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 called a counseling center this week.
As many times as I’ve told myself to call, or to look into it, or to move forward with it, this time I wouldn’t let myself back out. I need someone to talk to. Someone who isn’t my friend, or my mom, or my spouse. They’ve heard all my gripes before, and they can apply a temporary salve, but they can’t help me “do my work”, as Iyanla would say. They can’t help me unfold and unwrap all the things I’ve bound inside of myself.
The last time I got the courage up to call a therapist, was about a year ago. I had browsed and studied GoodTherapy.org for about a month before finally deciding on someone with a pleasant enough face, and a close enough location. When I finally got her on the phone, she said that she’d recently moved to Atlanta, and that she had a therapist she trusted back here, who I could call.
I decided that was a sign that I didn’t need a therapist. I mean obviously, if I’d done all that research, and the lady wasn’t even here anymore…
So I went back to business as usual.
And just what is business as usual for me?
Well, I work a lot.
I don’t think you understand.
From the minute I open my eyes in the morning, I immediately find a project to complete. I start in on whatever I can get done before leaving for work, and then once I’m there, I boot up whatever I was working on the day before, plus a few extra things I’ve just thought up, and then I’m mentally booked until around 3pm, when we start getting kids in the library, and wouldn’t you know it, that’s when it’s time for programs and meetings.
By the time I make it home, I try to continue whatever items I didn’t finish at work. If there’s nothing left to really do, I throw myself into a video game, Netflix binge, or Pinterest session(yes, session. My pinning is the stuff of legend. LOL).
I usually do these things until I’m too tired to stay awake. Most nights, I get about four hours of actual sleep because I have a hard time closing my eyes and shutting my brain off at the end of the day. After practically wringing it out like a rag all day, my mind rattles with everything from world peace, to job and sorority tasks, to what kind of schools I want my future children to attend.
And it does not stop or pause.
And when I wake up from that four hours, I start it all over again.
Because if I stop, for one second, I will completely fall apart.
The million tasks I do every day, are my coping mechanism. They distract me from the things that frighten me, and frustrate me, and utterly devastate me. I use them to invent things for myself to hope for, because I’ve lost all ability to do so without them. If I don’t have an event planned for next Saturday at 2pm, I’m not confident that there will be a Saturday.
Half of my day, every day, is looking at other people and wondering how they are so calm. I wonder how they are able to get up and go to work, or meetings, and smile, and have ideas, and just not seem to worry as much as I know that I do. My fears and anxiety levels get so high, that I can barely complete simple tasks.
February of 2013 was hard for me. I was severely depressed. Frustrated with not only my body, but this world in general. Then there was a short glimmer of hope as we planned to adopt, but then that went very sour, very quickly. And while having that little girl in my home for the following six months was special, and healing in many ways, it was also a horribly devastating experience. One that I suppressed into myself.
I am a person who suppresses my own grief. This is a symptom of depression.
I did not allow myself to grieve. I did not have time or interest in it. I just went back to work. With all my disappointment, and all my fear, and a double portion of my anxieties tucked into my tote bag.
I was, and still am, disappointed that for all my positive thinking, things still failed. I am constantly fearful that things may never work. I worry that I’ll continue to plan and hope and have the door closed on me year after year. I am always anxious that I will run out of time.
A year later, February is grueling in my heart. I’m uncomfortable, and sad, and just all around off of my game right now. Most days, I’m literally petrified. I’m tired of it. And more importantly, I’m tired of living in the dark about it.
Infertility is a quiet force within the African American community, and so is depression and mental wellness. Culturally, we are conditioned to internalize, suppress, and work through our feelings on our own. We are taught to keep “inside business, inside”, and to never let others know what we’re going through. Those things we know require outside help, are usually directed to our spiritual leaders, and not to medical healers.
I had a hard time writing this post.
Because I hate to be soooo depressing. Ugh. I HATE IT.
I really don’t like talking about the sadness, and the fear, and the emotional voids that have come into my life. I especially hate that I feel as though I’ve allowed them to. I am angry at myself for not being strong enough to not feel this way, and that too, is something those of us who suppress, do.
Instead of reaching out for help, I tell myself:
“You should pray more.”
“You’re being weak.”
“You just need to write it out or talk it out.”
“If you have time to sit here and mope, you aren’t working enough.”
And once I’ve done such a great job of thinking myself out of moving forward,…the feelings pass for a short while. Then, like I know they will, they always come right back.
Infertility, is bigger than babies. I tell people this all the time, and I doubt they really hear me. It is SO much bigger than bellies and bumps.
Infertility is trauma. Every part of this journey has its own scars and sounds, and memories that for many of us will never ever go away. They haunt us, and hurt us, and cause us to drastically change from whoever we were or at the very least thought we were.
Infertility hurts so far beyond the baby. It’s about my marriage, my friendships and my ability to picture a future. It’s about my body, and whether everything I’ve been told about personal power is true. Source
Because we want to be parents, and because we want to be the type of parents we always dreamed we’d be, we suppress the parts of us that are sad, or angry, or frightened. We wrap those feelings up, and we pack them away, so that we can plant a smile on our faces and keep going. But you cannot build a strong new house on a bad foundation.
I’m trying to walk into 2014 with more hope and faith than I had last year. I want nothing in my way. So I am going to do my best to rebuild my foundation.
Are you suffering from depression? Are you suppressing the emotional toll that infertility has taken on your life? You do not have to fight alone. You do not have to be alone. Here are a few resources that will help make sure you aren’t.
Coping With Infertility and Depression
GoodTherapy.Org Fertility Resource List
Resolve: Mental Health Resources
Infertility and Depression 101
#DayOfLight Info and Resources
- The #DayOfLight Campaign is the brainchild of blogger Brandi of MamaKnowsItAll
- Visit my good friend Natasha’s blog for the post that inspired me to participate here.
Would you like to participate?
- If you are a blogger, write a blog post sharing your personal experience of depression and/or share resources to help others. Add the #DayOfLight hashtag in your post title. (If you don’t have a blog, but want to speak about infertility and depression, please send your thoughts to The Egg and I will post them anonymously for you.)
- Watch the #DayOfLight Google Hangout on Wednesday, February 5th at 11 AM EST. Tweet and ask questions. (http://bit.ly/1ilifbP)
- Participate in the #DayOfLight twitter chat on Wednesday, February 5th at 9 PM EST (follow@PushingLovely, @NotoriousSpinks, and @BrandiJeter for more information)
- Turn your social media avatars black and white on Wednesday, February 5th so we can visually represent all of those affected by depression.
- Share inspiring tweets, posts, and photos on social media to encourage those who are suffering with depression to let them know that they are not alone. Use the hashtag #DayOfLight.
Apologies for the delay, but even a year later, this post seems to be RIGHT on time.
The final installment of BrokenBrownBelle’s journey to her daughter, Buttercup. (more…)
There were more appointments then ever. And instead of reading about people talking about beating PCOS and drifting into motherhood, the talk had turned to talk to exclusively the word miscarriage. That word could strike fear in my heart like no needle ever could and it was suddenly everywhere.
Oh my God, could I have come this far only to spend every set aside dime and then lose my baby?!? This never was a thought to me until we started with the injections. The second I was asked to spend a lump sum, and get down to penniless for this “project”, it occurred to me that women lose babies everyday. I wanted to think of the worst case scenario and ask myself if I could handle whatever that was. Could I deal with the bills I was getting from the infertility clinic, the money I’d spent trying to get pregnant, the surgeries I’d had and then the possible threat of miscarriage?
I had never asked myself that question before, I was afraid to. I never brought the word up. I thought if I didn’t, it would definitely decrease my chances of it and at least preserve my sanity. But, suddenly people were coming forward bringing that word to me and I could not escape the thought. (more…)