Infertility Advocate

How the inconceivable inspired one woman to get on stage and laugh through infertility

Photo of Meirav Zur by Tomer Lupasco

Photo of Meirav Zur by Tomer Lupasco

Meet Meirav. (Pronounced may-RAHV). This is her story and what led her to put herself out in the spotlight in to unburden the pressures of her own experience with infertility and provide some relatable comedic relief to others going through the fire. Meirav in no way makes light of infertility, instead she takes to the stage to highlight the absurd situations that members of the infertility community may find themselves in and does so with levity. Her sketches are also an educational training of sorts for others who want to understand their partner, friend or family member who may be faced with the challenges of infertility. Read on to get to know Meirav and what inspired her to do the Inconceivable (Show).

And if you are in New York City on September 22nd, you can check out Meirav’s award-winning show Inconceivable: The Totally True One-Woman Semi-Fertile Quasi-"Musical" at the United Solo Theatre Festival at 6pm. Tickets may be purchased here or you can enter for a chance to win at @Fertilust.

First off, we would love to hear a little bit about you.

I grew up in Atlanta, and now live in a town near Tel Aviv, Israel. My extended family lives in Israel and we would visit them almost every summer while I was growing up. I always felt some sort of connection to Israel, and after university studies in the U.S., I decided to move to Israel and serve in the army. I wanted to be part of what every person in Israel around my age at the time was experiencing. I met my husband, fell in love, and stayed.

What are 5 fun facts about you?

1. If there's a good song on, I will karaoke anywhere.  No lyrics necessary. 

2. I love making people laugh, especially my husband and daughter.  Jokes, characters, funny voices or faces, anything goes.

3. I like to draw.

4. The kind of shopping I love most is for office supplies. 

5. I like to make birthday rap-o-grams for my friends.

What is your fertility story?

My husband and I have experienced unexplained infertility and unexplained secondary infertility for over 11 years. I never shared that with anyone until recently.  When we first started trying, it took about four years and a couple of miscarriages until we went to a fertility specialist.  Nobody else around us spoke about any of this, and this was before the era of Googling anything for more information. We kept thinking “it'll just happen”.  

The day I was meant to start my first hormone injection in preparation for an IUI, I found out I was pregnant naturally.  We were of course overjoyed, and I got to "graduate" the fertility clinic without ever actually knowing what it was all about.  I thought maybe it was because we finally went to "get help," and that I felt taken care of, had a plan, and that must have lifted the load and stress. We had our amazing daughter, and she was about a year or so old when we started trying again.  We wanted her to have a sibling and figured it might take a while again. 

This time the magical whatever-it-was didn't work.  I had to go through many rounds of hormones, IUI's, and we also had an unsuccessful IVF.  The stress and hormones and everything was unbearable. It put a big strain on our marriage and family.  I really think that these intense emotional roller-coasters and the PTSD that comes with infertility is incredibly underestimated and overlooked. After the failed IVF, my husband and I decided that we had to step out of that all-consuming pressure cooker of infertility in order to let ourselves just be a family. We are now a happy family of three, and we're good.

What inspired you to create the Inconceivable Show?

About 3 years ago, which was a couple of years after our failed IVF, I went through a 2-week or so time period when I was pregnant naturally (found out quite late into the pregnancy), heard the fetus heartbeat for the first time, went to get an initial full scan, heard no heartbeat, then got a D&C a few days later.  It was intense for me and my husband. It was really heartbreaking. 

A little while after that, it dawned on me that maybe I should tell someone about everything that has happened, because in the last few years, especially those recent months, I was even more withdrawn from social events, work projects, etc.  But I didn't know how I could bring myself to say anything.

I figured out that the only way I could talk about my infertility was through comedy, so I decided to invite some friends over and tell them. They didn't know why they were coming over. I told them (about it) the only way I knew how, with silly songs, characters, odd thoughts, and lots of humor.  I was so nervous. And when I was done I was so relieved that I got through it. I figured that they would all just go home and that would be that. But instead, they all told me I needed to make my comedic sketch an actual show. And even more surprisingly, they stayed over for a long time afterwards, because everyone started TALKING. They talked about their own infertility-related stories, that other friends in the room didn't really know about. And suddenly there was this deeper understanding and connection. That's when I knew that THIS was worth exploring. It got people talking about this thing nobody ever REALLY talks about honestly. And it got people LAUGHING, too. That's how I was inspired to develop that night into a whole show.

What are 5 reasons why someone should see the show?

1. You will laugh.  Laughing is something that's good for all of us and we can never laugh too much.

2. You will learn about yourself and others. You'll learn a bit about what your friends or family members have gone or are going through (and everyone knows somebody, whether they're aware of it or not).  

3. You might be part of the show.  It's interactive, in a non-threatening way.

4. Just in case reasons 1 - 3 didn’t convince you, the show won an award and got great theatrical reviews (from men)!

5. You'll have a new perspective on sex-ed(ucation).

Meirav Zur is an actor, writer, and producer currently based in Israel. Meirav was born and raised in the U.S., where she first began to pursue her theatre and education studies. In 2005, Zur founded the independent English-language professional traveling theater in Israel, English On Stage, subsequently writing, directing, and acting in its various original productions. The theatre's extensive repertoire includes original musicals, children's plays, and improv shows, with productions having been performed across Israel, including at the Habima National Theatre of Israel. Zur's most recent production and first solo show, Inconceivable: The Totally True One-Woman Semi-Fertile Quasi-"Musical", had its U.S. debut at the 2018 United Solo Theatre Festival in New York City, where it was awarded Best Interactive Show.

NIAW Feature: Finding a Voice

Jane Jolis captured by photographer,  Alexis Mera . Shirt design by  Kayla Kleinman .

Jane Jolis captured by photographer, Alexis Mera. Shirt design by Kayla Kleinman.

Although National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) has completed this year, I thought it was important to close out the week with Jane Jolis’ powerful story of advocacy. It’s a message that we should carry with us all year long. Jane reminds us that nothing is promised, including a baby, and that when we listen to inner voice and advocate for ourselves, we are set up for success to arrive, and confront the root of the issues that may be standing in our paths to parenthood.

However nebulous and out of our control this journey is, using our voices to advocate for ourselves is paramount. Jane and I discussed that If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. There is something to be said about following our gut after all…

Jane’s story

I’ve always wanted to be a mother, ever since I was a little girl. I was the three-year old stuffing my shirt with pillows to “play pregnant”. So it came as a particularly painful shock when, after six months of trying, my husband and I learned that we should try IVF. I have diminished ovarian reserve, and my husband, low morphology/motility. We skipped over IUI and went straight to IVF.

Despite our challenges we had success in creating healthy embryos right from the start. However after transferring a total of four in the span of one year and having no success, we realized that something was wrong. I had to push hard and advocate for myself in order to have the laparoscopy which is ultimately the reason I am now a mother.

In December of 2017 I had the surgery to uncover suspected endometriosis, and not only did they find endometriosis but they also found that both of my (Fallopian) tubes were damaged and had hydrosalpinges. Hydrosalpinges meant that fluid was leaking into my uterus and could be toxic to the embryos. Damaged tubes also accounted for why I’d never been able to get pregnant naturally.

My Fallopian tubes were removed and after a canceled cycle, heartbreaking in its own right, I did my fourth IVF cycle and a fresh three-day embryo transfer, ultimately resulting in the birth of my son, now four months old. Although my situation turns out to be somewhat rare given that nothing ever came up on any scans indicating that my Fallopian tubes might be damaged, it speaks to the fact that if I hadn’t advocated for myself, I am not sure how long it would have taken, or if we would have been able to tackle the problem directly.

Your High?

My true high was the birth of my son, and still is. Also just seeing that first positive pregnancy test with a strong line was incredible. However I’d say another high, as crazy as it sounds, was learning that my tubes were severely damaged, and that they’d likely been impeding my success all along. As sick as that sounds, when you’re deep in the darkness that is unexplained infertility and IVF, any answers are positive because it may mean a solution to fix it.

Your low?

There were honestly so, so many. Every failed transfer was a huge low. The lowest was probably after my second transfer when I was in fact pregnant but lost the pregnancy after only a week or two, (a chemical pregnancy). I’d been watching the HCG rise, but not enough… and I spent the worst weekend of my life obsessing over (pregnancy) pee sticks and texting pictures to my doctor. At one point I found myself on the bathroom floor at 3 am surrounded by sticks. My husband had to physically come and remove me from them and from the bathroom. I was a wreck. Watching the HCG rise but not ultimately rise enough was one of the slowest tortures that I could ever have imagined. I truly felt broken after that, and had no idea how I was going get past that (moment).

Do you have a silver lining?

This experience has led me to build a fertility coaching/advocacy consultancy as I feel called to work with women and families struggling with (in)fertility. There is such a need to support those in the deepest thick of this who are trying to navigate the darkness with no end in sight. I can relate to that feeling of sheer panic and fear because I have been there. I’ve realized that this is the work I’m meant to do, and I’m working to build this business. 

Do you have any words of wisdom?

Stop trying to pressure yourself to “stay positive.” This was the hardest part for me; trying to maintain hope and optimism when all I felt was panic and dread. Sometimes you just need to feel your feelings and lie in the darkness and cry. And that’s okay. You will eventually make it to the other side, but that “other side” may not look the way you’d originally thought it would, and that’s okay too. Letting go of maintaining a falsely positive outlook was integral to my survival (during the journey).

There were many times that I thought I would never be a mom, but had I felt that my doubts were further holding me back from getting pregnant, it would have made me even crazier. The truth is, feeling good and relaxed is ideal, since stress (during IVF) is real. If you don’t always feel positive, don’t beat yourself up over not feeling that way. Whether or not your attitude is 100% positive all of the time is not going to be what does, or does not get you your baby.

Jane lives in Brooklyn with her husband and four month old son. As a direct result of Jane’s experience, she is currently building an (in)fertility advocacy and coaching practice. Please stay tuned for details or reach out if you would like to be connected with Jane.