Comedian Amy Schumer’s public plea for advice and support while undergoing in vitro fertilization resonates with many of us who have struggled to get pregnant.
The image of Schumer’s bare belly bruised from injections paired with the thick scar from her C-section is jarring in its rawness. It is my belly and the belly of every woman who has had to detach deciding to start a family from the quiet intimacy of a bedroom for a sterile, fluorescent-lit medical office.
I understand Schumer’s pain. I felt it firsthand quite acutely. When my wife and I journeyed toward parenthood some three years ago, it was something I never thought I would do. I never consciously wanted kids, and as a lesbian who came out around the time Ellen DeGeneres was blacklisted for being gay, I never thought I could have them. Lesbians were aunts, not moms. They were only moms if they escaped their straight marriages after realizing they weren’t straight.
The proverbial biological clock is no joke. You may have no “logical” reason to procreate again — you already have a perfectly lovely family or you’re already exhausted and overextended. But the pull to have another child can be real.
For us, it’s been like a spiritual centrifugal force that’s pulling every last cell toward the baby-making factory, tossing every other reasonable objection into the trash pile. The urge to create another human has taken on a life of its own, as if this unborn baby is willing us to go ahead and hurry up so they can come throw Legos all over the floor for us to step on.
I don’t know if that is what Schumer — who gave birth to her first child, Gene, in May — is feeling, but whatever is tugging at her is real and valid. Plus, the hormones they pump you with to plump up your eggs would drive anyone to post your cellphone number to strangers on the Internet seeking their advice, as Schumer did on Thursday.
I recall feeling the sting of the hormone injections and the judgment from strangers who maybe thought I was a heroin addict (sometimes the only timing that worked out for the “trigger shot” that would facilitate ovulation was in the car by the train station on my way to work).
The hormones messed with my body and my mind. It’s an intense treatment and monetary investment. Then, you are left to await word of whether it took: whether you are pregnant or would have to start all over again.
I couldn’t track my cycle well enough because it wasn’t regular, so even once my wife and I obtained sperm through a donor, we weren’t able to inseminate at home. Like 12 percent of women out there, I sought the help of medical professionals. I went to a fertility clinic several days a week to have professionals poke around at my insides and measure my eggs.
The doctor prescribed me all kinds of hormones to stimulate egg production and growth and then to force ovulation. After every couple of failed cycles, we switched the medication or upped the dosage. I felt like a science experiment. The process left me with ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, a condition caused by fertility medication inflaming your ovaries. Even two years after my son was born, I still experience pain when I ovulate. But because there is no good research on the long-term effects of fertility medication, there is no real course to evaluate, diagnose or treat me with anything.
Every person’s journey with IVF and infertility is different, but our struggle, our desire for the family we envision, is the same.
My message to Schumer is one of solidarity: You are not alone. Your bruises are our bruises.