Paving the Way
Ever since going through infertility, I have made it a personal goal to give back to the infertile community. I offer support to anyone I meet, I’ve attended support groups and I continue to be open about my experience in the hopes of encouraging others to share their stories.
Lots of infertility survivors feel the same way, but not all of them have a chance to enact those goals on a global platform.
Meet Karen, better known as Hilariously Infertile, who uses humor to support the infertile community through funny Instagram memes and a novel, which is soon to be self-published.
“Part teacher. Part Mom. Part wife. Fully inappropriate. Forever infertile,” is how Hilariously Infertile describes herself on her website.
Karen has hypothyroidism and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder causing enlarged ovaries with small cysts on the outer edges, which caused her infertility. She got pregnant with her first child after two intrauterine inseminations (IUIs), but in vitro fertilization (IVF) was necessary for her to have a second child.
It was when she was on maternity leave with her second daughter in 2016 that she began to think seriously about how to give back to the infertile community. Actually, Karen does very little seriously. Her entire online persona focuses on finding the funny in infertility.
“The blog got started while I was helping a friend and family member through their cycles and infertility treatments. My husband said ‘You should start writing about this. You’re helping these people. I think you could probably help a lot more people.’ I didn’t take him seriously for a while,” Karen shares. “One time during nap time, I started writing and five weeks later, I had almost a finished book.”
Hilariously Infertile wasn’t sure what exactly she had. “Is it a book? Is it a blog? Is it just me having a dumb diary?” She showed a friend who said, “I don’t know what it is but it’s funny so keep doing it.”
Her husband hadn’t exactly had her humorous memoir in mind when he suggested she write. “He meant a self-help book, which is not what ‘Hilariously Infertile’ is.”
Karen kept working on the book, eventually submitting query letters to agents and publishers. Initially she got no response. “Or agents kept writing back saying, ‘I just don’t think it’s a big enough market.’ That really fueled my fire, because it’s huge. That’s part of the issue, no one’s talking about it.”
Without a lead in publishing, a friend suggested that Karen make a website and start social media, a huge undertaking for someone who didn’t even have a Facebook account. “I am a school teacher and I didn’t want my students or my students’ parents to find me,” she said. But eventually, she gave in and started a Facebook page, as well as Twitter and Instagram accounts.
The website was up by 2016 and after doing a speaking engagement that summer, she started to gain more followers, particularly on Instagram. The next year, “The Daily Mail”, “People.com” and “CBS.com” all featured articles on her. “That’s when it really blew up,” Karen laughs.
Despite how busy she is as a teacher, wife and mother, Karen has over 47,000 followers on Instagram and gets messages from women all over the world going through infertility.
“My goal was to help people get a little chuckle. If I could help one person laugh a little bit when they’re going through this, then I’m good. Every step of the way, I’ve been like if this is as far as it goes, I’ll be totally fine. I wanted people to scroll through and see something funny and if they wanted to go further, to go to my website and read the chapters of my book that are there. If that helps them—and people say it did significantly—then that is amazing. That’s really what I wanted to do—to help people.”
Memes about infertile people being told to relax or being sick of all the pregnancy announcements on Facebook garner the most attention, Karen says. Her memes are typically discovered by a newly diagnosed person Googling infertility.
All of Karen’s followers have inspired her to self-publish her book. “When everything started blowing up, I thought I’d have a Bethenny Frankel moment where someone says ‘we want to publish your book’. I kept waiting for it to happen and it didn’t. But my followers kept emailing me saying ‘we need more chapters. We have to read more.’ It’s not really fair to keep people waiting for my vanity. I want to have something out there for people. I want to help more people.”
Her memoir, “Hilariously Infertile”, will be available soon on Amazon.com as an e-book or paperback.
Her followers have been the drive behind everything she has done. “Some of my memes are funny tee-shirts and people say ‘where can we buy this? How can I get this?’ That’s when I [thought] I really should get merchandize.” Karen recently launched a line of infertility related merchandise, everything from tote bags to tee-shirts.
“Whatever my followers say they want, I try to provide that. It’s been the book first and foremost and then merchandise and podcasts after that.”
Hilariously Infertile has appeared on other podcasts, but she really wants to start her own. She also wants to work with Resolve, the National Infertility Association. “I would love to work with them and any other major organization that’s doing great things for infertility.”
She also would love the opportunity to do more speaking engagements. “It’s like a stand up comedy routine, but about infertility, which no one would ever thought is possible. I really think that it is funny and people can laugh about it, whether it’s to patients or doctors.”
While Karen has great plans for the future, “My ultimate goal is to just help as many people as possible who are going through this. To help people get a little bit of levity while they’re going through a really tough time. That’s really the main goal. And that is what keeps me going through these busy, busy days.”
If you are facing infertility, read “Hilariously Infertile” and look Karen up on social media to see if she can bring a little humor to your journey.