My wife and I had a short, two-year bout with infertility.
We tried making babies the old-fashioned way, hit a few speed bumps, and got tested. Turns out, we were both infertile. Her eggs; my sperm, yada-yada-yada…
We sought out treatment.
Because I’m a comedian—one who tells personal stories on stage—I would then discuss (in hilarious terms, naturally) what we were going through. I’d talk about the progesterone shots, the setbacks, and anything and everything under the sun infertility-wise.
After every show, I’d be approached. Sometimes by as few as one couple, but more often than not by at least six people.
These were all people who struggled with infertility.
They’d share their stories—how many years deep they were, or how many years total before they gave up, how much it cost, what it did to their marriage—and then they’d wish me luck and move on. More often than not, I’d receive a sad, knowing smile as they left.
Then, in vitro fertilization gave my wife and I two kids: one girl, one boy.
With that, we were done. Two kiddos made our family complete, so we donated our remaining embryos to a couple in need and went about the business of raising our family.
I still talk about infertility on stage, but now it’s a success story.
We got really, really lucky, I know that. As said, we only dealt with two years of treatments. I heard stories of a decade of trying, tens of thousands of dollars of medical costs, and failure. There was so much failure.
While my wife and I were struggling, I was a part of a collective.
Now that I talk about infertility success, I can’t think of the last time someone talked to me about in vitro, or artificial insemination after my act. I cannot believe these people just evaporated; that suddenly people who struggled with infertility no longer exist, they no longer have anything to share with me.
It took me a while to catch on, but people misery loves company. During our process, people were offering kind, wonderful support. Because we were alike at that moment.
Now I’ve moved on; I’m no longer part of that group. I have empathy for those I’ve left behind, and all they’ve gone through, but there’s a chasm of difference between wanting a child and being unable to achieve that goal, and actually being a parent.
Which isn’t to say I believe anyone resents me, or is jealous of my wife and me. It’s just… they cannot relate to us.
When I bounced this idea off my wife’s noggin, she agreed wholeheartedly. Our first IVF cycle didn’t take; it failed. My wife was devastated. She went from excited and hopeful, to despondent. The first thing she did was to hop online and look for comfort; she wanted to feel not so alone in the world.
Finding stories like ours helped. There’s a lot of pain in infertility, and reading the sorrow of others lessened her own grief.
Every so often, however, she’d stumble across a success story. Oddly enough, instead of giving her hope, it would upset her. She wasn’t ready to revel in someone else’s joy at that moment; she needed to know that people were going through what she went through. She had to work her way toward joy; to go through her own stages of recovery.
Just like everyone out there listening to me discuss our successful IVF babies on stage now.
I know there are people out there struggling with infertility. It would be nice if they could all realize their goal, but I know that’s not possible. Some people will try their hardest and it will all be for naught. My hope is that they can find hope in my stories, my jokes. That if they are in the thick of things, they see a light at the end of the tunnel.
And to those who have moved on from trying? I hope they can still laugh through their pain. I’m bringing up a touchy subject while on stage, and even years down the road the ghost of what could have been can still haunt you. If I express myself clearly enough, hopefully they will understand that what I’m saying is in no way a reflection of what they went through. It doesn’t mean they “failed,” or did anything “wrong.”
It wasn’t their fault, it was just biology. No one has any control over that.
I cannot lie, I kind of miss talking fertility after shows. I tell personal stories on stage because I’m hoping to make a connection with the audience. That’s why I got into this into this industry. If I didn’t want to relate to the world around me, I’d be telling hack jokes about the Taco Bell drive-thru at 2 AM and wacky Uber drivers.
Being unable to conceive is very personal; it can ruin marriages, destroy friendships, and steal your optimism.
Hopefully, it can also make people laugh.
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