Get drunk, have sex everyday, buy new underwear, and other infertility insights

Guest post by Maggie A

By: tiffany terry - CC BY 2.0
By: tiffany terryCC BY 2.0
Infertility sucks, no two ways about it. It comes with a lot of stress, a ton of emotion, and its only exacerbated by the constant barrage of medical testing, bills and other bullshit you’d never expect.

Some parts of this have made me angry and bitter, but the hilarity that has ensued during the surreal conversations I’ve had about it has at least given me some uncomfortable stories to tell my future progeny and their prom dates. I plan to use them as part of the explanation I give for why they don’t have a college fund and why we live in a van down by the river.

People assume you don’t know what sex is… or how to have it

Every (insensitive) couple that managed to get knocked up by accident (or after two whole months of trying) will explain to you that the penis goes into the vagina, and suggest an alarming number of seemingly impossible sexual positions to try. I’d like to try having sex while I’m standing on my head but I don’t have the balance or dexterity for it — and I’m not trying to land myself a spot on TLC’s Sex Sent me to the ER (this is a real show and it is awesome).

Unscientific home remedies

These range from the well-meaning but utterly unhelpful, such as eat more kale and drink green tea, to the decidedly ridiculous, like take a lot of Robitussin when you’re ovulating. Never mind the fact that overdosing on Robitussin can cause serious side effects, and there’s never been a scientific study that proved it aided fertility… but it worked for someone’s second cousin, and that’s enough proof for the advice to be passed along as fact. My other favorites are get drunk, have sex everyday, buy new underwear, stop exercising (I don’t exercise anyway so that was easy advice to take) and have your partner drink a lot of caffeine to give the sperm energy.

Your sex life isn’t private anymore

All of the people you never would have discussed your sex life with ever, ever, ever will ask an inappropriate number of questions about your cycle, your masturbation habits, your positions and the regularity with which you’re having “relations.” Plus there are the sexogenarian doctors and nurses at the fertility clinic — and they get uncomfortably specific.

The uncool terminology for sex

When I was in middle and high school (before I was having sex) there were so many fun euphemisms for sex, but as a “grown-up” in a fertility clinic I’m forced to use the medical words like coitus, intercourse and relations because the nurse doesn’t understand what I mean by “bumping uglies.” And then she still can’t understand the explanation because I’m giggling like a 13-year-old (I said the word coitus to an old lady).

Transvaginal ultrasound

Or as we like to call it the “Dildo Cam.” During this procedure a 12 inch dildo-shaped transducer referred to as a “wand” is inserted into the vagina. If my partner didn’t already feel inadequate because we were in a fertility clinic, seeing this finished the job off nicely. I can promise you that nothing is as funny as laying on a table with my legs in stirrups and having a 60-year-old woman put a condom on a dildo, lube it up, and tell you she’s about to put her wand in me. Then she’ll ask why I’m laughing so hard (then I had to find a new fertility clinic because I’m on a list now).

A whole new vocabulary

Words like ovarian hyperstimulation, electroejaculation, and hysterosalpingogram don’t come up in conversation a lot (I swear they’re all real words). Ovary stimulation is not as fun as it sounds, and I’m sorry to inform you that electroejaculation does not involve you ejaculating electricity to make a mutant baby with Electro‘s powers. We’re still not sure what that last one is despite the fact that we’ve been billed for it twice.

We all know infertility sucks, but let’s take a moment to talk about the surprisingly funny things that have happened to you…

Comments on Get drunk, have sex everyday, buy new underwear, and other infertility insights

  1. My RE (reproductive endocrinologist for those of you not on the infertility bandwagon) recently told me to make sure to have intercourse every other day so that there would always be sperm on deck. I laughed for a really long time because I just imagined a boat with little sperm sailors traversing my vaginal canal and screaming “Land ho” when they saw my egg coming.

    I just THIS everything about this post. Literally every single thing from the bizarre procedure names/charges to lack of privacy to the Wand. Infertility is the worst. It’s sad and angry and all sorts of ugly things. Thanks for pointing out some of the funny things, it helps break up the sadness.

  2. I love this!!!! It was always fun (not) getting a call from my mom in the middle of the day, “You should have sex right now!!! I’m hanging up so you can go do that!” “Don’t worry mom, just finished up.” It’s totally not normal LOL I swear strangers knew more about my sex life than I did at times. I’m debating going down this road again…sigh.

      • Well now I really regret not taking that OR selfie to contribute. My surgery was so minor (a D&E) that they let me walk into the OR on my own steam and hop up on the table myself.

    • Hysterosalopingogram is so much fun to say, even if the procedure itself is pretty uncomfortable. Or at least the cramps afterwards were for me.
      I do like learning new medical technical jargon.

      • Dude, my 2008 hysterosalopingogram was such a disaster (something about a speculum getting stuck? I don’t know because I lost actually consciousness) that the doctor called me personally the next day to apologize and ask how I was. OY!

        • Oh jeez! My 2012 HSG involved finding out that the technician did not know how to find my cervix and took to shoving and shoving instead of switching to my preferred Pedersen Long (now I know the name and insist on it at every exam). Bleed for a day after – during and after by far the worst of all infertility procedures.

  3. This sounds like such a stressful process, but it’s great that you can laugh about it, even if some of it is probably I’m-laughing-so-I-don’t-strangle-you. Best of luck, Maggie A, and I hope that you succeed before even your inner 13 year old grows tired of giggling about all this sex talk.

  4. This was great to read, I laughed and laughed. It is definitely nice to look at the funny side of something that is generally so… not funny. It’s good to laugh at life, even the bad parts sometimes.

  5. I am all too familiar with aaaall of this! Fortunately we haven’t had to deal with much feedback from other people on how to have sex, but after we let our parents know we were trying, my MIL would ask if we were pregnant yet every. single. time. we talked! 2.5 years later, still not pregnant and now that we are at least starting the foster/adoption process, I don’t get asked about my prego status anymore. We still hope to go through with IVF in the future, but don’t want to wait any more to start our family.

    • My husband and I are foster parents. As in, we are actually parenting two small children at the moment. For us, the “are you pregnant yet” questions did not stop. Unfortunately, too many people have the mistaken assumption that adoption/foster parenting is a fertility treatment. I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard, “once you adopt, you’ll get pregnant!”

      • Yes… what is that about?!? I can’t tell you how many times someone has told me that story. I am so happy for you that you are fostering. Those kids are quite lucky!

  6. Not to mention couples sex therapy. My sex therapist was extremely professional, but it’s still super weird talking to a stranger about how my gynecological problems are affecting my marriage. And then she suggests a good lube to try.

    • Yep. Mine suggested getting a…ahem…make-your-own-vibrator pack. That you create by taking a mould of your partners erect penis.

      That was at least more helpful than the times she insinuated that my vagistmus was a result of my hatred of my own vagina. Umm…’kay. Luckily for FH and I we stopped paying her lots of money and figured out ourselves that I just needed a little extra TLC.

      That being said, I am still an advocate of sex therapy. But if, like us, you find that your therapist is kinda blame-y, find another one ASAP! (We couldn’t, as she was the only one in our town, but we did use the tools she gave us away from her judgey gaze!).

      ALSO! I giggled like a child when diagnosed with vagistmus. Cos it sounds like I have a Christmas vagina. Which is hilarious and awesome.

  7. We’ve been trying for two years and some change. I’ve had multiple encounters with the dildo cam(the last tech even offered to let me put it in myself as if that’d be less awkward), one hsg and another to be scheduled next cycle, and I was just” promoted” to the 100mg dose of clomid. My most recent doctor made the mistake of saying, “maybe you just aren’t having enough sex” and my husband nearly killed him with his death glare. I’m so glad there are internet strangers going through the same thing so I can rant, be supportive, and show them pictures of things I peed on.

    Elderly Grocery Clerk(looking at my 5yo stepdaughter) : So you only wanted one?

    Stepdaughter(indignant): My little brother is coming, he’s just STUCK!

    During my first HSG, I broke the speculum. Not the catheter(which I hear is common)but the freakin speculum. I laughed maniacally, the poor doctor looked at me like I had sprouted another head.

    Routine pregnancy test at dr. Dr looks at test strip and calls three nurses in. Apparently, several tests showed a “squiggly” line that none of them could decide on the validity of, so I was sent away with orders for blood work and an “inconclusive” on the test. I bring this up whenever my husband grumbles about me showing him a squinter line on a test strip.

    After my first hsg came back as “perfect”, I was having a good cry(because why wouldn’t you have a bitter uglycry when a doctor can’t find anything wrong with you?) and my husband said, “Hey, don’t cry. Maybe it’s me. Maybe my sperm take a look at your egg and say, “Nope, not today. I’m gonna go play WoW.”

    • I have heard that occasionally, doctors will get patients who really DON’T understand how sex works, or that they need to be having it regularly, ejaculating inside, etc… (thanks a lot, American sex ed!) so now they sorta, start from zero with people ;-P But that’s got to be amazingly condescending and frustrating for the other 99%!

    • Dude, internet strangers. No joke, I would have lost my shit so many times over the last year without the connections I’ve made to people going through what we’ve gone through (partial molar pregnancy, and now endometriosis/infertility.) There’s an online community for everything, it seems.

  8. You forgot to add the frequent first-thing-in-the-morning blood draws so they can monitor your hormone levels. There’s an odd kind of sisterhood that forms with the other women you see waiting day after day, even if no one talks (because even the coffee shop at my doctor’s building isn’t open until I’m leaving to go to work and conversation that early without coffee just isn’t happening).

    I can’t think of any funny things off the top of my head, but I know there have been a few songs playing on the radio when I’m going to/coming from an appointment that make me go “Heh, very funny universe. I see what you did there.”

    • During my last ultrasound “All of Me” by John Legend was on and they dim the lights – and all I could think was “buy a girl a drink first” – my ultrasound tech didn’t get it…

  9. Before we found out that I would 100% need to go with a donor egg; I was reading about the IVF process. I lost it when they said that while they do egg retrieval your husband goes into another room to produce a sample (aka masturbate into a cup) and all I could think of was how terrible that is for my husband – me in another room out cold with anesthesia and him having to get off in a small room. (I’m sure they supply a variety of helpful stimulation)

    The going into a cup for the Semen Analysis was…. difficult enough for him.

    Ultimately, the cost of infertility is so ridiculous but at the same time you’re like… well it’s science and we have to pay for science. But it’s hard not to fall into the bitter emotions of how normal fertile people don’t have to conjure up 30k just to have a family. -.-

    I just want to note that going to a clinic and being offbeat as we are, we also contend with judgement from them. It’s like they don’t take us seriously as parents -.- Yes, I have pink hair… yup the next month it’s purple. Yup, we work a lot of hours at our job and we actually love it.

    • I’ve felt the judgment too – we’re easily the youngest people in the waiting room every time we go and since we work for laid back companies and live in Florida we’re usually in flip-flops and pithy/geeky t-shirts and you can feel the looks from other patients and even some of the office staff. Our Nurses and and Doc have been pretty good though – except for not getting our jokes.

    • YES. My husband is a metal drummer with long hair and whenever he’d come to appointments with me, we’d get the weird stink-eye from other patients in the waiting room, like why are WE here? I might be projecting but it was so uncomfortable (as if those waiting rooms aren’t deathly-quiety uncomfortable zones already). It was kind of nice to go to the Czech Republic for IVF because over there, the NURSES had indigo and pink hair! It’s way more normal!

      • Hayley, I SO feel you on this one. Hubby is happy everything is ok, and I just want to find whatever-the-fuck is wrong, so I/we can frigginf FIX THE DAMN THING!! So, he thinks I´ve gone mental or that suddenly LUV getting pinched/prodded because I´m touring doctors like a pop star blazing through concerts, city after city! :S

  10. I don’t think I can count the number of times I’ve had people chirp “It only takes one!” at me after I’ve explained that a side effect of taking testosterone is azoospermia. But first they have to argue that it doesn’t make sense. Manly hormones = ferility, right? Nope.

    For the record, chest hair and a beard don’t equal good testosterone levels either. No matter how patronizing it felt for the GP to basically roll their eyes and say they were testing “per spousal request, ” I was RIGHT. Talk about your mood swings, “Ha! Take that doctor, I was right!” to “Oh @#$%, I was right. Sonuva…”

    Makes a good story, though.
    Plus the money we save on peesticks can be spent on wine and I can drink it whenever I like.

  11. In no particular order, things that helped me not lose my mind (or, do my best attempt at trying) during the nutter process of fertility treatments. #1: Making human connections with everyone in the clinic. I hated how impersonal it felt to be shoved into a room, ultrasounded and needled every morning and know that I was one of 73 people they’d poke in the hours before work. So I made eye contact, found out their names, talked to them, and wish them a good day. It’s kind of like the way putting on an outfit you love makes you feel slightly better if you’re feeling under the weather…at least it would make me smile and be a human being through interaction, not a nameless patient.
    #2: Enlisting my husband in the needles. If you’re in for the full whammo of IVF, humour really does help. My husband would set up Masters of Sex (because I dunno, we’re masochists?! But whatever distracts is good) on the ipad and I’d watch it while he set up the needles in the bathroom and I wouldn’t have to watch him poke my belly. Then one night we had to be out, and had to do the injection at a very specific time. We ended up in our car, doing the needle business in the front seat. We had to laugh at ourselves in a parking lot with the kit… staring at my bloated belly!
    #3: If you are in the donor or artificially-fertilized land, RECLAIM sex as only for good-times. Because chances are, most people have long forgotten what it was like to do it for fun. The upside of having to medicalize the making of the baby is that you are no longer bound to sex based on your cycle and trying to hit the right mark. It’s a small lining, but it’s a silver lining to me.

  12. Thank you for exposing me to this show, which I am sure is going to be life-altering. OMG.

    Also doesn’t caffeine KILL sperm?? Geez. I guess “have sex everyday” makes some sense if you’re just having a hard time hitting the right window, but…. dang, people are kooky.

    I wish I could somehow gift my fertility (assuming I actually am fertile, I’ve never really confirmed that) to someone who wants it, and take their infertility in return. What a lovely world that would be. Bleh.

    • I wish I could somehow gift my fertility (assuming I actually am fertile, I’ve never really confirmed that) to someone who wants it, and take their infertility in return. What a lovely world that would be. Bleh.

      I can’t even THIS this enough. I read these comments and want to cry. I would gift my wasted fertility in a heartbeat for the sweet relief of safe babyless sex. Sometimes shit’s just not fucking fair. I’ll never get over this bullshit.

      • Right?! I have to shell out several thousand dollars to keep my Child Free life forever. It would be so much easier if I could just be like, “Hey, here ya go! One fully functioning womb. Use the shit out of it.”

  13. What a wonderful article. My fiance and I have been in the same infertility boat and we have gotten the whole barrage as well, however, for us a large frustration is when people bring God or religion into the reasoning. It may be all well and good for them, and if it helps and comforts them, that’s wonderful. The problem for us is we are both atheists. We trust in science, and science has proven we are infertal. I don’t believe that I can’t get pregnant because “God has a plan” for me or that if I pray harder a little miracle my arrive by stork on my doorstep one night. I am a realist and as hard as it was to accept the truth of infertility, it is what it is. I know peole just mean well and I am always politely listening (even if I’m screaming in my head) and every time someone thinks its cute to buy me baby clothes to “put away for the future” I always graciously accept, but still feel as though they don’t quite grasp the lack of empathy it reflects. Its been a roller coaster of emotions and it helps to know that there is a community of Homies who help support each other.

    • Yesss! When I had a chemical pregnancy, my mother (who weren’t through years of infertility before adopting me and should know better) told me that “Miscarriage is just God’s way of making sure your baby isn’t born in too much pain.” It isn’t a comforting thought to me that the fulfillment of my hopes and dreams is at the whim of some deity who killed his own kid as a sacrifice to himself(no offense meant to believers.) I know people mean well, but I wish they’d stop making assumptions about something that’s impossible to know. My best friend is insistent she feels our time is soon, so she’s saving her cloth diapers etc from her soon-to-be-born baby for us. I appreciate the sentiment, but I’m glad she’s keeping them at her place.

      • I absolutely agree. I understand its probably an awkward subject for those not going through it, and their first defense is to rely on their religion and faith as they probably do with most things in their life, but I just feel like instead of trying to see it from someone else’s point of view people instantly default to God as a way to deal with trying to “keep positive”. Its probably comforting to them and I can respect that, however, its the lack of empathy towards our feelings that gets hard to deal with after a while.

    • …people have bought you baby clothes? I just can’t imagine giving someone a tangible symbol of they are struggling with. I guess people have good intentions, but they also don’t think it the whole way through.

      • Also, some people deal with infertility differently at different stages. Some people like to have those reminders around at X months in their journey, and then they hate them a few months later. Or they may hate them all along, or they may always view them as a sign of hope. It just depends.

      • I know that its not intentionality cruel on their part, its just bothersome that they see it as a cute way to say “stay positive” when in all actuality its just a box of reminders of what I cant have. I’ve come to terms with my infertility but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt a little every time some one says I need to “hurry up and have a baby” or my favorite, “why don’t you just adopt” because, you know its so easy. Everyone has an easy answer as if we just need to quite being lazy and just do it! Luckily we have learned not to get offended by ignorance lol.

  14. HA! Thanks for this!

    A sense of humor will help you get through the whole process (and keep you from strangling those well-meaning advice offerers). We went through all phases of process thanks to good insurance: IUIs, IVF with my own eggs, and finally donor egg (out of pocket!). Our first donor egg experience ended up in an ectopic pregnancy and we were ready to go the adoption route until a nurse convinced us to give it one more try. We kept our sanity during these invasive and painful(!) processes with our private jokes and routines like picking out a song to play for each time he gave me an injection “Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” “I Wanna Be Sedated,” etc. Whenever we drive by our fertility center, I say “Awww…so romantic…that’s where our son was conceived!” Even now, those who know all we went through to have a child still say stupid things about having another one the old-fashioned way…wink, wink. Gah!

  15. While we haven’t dared taking the next step (we’ve been trying for over a year), I will have to come back to this when we eventually do. Both my sisters in law are fertile as fuck, (both have or are having 2nds within 2 years of their first…) So… That doesn’t help. I love my neices like crazy, but I would be super deluxe happy if *I* was the one with the Good News for a change. *sigh*

  16. OMG, THIS!!!

    I was on the infertility (not very) merry-go-round for 3 years. First it was “lose weight and all your problems will be solved” then it was “well, now that you starved yourself, your body doesn’t realize that a baby would be good now. just wait” (I have PCOS, so there is some evidence that weight loss can improve fertility). Then it was “whoops! your bf has a low sperm count.”

    Through this whole thing, my MIL kept asking “how the baby making going?”. I told my husband that if she asked me one more time I would say something wildly inappropriate (“well, he was balls deep right before we drove over, so cross your fingers!”) jsut to get her to back off.

    I’m now 20 weeks pregnant and while I am super happy that IVF worked (third times a charm!) I’m also a little bitter that our savings is almost gone. Before IVF we were house hunting and now we’ve used up all our down payment money. Not bitter at my son, but bitter at insurance for running out mid way through the third round and for IVF for being so damn expensive in the first place. And I also feel privileged that I had the funds to cover the difference.

    Lots of complex emotions, for sure. Sometimes all you can do is laugh to get through it!

      • Yep. We sold our house and used the profits for IVF. It worked, but now there’s the question of what we do from here. We know we can’t afford home ownership in this city AND IVF (assuming it might take multiple rounds next time, if there is a next time) so it’s like we basically have to live our lives constantly factoring in IVF. 🙁 It sucks, because of course everyone is like, when are you going to stop throwing away your money renting?! And we’re all, uh, yeah, we DID own a home, and then we discovered we could either own a home or a baby, but not both. 🙁

  17. I’ve been hoping for an IVF related post! What a crazy process. Kudos to all of those going through it and managing to stay sane. I am in a strange fertility situation – I just completed a round of IVF (egg retrieval and then fertilization), in order to freeze as many embryos as possible before beginning cancer treatment. So I’ve only had a small taste of what many have gone, and continue to go through, but man, do I ever see infertility and IVF through a completely different (and much more empathetic) lens. Thank you for writing this, and reminding me that not only is it okay to laugh, sometimes it’s downright necessary.

  18. Ahhh… I am so glad my friend turned me onto this website… yes a thousand times over…THIS!
    People say the weirdest things and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “it will happen when you least expect it.” Okay-I’ll stop trying- then magically, I’ll get pregnant.
    I don’t think I will ever look at the wand the same again- I will always think of “Dildo Cam”… hahahaha
    One of my best friends just told me she was pregnant, but waited until she was 11 weeks to tell me because she couldn’t hurt me. Its not like its going to go away, in fact, its much worse being the last good friend she told. I know I’m different, but you don’t have to treat me differently. I’m also not naïve- we are all child bearing age- it was bound to happen and in fact, I saw it coming- why can’t we just be treated the same. Of course I am happy for them, why wouldn’t I be? Yes, Im hurt that I can’t get pregnant, but I’m more hurt by the fact that she couldn’t tell me… arggg…. I’m not crazy- okay, so I kind of am, but that’s all the hormones talking… hahahaha… But really, I’m a nice person- not that crazy lady who’s taking all those hormones that we must keep secrets from because she can’t handle the truth. No- the truth hurts less! Trust me!

  19. Finally, a place where other people get it! The irony of spending years fearing an unwanted pregnancy and doubling up on contraception as a result, to be now faced now with the prospect of a low likelihood of it not happening is not lost on me; sometime’s mother nature has a twisted way of doing things that’s for sure.

    We’ve done every test under the sun only to be told everything is normal, and that our results are good / very good for our respective ages so now we’re like what’s next? I admire you ladies who have the balls (no pun intended..) and stamina to go through with IUI / IVF etc; the HSG was so fricking traumatic for me that I’ve ruled out the prospect of anything else getting on in there (apart from the other halfs bit of course…)

    My ob/gyn is readily pimping Clomid but I’m still on the fence – I’m still to find a good explanation of why take it when all the tests are good (i.e you’re ovulating normally, good egg reserve etc) as I’m wary about going down the hormone route at this point. My next approach is acupuncture which I started last week – keeping an open mind, but I’m a big believer in it, and its significantly cheaper than the next round of RE etc visits, so why not!

    Having been trying for over a year, I do get to the point of being a bit irrational when friends announce they’re pregnant; I’m absolutely made up for them, but I also feel a bit like a 5 year old “it’s not fair, why can’t it be meeeeeeeeeee?” Cure much muttering and kicking of furniture..

    • I’m doing accupuncture too! It’s been very relaxing and mind soothing! I also write and do yoga because I am a bit of a work out nut and my accupuncturist suggested taking it easy during the two week wait.

    • my dr. just informed me he can’t find anything wrong with me or my hubby, but i did have a 7lb cyst removed from my ovary a little over a year ago. we have been trying for 4 years now to get preggars. so i was ready for those pills. there is a chance the cysts will come back and we were lucky this time i didn’t loose my ovary. i’d rather have the pills and not need them then being screwed out of being able to have a kid. but there is also a 14 year difference between me and my husband.

  20. My MIL said to me today “You and Hubby will give me grand babies with amazing X (fill in the blank)” and I wanted to scream. We haven’t told her that we’re not doing anything else to move forward in the fertility realm (I even have an REI family member who offered to do everything with the exception of lab work for no cost for me…), but I hate the thought of the shots, the sleepless nights, the EVERYTHING that comes along with it, so we’re just not going to move forward. We’ve also decided no adoption unless we can adopt from the country where my husband has ancestry, but there’s only one adoption company in the US that works with that country, and they’re not taking applications right now. I know we should tell them because it’s just prolonging the agony for all of us, but I just can’t bring myself to.

  21. Robitussin is actually not bad advice – it’s the same active ingredient as Mucinex which is often recommended to increase the quality/quantity of your cervical mucus. Overdosing on it, of course, is still a bad thing 🙂

  22. Just a quick note, re asking if people know that the penis goes in the vagina – my dad is a doctor and he’s had to explain (the baby making sort of) sex to multiple grown-ass adult couples who didn’t understand it. They’d been putting things in the wrong place or not ‘in’ at all, not moving once it was in, didn’t know they needed internal ejaculation, and I believe in some cases, couples think they’ll get pregnant because they’re married and *don’t actually know that sex is a thing.* And when I say ‘multiple’ couples, the statistic dad gave me is something insane like 1 in 3 couples who come in with trouble conceiving are somehow not doing the deed properly. This is in working class to upper middle class British society. Sex Ed is IMPORTANT…

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