing on the topic at hand. It wasn’t easy (these thoughts would creep up daily), but using techniques like acupuncture and therapy definitely helped.
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6 of 10
Illustrated by: Chloe Seroussi
…I considered buying "fertility crystals."

Silvija:
I like to think of myself as a believer in hard science. A real savvy Sally. But in a low moment during the infertility process, I considered buying a crystal necklace online that was "guaranteed" to make me as fertile as Mesopotamia. It was after a doctor told me and my husband he had no idea why we couldn't get pregnant. He had run all the standard tests and there was no clear medical reason why we were not able to conceive. He said our situation was pretty common (as John put it, much of the process is still a mystery), but it made me feel angry and helpless. If I didn't know what was wrong, how could I fix it? And if medical science had failed me, who was to say that a crystal with "ancient soothing powers" wouldn't?

In the end, I didn't buy the necklace. And I still consider myself pro-hard science. But I don't begrudge those who believe in the necklace. With infertility, there's already so much judgment, paranoia, and regret (see John's previous commentary), you don't need me piling on. Whatever works for you, works for you.
7 of 10
Illustrated by: Chloe Seroussi
…I peed on a stick. Every day. For two years.

Silvija:
One of the first steps many women who want to get pregnant do is to chart their fertility each month, to be sure they’re having sex on or near the day they ovulate. You can do this by charting your cervical mucus and basal body temperature, or by using a fertility monitor. I did the latter, which was a bit like taking a pregnancy test every day. Every morning, I woke up, stumbled to the bathroom, desperately tried to open the wrapper covering the stick while holding in a full night’s pee, peed on the stick at the proper time (not too early in the flow, not too late), and then put the pee-covered stick into the actual monitor (picture a white plastic box about the size and width of two hands praying to a fertility god). After a minute, the monitor would show my relative fertility via bar graph, like cell-phone reception: one bar, two bars, and the maximum three bars. Just in case it wasn’t clear that three bars was good, the third bar also contained a little egg symbol. The second I saw that egg, I texted my husband that tonight was “date night.”

I thought I would be doing this for a couple months. I ended up doing it for two years. Every month, I would order more pee sticks on Amazon. Pro tip: If you’re ordering on Amazon, type “fertility monitor sticks” and make sure they are the kind that work with a monitor, not on their own. Do not type “pee sticks,” unless you are interested in training your dog to do his business on something called a “pee post.”
8 of 10
Illustrated by: Chloe Seroussi
…I almost peed on a doctor.

Silvija:
Yes, I have more than one infertility story about urine. This one involved the procedure IVF (in vitro fertilization). IVF is usually the last thing you try — after monitoring, hormone-stimulating drugs, and IUI — because it is expensive and invasive. But it does have a higher rate of success. In IVF, the woman injects herself with hormones to help the eggs grow (see #9 and #10), the doctor extracts the eggs, the eggs are fertilized in a petri dish with semen to form embryos, and a few days later, the viable embryos are put into the woman’s uterus.

The egg extraction (or retrieval) is done under anesthesia, but for the embryo transfer, I was very much conscious — and very conscious of my full-to-the-brim bladder. This was actually good: To get the most accurate ultrasound, you’re supposed to drink enough water the morning of the procedure so that “you feel like you have to go, but not right away,” as a nurse explained to me. Apparently it’s easier to see a full bladder on an ultrasound rather than an empty one. I didn’t mind, until the doctor and her assistant started pushing hard on various parts of my undercarriage in order to get the embryos where they needed to go. As they prodded and squeezed my belly and eventually started doing what felt like pro-wrestling drops directly onto my urinary tract, I considered whether this was all just a practical joke. Luckily, I managed to hold it until after the embryos had been moved to their proper place, which was apparently a two-bedroom apartment overlooking my bladder. They probably threw a housewarming party. I hope they invited my chins.
9 of 10
Illustrated by: Chloe Seroussi
…I realized that as a man, I had it easy.

John:
Infertility is a lopsided process. You and your partner could both be perfectly healthy, but since a woman’s body is where conception takes place, she ends up being the one most scrutinized by doctors. For me, it felt like once my sperm was diagnosed as healthy and they had enough samples of it, the doctor was pretty much like, “You can come for emotional support, but I’ll be talking to your wife most of the time.” Her schedule was crazy, especially during IVF: up at 5 a.m. to get to the doctor for tests, all before she had to go to work. Some weeks, every day! (To be fair, I tried to be helpful — I was like, “Should I get up with you? Show my support?” but my wife, bless her, was like, “Why? One of us should sleep.”)

But the pre-work hustle wasn’t all. At the end of the day, she’d get home from work and would have to give herself injections! (The injections were syringes of hormones helping to stimulate egg growth and prepare them for extraction.) This is where I could have helped out. Her injections were in a really tough spot (I’ll get to that in a moment). Some husbands administer the injections to their wife. But not this guy! Superhero that she is, my wife wanted to do it herself. Then, add on top of that all her surgeries: the egg retrieval, the embryo transfer, a D&C if the pregnancy was a miscarriage. The only thing I could do was sit next to her through all of it and hold her hand. I mean, it was soul-crushing for me, but she had both emotional and physical pain. Infertility sucks, but it sucks even more because it involves such a shitty division of labor.
10 of 10
Illustrated by: Chloe Seroussi
…I watched a nurse draw on my wife with a marker.

John:
Remember those injections I just mentioned? Well, when we first got shown how to do them, it was before my wife’s egg extraction. She’s lying on a gurney, naked save for a hospital gown, when a nurse comes in and says she’s gonna show us where my wife should inject herself in the coming weeks. The nurse tells my wife, “Get up, take off your gown, and put your hands on the wall.” So there’s my wife, basically nude and in a stop-and-frisk position, while the nurse takes a magic marker and draws two circles on the sides of her lower back. I mean, out of context it sounds like the nurse was doing sorority hazing or moonlighting as a prison guard — “Against the wall!” But that wasn’t the case at all; it was just another run-of-the-mill weird moment in the world of infertility.
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