Putting the “I” in Infertility

Fertility clinics are pregnant with contradictions. The waiting room is full of the saddest looking 30-something women you have ever seen, sitting in front of walls plastered with pictures of precious little babies. I myself stare longingly at the sea of tiny hands and tiny feet (though not the ones of triplets), hoping I too will one day have a photograph to add. The last time I had a picture up on the wall of a doctor’s office was 30 years ago when I was a member of my dad’s No Cavity Club!, which displayed a photo of my cousins Jenn, Paul and I, proudly holding up no cavity certificates for the camera in various whatever-a-saurus sweatshirts. I’m wearing a rockasaurus hoodie in the picture, though with my questionable 80’s bangs I most definitely did not rock.

Now I’m Infertileasaurus, I guess.

Infertileasaurus. (in-fur-tahyl-ә-sor- әs) n. 1. A women in her thirties losing her fucking mind because she’s not yet pregnant. 2. A woman whose entire family now knows the timing of her menstrual cycle.


I meet with the doctor and he is wonderful. He is patient and kind, though he tells me in the first five minutes of our meeting that I am “likely going to get fat” and I don’t hear a single, other word he says after that.  

What kind of fat? I wonder, as he explains the various tests and procedures I will be subjected to and their various costs.

Fat in the face? Fat in the uterus? Fat all over? Permanently fat? Temporarily fat? Water retention fat? Fat I can loose? Fat I can’t? Fat that comes on slowly? Fat all at once? How long will I be fat? What kind of fat????

“Do you have any questions he asks?” after spending an hour carefully drawing a picture,  upside down no less, of the fertilization process and the corresponding hormones.

Yes! I want to say, Yes! Just what kind of fat are we talking about here!?

I leave the meeting feeling vaguely dis-empowered, lost in a complicated process that is consuming me from the outside in. My life has become divided into times I am getting my period, times I have my period, and times I don’t have my period, which don’t matter at all. I might as well not be alive on these irrelevant days.

Infertility is all I want to talk about. The mailman stops to give my dog a cookie when out for our walk and when he asks “how are you?” I want to stop, take his hands in mine and say, “my husband and I are struggling to have a baby!”

I show up at the hospital a half an hour early for my hysteropingogram, an X-ray test that will examine the inside of my uterus and fallopian tubes. Despite my early arrival there are already four other women in line before me. We are all called in together, handed hospital gowns and instructed to undress from the waist down. I leave the change room, gingerly, holding together my flimsy gown while I balance my laptop and purse on one arm and hold my clothes in a ball under the other. The other women seem to be more experienced than I am, having all brought bags to cart around their personal effects, and somehow look less ridiculous than I do wearing a paper thin robe and large, winter boots.

I sit down beside them and try surreptitiously to shove my balled up underwear into my purse.

“First time?” says the woman beside me.

“Yes,” I say.

I turn to her. “I’m nervous.”

“You should be,” she says.

Right. Thanks.

We all sit in silence. No one reads or checks her phone, all sitting in a soldierly line staring straight ahead, pondering, I assume, the state of our respective infertility.  It feels, to me, like some kind of sad sorority and despite the hushed atmosphere among us I feel this overwhelming need to bond with these women, to talk to them, to know their stories. “So what’s your deal?” I want to lean over my chair and say to the one on the right. “Is it you? Your husband? What’s up? Where are you at in all of this mess? How are you coping?”

More silence.

This sucks. Am I right ladies!? This sucks. Don’t you want to talk about how awful is this process?

I pull out this graphic novel I just discovered called Wendy and I want to tell them, “Look! I just found this graphic novel with my name! Fun, right!?” No one looks over. No one cares what I’m reading.

Another gowned woman joins our row.

“What’s the wifi password?” she asks.

The wifi password!?

Two of the women answer in unison and I wonder how they know that, how many times they have been here and how long they are planning to be here.

The first woman is called in.

Good luck,” I say and realize, immediately, that this is as taboo as asking people their names at the dog park.

My husband and I are of course in this together but there is something to be said about living a common experience. While he can share the emotional burden of our infertility, he can’t commiserate about what it’s like to have iodine squirted up one’s lady bits. He doesn’t know what it’s like to lie, uncomfortably, on a cold x-ray table, biting one’s bottom lip, waiting to see if said iodine squirted up said lady bits spills out into the fallopian tubes like it’s supposed to. And it’s this that feels the most pressing, now, while I sit in a hospital waiting room, wondering if I’m the only one worried about spotting on her gown.

Right, ladies!? Right?? What if I spot on my hospital gown and everyone can see when I walk to the x-ray room? What if I took the pain killers too early? What if their effect has come and gone? What if my husband and I can’t have a baby?

An hour later my name is called. I hold my laptop bag up behind me to cover any potentially embarrassing markings and follow the technician into the room.

Good luck to you, I silently wish the other women. Good luck.



This article has also been published on The Huffington Post at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wendy-litner/putting-the-i-in-infertility-_b_6537638.html