Karen, a.k.a. Hilariously Infertile, is a teacher and writer who lives outside New York City with her family. Check out free chapters to her book, Hilariously Infertile, on her website hilariouslyinfertile.com , and find her on Instagram and facebook for your daily laugh-out-loud, snarky take on infertility. She will not disappoint.
After being diagnosed with PCOS and hypothyroidism, you wrote a book about your experiences with infertility. You've drawn attention to the book (and infertility in general) through your website (Hilariously Infertile) and social media platforms. What inspired you to share what you went through with others?
After the birth of my second daughter I was on maternity leave, and I was helping two of my good friends through their infertility cycles. I knew when they were ovulating, how big each follicle was on each day, all of it. My husband happened to mention in passing that I should mentor women, or write a self-help book for women. So, I started writing. At first, I didn't really know what I was writing. Was it a blog? A book? An article? All I knew was that it was real, and funny, and honest (and not a self-help book like my husband suggested). I shared it with my husband, and a few close friends at first, they all encouraged me to keep writing. Once I realized it was a book, I tried to email literary agents to get a book deal. (So naive.) I quickly learned that I have no connections in publishing. So, a friend suggested that I start a website and social media accounts. This was intimidating to me because I never even had a personal Facebook account (I know, weird right?). I started the website and the social media, got some articles published on FitPregnancy.com and from there it all kinda took off. The more I wrote and posted, the more women were emailing and messaging me from all over the world telling me how I was changing their life. (Nuts!) At first I thought Hilariously Infertile would be a dream that would fizzle out when I went back to work after my daughter. I thought it would reach a couple hundred people and that would be amazing! Incredible even. Then it just grew and grew and the feedback became better and better and more forth coming. I realized that I am really helping women from all corners of the earth get through their day with humor about such a sad subject and that means more to me than any book deal or anything.
You’ve written about “rules” in infertility, one being that no one is to talk to anyone else in the fertility clinic waiting room. Yup. Totally experienced the cold, blank stare if I so much as half-smiled at another patient. Why do you think there is often so much secrecy surrounding all things infertility?
I really don't know why people, women and men, don't talk about infertility. I was always very open about it, obviously. I think there is such a stigma about infertility and I don't quite "get" it. Maybe people think it makes them less 'womanly'? Maybe people think that it is too personal to discuss with others? Maybe people feel that they can't talk about it because if people know they are trying they will feel too much pressure each month after their failed cycles? I really don't know. I think that part of the stigma of not talking about it, adds to the stigma of it, does that make sense? I always talked about it, and I will continue to do so. Being infertile is hard enough, people should not be suffering in silence.
I am so heartened by the community I’ve found in the world of infertility. People that have been there are usually so kind, gracious and willing when it comes to helping others dealing with the struggles of building their family. What has been the coolest or most uplifting thing you’ve encountered since starting Hilariously Infertile?
Oh wow. There have been so many highs and lows. I truly feel like I am close friends with all of my followers, but not in a creepy way. I know that sounds lame, but when I see that a follower has suffered a miscarriage, it breaks my heart and I am really affected by it. (Same goes for any other negative medical situation.) When my followers get their positive pregnancy tests and carry their babies to term, that also truly affects me. I feel like I am close enough with them, that I have watched them through their journey, just like any true friend in my life. I think the highest point for me so far with Hilariously Infertile was when the PEOPLE.com article posted and women were posting comments to me about how thankful they are, and how brave and amazing I am. My husband came home and was like, "Did you see the comments today?" We were both so appreciative of these kind words, and so truly humbled to be given the opportunity to help people. I don't think I'm all that amazing or brave, I'm just me, no filter.
You are not only super funny, but also very relatable. One of the most relatable things about you is that you worked full time as a first grade teacher throughout all of your infertility treatments. How difficult was it for you to manage a full-time job and infertility appointments?
Thank you, I hope I'm relatable. Anyone will tell you that working and going through infertility is a struggle. Working at a job that has a start time of 8:24am and going through infertility is very hard. I had to navigate New York City traffic, and morning visits, and still keep my cool so I didn't lose my mind with my students. It was hard, but I did it, because I had to. Women are the most amazing force to be reckoned with, we really can do anything, even teach first grade and be infertile. (hehe)
You’ve said that one benefit of fertility treatment is basically becoming a celebrity at the clinic-everyone working there eventually learns every detail about you and your lady parts. My personal claim to fame at my clinic was that my left ovary, though present, was notoriously difficult to find, even with the wand. Were there any other bright spots you found in your frequent trips to the doctor’s office?
Ha! The elusive ovary. I loved the people who worked at the clinic, the nurses specifically and the receptionists, they were all amazing. Other bright spots were that I used to have an aversion to getting my blood taken, which I had to quickly overcome, so that's good. I liked joking around with the doctors. I liked observing what they did down to the most minute detail and then pretending that I was my own fertility doctor. For example, I would watch them measure each follicle and then in my head make note of how big the follicles were and plan when the next visit would be or when I would be inseminated (after a while I got pretty good at it). Making little games like that helped me.
You are clearly a very vocal person, something I value and appreciate as someone who is also trying to get the word out about infertility. What was the most helpful thing someone said to you while going through it all? The least helpful thing?
Most helpful thing was, "What can I do to help you?"
Least helpful thing was, "It will happen" or "just relax" or anything about how God has his influence on my uterus.
In your book, you write about how supportive your best friend was. What can someone trying to be supportive to an infertile friend say or do to be as supportive as Shameeka was to you?
Just listen. Just be there for the person and listen to them. There really is nothing you can say. And nothing you can say that they haven't thought of already or googled already. Just be a friend the same way you would be a friend during any other major life incident.
The taglines on Hilariously Infertile read: Part Teacher. Part Mom. Part Wife. Fully inappropriate. Forever Infertile. You’ve had two girls since this journey started, can you speak to the “forever Infertile” tag line?
Good question! I will always have PCOS, I take medication every day to manage it, I will always be "infertile", just because I have two children (both with medical help, obviously) doesn't mean that I am any less infertile than someone else with the "infertility" diagnosis. Also, linguistically I liked the way it sounded, "Fully inappropriate. Forever infertile." To me it says, 'I will forever be inappropriate and I will forever be infertile.'
What is one piece of advice you would give your followers that you wish someone had given to you when you started the process of infertility treatments?
Hmmmm. There are so many pieces of advice, but number one would be; just try to get through each day, take it day by day, which for women who are like me and need to plan ahead is actually really hard. The second piece of advice sounds really dumb, but I wish I knew this when I was going through it; buy pants with elastic waists. Leggings, tunics, flowy dresses, whatever. I never had the right clothes and getting dressed in the morning, for work, would add another level of stress that I didn't need. I gained a good amount of weight going through treatments and then with the IVF retrievals I gained even more. Having comfortable clothes, that I could wear to work, and not feel horrible in, would have really made a difference.