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…)
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.
I just wanted to publicly commend Shutterfly.com for their AWESOME customer service and sensitivity.
This morning, I received an email from them saying “Congratulations” on your new addition, with a suggestion that I order “Thank You” cards to mark the occasion.
It threw me off, but then my whole inbox these days is pretty “stick a needle into the skin behind my fingernail” crazy, so it didn’t really phase me all that much. I just deleted it with all the Mother’s and Father’s Day emails that I’ve accumulated this week so far.
Well fast forward to this evening…I was cleaning out my once-again full inbox and found this very sweet, and VERY compassionate note:
I am going to write them a note of gratitude for “Getting it”, because many wouldn’t. If you’d like to join me, please do! So often we have to address the issues of people and organizations not understanding the feelings and emotional turmoil of those dealing with family-building barriers, so I think it is a joyful opportunity to finally address someone for doing something RIGHT.
Thank you Shutterfly!
Originally Published 12.29.10 @ 1:27pm
Ujamaa! The principle of today means cooperative economics, as well as social and economic development. The focus of the principle is that African-Americans should support and promote other African-American businesses and institutions. The reason for this thrust is based on the belief that of all other cultures, African Americans have the least amount of cultural identity and resourcefulness.
As I thought about how to relate this particular principle to The Egg, I continuously hit a wall. You see when I first thought about it, I planned to promote other blogs and infertility resources that catered to African-American patients. Then I remembered… LOL
While the field is growing, it surely isn’t the largest. However that is no reason for me to not share with you guys the outstanding Fertility blogs and resources that I have found which are either founded or written by African Americans.
More Info on Why I’m Special!
Visit The Quest for the Nest on Facebook
Purchase The Quest here!
Check out the blog for Lena Arnold, author of For This Child We Prayed: Living with the Secret Shame of Infertility.
Check out Joshua’s Coming by Rhonda White
Blogs And Social Media:
For a list of other blogs that are written by African Americans who battle infertility check out the BrokenBrownBlogs page up top! (If you have one and would like to be added, send me a message)
Facebook Pages & Groups:
Let’s Talk About it
My Adoption Chronicles
Luck and Baby Dust
The Rare Soil Project
African American Fertility (Facebook Group)
Fertility/Family-Building Organizations Created by African Americans
The Center for Family Formation
The Tinina Q. Cade Foundation
Other Great Causes I’d like to mention, also founded by African American women:
Cosmopolitan Kids – Raising children to be global citizens through cultural awareness and activity (co-founded by one of the Egg’s board members!)
ChocolateBrides.com – The Premiere source of inspiration and sisterhood for the marriage-minded woman of color
So, that’s what I came up with! Not a lot, but still SOO much. What’s your Ujamaa today? Shout out a business or resource that I may have missed.
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…)