The following is an anonymous submission for The Egg’s 2015 National Infertility Awareness Week Blog Project, #BehindClosedDoors. This brave and powerful entry is one that will resonate with many, and one that I had to share. THANK YOU to the Eggshell who sent it in, because she could be saving someone’s life with it.
If you are experiencing dark thoughts and need someone to talk to, please seek help. GoodTherapy.org offers a great search tool that will allow you to find help near you that specializes in the cares and concerns of those afflicted by infertility. Remember “You Are Not Alone”.
A month or so ago I actually tried to take my own life. I wasn’t strong enough to explain it here or anywhere else. I did write it out though, and I’m posting it now. My journey will never give anyone hope because…well I’m not pregnant and I never will be. But maybe my journey will save someone else from letting themselves lapse into a despair that seems insurmountable. Anyway, I don’t remember the exact date or time, but below is what I wrote about it.
Recently, I was invited to visit The Cradle’s “Gale and Ardythe Sayers Center for African American adoption”, on behalf of The Egg. I had a really great time not only learning about the history of this great resource, but also just having a good “you get it” convo with Nijole (pronounced ni-lay), the organization’s Director of Resource and Community Development.
On a chilly Sunday afternoon, I met with my sorority sisters for lunch in Evanston and then headed over just in time to meet with Nijole at The Cradle’s headquarters. She and her son Harrison, a proud “Cradle Baby”, met me with huge smiles, open arms, and an adorable puppet, in the parking lot. Stopping in to take off our winter coats, one of the first things I saw was a Chicago Bears jersey of former player Gale Sayers, for whom the African American adoption center is named for.
Throughout the main floor were walls and walls of photographs of children who’ve been placed through The Cradle. There are photos just about everywhere, that make it very clear just how many lives have been changed here. Along a south wall, was a photo of a woman with a warm smirk, and an adorable hat. Nijole introduced her as Florence Walrath, founder of The Cradle.
The Cradle, was founded by Evanston, Illinois resident Florence Walrath in 1923. Having a sister who’d experienced infertility, Florence’s chance encounter with a doctor who knew of a young woman who was pregnant with no hope, led to Florence uniting the two women. That one match led to 91 years of building families!
I was inspired by the story of Florence Walrath. At the time she began her mission to find families for children, adoption was highly stigmatized. Because of the stigma, it was also a very quiet and secretive endeavor. One can imagine how much harder it had to be to face infertility during those days, and how heightened the guilt, shame and embarrassment must have been. To provide this service for so many families, was a true mission.
Not only did she work to unite families, but eventually also to bring some dignity to the process, for all involved. Her work in The Cradle also helped to address the high infant mortality rates that were of the time period. I’d encourage anyone to learn more about this amazing woman!
Continuing our tour, I visited The Cradle Museum, a room with original images and materials from the organization’s history.
I also visited the “Living room”, where the staff says their goodbyes to new families going home. Last on the main floor, I visited the room where many birth-parents have their introduction meetings with potential adoptive parents.
While standing in this room, a lot of thoughts flooded my head, and Nijole actually blessed me with the story of how she and her husband felt on the day they met their son’s birthmother in this very space. What a hard conversation. What a hard decision.
The more we talked, the more I felt that it is special people who are called to adoption. People who can accept the move past their original wants and desires, to accept that the primary goal is now to provide family for a child, and not to fill a void. The mourning process, for those of us who have dealt with infertility, and the act of letting go of the things you thought would be, is heart-wrenching. But also beautiful.
I applaud The Cradle for offering support and encouragement to those people.
Last on the tour, was a trip to visit the nursery. The Cradle is the only adoption agency in the country with a 24 hour nursery to house infants who are in need of temporary care. Volunteers come in to provide contact and love for the infants, while nursing staff is also on hand. Detailed notes are taken while infants are in their care, to monitor eating habits, personalities, and any other information that their parents may need when they head home.
Returning to Nijole’s office, we talked a bit more about what the Sayer’s Center program means for African American adoption. At half the cost, the Sayer’s program seeks to make adoption more accessible, in the hopes of removing a barrier that could be behind the lack of potential African American adoptive parents.
More than anything, our conversation at its heart, was still just one of the warm and comfortable ones I’ve come to expect when speaking to someone else who has dealt with infertility. Our wants are similar. We both want to make people aware. Aware of the resources available to them, and aware of how to empower themselves with the knowledge to change the conversation around family building. No one’s journey has to be identical to anyone else’s, but rather it’s the right of each of us to find the path that best suits us.
While adoption isn’t at the forefront of my husband and I’s journey right now, I have to admit to feeling sincerely grateful that there were other individuals like me, who were willing to be my support if it did become our next step.
The Cradle is not the only adoption agency. Their way of doing things is not the only way. Their program is, I’m sure, not solely unique. And adoption is not the path for everyone. However, I thought it was important to share this experience, and tell someone who needs to hear it, that adoption is a viable option for some of us, and it is not as out of reach as one may think.
Thank you Nijole for the tour, and for just being a warm fellow advocate in this fight.
There are few experiences during this infertility thing where you feel empowered. The moments are few and far between, and you will find that when you get them, you will begin to savor them and never want them to end. The Fertility For Colored Girls‘ 2nd Annual “Hats, Heels, and Hankies Tea”, was one of those experiences. (more…)
Famed percussionist and recording artist Sheila E. has released a new memoir. As an 80’s baby, I’m inclined to love her. LOL She reminds me of big hair and great music, and really, what’s not to love? She was killing the game long before Beyonce, and she’d even had Mr. Graffiti Bridge himself, singing her praises on and off the stage.
Well, the New York Daily News did a write-up on Escovedo’s new book, with tons of juicy bits to entice us to check it out, and while for the most part, I was really pleased and excited, my spidey senses perked up unfortunately. Since I’d seen her “Unsung” episode last year, I was really interested to see what else she was planning to share. More info on her love affair with The Purple One, her uncomfortable but industry-changing sexual revolution, and then, her feelings on friend Lionel Richie’s adoption of her niece Nicole.
Here’s how it’s written up in Sheila’s book, which is co-authored by Wendy Holden:
“Then Richie’s wife Brenda, who had been hungering for a child, suggested adopting Nicole. “Lionel … would do anything to keep Brenda happy,” Escovedo writes.
The Richies convinced Peter and Karen to give up their child.”
Come on man. Stereotype much? We gotta do better.
Now, it’s not all bad, as Sheila has always been very upfront about how difficult it was for her family when Nicole was adopted. She generally comes from a place of love about it, I’m sure. So, assuming that like many, perhaps Holden and Escovedo just don’t realize how the particular phrasing used in their book can be damaging, allow me to share four requests I have from just that short excerpt.
The Richies convinced Peter and Karen to give up their child.
1. PLEASE stop painting adoptive parents as baby-snatchers who want nothing more than to steal children from loving families.
“Lionel … would do anything to keep Brenda happy,
2. PLEASE stop painting WOMEN as the primary offenders, and portraying husbands as well-meaning dopes who move heaven and earth to fill their wives “ridiculous cravings” for children.
3. PLEASE stop painting birth-parents who choose to place their children for adoption, as idiots who are taken advantage of. The decision to place a child for adoption is not a light one, and it is a BRAVE one. Don’t belittle their bravery by wording things in a way which implies that they were basically tricked into doing what other people convinced them was best. This, I’m sure has been the case for some, especially as we go back a couple of decades, but it is NOT the case for all, and when you report on it that way, you perpetuate a stereotype that can hinder more than help.
4. PLEASE stop deciding that someone else’s story should be yours. No matter the auntie heartstrings she may have been feeling pulled from, or how she perceived the situation to play out, Nicole Richie’s adoption story belongs to HER, her parents, and her BIRTH parents. Your feelings about it, your momma’s feelings, the teacher’s feelings, the postman’s feelings, do not matter at the end of the day. No matter how old she is, this is HER story, and it should be respected and treated with a certain amount of care.
Now to be clear, LOL I’m a fan, so I’ll still probably read the book, and I’m not encouraging anyone else not to. All I’m asking, is that we start to pay closer attention to HOW we say things, and how those seemingly simple comments/statements can have dire implications for others. For every one person who read that excerpt and said, “Oh, that’s interesting”, and moved on with their day, five more were just as likely to say, “Oh, see, I knew our people didn’t adopt, I knew there had to be a story there”.
While adoption is difficult for birth families, there is a time and a place to deal with it, and in my opinion, your memoir may not be that place, especially if you are still feeling some kinda way. What we should take from this, is that there is definitely a need to do more in terms of supporting the relatives of adopted children. There is obviously a wound there that should be receiving far more salve. I found ONE study that stated as much.
When you know better, you do better. We need to get more people in the know.
It’s Tuesday. And around here, Tuesdays are RealTalkTuesdays. Today, though, there’s more than just the normal affirmations on my mind. Today, I’m thinking about the five years that have gone past as this blog has grown, and just how monumental it actually is.
Five years ago, when I started my blog, it was out of a desperate need to do something. My husband and I had fought our way blindly through this forest of uncertainty and I’ll just admit, shame, and I just wanted to do SOMETHING that would make me feel less than defeated. I wanted to kick a door open, turn on a light, make the smart-ass comment that would get the classroom talking.
Five years later, I’m proud to say that the door is open and there are people walking through and towards their healing. Not all of us have become parents, and not all of us are done fighting, but all of us have a place and a voice now. A place to shout, and a place to be heard. A place to be quiet, and a comforting silence to wrap us up in.
Five years ago, I was unemployed, uninsured, frustrated, and feeling hopeless. I was barely getting people to visit my blog, let alone comment or even let me know I was making a difference. Five years ago, when I started this blog, all I wanted to do was shout. Five years later, I’m glad to listen.
I don’t take it for granted.
And I don’t want YOU to take it for granted either.
You should know, that five years ago, organizations such as Fertility Within Reach, Fertility For Colored Girls, or A Family Of My Own, did not exist and it was very hard to know where to start. Especially if Resolve felt overwhelming. So many groups have formed in these past few years, that it’s easy to forget how vast of a wasteland it once was.
You should know, that I felt lost in the sea of infertility blogs that I did find, because I saw absolutely no reflection of myself, and that the ONLY fertility related blogs for women of color that I could find, had either stopped being updated, gone in a different direction, or were morphing into parenting blogs.
You should know, that in the past five years, there have been ENORMOUS strides made in the growth of reproductive awareness in general, and attention to infertility in the African-American and minority communities. So many people have responded to me, and told me how valuable this site(or the Facebook page or the Facebook group) mean to them, and it is humbling. To know that people are choosing to allow me to walk with them through the most painful and private ordeal in their lives, is extremely humbling.
You should know that I am grateful.
You should know that I am not done.
What do you need? How can I help? You let me know.
I’ll be here.