Dear Tyra: An Open Thank You note to Tyra Banks

 

Dear Tyra,

Hey girl! I wanted to drop you a quick note today because, you were “on my heart” as the church ladies say.

I guess you can say I’ve been a fan for years. In the 90s, when you were in your modeling prime, I was in high school, and it was always nice to see a brown girl doing fashion, slaying. Giving us #blackgirlmagic before we had a name for it. You jumped into acting on Fresh Prince, and in Higher Learning, and who can forget that TV movie where you were  a life sized doll come to life (I don’t think  I actually watched that one though), oh, and the slightly bitchy fiancée in Love and Basketball.

Of course, you had your shows: The Tyra talk show, and America’s Next Top Model. When ANTM started, I was newly out of college, and my friend/roomie and I made sure we were off the phone from moms and boyfriends, and had our snacks on deck so we could watch. In the later seasons, I stopped watching, but my mom “discovered” the show and took all the modeling tips to heart. She smizes in damn near every picture now.

I was also a fan of the talk show. It was fun. Informative. Honest. I know you took some criticism when you dressed as a fat person, or went as homeless. But one of the moments I loved, was when, after paparazzi got some pics of you on the beach and the “Tyra’s getting fat” articles and comments began, you told them all to kiss your fat ass. Classic.

You started your foundation (TZONE) for girls to empower and inspire. When you decided you wanted to be an entrepreneur, you enrolled in classes at Harvard Business school.

I bring up all of the things you’ve done in your career just to highlight that you have been a role model to women and girls, especially Black women. I think your place and accomplishments are often overlooked. You lay low. You say what you want. You keep it classy. Thank you for being an example of girl power.

 

A few weeks back, I saw segment on FABlife, where Chrissy Teigan talked about her difficulties  getting pregnant, and you also took that moment to share:

I want to co-sign what Chrissy is saying and say ‘You have no idea what people are going through’. Why am I crying? You just have no idea what people are going through, so when you ask Chrissy [why don’t you have kids] or me that or anybody that, it is none of your frigging business, okay?  And for any women, it is none of your business what somebody is going through. Whether they want to have a child or don’t ever want to have a child or may have a child on the way, it’s none of your business, okay? Until somebody wants to make it your business

Exactly.

I loved this whole moment, because, I too, am one of those women. The 1 in 8 couples who struggle to get pregnant. I too, am tired of people asking about “when?” or “why?” when it comes to having a baby. Its not their business, and you don’t know what I’m going through or how hard I’m trying to get pregnant.

I love when those who have a platform use it. You, Gabrielle Union,  Tamar Braxton, and other celebrity women have come out and said pregnancy has been a challenge. I love even more that as a Black woman, you’ve said something. We just keep acting like this is not a problem in “our” community, when it is. Just as much as it is in any community.

 

Tyra, the point is: Thank You for sharing you journey to motherhood! Thank you for putting a face to infertility. Thank you for being open and vulnerable. Thank you for sharing your  son with us.

There are hundreds, maybe thousands of every day women, who share, or try to inspire others with their journey. (Like myself), but you are able to speak to more people with one post than many of us can all year.

 

Thank you again, Tyra for being someone who has consistently taken risks, taken a stand, and been yourself.

 

Congratulations on your new baby boy!

 

via @tryabanks instagram

via @tyrabanks instagram

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Monica, Robin, and Anna, but not Whitley, Aunt Viv, or Mary Jane: Why aren’t Black Characters in the Infertility Narrative?

tv watcher

Please be aware, this post contains SPOILERS for the following series’:

Downton Abby Season 6 Ep 1

How I Met Your Mother

Friends

Being Mary Jane

Last Sunday night, I was curled up in my bed for the season premiere of the final season of Downton Abby. (At this point, if you haven’t yet watched that episode, spoiler alert ahead!)

Within the first 15 minutes, Anna reveals (implies) that she’s recently suffered a miscarriage, and that this wasn’t the first time. (Lord knows, if you watch Downton, Anna’s been through enough!) This got me to thinking, again, about how these pregnancy and fertility issues come up in TV and movies. So much so that I tuned out a bit from the episode for a few minutes. It also made me think about working conditions and society expectations of the time. She had a miscarriage, but got dressed and came to work. Those types of things were definitely not discussed openly at that time. The shame that was probably associated with not getting pregnant in that era… Much, much more than it is today, though so many of us still feel, or are made to feel ashamed, but that’s another discussion.

More than that, I thought about how infertility and difficulty maintaining a pregnancy has never, as far as I’m aware, been addressed on any Black TV show: comedy or drama that are not medical drama.

I know two shows (that happen to be some of my favorites) that had characters who suffered from infertility: Monica Geller from Friends and Robin Scherbatsky from How I Met Your Mother. But, I cannot think of any Black character who addressed this issue. The closest I can think is Maxine Shaw from Living Single and Mary-Jane Paul from Being Mary Jane, who did not suffer form infertility, but made “alternative” choices to attempt motherhood. More on the break down of these later.

Now of course, I haven’t seen every episode of every TV show, so if you know of a Black show, or even character that did go through this, please feel free to comment and school me.

Anyone that is or was a fan of Friends, knows that Monica and Chandler got married, and found out later that could not have a baby naturally. Both Monica and Chandler had factors contributing to their infertility. In the end, they decided to adopt and ended up with twins. Now, of course, Friends was a sitcom, and dealt with the issue in a light way, but it did manage to address this very real issue. In fact, the Monica and Chandler story is the second fertility related story line in the series. In Season 4, Phoebe acts as a surrogate for  her brother and his wife.

The great part about both of these story lines is at the time, there was even less of a profile on IVF, surrogacy, and infertility. To even address this at all, especially in a sitcom format, was a bit ahead of its time.

The only slight counter part to this as a Black character that I can think of is Maxine from the 90’s sitcom Living Single. In the final season, Max decides to become a mother via a donor (who she later finds out happens to be Kyle). Its never said or implied that it is because she is having any difficulties, but just because she is ready to have a child, and with her independent nature (“Maxine Shaw: Mavrick”), she just does it. It was more about being in control of her life as a woman, not the physical ability.

Max's attitude about life. I love her

Max’s attitude about life. I love her

I will give credit for even bringing up the idea of sperm donation as a pathway to motherhood (in 1998 no less) as a Black woman into the story line. That was a huge f’n deal. Max, as was the characters personality, was unashamed of her choice. In the 90s, that idea was still a little taboo and considered weird. And in the Black community?! Forget about it! If that’s how you got pregnant, you better lie to your friends and family and either make an agreement with a guy friend that he’s the “father”, or say the father disappeared. At that time, either of those was better than telling your Gram-Gram that you picked a guy from a binder and had doctor impregnate you.

The other popular, recent, and I would say more well done infertility story is Robin. In season 7, Robin thinks she’s pregnant with Barney’s baby. After she’s told she’s not (and they do a quick celebration dance), her doctor calls her back in a few days later to discuss other test results. The doctor delivers the unfortunate news that she cannot get pregnant. The HIMYM episode has the benefit of happening in the current era, where there is a better space to to discuss infertility. The episode walks the fine line of a sitcom and a bit of drama dealing with a serious topic. Its a great episode. When I see it on re runs, I usually cry, because the range of feelings and emotions you see her go through are so real.

photogrid_1452479030460.jpg

MJ preps for the fertility process. Robin deals with unexpected disappointment

Again, there is no counter part that is Black to this story line anywhere that I am aware of. The closest I can come is a non traditional choice (key word choice) into motherhood, and that would be Mary Jane Paul of Being Mary Jane.

Mary Jane is a complicated character, which is the charm of the show. She has these brilliant moments, then does something impulsive, selfish, and dumb. Like we all do. Without getting too bogged down into details, Mary Jane “steals” sperm form a lover, and keeps it in her freezer. She convinces her doctor bestie to inseminate her at home with a baster. Obviously unsuccessful.

Later, as a kick off to a new season of her news show, she undergoes fertility treatments to have IVF with donor sperm, and documents it for the world to see. However, the implantation was unsuccessful. Ultimately, she decides to leave the issue and not try another cycle.

Again, I credit this show for even going there, and bonus points for going deeper. Her fertility process wasn’t just mentioned, it was documented. We saw her have hot flashes. Give herself injections. Have second thoughts. Be disappointed. Have questions. But, at this point, this was a choice, not a necessity for Mary Jane. If there is ever a show with a Black cast and Black female lead that would tackle this issue head on, it would be Being Mary Jane. I would not be surprised if this issue comes back around and MJ has to face known infertility, and has to try a second round with a little more purpose and urgency. The writing team on this show is amazing, and if any team can bring this to life, it would be them.

Art is truly imitating life. Even in a parallel TV universe, we’re still not fully able to discuss infertility in Black families as a real issue that real Black women deal with. I am hopeful that this will soon change. With so much innovative programming, not just on TV, but on line and streaming, the possibilities are endless. Think of the impact a major show with a character, a Black Woman character, going through infertility could have. How it could shift perceptions and help remove the shame women feel. It can be done in a smart and funny, and culturally relevant way.

Imagine if Aunt Viv (the original), who got pregnant, at one can assume, well past 40, even briefly mentioned having a hard time getting pregnant.

What if Rainbow and Dre talked about the baby they lost before getting pregnant with Jack and Diane?

We could get into the further and deeper issue of the broader representation of women in media and Black people/Black women in media, but that is definitely a whole ‘nother post!

Black people want smart, relevant, diverse content and stories, as the numbers for recent shows like Black-ish, Empire, and How to Get Away With Murder prove. We need this infertility narrative in our stories too, because it is happening. I am thankful for the attention and story lines that do feature infertility, no mater who the subject is, but I’m waiting to see my sistas shine and use their art as a platform to change, even start the conversation.

Sistas are doin' It for Themselves. So many Black women on TV, and yet... Photo: Essence Magazine Online

Sistas are Doin’ It for Themselves. So many Black women on TV, and yet…
Photo: Essence Magazine Online

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Doin’ Too Much: Surgery, Change, and my Holiday

Most people’s holiday seasons are filled with family, food, drinks, and relaxation. Mine had some of that, but also included hysteroscopy, estrogen, moving, and bed rest.

 

In short, I’ve been having issues with my cycle, and my RE and gynecologist both suggested going back to my surgeon to get a better look at what is happening. My GYN suspected Asherman’s Syndrome.

The Monday after Thanksgiving, I went in for a laproscopy and hysteroscope. The surgeon did find some scar tissue that formed since the last procedure and removed it. He also found a tear that he repaired. I was put on a two month regimen of low dose estrogen (to be followed by 15 days of progesterone) to help restore my thinned lining. He also inserted a cook ballon to try to minimize scarring and adhesion inside my uterus. I had to keep the balloon in for 7 days. It was not the most comfortable thing in the world. I went the office the following week to have it removed. Having it taken out was uncomfortable more than it was painful.

The estrogen so far has given me headaches (the first week or so), and had my face broke out like I was 13. Right now, nothing major in terms of side effects, but the first two weeks…….

20151210_142313.jpg

This picture does my breakout no justice. My skin was horrible. I haven’t had a breakout like that since I was 13 or 14. Yay estrogen.

The procedure seemed to go pretty well, and I recovered well that day, but I didn’t bounce back like I thought I would. When I had this same thing done in 2013, I flew out to Atlanta the next day for work. Was I 100%? No, but I was at least at 75% This time, it took me about four days to feel back to normal. By the time I was feeling close to normal….it was time to pack up to move…to an entirely new city. I was limited in what I could do in terms of lifting, but I did move a suitcase that was a little heavier than I thought, and immediately felt weird. I knew I needed to sit my ass down and not lift anything. Which I did…for a few days, then I did it again. My doctor said I irritated the muscles in the pelvic area, take it easy.

I did….a little, but then it was Christmas. I had done no Christmas shopping, my mom was coming to stay with us for two days, which means I had to clean, and I had to cook my contributions to Christmas dinner. Which means, not much rest, but a lot of 800mg ibuprofen.

Finally, I was able to rest for a few days, and I do feel mostly better, after a month.

This procedure was important for me because this is the set up work to see if I can carry a baby. Aside from my left tube being blocked (not such a big deal), my lining is thin and my uterus is small. These things might keep me from carrying my own baby. I go back in April for another scope, to see if the hormones have made my lining thicken at all, and if having the balloon in for 7 days helped with the adhesion/scarring. As much as I try to downplay this as a minor procedure, it is a big deal, and I’m a little worried that all that I had going on immediately after the procedure may affect the final outcome.

We do this a lot, those of us who struggle. We don’t want to break down in front of those who know what we’re going through(or even those who don’t). We don’t want to admit the stakes even to ourselves sometimes in order to keep our peace and a little sanity. But, we need to. We have to come to terms with what is happening with our bodies and what is our options are.

 

The good news in all of this is: NO Fibroids were found! Two years fibroid free since my June 2013 Myomectomy.

 

Happy New Year

 

Posted in Family Building, Fibroids, Holidays, Infertility, Info Share | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

There’s No Place Like Home (And Endless Questions) for the Hoilidays

This week kicks off the American Holiday season: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s Eve.

Plenty of food, parties, shopping sprees, drinks, and time with family and friends. Time with family and friends usually means people want a life update: How’s School? How’s Work? Did you get the job you interviewed for? When are you going to get married? When are you going to have kids?

 

When the family asks you about babies

When the family asks you about babies (or getting a husband…or BOTH)

Its those last two that have always just irked the hell out of me. When you’re single, or even if you’re in a relationship, you get tired of people asking the same damn question (that frankly isn’t any of their business).  “Don’t worry about when I’m getting married. You’ll know when you get the invite” is what you want to say , but usually don’t. Shout out to all the women who do say that to their families. You’re my shero. I know I’m married now, but the memory of that annoying question and feeling of being put on the spot is all too real. After all, I didn’t get married until October of 2015 at 36. There were many a holiday where I was asked about a boyfriend/marriage every five minutes.

Its the same with children. It doesn’t matter if your’re single, dating or married, you get tired of people asking about your plan for procreation. “When you get the baby shower invite, you’ll know”

It becomes even more painful when people don’t even know what they’re asking. They have no idea that by asking you about having babies they are picking at a wound you are trying desperately to let heal, because you can’t have babies. Or you can’t have them without a lot of assistance from medical technology and a lot of cash. So you smile awkwardly, or change the subject, or  quickly stuff some more sweet potato pie in your mouth so you don’t have to answer.

 

It can be rough, but here’s a great piece from the Huffington Post by K.K. Goldberg about her experince and making it though. As always, you’re not alone.

The Silent Hell of Infertility During Holidays

 

Keep you head up this Thanksgiving, and keep your glass of wine handy.

 

 

 

Posted in Family Building, Holidays, Infertility, Let's Be Real | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

November’s Not Just for Turkey.

 

National-Adoption-Month (1)

We’re halfway through November (how did that happen?!) and I can’t let this month go by without acknowledging that its National Adoption Awareness Month!

I was not aware that there was such a thing, until this year, so now I have to enlighten everyone else.

The focus for this year’s month is adopting older youth from foster care with the theme: “We Never Outgrow the Need for Family.”

 

I always thought adoption was a wonderful thing, and considered it even before I was aware of my infertility. I always thought I might have a child or two, then adopt another. In all honesty, adoption may be the road we decide to take for parenthood. We’re really having some heart felt and real conversations about parenting, the IVF process and all that comes with it, and what we think we can handle financially, physically, and emotionally.

I feel like adoption is really a special kind of love, because you actively choose to love someone that you don’t have to. To decide to bring a child into your home and into your family, and love them is a noble thing.

I have known several people and have a close friend who was adopted, and one friend who is the mother of an adopted child. All of them are awesome people. If they never told me that they were adopted, I would have never known. The love, respect and bond is just as strong as any biological family.

 

Take November to learn more about adoption and explore adoption as an option for family building.

 

Learn more about National Adoption Month below:

National Adoption Month 2015

National Adoption Month 2015 Initiative

Adoption FAQ

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…But She Refuses to Go Down

Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.
-Mike Tyson

Sorry Rhonda! Visual of a Life Mouth Punch

Visual of a Life Mouth Punch. 

 

I would like to say before I get started that this post has been in draft for about 4 days, so it wasn’t inspired by Rhonda Rousey’s loss. Today was the only day I could edit and add graphics, and well, the images from the fight were  perfect for the post.  No shade to Rhonda.

Here we are. Going through life, making plans and setting goals. For many of us, we visualize ourselves with a job in the career path we want, maybe even starting our own business. Buying a home. Saving money. Losing weight. Some of us are so detailed that we have age milestones for each goal: Buy a house by 28.  Be department director by 30. Get married before I’m 40.
But if you’ve lived life at all, you know that these plans can indeed be put down by a quick life punch in the face.

Life has dealt all of us several blows I’m sure. Some didn’t land, so you walk around thinking you’re the champ of winning at life. There were a few that landed, but didn’t really hurt too much:  ‘You call that a punch, life?!’
There were probably a few sneak punches that you didn’t see coming, and they had you stunned for a few seconds,  but you managed to shake it off.
But then there are the real power punches that damn near take you out: A parent dying. Losing your job. Divorce.
Infertility is definitely one of those mouth punch situations.

wpid-screenshot_2015-11-13-06-58-40-1.png

 

So, do you drop to the mat and give up, or shake it off and keep going?
What’s the new strategy?

Black and Married with Children posted a great piece about handling the disappointment of not having children by a certain age when you thought you would.  The post is geared towards single women, who can have children (as far as they know), but other circumstances have stopped them or prolonged the process. It really doesn’t matter, because the advice is useful regardless of the reason for having your motherhood dream deferred, or taken.

The key points are:

  • Grieve the Loss
  • Release the Dream
  • Redefine Motherhood
  • Embrace Your New Reality

The bottom line is don’t let this thing keep you down. Feel the pain of it all, allow for the moment of shock, then shake it off and get back in the fight. There are still many more rounds to go. If it kicks your ass, demand a rematch.

 

Check out the full post from Black and Married with Children here

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Doing Big Things!

 

For all of the years I’ve lived in the DC area, I’ve never been to any official, (or unofficial for that matter) CBC events. Why? I don’t know. Probably the same reason I’ve never been to a HBCU homecoming: I just haven’t. Howard is right down the road, and I have several friends that are HBCU Alumni. There’s no excuse. Yes, I know my Black Card may be in question for never experiencing homecoming. I’m accepting all invites, since it is homecoming season if anyone wants to help me rectify that situation.

This year, I finally made it to CBC, and not just to party. The White Dress Project, a non-profit that advocates for uterine fibroid research and education, held two events and raised the profile of the organization and fibroid awareness.

 

Congressional Briefing (minus Me) Photo Credit: White Dress Project Facebook

Congressional Briefing (minus me)
Photo Credit: White Dress Project Facebook

On Wednesday, a few members of the WDP, along with several medical professionals, participated in a congressional briefing on Uterine Fibroid Education and Awareness hosted by Rep. David Scott of Georgia.

This was really the highlight and the most important part of being at CBC. I had on my schedule, and planned to be there, but unfortunately I had to cancel out at the last-minute. I was definitely in my office with the pouty face because I had to miss it.

This briefing was a major step in getting the cause out there and helping to earn support for officially designating July as Fibroid Awareness Month. Mr. Scott already introduced HR RES. 268 at the end of the last legislative term, “Supporting the designation of July 2015 as Uterine Fibroids Awareness Month”.

The next day, the DMV Leadership of the White Dress Project hosted an event. Part social, part informative. The ladies gathered health professionals, including a therapist, an OBGYN, and a surgeon, who happened to be my surgeon Dr. MacKoul, to answer questions, talk about the epidemic if uterine fibroids, treatment options, and how to deal with the emotional effects of living with fibroids.

 

White Dress Project DMV Social at CBC (I didn't realize we were not doing the silly faces anymore...) Photo Credit: White Dress Project Facebook

White Dress Project DMV Social at CBC
(I didn’t realize we were not doing the silly faces anymore…)

The really great thing about the event was not only meeting other women affected by fibroids, but hearing everyone’s stories. Being able to relate to taking hormones, or having to pee every five minutes, or the literal and figurative weight that is lifted once the fibroids are removed. To see how everyone bounced back, and in spite of possibly having fibroids re-appear, or questions on fertility post myomectomy, the  determination to move forward, and excitement of these ladies to educate others and advocate on uterine fibroids was amazing.

I was so excited to meet new women, and finally get to meet the White Dress Project founder, Tanika Gray, because……

 

I will be working with the White Dress Project as an ambassador, working to raise awareness and  get Fibroid Awareness Month recognized on a State level!

 

We Can Wear White

We Can Wear White

 

I’m so excited about this opportunity!  Please stay tuned for more updates, posts, and events on my journey with the White Dress Project.

 

Posted in Fibroids, Holidays, Info Share, Law and Policy, Uncategorized, White Dress Project | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment