Author: Sheila Alexander
Publish Date: March 2019
Author website: https://www.sheilaalexanderart.com
guest review by Rebecca Starr
IF: A Memoir of Infertility details Sheila Alexander’s journey through in vitro fertilization (IVF). After trying to conceive a child for over a year, Sheila’s doctor suggests IVF as a next step. Her graphic memoir details her 407-day IVF journey.
While Sheila does not narrate every day of her IVF journey, she takes us through the most important ones. Her often-humorous illustrations help describe procedures and internal changes. A hysteroscopy is visualized as a fashion shoot for the fallopian tubes, and after follicle stimulation, the increased number of eggs stage a protest to “emancipate the eggs!” However, not all days are lighthearted: complications from the egg retrieval procedure lead to a hospital stay, while the news of a friend’s pregnancy dampens her spirit. While IVF ends with a viable pregnancy in Sheila’s case, the journey to viability requires humor to combat anxiety and disappointment.
The memoir showcases the mundanity of day-to-day life during IVF; much stays the same, even among the doctor’s appointments, disappointments, health scares, and successes. Punctuating this point is Sheila’s dog, who appears in a number of panels. One favorite appearance occurs as Sheila frets over her first round of follicle stimulating hormone; her dog, looking unphased, thinks, “I need to poop…now pick it up!” These vignettes highlight that despite great internal changes, much of the external world remains the same.
IF also shows the frustration of navigating a complicated health insurance system. Sheila is not only subjected to her body’s timetable, but to her insurance company’s as well; insurance would not pay for IVF until she completed one year of pregnancy attempts. Sheila also must wait for approval before her doctor will order IVF medication, causing further delays as she is forced to wait for her next cycle. It highlights the mundanity of waiting and the frustration of being beholden to yet another timeline. IF captures the anxiety of waiting, and the dance between insurance and treatment one never seems to get quite right.
IF lovingly and humorously showcases universal aspects of attempting to get pregnant after a long and arduous journey. Sheila is upfront about how her story only describes her personal experience; however, this memoir may appeal to individuals and partners who have been through IVF or who are considering the process (although she does have some complications that may make some nervous). IF is an accessible and gentle tale of a complicated and prolonged journey through one path to pregnancy.