How to Buy a Baby is an original CBC television comedy series that premiered on Nov. 13, with the goal of revolutionizing the way people think and talk about infertility.
The 10-episode series is largely drawn from the experiences of its creator, Wendy Litner, a 37-year-old lawyer-turned-writer. The comedy is produced by Litner’s law school colleague, Lauren Corber, who is now the president and producer of LoCo Motion Pictures Inc.
“When Wendy told me about the concept, I wanted to be involved immediately. I know how talented and hilarious she is,” said Corber.
The darkly funny and achingly honest series took two years to complete. Its creators hope it will shatter some of the misconceptions about infertility and in vitro fertilization (IVF).
“Having come from a long line of funny Jewish matriarchs, I tried to channel my infertility heartbreak into a comedy about the subject,” said Litner.
According to the government of Canada, one in six Canadian couples struggles with infertility.
“We are the only comedy about infertility out there and infertility touches everybody. Either you struggle with infertility, or you know somebody that does. It has a broad appeal,” said Corber.
The show is about a 30-something couple, Jane Miller (played by actor Meghan Heffern) and her Jewish husband Charlie Levinson (played by Marc Bendavid), who have given up on making a baby naturally.
Litner is a Toronto Jewish day school alumni who met her husband at Camp Shalom when they were just 11 years old.
“We were best friends. We would spend free swims sitting on the dock, discussing the names of our future children. We had always assumed having a baby would be a matter of our choosing – something we would get to enjoy together when we were ready. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and, as we tried to have a baby, it became clear that we would need medical assistance, if we were to succeed in becoming biological parents. Luckily, our incredible doctor also happened to be our camp counsellor all those years ago,” said Litner.
She wrote How to Buy a Baby while in the throes of infertility treatments, not knowing if she would ever get to be a mother.
The first episode mirrors the beginning of the journey that Litner and her husband found themselves on.
“It was awkward to find myself bent over our bed, my pants pulled down, waiting for my husband to … inject me with hormones. It was embarrassing, sure, but instead of feeling shame, I felt proud at how we were handling it all together. I decided to create a comedy about that: a husband and wife who love each other and make each other laugh as they go through IVF,” said Litner.
“It was sort of cathartic to get to tell the story. Every time we had another bill at the fertility clinic, it felt like we were trying to buy a baby; hence the title.”
Why write a comedy about something that causes pain and relationship turmoil?
“I made a comedy about the subject because while infertility is heartbreaking, it’s also absurdly funny: from daily transvaginal ultrasounds, to well-meaning friends and family asking if you’re ‘doing it right.’ I’ve seen the humour in infertility. I’ve seen the romance, the ridiculousness and the sheer love of it all, to make a baby in a doctor’s office. I’m hoping to give others going through it a much-deserved laugh and to show a window into the process in a warm way for everyone else,” explained Litner.
In the second episode, the family is gathered at the Shabbat table, sipping chicken soup and discussing ovaries and sperm and whether or not this round of IVF is going to work. Charlie’s family offers help in all the wrong ways.
“It’s awkward conversation and it’s their life,” said Litner.
She concluded by saying that reducing the stigma in the community starts with talking about infertility: “I feel people need support and the more we talk about it, the more we can provide that in the form of laughter.”