I’ve had some unusual jobs in my time, walking dogs for the RSPCA in the middle of the bush in Australia, looking after elderly people with schizophrenia and dementia to name but two however, when I was a youngster, I worked in an infertility clinic in Birmingham City Centre.
I was placed in the Artificial Insemination by Donor department which obviously supported infertile couples to become pregnant. My job was to store and freeze donated sperm. I don’t know how this is done these days but in the nineteen eighties, I had to suck into thin plastic straws, about one inch in length of donated sperm. The straws would then be colour coded and the donations flash frozen in churns of liquid nitrogen. I’ll wager not many women can put “Sperm Sucker” down on their CV work history.
Whilst at this particular place of employment, I also used to regularly visit schools in Birmingham to teach young people about contraception and how not to get pregnant and sometimes these talks were hilarious. For example, one school in Hodge Hill whose student population consisted almost entirely of asian girls, made a great todo when they knew I was coming. I received several telephone calls from anxious teachers making sure I understood that I needed to moderate my language and not say anything too contentious or anything which might offend the moral codes of the young, largely Muslim pupils. I arrived at the school and delivered my talk, I handed round the Durex, the Dutch caps, the contraceptive pills, I explained how girls became pregnant and how they did not become pregnant in the context of marriage and finally, I asked if anyone had any questions. The staff were all seated around the group in the main hall, the anxiety levels in the room were tangible. There were about fifty pupils present, one of them put her hand up,
“Yes,” I said, “what would you like to ask me?”
“Miss, can you get pregnant by gobbling?” came the query.
I thought some of the staff were going to wet themselves, I had trouble not bursting out laughing but it was an innocent question and I gave an honest answer.
Occasionally, I would be asked to test out new ideas for contraception, the latest one at that time being the female condom. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen one, they are still marketed but they were large and resemble a miniature Sainsbury’s plastic carrier bag. Both ends of the condom are held rigid by flexible pieces of plastic and the idea was to place it inside yourself in such a way as to settle the rim around your cervix one end and lower down the other end, thus forming a non-slip pouch. I took some home to my eagerly awaiting husband to try them out. It turned out to be one of the best nights we ever had in terms of laughter, I don’t think I’ve laughed quite like that since. The flexible rings are smothered in spermicide and very slippy, each time we tried to put it in place, it literally boinged out of my slithery fingers and shot across the bedroom floor ending up in the corner from where I would retrieve it, covered in carpet fluff and dog hairs. We tried several times and then gave up, exhausted by our own laughter.
Actually, my husband was a sperm donor for a while. At the time, the clinic had lots of students donating because they were paid three quid a throw. (There has to be a pun there somewhere.) Anyway, for some reason the majority of donations were from blue eyed, blonde haired people whereas my ex-hubby is olive skinned and swarthy, with a full beard, so he said yes. He must one of very few men who can list Professional Wanker as part of their job experience. I have often wondered what he would do if there was a knock at his front door one night and he opened it to find fifty swarthy, bearded men outside all calling out, “DAD!”
I shall also never forget the couple who came to see me for a pregnancy test. They hadn’t been trying for a baby but the test was positive. I asked them if they’d been using any contraception and the man replied, “well, we’re Catholic so we were being careful. Unfortunately there was a hole in the sheet and just at the crucial moment, I got my big toe stuck in it….. ”
Need I say more.