A man named “Circus Chicken Dog” came over to our house one day with two dogs, a cockatoo, a unicycle, juggling clubs, balloons, and more in tow. We kept our 3-and-a-half-year-old son home from preschool for the occasion. He had no idea why we invited this man over, but he certainly didn’t complain. So, Circus Chicken Dog performed his stunts in our tiny living room while one of his dogs peed on our vintage Turkish rug. I lay on the couch in my pajamas trying my best to send positive vibes to my mind and body, and find the humor in our desperation.
You see, the clown was there to help give a boost to my fertility.
Eight years later, when I had “The Talk” with my daughter, I told her everything. I told her how easy it was to conceive her brother and how we didn’t think twice about it when we decided to have another child. I told her that until I struggled to conceive a second child, I’d never heard about secondary infertility.
I told her about the painful two years of trying every single Western fertility treatment under the sun, as well as acupuncture, and any other holistic remedies we heard about. I told her about the daily blood draws and the excruciating progesterone shots. I told her about the two failed IVF attempts, the miscarriage, and the emotional toll it took on us. I told her what hurt most was when people said to “just relax,” and that it would happen.
And then I told her about the research study a friend came across that influenced us, and that we believe is one of the factors that helped bring her into this world.
The study was conducted in Tel Aviv (the city where half my family lives) and the doctor who designed the study attended Jacques Lecoq School of movement and theater in Paris (the school my sister attended after college). So I felt an immediate connection to this research.
Fertility expert Dr. Shevah Friedler and his team at the Assaf Harofeh Medical Center in Israel studied 186 women, all of whom were undergoing embryo transfer treatment for IVF. While half were simply given the treatment and nothing else, the other group was entertained by a clown for up to 15 minutes as they recuperated in bed after the treatment. The results were far better than expected. 33 of the women who
“clowned” around became pregnant, compared with only 18 women in the control group.
“But you hate clowns!” my daughter exclaimed. I love how well she knows me. This is true, so we worked around it by hiring Circus Chicken Dog instead, hoping he’d give me that boost that the clown had given to the study participants.
That phone call from the fertility clinic a couple weeks after Chicken Dog performed is emblazoned in my memory. When the nurse opened with, “I love making these calls,” I immediately began to cry. Happy tears. Grateful tears.
Eight and a half months later, with a giant belly and swollen ankles, I hobbled around a Thomas the Train expo at the convention center downtown with my son. Across the vast hall, I spied Circus Chicken Dog heading toward the exit. At the time of our living room performance, my husband had explained this entertainer why we hired him, but we hadn’t spoken to him since. I grabbed my son and chased after him. As he crossed a busy street surrounded by crowds of people, I pointed to my belly and called out, “Chiiiiiicken Dogggg! Looooook! It worked! Thank you! You helped make this happen!”
“See how badly we wanted you?” I said to my daughter, when I told her the story. “We made a circus until we could have you.” It’s a funny story, but I’ll never forget those moments of agony, heartache, loss, and longing that preceded our desperate move.
Sometimes I still cry grateful tears at the absurdity and wonder of it all.