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Infertility and the Road to Comedy

October 18, 2018
Written by Meirav Z, guest blogger and creator of “Inconceivable”
I never thought I’d one day talk so much about infertility.  And it would be about me.  And I definitely never would’ve guessed it could be funny.
So first off, blogging isn’t easy for me. I’d much rather stand on a stage in front of lots of people with a bright spotlight on me.  Really.
My name is Meirav (pronounced May-rahv).  I’ve experienced unexplained infertility and unexplained secondary infertility for a total of about 10 years, including hormone shots (for those who aren’t familiar– those are needles, not drinks), countless examination with that overly-evasive and completely unmagical vaginal wand, industrial amounts of lube, awkward IUI’s, surreal IVF, heartbreaking miscarriages, emotions galore, and everything else that’s very familiar to the ttc community— a community which I only became aware of this past year.
Professionally, I’m in theater, so I’m familiar with putting on a happy face and having that show-must-go-on attitude. And maybe now you can better understand how it’s easier for me to stand in front of a crowd and talk about my private parts and mood bungee-jumps than to write a blog about it.  Yes, “you” as in the one reading this.  Hi there. I know for a fact we already have at least one if not many things in common, and that’s so amazing that it’ll just help get me through writing this.
I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and as a young adult and adult, I was very aware pregnancy (you have sex = you get pregnant, it’s in all the books, sex-ed classes, movies, songs….How could anyone imagine it not being so?) When I was actually ready to have kids, I was shocked it didn’t happen immediately after my husband and I stopped using birth control.  It took us a long while to figure out that maybe we had some sort of problem.  Did I take birth control for too long?  Was there something that I missed in Sex Ed?? Nobody around us talked about this as an issue, we didn’t know this was something that affected so many couples.  This was all taking place in Israel, where I live now.  It’s a very family-oriented country, but we never really heard anything about problems while family-making.  We were totally clueless, and it took me a while to get over the embarrassment and shame and guilt and contact a doctor to inquire.  I mean, how were we not doing it right?!  I had a couple of miscarriages during that time as well.  Ugh, that horrible feeling of failure…  The doctor’s response was an immediate “oh, this happens to lots of couples, don’t worry about it” and we were sent to start fertility testing.
All the testing showed that everything was fine and in working order with the both of us, so we got the explanation of “unexplained infertility”— The thing you can’t pinpoint and fix because you don’t know what it is.  So off we went to fertility treatment.  I know, I just made it sound like we were skipping and hopping along with joyous background music. Nope. So how can you treat what you don’t know is malfunctioning? Well, with extra hormones, scheduled sex, and lots of intervention by medical personnel who are also complete strangers, of course!  I know, sounds exactly like a sexy resort vacation.
I remember that we were at this tiny fertility/IVF clinic, it was practically a hallway with a couple of chairs.  I was about to begin fertility treatments towards an IUI, all of this being a completely top secret assignment from anyone besides my husband and me, of course.  The nurse gave me a detailed explanation on how to self-administer the hormone shots with this special kit I was given.  I had to start on the third day of menstruation (“Day 3” later became known as this magical day for anything fertility-related). I listened very carefully, I even took notes.  I was a good student, I was going to ace this thing.  Then, sure enough I started getting my period, and I knew could finally begin the sure-to-work treatment in only 2 days.  But then my period wasn’t really, and something seemed off. I called the clinic and spoke with the nurse.  She had me come in and take another blood test, just to be sure.  Later that day the nurse called, congratulating me that I was pregnant, naturally!  We were amazed and so happy, and I got a speedy graduation from the fertility clinic, I felt like a star student.
My husband and I had our amazing daughter and felt overjoyed.
And then we wanted another child, and there we were “trying” again with no pregnancy.  Why?? This time we knew to go back to the fertility doctor right away.  We were then labeled as having “unexplained secondary infertility”, which is like “Really-Unexplained Infertility” or “Unexplained Infertility: The Revenge”.  We got ready to start treatment once again (well, for the first time, technically), and then I found out how little I knew about fertility treatments. I knew nothing. This time, I was waiting for that Day 3, totally thinking I’ll be pregnant again minutes before administering that first hormone shot.  But not this time.  This time I had to go through with it.  And then some.  So many shots, several failed IUI’s, then IVF. Remember that tiny IVF hallway-clinic I mentioned eariler?  Now it was already a few years after that first visit, and that clinic had expanded to be huge and shiny with nice leather couches and sliding glass doors… So many people going through IVF now.
The hormones and fertility treatments were too much at one point.  It was a huge strain on our family, and on our marriage.  We decided to take a break and just enjoy and appreciate what we have, and our daughter will have to make do without a sibling.  A couple of years later, which was about 2 years ago, I found out I was pregnant. Naturally again, and I found out pretty late in.  But within about a 2 week period we got on an insane fertility roller-coaster: Found out about the pregnancy, heard the heartbeat for the first time, and then didn’t hear a heartbeat. We were shocked, crying, I had to get a D&C.  No words.  But we got through it.
My husband always wanted me to talk about all of this with someone, and I wouldn’t.  I just couldn’t.  But then, after that last crazy roller-coaster loop, I decided to try.  But how??  I started collecting all my thoughts on paper, and when thinking about it, I found lots of comedic moments.  That fertility roller coaster is so surreal at times, it’s funny.  I had figured what worked for me.  So I invited some friends over to my house one night, they didn’t even know what they were coming for.  And there I was, telling them my fertility journey.  What it really means.  Everything you have to do, everything that’s done to you, all the feelings involved.  And being an actress who loves comedy, I presented it to them using characters, songs, and lots of humor. I was so nervous, I think I was sitting down reading from my paper the whole time.
When I was done I was so relieved that I got through it, now everyone could go home and that was that.  But instead, they all started telling me I need to turn this into a real show.  And even more surprising, they stayed over for a long time afterwards, because they all started TALKING.  They started to open up about their own related stories, that other friends in the room didn’t really know about.  And there suddenly was this deeper understanding and connection.  That’s when I knew this was worth exploring.  Because it got people talking about this thing nobody ever really talks about. Honestly and openly. And it got people laughing, too.  It’s like the comedy broke the ice of this taboo.
My husband wasn’t in the room that night, I made him stay in the area near our daughter’s bedroom to make sure she wouldn’t wake up and hear random songs and phrases about vaginas, sex, and other child-inappropriate content.  When everyone eventually left that night, he came up to me and just said he had no clue what that evening was about, he only managed to hear bits and pieces, but he was so proud of me and hugged me.  We stood there hugging for a good long while.  He’s been my biggest fan and best partner from the beginning. Infertility is so hard on men, too.  And yes, I’m crying as I’m typing this.
So fast forward about a year later, I now have a new show (this time it’s a solo show… about my personal stuff… yikes), titled Inconceivable: The Totally True One-Woman Semi-Fertile Quasi-“Musical”.
I have the privilege of performing it on stages big and small, including the National Theatre of Israel, and will be making a U.S. debut this October at the world’s largest solo performance festival, the United Solo Theatre Festival in the heart of New York City’s theater district.  My performance already sold out and I’ve been fortunate to receive an additional show date!  It’s crazy!  But crazy good, because now I’m on a mission to get more people talking about infertility, and laughing, and talking some more.  I’m learning about others who are on this mission in their own way, and it’s great.  More talking will create more awareness, and more awareness will drop that associated stigma, help educate, and make necessary changes or lead to advancements.
I’ve performed this show numerous times by now, essentially telling my story over and over again, and despite all the comedy it’s still very challenging.  But I keep doing it for the sole reason of what happens after each performance.  The live experience with this show is so energetic, it’s completely different from reading something or watching a screen which can be powerful in their own right, and this live energy is even more true for the complex topic of infertility.  The response for the show is amazing.  Some audience members find me after the show and tell me directly.  Most confide how they’ve experienced similar journeys and it’s so good to know they’re not the only ones, some thank me for educating them on what their children or friends are going through or have gone through, some are medical professionals who got some clarity to the patients’ side of things, and some just relate to the show in one form or another.  I’ve learned so much from the whole process of this show, both professionally and personally.
I have this guest book where people can write their thoughts, reactions, etc. after seeing the show, which I love reading after I pack up each performance.  One audience member wrote that people all over the world should see this.  And it’s true, people all over the world are going through the same things other people are, and may not even know it.  Thousands of miles apart feeling lonely but in reality so close.  And all of it boils down to the fact that we can all connect on one if not many levels, just like you and I already have things in common, which I find to be so exciting and empowering. I hope anyone reading this can identify with that.

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