Infertility and humour don’t typically go hand in hand. However, one couple created a comedy series through their experience.
Photo courtesy of Brendan Adam-Zwelling
My husband and I have never been a couple to raise our voices at each other, but there I was, bent over our bed with my jeans and underwear bunched round my ankles yelling at him to give it to me. My husband protested, worried it would be too painful for me.
“JUST STICK IT IN MY ASS!!!” I screamed.
He finally thrust forward, injecting me with the hormones that would start our first round of in vitro fertilization. As the needle punctured my skin, we both screamed in unison: he for having given me an intramuscular injection with no prior medical training, and me for having just been injected by a non-medically trained person who still has difficulty swallowing pills. Also, I noticed our window was open.
“Oh my God,” I said, rubbing my butt in horror. “We have to do infertility treatments AND we have to move.” I quickly drew the curtains, ashamed that my husband and I needed to go through these physical, emotional, and financial, machinations to get pregnant, when it seemed so easy for everyone else.
Of course we didn’t move; though, I did immediately order blackout curtains. Instead, I faced my neighbours and the world by creating a comedy series about a couple struggling to conceive called How to Buy a Baby. People have asked me why I decided to write a comedy about something that causes so much pain and relationship turmoil and is often shrouded in stigma. The answer is easy: because while being unable to have a much-wanted baby is heartbreaking, the process of infertility treatments is RI-DI-CU-LOUS. From the awkwardness of daily transvaginal ultrasounds to the comments from well-meaning relatives wondering if you’re “doing it right,” to having to sneak into a public bathroom to do yet another ass injection, I’ve seen the hilarity in infertility. I’ve seen the humour and the romance and the resilience and the sheer love of trying to make a baby in a doctor’s office.
There was the time I asked an ultrasound technician if I had an ugly vagina, self-conscious that out of all the many vaginas she had seen that morning, mine somehow stood out in a terrible way. And just about every aspect of sperm donation—whether it be reaping my husband’s or buying it over the internet—is absurd. While I wanted to sympathize that he had to pleasure himself in a cubicle in a doctor’s office, I was also super curious about what pornography he watched, exactly, to make our future baby. It’s an answer I have yet to receive, so I guess in some ways infertility does have some of the magical mystery that comes with making a baby the regular way.
What I found funniest, though, was how easily and quickly embarrassment and awkwardness gave way to the ordinariness of routines and small talk. Once, the ultrasound technician and I discussed at length the best products for curly hair: do you prefer cream or a gel? Diffuser or air dry? Suddenly, she interrupted what I thought was a productive discussion about applying leave-in conditioner to point out one of my follicles on the ultrasound monitor.
“I think I’m looking at a future Prime Minister,” she said, while holding the wand inside me, a comment that made me both laugh and cry.
It’s this tension I’ve tried to capture in How to Buy a Baby—how hope can comingle with endurance to create this strange reality in which doctors, nurses, ultrasound technicians, embryologists and financial advisors are all involved in the intimate act of making a baby.
People love to talk about the “miracle of birth.” While ultimately I was unable to conceive, for me the miracle of it all was finding a way to laugh at the process and to tell the story. The marvel wasn’t a newborn with my husband’s blue eyes or my curly hair but mine and my husband’s ability to face the loss of our shared biology, let go of the way we thought we would become parents, and channel that love and laughter into a series about infertility. That miracle, to me, is no less meaningful.