by Risa Kerslake
Infertility doesn't let you have any secrets. In fact, the first time I felt my entire sex life exposed was at my OBGYN appointment to discuss why I hadn't gotten pregnant after being off birth control for a year.
"How much do you have sex?" my doctor asked me, carefully taking notes while I sat with my hands between my legs.
"Um, one or two times a week?" I said, feeling like I should be doing it a lot more than that. Trying to get pregnant? The obvious answer was to get laid. A lot. Maybe I wasn't doing it enough? Oh god, I should be doing it more.
While this internal dramatization was going inside my head, my doctor wrote me a prescription for Clomid, tiny white pills I was to take at specific points in my menstrual cycle and—here's where it gets interesting—timed specifically with when I have sex.
I went home and made myself a sex calendar of days to mark off. I swallowed those pills, said a prayer to the fertility gods, or at least the ones in charge of penis ejaculation and directionally-savvy sperm, and hoped for the best.
"After three years of relentless negative pregnancy tests, I was used to sex as sort of this transaction. Sperm in, baby out. Only there was no baby and I started seriously resenting my husband's penis."
But it didn't work. Neither did the fifth, eighth, or eleventh time. By then, I was lying to my husband about taking the pills. I called it trying to be sexy and jumping his bones "spontaneously" but really, I was still secretly taking the pills and timing out when exactly this spontaneity occurred. Fuck, it was stressful.
I don't even remember it happening, but our sex life become a "have to" rather than a "get to." The conversation soon turned from, "oh god, I want you. Do me across the bathroom vanity or perhaps on the kitchen floor" to "Husband, according to the calendar, we have to have sex tonight.”
After three years of relentless negative pregnancy tests, I was used to sex as sort of this transaction. Sperm in, baby out. Only there was no baby and I started seriously resenting my husband's penis.
I've always had a pretty strong sex drive. My husband and I had a killer sex life. We loved trying new positions, and he was the first partner to see me orgasm. But things were starting to change with us. He was just as invested in this pregnancy as I was, and the pressure of constantly having to perform on-demand started taking a toll—on our marriage, our sex life.
Now, while I was pumped full of hormones and reporting dutifully to the fertility doctor, his job was to get an erection and cum inside me. I'd flip upside down after sex, or chant, or throw my legs up in the air, whatever. He had one job.
While I was on my way to becoming the world's biggest bitch, he was struggling internally. Even Viagra was only doing the job fifty percent of the time.
I started hating sex.
And through the loathing, hormones, and weight gain, I felt a shift inside me.
In addition to hating sex, I started also hating my body.
Timed intercourse no longer cutting it, we turned to more scientific means of getting knocked up. In vitro fertilization or IVF, become our lives for the next two years. Daily injections, numerous doctor appointments. During those years I had way more than a penis inserted into my vagina as I was poked, probed, and prodded as medical teams tried to figure out why I wasn't getting pregnant. My abdomen was perpetually bruised, along with my ass, because of all the hormone injections. My nipples were sore. My body had become nothing other than a vessel for a future baby, that so far was stubbornly refusing to come.
Even after I finally got pregnant, on the fifth goddamn IVF thank you very much, there was nausea and bloating, and high blood pressure that turned into one scary medical episode after the other that lasted throughout my pregnancy, my daughter’s birth, and into my postpartum months.
"In my early 20s, I had the thought that I was at the peak of my sexuality. That girl knew nothing because it was the woman in her mid-thirties that had the powerful multiple orgasms, all thanks to this pink silicone vibrator."
And guess what? For baby number two, we did it all over again three years later. Not the timed intercourse—that ship had sailed. But it took another two cycles to get pregnant again. More hormones. More emotions. More medical issues.
Through it all, I had no fucking idea why it had to be so hard. My body had failed in so many ways.
One day about a year ago, my husband bought me a vibrator. Actually, it was a "massager" and hot damn it massaged. I never used one before, but that first orgasm blew my mind.
I used it one night lying next to my husband, and after the explosion of my orgasm, I decided to keep going. In my early 20s, I had the thought that I was at the peak of my sexuality. That girl knew nothing because it was the woman in her mid-thirties that had the powerful multiple orgasms, all thanks to this pink silicone vibrator.
I started regularly cumming twice each time, with very little effort. There were even times I could have three in a row.
My body will never carry another baby and I still carry a lot of baggage due to the years of pain, heartache, and frustration. Sex will never be used as a fertility tool ever again, but there's something so incredibly freeing about that.
Was I actually thinking positively about my body again? I think so. Because the wand felt good. It helped me look at my body again as sexy even with the scars, both physical and emotional. It felt like I was doing something nice for my body after the toll of fertility treatments. It was sort of like giving myself a pedicure, only instead of red polish on my toes, it was my whole body arching.
And I needed it. My body looks nothing like it used to. My nipples will never be the same again after nursing babies. I swear I still have scars on my belly from the injections. But I can cum. I used to appreciate those few seconds of pure bliss, but now, with the vibrator, I could get to that point faster, and have it last longer, even after the initial wave had passed.
Since my husband had seen me in all sorts of compromising positions through the decade of infertility, pregnancy, and birth, I figured he could be there for when I moaned and squirmed with my wand between my legs. It made our sex life hotter.
It's weird that this battery-operated vibrator could bring me back to my sexuality, could make me feel whole again. But that's exactly what happened. Or maybe it just showed me how to get my passion and desire back. Whatever it was, I'm grateful for it.
Risa Kerslake is a journalist and content writer who writes on mental health, parenting, women's health and perinatal health topics. Her work has appeared in Shondaland, Parents, Healthline, Vice and many others.