My wife and I had been married a few years before “pulling the goalie.” For a hockey player like me, this meant that my wife and I decided to stop taking birth control pills. We knew it might take a few months and were expecting it to be easy. Looking back, there’s something about being so painfully ignorant to what we’d endure that’s both understandable and upsetting. Nobody really prepared us for what would come next.
After trying for a year and enduring sadness, frustration, stress, confusion, shame, loneliness, fear, and all the other emotions surrounding not getting pregnant in the way you imagined, we went to a fertility clinic for help. While nothing is funny about infertility, I started to find so much ridiculousness in the process of trying to make a baby at a clinic, that I shifted my perspective. Now I noticed the absurdity of it all.
While nothing is funny about infertility, I started to find so much ridiculousness in the process of trying to make a baby at a clinic, that I shifted my perspective. Now I noticed the absurdity of it all.
Take the “semen sample” morning. While having incredible respect and appreciation for everyone working at the clinic, it’s literally ridiculous to have a woman lead you into a room with magazines to do the deed and produce a sample. C’mon! We both knew what was going on in there.
So, there I was, doing my part, and everything was going according to plan. But a moment before “payload delivery,” the sample cup I had balanced so delicately on my stomach slipped off. The cup hit the tile floor — “plink plonk”— forcing me to roll off of the couch to grab it with my free hand before it bounced again. Needless to say, floor scrapings were not a viable option, so a quick scramble on the floor ensued in order to take delivery while on my knees, using my head on the floor for balance.
The mission was ultimately accomplished, so when the nurse at the desk asked, “Was there any spillage?” I replied, “Um, well, uh, no…no spillage.” We had enough to worry about and cover at the clinic! Better to keep that part simple.
As comical as the whole episode was to me, there was most definitely a dark side to my infertility journey. I suppose I needed the laughs because the fear that we couldn’t have children could easily overwhelm me.
I had always known I wanted to have a family. I had decided that no matter what, if I was married to a wonderful woman and we had our own little family, everything else would just work itself out. Now, what if I couldn’t be a biological father, or if the two of us couldn’t have a biological child? I hadn’t considered adoption or another kind of alternative family building option because I had always assumed we could have our own kids with our genetics. But going through infertility challenges all the assumptions you make about how you think your life and family will unfold.
Carrying around this fear with me was often distracting and sometimes even debilitating. It gave me tremendous empathy for other people who have gone through this or are currently on this journey. There was this ongoing yo-yo effect of seriousness and silliness throughout our treatment process. Anyone going through fertility treatments knows that you’ll cry all day if you can’t find these moments of laughter or levity.
There was this ongoing yo-yo effect of seriousness and silliness throughout our treatment process. Anyone going through fertility treatments knows that you’ll cry all day if you can’t find these moments of laughter or levity.
My wife and I were once in a clinic room with a nurse looking over my semen sample report. My wife and the nurse were sitting closer to each other, both looking at the report and at me. I felt like I was sitting under an interrogation light as the nurse read off the numbers and looked at me with awkward reassuring smiles. I could laugh in relief when the results showed that male-factor infertility was only a minor issue for us.
Here is something that no matter what lens I look through, I cannot find anything funny about it – the incredible cost of fertility treatment in many parts of the United States. Once we needed fertility treatments, I was surprised to learn that insurance didn’t cover it in our state of Michigan. We were young, we were healthy, we had a medical issue, and absolutely no coverage.
Luckily, I was gainfully employed and though we spent a lot of money on treatment, we were fortunate to cover our costs. I wondered, though, how lower-income people pay for treatment. The answer was, they often don’t.
The experience moved me so much that I decided to write a movie screenplay about it. “Pulling the Goalie.”
The short film is the story of a beer league hockey player’s struggle with infertility. My goal with the movie was to share my story to spread awareness, while honoring every path a couple may find themselves on or opt to take.
I know my wife Ema and I are the lucky ones. We eventually became the loving parents to Megan and Simon, both born through IUI. When I look at my children, I’m reminded of how much we struggled, how millions of others with infertility don’t even get to take that journey.
My hope is that the more we share these stories, the more normal we can make this process so that more insurance companies and states will realize that those who fight to have families should have the support and the access to do so.
Hiag Avsharian has been the president and co-owner of a 100-employee company for 20 years. “Pulling the Goalie” is his first film, inspired by his family’s experience with infertility. He lives in Ann Arbor, MI, with his wife Ema, and their two children, Megan and Simon.
Listen to stories, share your own, and get feedback from the community.