8 Things You Need to Know about your IVF Protocol that No One Told You

Hi Maybes!

I’ve been a little quiet because…..I just finished my first  protocol for egg retrieval. We’re going to freeze and transfer in a few months once we get this thin lining resolved.

Updates on my cycle soon to come.

Having just finished the whole processes of stimulation and retrieval, I feel like there are things no one told me,practical things, that I never knew, so I’m going to share a few things I think might be useful to know before your start.

Step. Your. Sock. Game. UP
Seriously. You will be in the stirrups more in these 10-12 days then you probably have been in all of your adult life. Give yourself a boost of confidence. Give your doctor and staff something fun to look at. Keep them guessing.  Wear fun socks. Trust me on this.

Drink A Lot of Water

Why? Because you will have blood drawn every time you go in. Every. Time. You’ll feel like a pin cushion. If you’re like me (and hopefully you’re not), and have small and hard to find veins, drinking lots of water will help you a lot. Even if you’re a standard blood draw, being well hydrated makes your veins plumper and easier to find. It will make this part of the appointment go a little bit smoother.

My arm on day one of monitoring…
One of my arms on the last day of monitoring.

Give yourself an extra 5 minutes your first dose day

When taking your injections , its important that you dose at the same time every day, or as close as possible.  On your first day, or your first day adding a new medication, give yourself an extra five minutes, especially if its something like Menopur, that has to be mixed by you.

It can be a little cumbersome sorting out all of your needles and viles, mixing, and measuring. Add in at least a one minute pep talk to yourself the very first day to hype yourself up to stab yourself with a needle.

On that note….

PM dosing

The needles for the injections are not that bad

They really are thin, tiny needles. Unless you have a real fear of needles, you’ll be a pro at jabbing yourself after about three doses. Except for the trigger shot. THAT needle is longer, and a little wider, but it goes in your butt, not your tummy, and is intramuscular, going into muscle, so it needs a little more length and needs to be a little wider. Its all relative, because non of these needles in more than a few millimeters across.

For this process, a little tummy fat is a good thing!

Many of the stimulation meds are given subcutaneously, meaning under the skin. Usually you have to pinch an area of skin/fat on your abdomen. If you have a lil extra there, it will be a good for these purposes for this.

You can’t be Shy (because you may have to do your shots in a public space)

If you follow me on Instagram, you saw me post about my first public dosing. Long story short: I had the bathroom all to myself, them someone came in. With her nosey self, she lingered around, taking forever to wash her hands and re-applying her lip stick oh so meticulously, to see what I would be doing since by that point I had my supplies laid out. After a while I just said “F it! She gon’ learn today ” and proceeded with my shots.

I had 2 more times I had to dose in public restrooms. Fortunately, there was room and shelf (or shelf like) space in the stall where I was able to have more privacy. Except for the lady at the road stop that was telling me her whole life story from the other stall….

Bloat. All of the bloating. And Gas

I’m telling you because I love you. After a few days of stimulation meds, you will be a little bloated, OK, a lot bloated. And gassy. You’ll feel the pressure and heaviness of those enlarged ovaries (which is great!), but it makes you feel very bloated and full.  Your injection areas will be a little swollen as well. Its uncomfortable, but manageable.

 

Your mind will be a little foggy. You will have emotions and moods

This is commonly said, but I wanted to clarify. For me, it wasn’t the violent, quick, up and down mood swings, it was little things. I cried about something every day the first five days. Things that would usually just annoy me, made me really pissed off.  Things that wouldn’t bother me at all made me upset. It’s like PMS turned up a little. There were times in the middle of an emotional moment, I said to myself “why am I crying?” or “What is wrong with me?” I was very on edge.

The fogginess, I imagine is similar to what pregnant women call “pregnancy brain”. I just didn’t feel like myself. I forgot a lot. I felt like I was operating out of body a lot of the  time. It was just a general lethargy and sluggishness I fought through pretty much every day once things really go going. Some of it may not have been the meds, but also the overwhelmingness and newness of starting my first IVF cycle, and all that it meant. Just know that you will be in a strange head space, rather its med induced or not.

*Bonus Don’t call new people you meet by the name brand of one of your meds

This seriously happened to me, but I didn’t say it to his face. A group of my friends and I had just met some new people, and later I was trying to remember one guy’s name. It had a “V” and an “L”  in it somewhere. I said this with all seriousness:

Me: What was his name? Vivelle? Oh wait, that’s my estrogen patch.

 

 

 

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Girl! You LookGood! (But at what cost) Mystery of Fibroids Pt 2: Beauty Products

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Whatever you do, who ever you are as a woman, you use some type of beauty products every day: Make up, relaxers, nail polish, lotion, hair spray, wax, powder,deodorant…..

But most of these items contain chemicals that can be dangerous to our health with long term exposure, even in small doses.

Talcum powder has been in the news a lot lately because of questions of cancer in women and in workers who mine talc. (Find out more here.)

Most women already know about formaldehyde and the possible link to cancer in nail polish, and other beauty products, like the Brazilian Blowout that was popular a few years ago. (here)

The question is though, do any of these beauty and health products cause or contribute to fibroids?

I’d like to preface this by saying that I am not a scientist. (though I was good at biology in high school, if that counts for anything) I’m just a woman with a little bit of time, and access to great wifi who wants answers, and wants to share the answers with you.

Let’s start with the mother of beauty products for many Black women: The Relaxer

For those of you who may not know:

A relaxer is a type of lotion or cream generally used by people with tight curls or very curly hair which makes hair easier to straighten by chemically “relaxing” the natural curls. The active agent is usually a strong alkali, although some formulations are based on ammonium thioglycolate instead.

-via Wikipedia

A relaxer is applied to “new growth” every 6-8 weeks to straighten the roots.

You can also watch this clip from Chris Rock’s Good Hair, where he explores relaxers, their frequency in the Black community, and an experiment with a chemist. Prince jokes aside, its a great way to gain an understanding of relaxers.

 In the last few years, many black women have decided to “go natural”, ditching perms and opting to wear their hair in its naturally curly or kinky state, or using heat to straighten instead of chemicals. Many women made this choice because it seems healthier, and part of that is the possible link to relaxers and uterine fibroids.

The rumor that relaxers, and other Black hair care products, may be linked to the higher rates of uterine fibroids in Black women has be circulating for a while. But is there any truth to this?

The most often sited study is this 2012 American Journal of Epidemiology study. The study is ongoing, and surveys 59,000 Black women 21–69 years old. The participants from around the country are asked to update their medical information and complete a survey every two years.  The study tracks various items, relaxer usage being one of them, by sending additional questionnaires for those who have been diagnosed with fibroids, and confirmed via ultrasound or other means. For the relaxer/fibroids portion, the researchers premise was: “Hair relaxers are used by millions of black women, possibly exposing them to various chemicals through scalp lesions and burns.”

Hair relaxers (straighteners) have been used by millions of US black women, often for long periods of time (6). Hair relaxers can cause burns and lesions in the scalp, facilitating entry of hair relaxer constituents into the body (714). The main ingredient of “lye” relaxers is sodium hydroxide; no-lye relaxers contain calcium hydroxide and guanidine carbonate, and “thio” relaxers contain thioglycolic acid salts (15). No-lye relaxers are advertised to cause fewer scalp lesions and burns than lye relaxers, but there is little evidence to support this claim (16). Products may also contain hormonally active compounds (17), such as phthalates, which are not required to be listed separately as ingredients and are often reported under the term “fragrances” or “perfume” (18). Cosmetic products are not subject to premarket approval by the Food and Drug Administration, and a complete list of ingredients is not mandatory (19), making it unclear what types of chemicals they contain. However, because the vast majority of hair relaxers list “fragrance” as an ingredient, and 100% of popular fragrances tested in a 2002 study were found to contain phthalates (18, 20), most hair relaxers likely contain these chemicals. In addition, some hair relaxer products directly list phthalates as one of their chemical ingredients (21).

 We’ll get more into phthalates later….Trust me. You need to know about them.

But the basic question is are Black women being exposed to harmful chemicals more and are the being absorbed quicker into the body via scalp burns?

Their conclusion:

In this large population of premenopausal US black women, we observed increased risks of uterine leiomyomata in association with ever use of hair relaxers, duration of use, frequency of use, and total number of burns experienced during use.

There’s a lot more to this study, and there are other studies out there, if you want to learn more. Please read the full study linked above as well as these articles/studies:

Journal of Women’s Health

Scientific American (a Black woman scientists take on some of the research out there)

Now if you can still hang with me I’ve got more. This is a long post, something I try to avoid, but its necessary sometimes.

Lotions, Shampoos, Soaps, Make Up

Above, there is a mention of phthalates.

What the f*** is a phthalate? (Pronounced phthal·ate )

I’m glad you asked.

Phthalates are a sort of plastic, and it is used in all types of  products, from CDs and toys to nail polish and hairsprays, and literally everything in between. Phthalates make plastics more flexible and durable. In beauty products, it is used to  make things less stiff and prevent cracking. On a label, phthalates are usually listed as: phthalate, DEP, DBP, DEHP, or fragrance.

This chemical can be found in many beauty product we often use like body washes, or perfumed lotions, deodorant, (basically anything that has a smell to it), and nail polish. The use of phthalates in cosmetics is banned in Europe, but still 100% OK here in the US. This chemical is so common in so many daily products (not just beauty products), that many of us have detectable amounts of the chemical in our body, and, they can be passed on from mother to child.

But phthalates are not alone.

They have a buddy: parabens

Parabens are often used a a preservative in cosmetic products, such as shampoo, toothpaste, lubricants (ex: KY Jelly), shaving gel, and spray tan solution. There is often more than one type of paraben in a product. Parabens on a product label are usually listed as methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, or benzylparaben.

Parabens and Phthalates: Best Buds!
Parabens and Phthalates: Best Buds!

Phthalates and parabens do not need to work together, and they may not always be in products together, but very often when you see one, there is the other.

Now what is it about Parabens and Phthalates that is so bad? Well, they are both endocrine disruptors.  Endocrine Disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system, and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife. (National Institutes of Health)

The ednocrine system is what produces hormones. Any system in the body controlled or affected by hormones could be impacted.

Getting the connection? Fibroids linked to increased levels of estrogen, natural hormone production possibly being interfered with by chemicals……

The problem is these two are in pretty much everything we use, including various beauty products. Many women are exposed to these chemicals at high rates, having them absorbed into the skin, daily, weekly, monthly via lotions, body washes, shampoos, nail polish, combined with their broader use in food packaging, plastic toys, toothpaste, and many other daily products. So there can be no conclusive evidence that these beauty products alone cause or contribute to fibroids, as they are so plentiful in our modern world, but as women, we are willingly exposing ourselves to higher doses.

 So do these products directly increase uterine fibroid risk, I side on yes, but not the beauty products alone.

Solution:

Look for products free of these chemicals. Organic and natural hair care and beauty lines. This might mean putting out a few extra coins, but it may be worth it in the end.

I use natural shampoos and conditioners, and I try to use natural oils and butters (shea, coconut) on my skin. Soaps have been a little more of a challenge for me, and I have not at all transitioned to “natural” makeup brands, though I’m a big fan of Shea Mositure products, including their foundation.

Sulfate free Shampoos

Three Top Paraben and Sulfate free Shampoos and Body Washes

Natural Make Up and Skin Care

What about all of the other things we do to beautify ourselves?

Waxing: 

Pretty harmless as long as your esthetician knows what s/he is doing, like using clean sticks and not double dipping. There are instances of STDs being spread due to bad practices. Otherwise, waxing is pretty safe.

Waxing Dangers

Manicures:

We all know nail polish can contain harmful chemicals like our buddies mentioned above and BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole). The curing process of a gel manicure, which requires time under a UV lamp, can create a new risk.  Prolonged exposure to UV light is known to increase the risk of skin cancer. (Think tanning beds)

If you can, find an organic nail polish (IDK how good they are or where you would even find organic polish, but apparently it is a thing)
Also, if you’re into gel manis, but sunscreen on your hands up to an hour before you go in. If they have you wash them, bring it with you to re apply.
Bottom line: You expose yourself to a lot of chemicals that may have negative effects long term, but there are ways to lessen  the damage.

7 things to know before getting a manicure

Gel Nail Safety Tips

Conclusion:
Chemicals are bad. They can cause or contribute to health problems, including uterine fibroids, but we can’t really avoid them in our day-to-day lives.

Make smart choices and eliminate or limit your exposure to these chemicals if you can. There is a risk for cancers, fibroids, birth defects, and a host of other issues associated with many of these chemicals.

Be BeYOUtiful, but don’t make yourself sick for it.

But Why? The Mystery of Fibroids Part 1: Estrogen Dominance

 

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By now we all know that up to 30% of all women will be diagnosed with uterine fibroids by the time they’re 35 , and up to 80% of all women will be diagnosed with uterine fibroids by the time they’re 50. African American women suffer more severe symptoms, they grow more quickly, and happen at a younger age.

The real question is ‘Why?’

Is it genetics? Food? Environmental factors? Cosmetics? Estrogen dominance? Some combination of these?

When I was first diagnosed with fibroids, I wondered “how?” How were there so many? How did they grow so large? How did I not know? What caused them?

Now, three years later, there is no sign of them (thankfully) at this point. What’s changed? I haven’t had a relaxer since 2005. I haven’t been on birth control since about that same time. But, my diet  and exercise routine now is actually worse than it was prior to 2013.

I took some time to dig into some factors and theories regarding uterine fibroids. There’s a lot more to dig through than I thought there would be, so I am breaking this into a series, with each possible cause getting its own post.
First up: Estrogen Dominance

 

Estrogen dominance: A condition where a woman can have deficient, normal or excessive estrogen, but has little or no progesterone to balance its effects in the body.

Estrogen dominance is more of an imbalance, in the sense that usually its not that someone’s body is making an abundance of estrogen (though that could be the case), just that the balance of estrogen and progesterone in a woman’s body is off.

Our Hormones in Blance (graphic courtesy of fibroidelimination.com/)
Our Hormones in Balance
(graphic courtesy of http://www.fibroidelimination.com/)

Before I go deeper, let’s first review some basics of a woman’s biology. You’ll need the review to get a full understanding of Estrogen Dominance.

As we all know, women have menstrual cycles. A cycle starts the first day of your period, to the first day of the next period. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days long, but can vary form woman to woman.

The two main sex hormones in women are estrogen and progesterone. They work together to maintain balance in our body at all times. 

Estrogen regulates menstrual cycles, promotes cell division, and in puberty, the development of breasts, growing pubic hair, etc.

Progesterone maintains the health of a fetus. It protects us against the  effects of estrogen by stopping further ovulation the second half of the menstrual cycle if a woman is pregnant.

Estrogen is highest in the first half of your cycle. It reaches highest levels during ovulation, then drops and progesterone rises. Progesterone is released during ovulation. Some testosterone is also released around the time of ovulation. If you do not get pregnant, you have a period and everything starts all over.

 

Now that the review is out of the way, let’s get little more into ED.

Because our bodies need estrogen and progestoreone to maintain our body’s reproductive cycle, it is important that they stay in balance.  They counter each other. If/when that balance is upset, even on the smallest level, there can be problems.

How do you know you have a hormonal imbalance of any kind? Some symptoms of hormonal imbalances may include:

  • Irregular Periods
  • Sleep Problems
  • Acne
  • Foggy Memory
  • Digestive issues
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid Weight Gain/Loss
  • Vaginal Dryness
  • Headaches
  • Breast Tissue Changes
  • Loss of Libido
  • Infertility

 

Some symptoms or conditions thought to be the result of Estrogen Dominance specifically may include:

  • Fibrocystic breasts
  • Endometrial (uterine) cancer
  • Polycystic ovaries
  • Uterine Fibroids

 

What causes the imbalance?

Several possible things:  Low progesterone levels/production,  chronic stress, synthetic estrogen (birth control pills, HRT [Hormone Replacement Therapy]), as well as environmental hormones and hormones found in food(diet)

 

Some hormone levels naturally drop with age, so as we get older, hormone imbalance of some sort is inevitable. So if our progesterone levels decrease, and our estrogen does not decrease at a comparable rate: Estrogen Dominance.
Of course, taking any hormonal birth control or HRT will alter the body’s balance. Birth control is made to fool our bodies prevent a true period. These two factors seem like obvious reasons for the body to be out of balance.

But what about food and environment?

In foods and the environment, we are exposed to Xenoestrogens.  Xenoestrogens are are a type of xenohormone that imitates estrogen. They can be either synthetic or natural chemical compounds. (Wikipedia)

With so many processed foods, genetically modified foods, pesticides, hormone injected meats, and foods with soy (which is a known natural xenoestrogen) its no wonder that our hormone levels are affected by what we consume. There is a big movement for less additives, and preservatives in foods: clean eating. It makes sense. With so many additional chemicals on and in food, the long term affects can’t be good for us. Does ingesting so many additional hormones from meats and chemicals in foods not initially meant for human consumption hurt us? I’m sure is doesn’t help. Do they contribute to an increase or decrease of hormones? Its very likely.

On the same road as food is environmental factors. Many of these, we have very little to no control over. Many environmental chemicals are also xenoestrogens. Many of which are found in daily beauty products (Post number two in the series). The main culprit is plastics. Remember the whole BPA in plastic bottles thing? The compound is found in everything from drink can coatings, to DVDs, to water bottles. It can disrupt or mimic natural hormones.

 

So what can you do?

You need testing to determine your hormone levels, which can only be done by your doctor. They will be able to determine if your levels are within the range of “normal”.

Outside of medical intervention, things can be done on your own to help balance your levels.

Changing the diet is the biggest thing, and probably the hardest for many. Let’s face it: fruits and grilled veggies are very tasty, but sometimes, a big ol’ cheeseburger and fries just tastes and feels sooo good.

Modifying diets to eliminate or greatly reduce soy, meats such as beef, and processed foods decreases exposure to additional estrogens or estrogen-like compounds. Of course, increasing exercise and being more active will also help.

There are various diet programs out there geared towards fibroid elimination. I don’t make it a habit of publicly endorsing programs/people/things that I haven’t personally tried on this blog. I would say if you’re going to try one of these programs, do your research.

Beware of your plastics use. Try not to warm up items in the microwave in plastic containers. The warmed plastic molecules can possibly seep into and contaminate your food. This is in very, small amounts, but over time, this could increase estrogen in your body. Don’t drink out of bottled water bottles that have been sitting in a hot car (same principal as microwaving in plastic), and try to buy water bottles (and bottles for babies for that matter) that are labeled BPA free.

 

There is really a lot more to say on Estrogen Dominance, its part of the reason this post look literally months for me to get up. I kept researching and trying to figure out what to write and what to leave out. At the same time, I kept discovering more stuff!

I hope this was a good first step to learning more. I definitely recommend taking the time to do more research on your own. You can start here:

butternutrition.com/estrogen-dominance-hormonal-imbalance/

www.ecopedia.com/health/estrogen-dominance-how-food-affects-men-and-women/

www.drlam.com/blog/estrogen-dominance-part-1/1704/

 

Next post in the series: Beauty Products and Fibroids

I’m talking relaxers, lotions, nailpolish, makeup, hair glue…..errthang.

 

So a Woman Thinketh, So is She

 

It is Mother’s Day. Again. Last year for Mother’s Day, I unplugged, and I was able to lift my spirits and cross off a major bucket list item by going to see Prince in concert. Alone. It was one of best days EVER!

This year, Prince has passed away, I am still sad about it, and I skipped going with my Husband to brunch with my Mother In Love (Law) because I just wasn’t in the mood. She doesn’t yet know about our struggle, and I just didn’t feel like pretending I was in a good place. I sent my card with my husband.

Instead, I’m home with the cat, listening to Prince, and blogging, which is perfect.

Of course, this week, I’ve been thinking about and dreading Mother’s Day, like many of us Maybe Mamas do. The past month or so, a lot of things have happened on the road to possible motherhood. In April, I had a final hysteroscopy to check out my uterine cavity, to see if the balloon used in the November procedure helped in minimizing/preventing scar tissue. A few days before I went in, my husband and I had a conversation where I questioned if I even wanted to have kids at all. I went on about how our time would not be our own, how all the moms I know (with kids under 5) are so boring now. They’ve completely lost their sense of self. All the money we’d now have to spend on the child’s needs, how uncomfortable and unpleasant pregnancy seems….
But in the next breath, I answered my own question: “But I guess, if I didn’t want to have a baby, I wouldn’t spend all this time and money making sure I could”

“True”, hubby responded.

Let's be real for a second, this ish does not look fun.
Let’s be real for a second, this ish does not look fun.

So I really started thinking: What do we tell ourselves to make this all hurt less? I’ve come to realize my main coping mechanism has been a denial of sorts. I’ve tried to convinced myself that I don’t really want to be a mom. I see all the negatives in parenting: The screaming toddler in Target, the sleeplessness, the projectile vomiting, constant worry if you’re doing right by your child.  Never having a life. These things are real, and a part of motherhood, but that’s not all that it is.

I truly have come to terms with the fact that I may never be a biological mother, or a mother at all. I think that is part of the infertility journey. Keep hope alive, but acknowledge all possible outcomes. What I have done over time is beyond that.

I’ve tried to shield myself from disappointment and hurt by trying to convince myself it doesn’t matter. Motherhood is not something I really want.

Its like Cinderella when when she realized she wasn’t going to the ball, despite doing everything her step mother said she had to do. She did her best (for all of 5 seconds) to convince herself that that Ball was going to suck, and she wasn’t missing anything.

"Oh, well, what's a royal ball? After all, I suppose it would be frightfully dull, and boring, and completely... completely wonderful."
“Oh, well, what’s a royal ball? After all, I suppose it would be frightfully dull, and boring, and completely… completely wonderful.” ~Cindy

But the reality is, I do want to be a mother, and its painful to think that I may never be. Some days, its too much to think about, so I don’t. The best I can do is try to convince myself that like the Royal Ball, Motherhood sucks. Except, much like Cinderella, I’m not doing such a great job of fooling myself.

 

I chose the title of this post based form Proverbs 23:7, which most people interrupt as a verse cautioning us to be mindful of our thoughts, as they become who we are. Reading the whole verse, and the verses before and after, and other translations, that’s not what is meant at all.

The verse is referring to a person who says one thing out of their mouth, but doesn’t mean it. They invite you to come over, eat and enjoy, but inside, they’re hoping you don’t. The full scripture:

Do not eat the bread of a miser,[a]
Nor desire his delicacies;
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.
“Eat and drink!” he says to you,
But his heart is not with you.

Now, I’m no “miser”, but I am being insincere with my words when I say I don’t really want to have a baby. I say I’d much rather just O and I be the “cool auntie and uncle”, that way we have our time, money (and my body) to ourselves. The ultimate proof that its all bs is not the myomectomy, or the three procedures I’ve undergone to remove scarring (and recently endometriosis), and the months of hormones I took to try to restore my uterine lining. Its not the research I’ve done on adoption. Its the consult we had this past week with a fertility doctor, and the tests we’re about to take, and the IVF journey we are about to start. Someone who doesn’t want it would not bother with any of this.

So on this Mother’s Day, I give myself the gift of acceptance, and permission to feel and experience all of the emotions that come with this journey. Some days are hopeful. Some days are depressing, and that’s OK.

Its OK to want something that seems just out of reach, and its OK to feel the creep of that green-eyed monster when it seems everyone else but me is enjoying that which is illusive: Motherhood.

I want to give this gift to you too. My sisters in this battle. Give yourself permission to feel how you feel, today and everyday.

 What have you been telling yourself?

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

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.

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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

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…….

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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

 

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.

 

 

 

Fibroid News You Can Use

Blog graphic

The summer season is officially over, and so is my blog break.

This summer was great: A trip to Vegas, wedding planning, and cookouts.

To get back into the swing, I want to highlight some stories from around the web on fibroids.

 

Meds on the Way?

A medicine designed to help shrink uterine fibroids is currently in the human trial phase. This is good news, but my concern is it becoming one of so many drugs that are pushed on people, and the pharmaceutical industry winning big financially, and in the long run the people lose and no other research or prevention methods will be tried. Don’t get me wrong: medicine is wonderful and in most cases can really help to manage symptoms or even cure conditions. For some situation, drugs are the only thing that will help. However there’s a point where it becomes more about getting patients to take the drug for a solution, and not looking at other methods, and that for me is a problem.

One of the researchers is quoted in the article as saying “There’s no rhyme or reason why women get fibroids, and there’s nothing they can do to avoid developing them; it’s just something that happens…

What?!

This quote irritates me. The medical community, or us as women should not be content with a ‘that’s just the way it is’ attitude.

Check the article out here. If you’re in the San Diego area, you may be eligible to participate in the trials. (The article is sponsored by the firm conducting the research, Precision Research Institute)

 

Money for Research!

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc has awarded the Distinguished Professor Endowed Chair Award to Dr. Darlene K. Taylor of North Carolina Central University. Dr. Taylor associate chemistry professor, will use the $200,000 award to support university efforts in integrated biosciences that focus on uterine fibroid tumor research.

Please click here to read more about this wonderful grant from the ladies of Delta Sigma Theta, and the work or Dr. Taylor.

This news makes me excited! A Black woman, being awarded a grant by a Black sorority, to research uterine fibroids. Something that affects up to 80% of women, and Black women are affected at a higher rate. Girl Power!

Woman Power!

First, a Woman, a BLACK woman in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) is amazing! The numbers of women in STEM are low, and even lower for minority women. There is something about this that makes this grant and her research even more amazing. This is why we need more women in STEM: so that they can be a voice in the lab.

There’s progress, which is always a great thing.

 

I hope to share some updates soon about efforts that I’m fortunate to be a part of to help spread fibroid awareness.

I’m also participating in Blogging 201, so you may see some updates on the website, and maybe a few out-of-place posts. I really want to take this little blog to the next level. The craziness of wedding planning is slowly coming to a close, so I will be back to having my free time to devote back to blogging and other efforts.

 

Thanks for sticking with me!

 

There’s a Month For That

FIBROID AWARENESS MONTH

It seems like there is a month or day for everything now: Best Friend Day, Doughnut Day, Wine Day (obviously all days that I am here for). Then there are more serious days: HIV Awareness Day, Earth Day, Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day. Again, all days I can get behind.

And of course, you have Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and on and on.

There is a new month gaining momentum that I will definitely jump on board with: Fibroid Awareness Month!

That’s right, July is Fibroid awareness month! It know that at this point, July is pretty much over, but its still something worth knowing. This is a new initiative, and its headed by the White Dress Project, a non profit who’s mission is to “galvanize support and promote awareness about the fibroid epidemic among women domestically and globally through education, research and advocacy.

They are working to get each state to officially recognize July as Fibroid Awareness Month, and they sponsor events to help spread fibroid awareness and offer support for those that have been through or are going through a battle with fibroids. So far Georgia, New York, Florida, and the city of New Orleans are officially recognizing July as Fibroid Awareness month due to the White Dress Project’s efforts.

I love this organization and concept already. As I have said here time and time again, awareness and education a so very important in regards to fibroids (and many other things). Infertility has National Infertility Awareness Week (maybe that can move to a month one day), there is a PCOS  (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) Awareness month in September, so why not fibroids? The fact that uterine fibroids are such a common disease, but the research and amount of conversation and awareness is so small is a shame. On a wider note, so many gynecological conditions outside of cancer are not discussed in the women’s health discussion.

 

So even though there are only 5 more days left in the month, there is still time to celebrate an do your part!

Of course, you can start by telling  your story. Education and awareness starts with that one simple act.

Want to do more? You can sign this petition petition to receive a presidential proclamation to make July Fibroid Awareness Month.

https://www.change.org/p/barack-obama-michelle-obama-declare-july-fibroids-awareness-month-nationally

Check out the Fibroid Facts page of this blog to learn more about fibroids.