Posts Tagged ‘Celebs in the Struggle’

Watching Our Words. Why Phrasing Matters.

Phrasing Matters

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.

Review: Instant Mom by Nia Vardalos

When I discovered that I was a shocking 33 books behind on my Goodreads goal for the year, I went into a frenzy of book selections.  I have three e-books on my phone and Ipad, six graphic novels on my desk, two young adult novels in my bag, a playaway digital book in my car, and two audiobooks on my phone.

Don’t judge me.

Anyway, one of the audiobooks, was Nia Vardalos’ “Instant Mom”.

Instant Mom

While parts ring so very uncomfortably true that they bring tears to my eyes, another part of me knows that I will have to buy this book. In print, so that I can highlight parts, and extract quotes. I will then have to buy an extra copy so that I can wrap it in a note and give it to someone as oxygen.

I needed this book right now. I needed her hope, and her sorrow, and her success. I needed to hear my reflection. I’ve been stuffing myself so far down into my own chest that I have literally forgotten my feelings at times. I’ve hidden them under anger or fear, or completely blacked them out. I’ve treated the experience of our failed adoption this year the way I treat all mistakes in my life: as they that must not be named.

Do you know how when you’re writing longhand and you make a mistake in pen you can just draw a line through it and keep going?

Yeah. I don’t. Because I could never deal with just that line.  I, and more importantly, any other human, would still be able to see my error… and that cannot be.  I have to completely eviscerate the word or sentence. Like, to the point where the paper thins out where I’ve drug the pen across so hard.

That, is how much I hate making mistakes. How much I hate feeling or looking stupid. How much I hate failing. And this stupid journey(both the infertility and adoption) feels all the time like an error I can’t correct, white out, or even strike through. And I haaaaaaaate it.

I want to be past it already. To be on the other side. To be in the success story and look at me now portion.  And no matter what I do, I just can’t seem to. And it hurts fresh every time I realize it. Like waking up in a new place everyday and being reminded that I’m there because my house burned down.

So when I listened to Nia explain this exact frustration as she journeys backwards through letdown after letdown, I felt both invigorated and instantly saddened. Because I got it. I got it in a way that no fan or family member who read it without walking this road could.  I got her, because she got me.

She explained quite vulnerably, how her naturally upbeat personality made her wish, just as I have for so long, to just put this all behind her.  She hates discussing infertility, and wanted to focus on being a mom, and finally being happy, but fate has a way of making us share our stories when they can help others.  Nia soon found that the best way for her to feel truly “past” it all, was to tell the story of her journey, and help other hurting people find their children also.

This book examined not only the pain of infertility itself, but the struggle of enduring baby showers, failed IVF cycles, the pitfalls of shady adoption “professionals”, and even “the after”.  The hero of this story, however, was hope.  No matter how many walls Nia and her husband Ian Gomez hit, they maintained their ability to love one another, and love their dreams enough not to let them go.

The Vardalos-Gomez family found their daughter through the foster adoption system.  I appreciated a celebrity speaking out on behalf of the kids who are in the foster care system and eligible for adoption.  Nia took care to speak against the stigma that both adoption and foster care receive.  She expressed that she respects everyone’s choices in how they plan to build their families, but that she encourages people to investigate all the options available.

This voice was so very valuable.  Nia holds nothing back,…well, there is that first 80% of the book where she holds back her daughter’s name,…but other than that, she was exceptionally honest and real.  Her humor, as anyone who has watched her movies is familiar with, was very present in every chapter and she also includes an appendix that is full of adoption resources.

Now, as a librarian, I usually advise you to grab books from your local library, but Nia donates proceeds from the sales of this book to adoption charities, so I’m okay with you buying this one.  🙂

Darn straight, Nia.

Ps: I recommend listening to the audiobook, because she reads it herself, and all the emotion is present in her voice.

 

Dear Braxton Sisters…

Dear Toni, Towanda, Traci, Trina, and the “Diva That is She”, Tamar, LOL

I just watched the season finale of your reality show and was absolutely floored at the candor and gentleness with which your family responded after learning about the fertility issues Tamar and Vincent are facing.   I applaud each of you for not making your baby sister feel uncomfortable.  For taking her feelings and situation to heart and reacting with hope and love.  You have NO idea how important that is to someone who is facing such an unexpected blow to their life plan.  That meant the world.

Towanda, to offer your assistance as a gestational carrier for Tamar without hesitation, was such a selfless and loving act.   I was also moved by your words that every woman should have the opportunity to become a mother if they desire.  This very fundamental belief is one that many of us who deal with infertility have to fight to get across.  That you GOT it, even as someone who is already a mother, meant  more than I think you know.   Finally, to say “YOU WILL”, when Tamar was saying “What if I can’t,” was PRICELESS and powerful.  Thank you.

Tamar, first and foremost, as a reality star I’m sure you are no stranger to discussing personal issues in front of the world and are pretty used to being in a fishbowl, but I wanted to take this opportunity to say from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU for taking the world into that fertility discussion with you.  I am consistently floored by women and men in the African American community who are so very sure that our race isn’t a part of the 7.3 million people who are dealing with fertility issues.  That being said, it was a powerful statement, even through your usual jokes and sarcasm, for people to see a young, African American couple dealing with fertility challenges.

Many people who watch or have seen parts of Braxton Family Values usually fall into the “Love Tamar” or “Hate Tamar” categories.  I’m biased, because in my house, I’m the “EXTRA” person, who has always said things to people like “Get your life together”, and is quick to cover up my feelings with my dry wit, so I can relate to you.  For that reason, I personally feel that if more people looked past your delivery into the feelings that are behind them, there would be far more in the love bracket.  I watched the discussions between you and your sisters concerning your fears and thoughts about fertility treatments, and while you were blunt and at times a bit brash, what I saw was a young woman who was trying to figure out how to grasp the situation for herself and also how to explain that situation to the people she loved.

This emotional hurdle is one that many of us have to face.  When that diagnosis comes down, and the road to parenthood seems much longer and rougher than we’d originally thought, we start to question if it is what we even want.  Do I really want to be pregnant at all if its going to be this expensive/difficult/invasive?  Do I want to gain that weight?  Am I sure that I’m not just compensating for something that could be really solved by a good shopping trip or change of scenery?

The answer is usually yes.  We want to be mothers.  Which leads to another point of discomfort when we start to think beyond what we want, and start thinking about what those who love us, want for us.  My mother would love a grandchild from me.  My husband would love a child of our own.  My sisters and brother would love a niece or nephew.  How will I tell them that I may not be able to give them that?

So we cover it up with vague explanations and joking responses, and we talk about it in a “no big deal” tone, when it is really beating us up inside.  I could be wrong, but that is what I saw as you talked to your family.  I felt as though I’ve done that “yeah so I’m gonna have to do this other thing” conversation myself before, and my heart wanted to hug you.  We do have to work on a little of your phrasing about certain fertility terms, LOL, but above all else I wish you and Vincent nothing but the very best, and pray that things work out in a way that best suits the two of you.

I was about to let this episode get past me without mentioning it here on The Egg, but I couldn’t.  The vision and voice was too important.  I sincerely thank each of you for being what you always are if nothing else, and that is honest.

Sincerely,

 

 

 

 

P.S.   I TOTALLY bought The Braxton’s CD TWICE back in the day, and still think “Where’s the Good in Goodbye” is a sleeper cut.  Thanks for being a part of my  high school soundtrack. LOL

P.P.S.  Z-PHI Towanda and Traci!

Do I Want To Be Known For this?

Do I want to be known for this?  For infertility?

Quick Answer: NO.
Thoughtful answer: I guess so.
Honest and final answer: I have to be. (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.

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