Woman's Powerful Infertility Illustrations Prove Just How Hurtful the Rest of Us Can Be Without Realising
Christine McDonough's decision to sketch the raw emotions that have bubbled up during her infertility journey was an impulsive one.
"I draw what comes to me in the moment," she told POPSUGAR of the black-and-white cartoons that fill her popular Instagram account, Infertility Illustrated. "Everything is based on my actual experiences. I want to do what my favourite cartoonists and illustrators do for everyday life, but specifically for people experiencing the roller coaster of infertility."
"There are moments that you sort of have to laugh or appreciate the ridiculousness of a situation, but at the end of the day, infertility is awful."
For Christine, that roller coaster began four years ago when she and her husband decided they were ready to have a baby. "After several months, I realized I had a problem," she said, noting her ovulation cycle wasn't following a typical pattern. What followed was a "textbook" diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome (or PCOS), four rounds of Clomid, emergency surgery to remove one of her tubes due to a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, months of acupuncture, a round of IVF, a diagnosis of severe ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, and, as she wrote in her very first post back in August 2017, "3 miscarriages . . . 0 kiddos."
Having suffered another miscarriage this past Fall ("I was blissfully pregnant for about two weeks until I was in Target one day and got that familiar cramping, rush-of-blood feeling, and that was the end of that," she recounted), her real-time illustrations couldn't be more honest if she tried.
"I at first hesitated to share pictures that were vulnerable and sad, but I'm glad I do because it's the truth of how infertility feels, and so many people can relate to the emotions," she told POPSUGAR. "Infertility is mostly sad. There are moments that you sort of have to laugh or appreciate the ridiculousness of a situation, but at the end of the day, infertility is awful."
Her illustrations tackle the financial burdens of IVF treatments, the fleeting moments of humour surrounding sperm collection, and the way failed cycles make her feel as though she's a scientist trying to "solve for X" any way she can. "You go back and examine your fertility charts and calculate everything you did, every single day, and wonder where you went wrong," she added.
Mostly, though, they touch on how everyone else's feats of fertility — and all those pregnancy and birth announcements — truly hurt. "The sick feeling in your stomach when someone else tells you they're pregnant [is] among the worst feelings ever."
To that end, as much as her illustrations are expressly for those in similar circumstances as Christine, it's also important for those who have never been forced to ride that roller coaster.
"I want people who haven't struggled with infertility to be mindful of their words."
"I want people who haven't struggled with infertility to be mindful of their words," she said. "No one wants to be told to relax or that everything happens for a reason or this tactic worked for their friend. And for my pregnant friends or friends with kids, understanding is really important. We don't always want to hear how your pregnancy is going, how difficult or incredible it is to be a mum, or what the kids are up to. So if we're not asking you those questions, understand that it's not because we don't care. And if we are talking about it, inside we're still dying a tiny bit because we really have no idea if that will ever be in our future."
Read on for some of Christine's most powerful sketches.