Advocate Spotlight: Karen of “Hilariously Infertile”
ADVOCATE SPOTLIGHT: KAREN OF “HILARIOUSLY INFERTILE”
The voice behind social media’s funniest infertility memes shares her thoughts on BlogHer Health, #SaytheFword, and what it means to be an influencer.
Infertility can be a devastating diagnosis. Harvard Medical School reports that women with infertility feel as anxious or depressed as those diagnosed with cancer, hypertension, or recovering from a heart attack. Still, they say that laughter is the best medicine — that’s where “Hilariously Infertile” comes in. Having gone through her own infertility journey, Karen, the blog’s author, sat down with Celmatix to share her secrets to finding humor and staying positive, even if you’re facing down a Big Fat Negative.
Celmatix: When and why did you start your blog, “Hilariously Infertile”?
Karen: I started my blog when I was on maternity leave with my second daughter. I’ve always been open about my infertility (even with strangers — I’ve been known to introduce myself by saying “Hi, I’m Karen, I’m left-handed, and I’m infertile”), so a lot of friends and family who were experiencing infertility started coming to me, asking for advice. I was essentially tracking everyone’s cycles, telling my husband “So-and-so is ovulating tomorrow! Such-and-such is having her IUI today!” when he finally suggested that I write a book about my experiences.
I wrote the first couple of chapters very quickly, and they ended up being really funny and a little inappropriate. When I showed him what I wrote, he was surprised by the content (although he shouldn’t be, he’s married to me, he knows I can be a little irreverent) but encouraged me to keep going. Eventually, a friend encouraged me to start a website where the content I was writing could live, and to start getting active on social media.
Celmatix: On your blog, you remain anonymous. Why is this important to you, and what impact do you think it has on your readers?
Karen: In my day job, I’m a fourth grade teacher, and to put it bluntly, my students don’t need to know all about my vagina. They’re incredible at Googling — they’ve found my wedding website before!
My writing is catered towards grown-ups, not 10 year-olds, and while I have the full support of my school, and don’t personally think that the things I talk about on my blog are inappropriate, I don’t want my students’ parents to be concerned.
I want to be clear that this has nothing to do with embarrassment or shame. I’m very proud to be sharing my experience.
Celmatix: Your blog takes a very humorous approach to a serious topic (infertility). What role do you think humor can play in an infertility journey?
Karen: My husband and I have always had a funny back-and-forth banter, that’s just who we are. So even when I was in the worst of my experience, I would go back and forth between crying and laughing.
I remember when we first met our fertility doctor, he said things that were so funny to us — referring to my husband’s semen sample as a “donation”, then saying they would “clean and buff” it. Both of us had visions of oompa loompas polishing up his sperm and just couldn’t stop laughing about it.
There are all sorts of situations that come up when you’re dealing with infertility that are hilarious if you look at it the right way. You have to have humor, and you have to laugh. Otherwise you’ll just cry.
Celmatix: You recently posted a video in support of the #SaytheFword movement on social media. What does this movement mean to you?
Karen: It’s so funny, it means everything to me. I think it’s so weird that no one talks about it. When I started going through infertility, I talked to everyone about it — colleagues, friends, family — and so many of them had their own stories of having gone through it. And I had no idea! Because all of these people had kept those experiences to themselves, and suffered in silence.
Women today can and should be empowered to talk about their fertility, whether it’s on the internet or just in the privacy of family or friends. It’s a weird stigma and it just shouldn’t exist.
Celmatix: You recently attended the first-ever BlogHer Health conference. What did you think of the event?
Karen: I loved BlogHer! It was totally worth playing hooky at my job so that I could attend. I loved hearing from Julianne Hough about her experience living with endometriosis — everything they talked about from that side of women’s health was amazing.
I loved being surrounded by so many amazing women. But the event also really put into perspective for me how unique my approach is. Lots of women are out there doing amazing things with health, wellness, and nutrition, but not a lot of people are making funny infertility content. For almost all of us, this is a side hustle, and for me, knowing that I’m the only one out there doing what I’m doing is hugely validating. It makes all those late nights responding to social media DMs worth it.
Celmatix: Despite launching a successful website, you’re still planning to write a book about your experiences. How is that process going?
Karen: I will admit that when I set out to write this book, I was super naïve about the publishing world. That’s my bad. After submitting a ton of inquiries and receiving just as many rejections, I started noticing a theme in some of the feedback that I got: Agents and publishers didn’t think I was addressing a big enough market.
When one women in eight experiences infertility, I have a hard time buying that. So hearing it really fueled my fire. I’m determined to show just how big this market is, and it’s empowering to take that on.
It’s possible I’ll never publish my book, or that I’ll go the self-publishing route. But I just want people to read it. If they’re crying, and they’re down, I want them to be able to read it and laugh. So, I’m going to focus on growing my platform and seeing what I can do from there.
Celmatix: You describe yourself as “forever infertile.” How does being a mother affect your relationship with your own infertility and with those in the infertility community?
Karen: I don’t talk about my children at all, and I never post them on social media. I don’t talk about the woes of being a mother, and that’s on purpose. Not everyone with infertility wants to hear you complain about being thrown up on. I love my children, and I’m proud of them, and it’s not as if I think infertile women can’t handle hearing about it. But I want to stay on message. My message is about laughing your way through infertility. If you want to read about being a mom, there are great women out there who are doing that — but not me.
Celmatix: You frequently call upon other women to share their hilarious infertility stories. What’s one of the funniest you’ve heard so far?
Karen: A colleague of mine told me this one: When you’re infertile, you have to go in for morning monitoring, including a transvaginal ultrasound. My colleague was convinced that she could do the ultrasound better than any of the doctors could, so instead of letting the doctor insert the wand inside her, she’d grab it from their hands and do it for herself. I love that — just the thought of her saying “Oh, give me that!” and taking charge like that. It’s things like that that I think are really funny.
Another thing is that you would not believe all the different places women I know have given themselves injections. You name it — taxicabs, kids’ first birthday parties, at the office — women have self-injected there. You start out wanting to do it all in the same place, but then life happens.
Celmatix: You’ve developed a big following on social media — almost 50,000 followers on Instagram alone. What role do you think social media can play for women dealing with infertility?
Karen: This is huge. When I went through infertility, I didn’t have social media. Now that I’m in it, I know it’s a wonderful community to be a part of. Some people don’t have friends or family who are open about their experience with infertility, and they could think that they don’t know anyone who’s gone through it.
So using social media, and knowing you’re not alone — again, being willing to #SaytheFword — is such a source of strength.
You’re not the only one doing morning monitoring every day, you’re not the only one going through this whole awful journey.
Eventually, if you’re part of this community, you’ll also see many of these women around you get pregnant and become moms. It’s a little bit of a fluid community. But that’s OK. It’s a fluid community, and hopefully, ultimately, everyone will have a great outcome.
Celmatix: You’re a tremendous advocate for women with infertility. How can others get involved and help?
Karen: The biggest thing, again, is saying the “F word.” Talk honestly and openly about fertility. When you’re with your friends, or your family, avoid the “let’s not talk about that” moment. If you knew a friend or family member had another health diagnosis, you’d bring it up. So why not talk about infertility?
That’s how people can help: Don’t say infertility quietly, don’t whisper it. Break the stigma. Help women understand they’re not alone, and there’s no need to suffer in silence. Just talk about it.