There is a shift that occurs in our hearts when we change from just thinking about if we want kids, to whether or not we can have kids.
Perusing the blogosphere, I came across a post on the Shady Grove Fertility website about Nicole Ellis, a Washington Post writer and filmmaker who’d decided to explore her fertility and fertility preservation options. In this short video series we watch this vibrant, funny young woman investigate the basics of fertility, and the history of the “biological clock”. She is informative and personable, and watching makes you feel like you’re hanging out with a good girlfriend and learning alongside of her. As part of her journey, she has an exploratory visit with Dr. Devine of Shady Grove to test her own ovarian reserve and see if egg freezing is the right choice for her. It’s a brave and emotional journey to take in front of a camera, especially so as a woman of color, which is an important point to note.
When Nicole, a young woman of 29 hears her results, not many who haven’t been in our shoes will notice the exact moment that things get real for her, but it was a familiar and heartbreaking moment for me. There is a wave that crosses her face, where things become so much more than a work assignment or a bit of investigative journalism. As she continues to explore what these results mean for her and her choices, she begins to dig deeper into what these things mean and have meant for her family, and learns more about how fertility has affected others close to her. Aunts recount their journeys to their children, and an uncle talks about the loneliness of male grief in infertility. Talking to young cousins, one of them remarks that they hope to one day have 5 or 6 children, and there is not even a flinch in their delivery as fertility isn’t on their radar just yet.
I encourage you to watch this short series, which returns for its next episodes in May, but not only do I think you should watch it, but SHARE it. So many of us don’t know how our bodies work, which is exactly what Nicole says to Dr. Devine in the first episode. We honestly don’t. And in many cases we don’t even think about how our bodies work UNTIL there’s an indication that they aren’t working properly. These videos took me right back to recognizing the reality of my own fertility, and the shift from the “first comes love” mentality, to suddenly having so many choices and decisions to contend with that I felt unprepared for. All of which seemed intensely personal and isolating, at a time when I needed to have someone to talk to most. The fear that all of a sudden you are in a fight with time that you never thought you’d be in.
I learned about my fertility issues at 25 years old. An age where many doctors were telling me I was “so young”, as if there were some solace in that statement. I struggled to understand for myself how this could have been something I didn’t know about. How I’d not known this could be a problem. Had there been something I could have done differently? What do I do now?
Watching someone else get that realization and begin asking themselves those questions was deeply personal for me and I almost had to take a moment away from my desk. And yet, I found myself reinvigorated about advocacy and awareness. Infertility is a shock, and I’m so frustrated that so many women are getting that shock so late. Are we still not talking about this enough? As great as it is to have so many celebrities of color speaking out about fertility issues, are we still missing out on educating and informing our younger sisters? As I wrestled with this yesterday, I realized that the answer is in the questions. We have to keep asking them. We have to keep asking what we can do next. We have to keep asking how we can help. Most importantly, we have to keep these conversations going. It makes campaigns like #SayTheFWord even more relevant and timely.
Good luck to Nicole, and every other young woman who is learning that there may be a few extra steps toward their dreams than they expected.
Regina Townsend is the primary author and founder of TheBrokenBrownEgg. A librarian and writer, Regina’s mission is to make people aware and active about the unique concerns of reproductive health in the minority community.