When asked about her fertility journey, Karen Jeffries responded, “I don't love that word ‘journey’. It sounds like this is ‘Eat Pray Love’. Infertility is not like ‘Eat Pray Love’.” Karen is a funny and genuine fourth grade teacher. As a published author and well known figure on social media, she spreads comic relief and emotional support to the fertility community.
She thought back to when her experience with infertility began and said, “I had no idea that I was infertile, at all actually.” Karen was deeply affected when her close friend had a miscarriage. She had always wanted kids, and soon decided it was time to start trying. She and her husband began having unprotected sex, and Karen stopped getting her period. Every month, she thought she was pregnant, but every month she would take a pregnancy test that would come up negative. “I had no idea what was happening to my body,” Karen said. “I just knew what I knew from seventh grade sex ed- if you have unprotected sex, and don’t get your period, you’re pregnant.”
This continued for five months, and Karen decided it was time to see her OBGYN. When she asked if this was normal, her doctor said no, absolutely not. She started a round of Clomid, and nothing happened. She did another round, and again nothing happened. At this point, her doctor told Karen she thought she had PCOS. “I was completely devastated. I’m a school teacher, I’ve dedicated my whole life to children, I’d always pictured my life with children. I never thought that this would happen,” she said. Karen was overwhelmed because she really didn’t know much about the condition. “I had so many unanswered questions. Were there different levels of severity, would I never get pregnant? My head was spinning out of control,” she reflected. A few days later she went to a fertility specialist, who confirmed the diagnosis. The specialist was positive and hopeful, which made Karen feel better.
Karen’s first IUI failed, but her second one was successful. She was so happy and excited about giving birth to her daughter Zoe. When her daughter was 18 months old, Karen and her husband were ready to start trying for another baby. They went straight back to the clinic, and ended up doing four rounds of failed IUIs. At this point, Karen decided to move forward with IVF. “I felt that if I was going to get pregnant with IUIs, it would have happened already,” she said. Karen’s first round of IVF was successful, and she had her second daughter, Abby.
Karen was a week overdue with Abby, and the doctors decided to induce her labor because she had no embryonic fluid left. When it came time to push, the doctor’s assumed her water had already broken and that they’d missed it, because she didn’t have any remaining fluid. However, she started pushing and the nurse started screaming, “It’s in the sac!” And sure enough, Karen’s daughter was born completely in the embryonic sac. This had nothing to do with IVF or infertility; it happened randomly. This kind of birth is not unsafe, it’s just extremely rare- only one in 80,000 babies are born this way. “It was like I laid an egg,” Karen jokes. “It was so crazy, it was like a baby in a condom”. The doctor ripped open the sac with a gloved hand and pulled out Karen’s baby. It was a surprising, crazy, but super fascinating experience for everyone involved.
When Karen was on maternity leave with her second daughter, she started writing her book, Hilariously Infertile. “At first I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know if it was a blog, or a book, or a random journal entry.” It was a genuine and unfiltered story of her experience. When the book was finished, she started sending it around to various literary agents in New York City. Unfortunately, the book didn’t get the response Karen was hoping for. “I either didn’t hear back from anyone, or the ones that I heard back from said, ‘We just don’t think it’s a big enough market’.” This response motivated Karen because she knew that it was wrong. “This has really fueled my fire for the past four years,” she said. She knew that the infertility rates were steadily rising in the US, and that so many people were struggling with these experiences. She knew she had to work hard to get her book out there.
In order to raise awareness about her book, Karen decided to start a website and social media. She posted a few chapters of her book online, and started posting “memes” and other fertility content on Instagram. Her feedback was overwhelmingly positive. People from all around the world began following her social media and reading her book chapters online. Two years after starting her social media, she self-published her book. The book is doing really well, even better than Karen had expected. When she described the book, Karen said it’s the way that people talk about fertility in real life. “It’s relatable, it’s the way that real women talk about what’s going on with their bodies, and that’s what I think people resonate the most with,” she said.
Karen’s main goal is to brighten the lives of people struggling with their fertility. She knows first hand how hard infertility is: “It’s really isolating, and it puts these massive stressors on so many different parts of your life. If I can help people get one moment of levity, then I’m happy,” she said. Karen says that if she can make just one person who’s struggling laugh or smile, then she’s accomplished her goal.