How many infertiles does it take to change a lightbulb?
I’m Meirav (may-RAHV), and through laughter, I have been able to share something incredibly unfunny that I’ve kept to myself for years, in turn connecting with people from all over the world.
My husband and I have experienced unexplained infertility and unexplained secondary infertility for over 12 years, including IUI, IVF, miscarriages, emotional roller-coasters, and countless medical personnel who've seen my vagina.
We were sure conceiving would be definite, fast, and easy. Nobody around us spoke about fertility problems, and we weren’t quite at that era of Googling everything.
After a few years of trying and two miscarriages, we met with a fertility specialist who determined we had “unexplained infertility”---basically the medical equivalent of “WTF”.
I found out I was pregnant naturally on the day I was supposed to inject my first hormone shot for our first fertility treatment. So my husband and I “graduated” the fertility clinic without ever having to deal with any shots, semen samples, cruel and unusual evasive procedures, or anything like that. We were like conception geniuses!
We had our amazing daughter, and when she was about a year old we decided to try for another child. Sure enough, we had trouble conceiving again. We returned to the fertility specialist and were now defined as having “unexplained secondary infertility”, a.k.a. “WTF-- The Revenge.”
Well into the twenty-first century, humankind has gone into space numerous times, but basic human reproduction cannot be explained.
We went through several years of various fertility treatments which took a toll on our relationship and family. I hadn’t spoken about it with anyone but my husband. I felt so much shame, embarrassment, guilt, and frustration.
I didn’t think sharing these intimate experiences would help, and I really didn’t want anybody’s pity or to be regarded as “that couple that fails at sex.” I didn’t want our daughter getting that vibe from anyone, either. Everything became a covert mission like we were secret agents. Very sad, unglamorous, sexually frustrated volatile secret agents. I was sure I was the only one struggling to deal with all this absurdity and just needed to suck it up.
About three years ago we went through an emotional miscarriage after discovering I was naturally pregnant. It was crushing. Once again my husband suggested I talk to someone. This time I listened, but who do I talk to? And how?
Infertility is anything but funny, but those situations can be so surreal and absurd that they’re pretty amusing. That’s how I found what worked for me.
I decided to confide in a few close friends, and invited all of them over one night to tell them about my experiences, and what infertility really means. Everything you have to do, everything that’s done to you, all the feelings involved. Being an actress who loves comedy, I presented it to them using characters, songs, and lots of humor.
When I was done I was so relieved. I thought now they can better understand my possibly withdrawn or unusual behavior all those years, everything’s clarified, and they can go home. But they stayed and started talking, bringing up their own similar experiences. It seemed like there was this deeper understanding and connection. They started talking honestly and openly about this thing nobody ever really talks about. And they were even laughing!
My friends urged me to turn that “presentation” into an actual show. I immediately started doubting and questioning. Is that a good idea? Why would strangers be interested in my personal story? Would anybody really understand? Men couldn’t possibly be entertained by this…People might get offended…Would anybody even laugh?
I worked on it anyway, writing, editing, and rehearsing with brilliant theater colleagues who helped me shape it all into a show. Months later I premiered the show on stage, and I was extremely nervous. It was an amazing experience.
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Afterward, I bowed and immediately ran to my husband standing behind the last row, he hugged me tight and I cried. I felt so exposed, drained, everything. It was probably a weird sight for the audience, watching this crazed woman jump off the stage and run all the way up one of the aisles, but I didn’t care. My hubs is my rock.
I have had the privilege of performing this show for over two years now, in theaters, events, and support groups in different parts of the world, and it’s like an “edutaining” group therapy laugh session. Audiences have been wonderful, and their feedback motivates me to make sure more people experience this show, too. Some finally understand their friends and family members. Some relate because they had similar experiences and felt understood, even validated. Medical personnel enjoy it, too, getting a different perspective on their patients. Even men understood women better.
This show has been on its own unexpected journey, constantly evolving. Here’s what I’ve learned so far that can be useful for others:
- My husband was right. I should’ve talked to someone sooner.
- Opening up about personal struggles can be helpful for others, too. We are never alone in our experiences, and these connections are powerful.
- Sharing my experiences has also given me the opportunity to meet many amazing and inspiring people from all over the world, virtually and in real life.
- One can learn from everything: Challenges, losses, wins, mundane events, other people. Everything is a learning opportunity.
- Finding the funny is challenging, healing, and many times crucial.
- Continuously revisiting painful experiences is challenging, but knowing I’ve helped even one person laugh and better understand or cope makes it completely worthwhile.
- I don’t care about embarrassing situations anymore. I’ve seen seventeen interns look at my vagina at once during a procedure—it’s all good from here.
- Every single person has baggage and different sets of circumstances.
- Perfection (like lists of 10) isn’t necessary. Imperfection is perfection.
Meirav Zur is a mom, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, friend, actress, producer, writer, and humorist, currently internationally raising awareness for infertility through humor with her live solo show Inconceivable: The Totally True One-Woman Semi-Fertile Quasi-"Musical" (currently running on Zoom) and its accompanying infertility humor online. Watch the trailer here.