My entire adult life, I viewed sex like dessert: sweet, sensual and delicious. Like many of you, I mostly had what I call "Freedom Warrior Sex." It was unplanned and spontaneous, with no pre-set locations or positions, and happened whenever, with no real goal at hand except for pure pleasure for both parties. You know, just real nice, mind-blowing sexy sex.
I found the love of my life at 40, and we started baby making right away. In the course of two years, we endured three natural pregnancies, three miscarriages, three DNC surgeries, a fibroid removal surgery, expensive ongoing acupuncture and to boot, our relationship also gained a third wheel I like to call the "F word" -- Fertility.
One you join the exclusive fertility community, you essentially turn in your Executive Freedom Warrior Pass for a very plain punch card, which is similar to your local coffee card, except after ten attempts at whatever treatment you're paying for, you don't get a free IVF or IUI treatment. This new punch card isn't the gift that keeps on giving, in fact, it's a card that catapults you into a whole new life of spending, spending and more spending -- piggy-backed with very focused scheduled sex.
Yep, that's right, my former spontaneous sex life, often mixed with colorful cocktails, high heels and a little Al Greene playing in the background every now and then, quickly segued into silent, high-stress ovulation tracking, temperature taking and pee stick-driven sex. We officially fell into calculated and chore-like living. My husband, God bless him, took charge of our fertility and became the self-appointed Ovulation Calendar tracker; he would put out a morning memo "Babe, it's game time tonight" and I would try to muster up a fake inspired reply: "OK, are you coming home early or working from home today?"
During prime time, we'd try to get as into the mood as we could, while trying to simultaneously hide our dread for the very predictable activity ahead -- which often included a list of suggested must-have items from fellow experienced members of our inner fertility community: a tube of Pre Seed lube to help those swimmers sprint and slide directly to the finish line, a pillow for post-sex propping and the television remote for twenty minutes of distracted entertainment while I marinated and prayed to the gods of fertility that one little swimmer finds that egg. I know, super sexy, huh?
When you want to be a parent, you would be surprised at all of the fertility-related shenanigans and costs you will endure. You become an over motivated, slightly obsessed Olympic athlete with only one goal in mind: getting a gold medal -- and in the fertility community, that means a positive pregnancy test.
This weekend, I have the honor of speaking about my own fertility journey at the Fertility Planit conference in Los Angeles along with leading experts and thought leaders in the community.
Getting pregnant was never my issue; staying pregnant was. Due to my age and the hard cold truth about the limited staying power of my 40-something eggies, eventually, our fertility specialist at HRC suggested we jump right to doing a round of IUI, which we did and today we have a beautiful, perfect and thriving son as a result. The best news? No scheduled sex -- this time, we just had good old-fashioned, scientific-centered, three-way sex. I like to say my husbands swimmers took the fancy tram up to the goalie. The best part of having an in-office three way? Everyone gets a pass on post-coital cuddling under pressure.
Below, I have gathered some advice on coping with scheduled sex from some of the incredible thought leaders who will be speaking at the conference this weekend.
Entrepreneur, Bravo TV Host, Pregnant in Heels and Author, Mommy IQ: The Complete Guide to Pregnancy
Rosie Pope experienced secondary infertility. She had an ectopic pregnancy that required emergency surgery and the removal of a fallopian tube. After numerous rounds of IVF, she became pregnant with her second child.
As crazy as it sounds, try not to overshare with your partner. As much as I know -- believe me, I know -- how obsessed one can become with ovulation, there is no quicker way to take the sexy out of sex than to say "I'm ovulating, we must have sex", and then get angry if that just isn't possible. Try and plan things that tend to lead to sex but that are also super fun, romantic and relaxing because you need to keep your relationship alive through out the "trying." I'm not saying it is easy but you have to try not to become a robot about ovulation. After all, when you finally do conceive, that little baby needs its mom and dad to love each other very much and still be connected though all of this
Monica Corcoran Harel
Los Angeles-based writer who has reported on culture for the New York Times, InStyle and O, The Oprah Magazine. Consults on Project Runway and Author of The Fashion File
Monica had an IUI, three rounds of IVF. Along the way, she had a miscarriage that resulted in a pre-cancerous condition that required her to undergo chemotherapy for three months. She has a beautiful daughter and would do it all over again -- twice!
Sex is great. Sex, when you're dealing with infertility, is not great. I learned to limit my expectations of intimacy during the process. Let's face it: There is so much focus down there, between ultrasounds and examinations. You're not feeling super sensual. It's OK to take a pass on sex and connect emotionally without it. My husband and I took a Jay-Z approach to the situation: We had 99 problems, but sex wasn't one of them.
Chief Healthcare Correspondent for FertiityAuthority.com, infertility survivor-turned-fertility-advocate
Suzanne endured seven IVF's, three miscarriages, one surgery and the renting of a womb to have her children.
Sex it Up!
One tip on how to endure the scheduling of sex (from someone who often had sex five days in a row, just to make sure all bases were covered!)? Stop looking at sex as a necessary evil and start getting down and dirty again. Throw on that Sexy Kitten Halloween costume you wore before you even knew you wanted kids. Go out on date night without wearing underwear and have sex in the car. Wield that can of whip cream like you used to in college. It won't always work -- either to make a baby or to reignite passion -- but every so often, it will take you back to the days before infertility bullied its way between the sheets, and that always feels good.
Author, How To Make Love to a Plastic Cup
Greg and his wife Julie went through four IVF cycles before joyfully welcoming their son, Connor, into the world in March 2009.
My one piece of advice to couples is to really open up and talk to one another about what they're going through. Realize that the male half of the equation has as just much emotion invested in the fertility process as you do -- possibly more if he is the one who is infertile -- but he's not as good at talking about it, so he needs to know from you that it's okay for him to express his hopes, fears and doubts as much as you do with him.
As far as the tip for making scheduled sex better, the secret is scented candles. Just kidding. You can't make it better. It's a chore and it sucks (for both people); it's just one of those sad truths in the world of infertility. But if you both realize that it sucks, and you're honest with each other about how much it sucks, it can be one more opportunity for the two of you to bond during what amounts to a very difficult, stressful time.
Author, life coach and ghostwriter of non-fiction books on Business/Personal Goal Setting.
MeiMei had the foresight to freeze her eggs when she was single at 37. She got married a year later to the love of her life, they have experienced one miscarriage and they continue to work on getting pregnant.
You're Not Alone
Scheduling sex -- when you can and can't have it -- places a big strain on relationships. I suggest trying to forget about it as best you can. Make the nights when you're "supposed to" be intimate fun by planning a dinner date or seductive game. But expect it to be difficult, and know that you're not alone if you're struggling with this issue while coping with infertility.
Infertility affects nearly 50 million couples worldwide. Brave celebrities like Guiliana Rancic, Padma Lakshmi and Sherri Shepherd have openly shared their story, but many other women and couples stay silent, walk around with shame, anger, grief and guilt, uncertain of their options and unaware that there is a huge community of support in their corner. I am honored to be a part of Fertility Planit, a movement to pull back the curtain on all areas of infertility -- from IVF and egg freezing to adoption, surrogacy and LGBT family building. It's time to start the conversation and give women a space to share their common experiences openly and without shame. United, I have no doubt they will help other women, sisters, daughters and friends, and anyone coping with infertility and the desire to start a family.
I will be moderating two sessions at Fertility Planit:
Sunday 3 .pm. - 4 p.m.: "Nutrition, Lifestyle and Fitness: How to Optimize Your Fertility Naturally" with Yoga Expert and Author, Mandy Ingber, Dr. Prudence Hall, MD and Founder, Hall Center, and Ashley Koff, Celebrity Dietician
Sunday 4:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m.: Celebrity Conversation, "Love, Sex and Surviving Infertility" with Rosie Pope, Bravo TV Host, Pregnant in Heels, Susan Pinsky, IVF Advocate; Devoted Wife of Dr. Drew and proud mother of triplets, and Author Greg Wolf, How to Make Love to a Plastic Cup.