Posts Tagged ‘Celebrity Infertility’

Dear Dawn Robinson…

I haven’t done one of these in a while, perhaps because everyone has been pretty darn quiet on the infertility front celeb-wise.  But Dawn Robinson deserves a nod.

Dawn

A few years back, I had the displeasure of sitting in a radiology waiting room with a 40 year old black woman who was being tested for fibroids.  She had no idea what fibroids were.  She was scared and alone, with a look on her face that said clearly how terrified she was about the x-ray itself, but also these tumors her doctor carelessly told her she may have.  My heart broke for her, and for the countless others who had probably sat in the same seats, thinking those same terrifying thoughts.

So tonight, for Dawn to openly discuss her removed fibroids as well as the endometriosis she’d also been diagnosed with, was huge.  But let’s not just stick with that.  No.  Dawn has done so very much in the past few weeks of R&B Divas L.A., with just her honesty and vulnerability, that I don’t know that I could have asked for a better spokesperson. (more…)

What I Wish YOU Knew

This week, I am completely and totally floored by the amazing outreach initive of Redbook Magazine.  Through partnerships with Resolve: The National Infertility Association and First Response, Redbook has launched a massive no-shame campaign entitled “The Truth About Trying“.   From behind the scenes, I’ve known about this campaign for a couple months now, but even as I got excited and prepared for it, I had no idea how absolutely amazing this movement would really be.

If you haven’t seen it, let me explain a little about what it is. (more…)

Dear Sherri Shepherd,

Dear Sherri,

I just finished your book a couple weeks ago, and I immediately knew I’d have to pen you a note, like the one I sent to Angela Basset.  You see, while the story told all about your permission to be yourself, one of the greatest lessons for me was in your openness about the journey to motherhood.  I am grateful to you for the honest look at the feelings and insecurities behind infertility and the pain and fear of miscarriage.  For sharing these feelings with the world, you should be applauded.  For being a black woman, sharing these feelings with the world, I salute you.  Thank you for giving hope to those of us who need to write ourselves a few “it’s okay to cry”, slips, and a couple “You can be a mom, if you believe it will happen”, slips.  I know I’m not the only one who needs a few.

As the only woman of color with an infertility story to share on The View’s award-winning Infertility episode, I was proud to see you.  Thank you for letting the world know about the COST of infertility treatments, and for shattering the idea that it is somehow less demanding on celebrities and television personalities.  Thank you for calling out the fact that insurance companies do not always cover infertility.

Ms. Shepherd, your perspective brought that show around for women like me who were sitting on the edge of our seats, waiting to see a reflection on the screen.  You were that reflection.  For the woman somewhere who is terrified about whether her past abortions are punishing her now, you provide bold proof that this is not so.  There is a courage and honesty in the way your deliver your story that numbs me.  Not many would be as fearless while on a stage with Barbara Walters and with the world watching.

There are very real strains that infertility places on marriages.  There are sexual dysfunctions that come from trying to be the best wife, keep the best house, and conceive a healthy family.  You flawlessly explained and dissected those feelings.  As hard as it is to understand them for ourselves, how much harder still it must have been to put them on paper and send out for the rest of us to read.  I’m grateful to you for using your life as an example, and for telling some woman who’s marriage has not survived their infertility, infidelity, or depression, that things will get better and being a two-parent family, doesn’t always equal a two-parent home.

I thank you for not being perfect.  For fighting diabetes and hating what it has made food for you.  That honesty and humor helps me fight PCOS and others fight the very same diabetes diagnosis.  Your humor is such a calming gift.  So many feelings of despair and utter hopelessness are evaporated with that familiar warm smile,that says, “Hey, we all go through some stuff”.  While many may not agree with you about many things, it should not be denied how important a voice such as yours is.  One of my professors made a comment the other day that fits perfectly, “if a voice is important to just one person…then it is an important voice”.  Your voice is important.

Whose Line Is It Anyway?

First and foremost, a well-deserved soft hug and congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas Cannon.  The pregnancy rumors were confirmed last week when Mariah revealed to Access Hollywood that she and Nick are due in the spring. If you didn’t see it…check it out below.

There are so many directions to go with this story, that I guess I’ll have to cover them all, or at least brush over them.

First and foremost, I’m pondering who decides what is and isn’t a “fertility struggle”?   Does the customary yearlong attempt stand as the primary gauge?  Does the couple or individual who is ttc have the final say on whether or not theirs was in fact a fertility battle?  As I was reading the news reports that accompanied the Access Hollywood footage, I was kicked in the stomach when at the end of the stories, the journalists all noted how the couple made reference of their having conceived naturally.  Seemed simple enough on a first-read, but after the third article, I felt myself get that old familiar advocacy hat out of the bag.

Why was it necessary for them to stress the fact that the Cannon’s conceived without the use of fertility aids?  What the hell did that mean?  Was mentioning that, their way of saying, “Oh, and don’t worry, they aren’t the weird infertile people who use their money and medicine to tilt God’s hand in their favor?”  I know, I’m being a bit extreme, but these are the things we as advocates have to pay attention to.  Stressing the fact that this pregnancy came “naturally” could be used to have an adverse effect on the couples who do need infertility treatments.

Also, contrary to belief, Mariah’s diligent use of acupuncture, which she plainly discusses in the interview, IS being considered a fertility aid by many these days, so what does that say about the “no fertility aid” stance?  Along with the acupuncture therapy, Mariah also divulges her having been prescribed Progesterone for the cycles leading up to this pregnancy as a result of complications that arose after her miscarriage.   If you are unfamiliar with what Progesterone is used for, it is a natural female reproductive hormone.  It is administered as a fertility aid when the body is not producing enough of it naturally to develop a thick uterine lining for a fertilized egg to implant.  So…that being said,…YES, the Cannon’s conceived “naturally”, but only for the most part.  Which leads me back to my original issue; who decides whether or not their two-year situation is considered infertility?

I believe it is a hard road to pave.  There are many potholes and bumps to neatly pack the entire thing away under one label.

BUT, I am adding the Cannons to our picture reel over there —->

Why?

Because she and Nick are a beautiful example of the support a couple needs from each other when dealing with the medical, physical and emotional strains of (albeit very, very mild) fertility issues.  The support that he has shown via his Twitter posts and media in defense of his wife as they walked this quiet journey should be applauded.

I recently spoke at a symposium here in Chicago.  After the panel was over, two African Americans from the audience came to speak to me.  One, a mother who was desperately trying to find a way to connect and help her daughter, who was dealing with infertility.  Another, a young man who’s first question to me was, “Do men ever speak out to you?”  His question was both sad and motivating for me.  Sad, because what he was inferring was true.  Not many men are willing to speak out about infertility in the minority community, unless they are a physician themselves.  Motivational because it reminded me of the group I desperately wish to reach.  Seeing men like Nick Cannon not only absorb the blow for his wife, but support her decisions openly and without apology was a breath of fresh air and a step of advocacy for the unheard men who are doing the very same.  So many partners take on the heartache of reproduction issues.  They stand in the gap, provide the crying shoulders and are PRESENT.  Their banner should be raised and Nick Cannon has done an excellent job of lifting it up.

“If & when my wife is ready to make ANY announcements about private matters she will do it personally.” – @NickCannon – via Twitter – Jun 2, 2010

“My heart goes out to any woman who has to deal with public scrutiny and speculation pertaining to their private life REAL TALK!” – @NickCannon via Twitter – June 2, 2010

Finally, my last impression is one that I’ve shared with The Egg before.  This idea of what is and isn’t public domain knowledge is detrimental to where we go as advocates in infertility.  There is a very, very thin line between my being grateful for Mariah and Nick finally sharing their news, so that it can reach those who need it, and my believing it was somehow our “business” or “right to know”. The push for advocacy has to walk the narrow tightrope of convincing our silent community that there is no embarrassing or stigmatic reason for their silence, while also respecting their right privacy.  “You don’t have to tell us all your business, but thanks if you do”, is the thought process I’ve been trying to navigate for a while now.

I am grateful for Mariah speaking out, ecstatic that she was forthcoming about the miscarriage and medication, but adamant that media STOP DIGGING THROUGH THE UTERI OF PUBLIC FIGURES.  Perhaps if they do, we can get more celebrities who will be willing to share and support.  Stalking celebs for the inner-workings of their fallopian tubes, and hiding in fertility clinic dumpsters for the chance to break the news to the world, is not only tacky, but it takes the fertility community far too long to bounce back from.  Give THAT a rest.  When there are constant speculations on the uses of fertility drugs or doctors, the image portrayed to the world is that using these resources should be attached to a taboo.  When we establish that, we set the stage for all types of ignorance and misunderstanding about what new millennium fertility really is.

Overall, as a site that supports and believes in the creation of strong, healthy families, I am proud to see that the Cannon’s have finally gotten their chance to have one.

I Think Better When I’m Angry.

And I haven’t been angry for a few weeks.

Rather than anger, I’ve been so taken with planning and progressing, and just thinking happy thoughts,…that the Discovery Channel gunman slipped right past me.

James Lee Mugshot

I’m awake now.

He ‘d been sniped before I’d even realized he was a serious threat.  Yet now, although his life has ended, I find that the threat is still quite real.

If you haven’t read the manifesto of James Lee, the environmental enthusiast who held three hostages at gun and explosive-point this past week in the Discovery Communications building, you should seriously go and take a look.  In the rather winded document found on his website, Lee goes into detail about his disgust for Discovery(TLC)’s airing of shows such as Jon and Kate, 19(or however many) kids and Counting, and other birth or infertility shows.  “The Planet doesn’t need humans”, he states.  He sternly chastises the network and their viewers for ignoring the over-population of the planet by what he calls “filthy”, “parasitic” humans.   The fact that his reality show pitch was denied while the network renewed the contracts of the Duggars, was apparently the straw that broke his back.   One of the statements that caused me to gasp, was this one:

All programs on Discovery Health‐TLC must stop encouraging the birth of any more parasitic human
infants and the false heroics behind those actions. In those programs’ places, programs encouraging
human sterilization and infertility must be pushed. All former pro‐birth programs must now push in the
direction of stopping human birth, not encouraging it.
Photobucket

Um…what?

Wow.  Seriously dude?  This is what you spent your day thinking up?  Yikes…

First, you’re an idiot and a coward.  I say this because instead of the courage(and thought) it would have taken you to come up with some actual solutions to changing and bettering the world THROUGH humans, since we are obviously nowhere near extinction, you chose the way of cutting the tail off the snake.  It would have just grown back, idiot.  Evolution is natural progression.

Secondly, although I have my feelings about this dude, and find that most other people do believe he was bit “off”, I have had to also realize that even some of  those who disagree with Lee’s tactics, are finding his actual theories valid.  There are quiet murmurings of “well, he did have a point”, that cannot be ignored.  This is the harmful reality of which I am very frightened of and one that I feel the infertility community must address immediately.

While there is a large amount of press and attention given to those who have used reproductive technology irresponsibly, (see: Nadya Suleman ), these are not the people whom I have encountered while learning about infertility.  The real people who I come in contact with every day are actually quite concerned about the possibility of being faced with extreme cases of multiples.  These families are seeking a child to love and nurture into a great human being for the world’s benefit, not trying to tear it down.  There is a very real fear and anxiety about having to use selective reduction, the risks that these pregnancies can place on a pregnant mother, and the thought that goes into family planning as a whole.

Basically, what I mean by all this is that the majority of us do not go down this road frivolously.

For Lee to relate Disvocery’s  family-building programming with the human frivolity that cases such as Octomom’s allude to, is dangerous when we begin thinking of the many other people who will  take that  alignment as fact.  Many of us who have encountered our own fertility issues were uncomfortable with Octomom.  Many of us who are family-building advocates are uncomfortable with the strain and negligence that having a college football team of kids can become for Michelle Duggar’s body and health.  We are not the same.  It is a horrifying assumption that we are all unconcerned and selfish.

I was incensed, and prepared to devote my entire rant to the situation with Lee, and was perusing the web for research when I came across this fool here:

Aimee Sword

Aimee L. Sword

In case you haven’t heard of Ms. Sword, she is a 36 year old Michigan native who, when she didn’t receive her annual update from his parents, tracked down the son she’d placed into an adoptive home at infancy.  After locating the then 14 year old boy through Facebook, she proceeded to engage in a SEXUAL relationship with him.Smiley

YES. You read that correctly.
Apparently, when Ms. Sword met up with her biological son, who is now 16 , the feelings that arose in her were not maternal at all, but sexual.  The unsuspecting adoptive parents had agreed to let their son spend more time with Sword and her family, believing it was a good and right thing to do.  The sexual relationship continued until the young man revealed the details of his “special relationship with his mother”,  to a counselor.  Sword has since plead guilty and faces anywhere from 9 to 30 years in prison.  Oh, and did I mention at the time of this incident, she was married and had five other children of her own?

Let’s all sigh together…

Reading this story, it is amazing to me how many commentators were prepared to blame the adoptive parents. How could they have seen something like this coming!?  But again, I’ve come to realize that when  dealing with the court of public opininon,  facts are less important than perceptions.  This case has now unfortunately brought a rather dim hue to the cases for open adoption. Which is mind-boggling to me.  This was an isolated incident, yet it provides people with the ammunition to attack an entire system that has worked for so many?

One thing became startlingly clear as I read about James and Aimee:

Infertility and open adoption advocates/patients must speak up.

We cannot be so hush-hush that the ridiculous incidents and examples are being given more light and attention.  If the entire world has but these awful depictions to hold as an idea of what our lives truly look like, then the prejudices and disparities will not only continue but increase.  There are some who look at these issues and think, “Well, that was just a small thing, it has nothing to do with the other hundreds of great success stories”.   I say to those people, I wish I could share your optimism.  In fact, our world thrives off of negatives.  These small peas under the mattress quickly become boulders in the hands of those who would rather not find anything positive or valuable to think or say about infertility and adoption.  I admit that sharing is hard, and that knowing even how to share is even harder, but I promise you, the sooner we begin unleashing the truth, the sooner we can begin to mend some of the unnecessary pain caused by ignorance.

Dear Angela Bassett,

Dear Angela,

I want to thank you for being open about your journey to your twins.  I know that for you, it may have not seemed as important to speak out as it was for those of us who were able to see it, but I am so grateful.  Out of all your work, this is the role for which I am most proud of you.

To see your smiling face in People magazine, speaking of the eternal gratitude you and your husband have for your gestational surrogate, was IMPORTANT.  It was meaningful to a brown girl such as myself who had not seen anyone of my race discuss surrogacy before.  It was important for me to understand that surrogacy was not weird or awkward, but an insurmountable gift.

I want to thank you for showing me an example of a strong, black family who wanted children, instead of being overwhelmed by them.  So many of the images I had seen until then showed women who’s children were their obstacle, and something they had to become successful in spite of.  You showed me that even in Hollywood, family was important.  You proved to me that having children to reflect the love you and your husband shared was not too strange of a request.  You proved to me that motherhood was worth fighting for.  That parenthood was as important a goal as success.

I thank you for being honest about your decision to use a surrogate.  I thank you for being honest about the seven years it took you and Courtney to achieve your family.  I’m grateful for you explaining to the masses what gestational surrogacy meant, in relation to your babies being your 100% biological offspring, though I WISH we didn’t have to make that distinction.

I thank YOU for giving me a reflection that was accessible.  I thank you for being real.

As I look at the mother you’ve become,…and the journey you took to get there,…

I THANK YOU.

Sincerely,

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