“I was the only black girl in the office, again.” Those are the sentiments I shared with my mother and sister as I left yet another appointment at the fertility office. I left each appointment, wondering why I never saw anyone that looked like me. Am I the ONLY black woman that is infertile, I commonly thought?
This made me feel alone and often a bit uncomfortable, and not from the process itself but from feeling like I am occupying a space where I do not belong. Unfortunately, my face is not commonly viewed as the face of infertility. I want to change that narrative, simply by getting comfortable discussing the uncomfortable.
Although I knew infertility might be a result after years of dealing with uterine fibroids and late diagnosis of endometriosis, it was still a shock, and absolutely heartbreaking to hear the words, “You need to start fertility treatments.” Upon my official diagnosis of infertility, I only shared the news with a very small selected group consisting of a couple of family members and friends. The diagnosis left me feeling ashamed that my body may not be able to do the very thing the woman’s body was created to do – reproduce. For several months, I silently started pursuing fertility treatments, documenting the process, unsure that I would ever actually share my journey.
After each failed treatment attempt, I felt more and more alone, having no one to talk to who understood what I was going through emotionally, physically, and mentally. I continued to stay quiet, and the pain continued to grow, making it harder for me to hide my emotions and occupy the time in between cycles. My focus had to change. An avid reader, I decided to shift my attention and began to read a book that my mentor wrote, entitled “The Broken Rib: From Hemorrhaging to Healing.” It was after reading about her journey of authentic and transparent healing that I decided it was time for me to be vulnerable so that I could heal as well. I no longer wanted to live in my secret of infertility solely because of the taboo and stigma of it in communities of color.
I decided to break my silence. My husband and I decided that we wanted to publicly share our journey in hopes of bringing awareness, offer encouragement to other couples and start a conversation about something that affects so many women, with African American women being affected at a higher rate.
It was following my 35th birthday that I went for it. “I am 1 in 8… This journey isn’t easy, but it is ours… I am thankful God allowed us to build a foundation to endure this storm…” I started with this message on Facebook, the most visible platform for all to see. As I was writing, tears began to flow, and my hands began to shake, wondering how I would be perceived when the world heard my secret- but I kept writing because I knew I would eventually be free of holding myself as a victim to this condition. I finally finished my short “announcement” and hit share! What a relief! Immediately my inbox flooded with women, black women who began to thank me for sharing our story.
In the days to come, I then started to receive messages from many women, black women who had silently suffered through the process themselves as they didn’t feel they had a “safe space” to share without judgment. I felt the weight fall off of my shoulders, and a relief in knowing that it was not just me– it just wasn’t being openly talked about in our community. After seeing that there were so many others going through this, I searched for online support networks and have been fortunate to join two well-established groups for black women who openly discuss infertility- the good, bad and ugly. It has been incredible to find a circle of people who have gone, or are currently going through, the same thing that allows you to feel “safe” and have a place of belonging in the world of infertility.
I hope that one day, there will not be a need for separate spaces for women of color to share their feelings and fears that one day our face will become a common face of infertility. For those heading down this path unsure of their place in this fragile space, or those currently feeling the loneliness I felt, I suggest the following three things:
- Find YOUR village. Support during this time is critical, and only allow space for those who can truly be supportive, encouraging, and understanding. Nothing worse than going through an already frightful process with someone that sees the worst of every situation. On the days you are ready to give up, these people will be the ones that give you the “extra” push to keep going. Look for resources and networks online; there are plenty (my online sister circle is AMAZING)! Do not be afraid to ask questions or soak up advice from their experiences.
- Document, everything. This was a bit weird at first because I personally don’t enjoy filming or taking excessive photos of myself, but I want to hold on to these precious memories. Even if you don’t plan to share publicly, you can have these moments to remind you of the strength you never knew you had. My husband and I have had quite the time creating our “unfiltered” content, hoping that when we share our entire (raw) process, it brings hope to other couples.
- Be proud. Proud that your faith can be trusted to endure the process. Proud of your body for handling endless shots, pills, and follow up appointments. And most of all, proud that regardless of how your child or children come into this world, YOU MADE THEM. And never let anyone make you feel like you are less of a woman because you need a little extra help because you are NOT alone.
Since finding my online spaces, this journey has become more pleasant, and I have found much comfort in the uncomfortable, and I am excited for what is to come. Although my husband and I are still on this exhausting journey, we continue to walk by faith and rest on Isaiah 60:22, which says, “When the time is right I, the Lord, will make it happen.” We are thankful for such a strong, supportive, and loving village that walks this path with us and for the vulnerability to share our story. We hope that eventually, this topic will not be so taboo, and more people of color will find comfort in knowing they are not alone. One by one, the silence will be broken.
We are grateful for this guest post by Diane Corsey, a member of Creating a Family’s online Facebook support group.
Are you a black woman who has struggled with the stigma and silence around infertility? How do you find support and care?