Being married for nearly two years now, I've heard my fair share of, "So, are you pregnant yet?" and "When's the baby coming?"
To this, I always respond, "No," with an awkward laugh, or, "Not yet," again, accompanied by an awkward laugh. You don't realize how consumed OTHER PEOPLE are with YOUR procreation timeline until you're married, and it can get quite annoying. What, with the self proclaimed obstetricians telling you not to wait too long because if you have a child after 30 you'll have problems (which is a fallacy - you're basically pretty okay until your 40s), or the financial consultants who tell you that it doesn't matter when you have a baby because you'll never truly be financially ready to support a child.
But no one talks about the "what if". What if I can't conceive naturally? What if my partner and I struggle with infertility? As a woman of color, being both Hispanic and Black, it's something I've grown up thinking I won't have to worry about. People don't talk about it. We're baby making machines, right?
The truth is, infertility affects everyone. According to Resolve, the National Infertility Association:
- 1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility
- 7.4 million women (11.9%) have ever received any infertility services in their lifetime
- approximately 1/3 of infertility is attributed to the female partner, 1/3 attributed to the male partner and 1/3 is caused by a combination of problems in both partners or, is unexplained
- approximately 44% of women with infertility have sought medical assistance
Recently I've been thinking of the what ifs. What if we can't conceive naturally? What if I wait too long to start trying and find out we've wasted so much time? What if we can't pay for fertility treatments? What if I go into depression? What if it causes tension in our marriage? What if not having children is God's plan for us? What if I don't have enough emotional support?
Here are some more truths, from a New York Times article I stumbled upon. According to data from the Department of Health and Human Services and from the National Center for Health Statistics (part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), 15% of white women ages 25-44 in the US have sought out medical help for infertility. For Hispanic women, that stat was 7.6%. For Black (non-Hispanic) women, it was 8%. And married black women face infertility almost twice as often than married white women (according to the National Survey of Family Growth by the National Center for Health Statistics, 2006-2010).
One reason for this is the fact that black women are more frequently affected by fibroids - benign tumors in or around the uterus. When thinking of my family, retrospectively, it totally makes sense that my mother, a Black Dominican woman, suffered from fibroids. They don't discriminate between ethnicities.
The article also acknowledges the knowledge gap between white women and black women. White women just know how to access information, where to get support, and how to pay for things. They also have the confidence to navigate these health care systems and seek out information, if they don't have it. And let's not forget the obvious financial racial disparities. Seeing that these procedures cost tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars, total, it isn't surprising that many families of color are too discouraged to even try seeking treatment. That, and the fact that doctors are not having these conversations with black women. They focus more on STIs and birth control, specifically with low-income women of color.
Fortunately, more and more women of color are reaching out to their doctors about their infertility options and sharing their stories online. An Afro-Latina follower reached out to me hoping to share her fertility story. She also answered some questions I had for her! See them below.
"As I look back on my life and try to identify what has had the most impact on who I am and the kind of mother I want to be, being an AfroLatina is on the top of that list. Although my parents were both from Panama, my mother was a white Panamanian and my father was a black one. I came out looking identical to my father and little did I know how much influence that would have on my life. My parents separated when I was just two years old and my mother soon relocated to Miami, FL with my sister (who she had from a previous relationship), my step-father (with whom she had my little brother), and myself. In my household, there was not one other person that looked like me. They didn’t have my skin color or my kind of hair and that created a lot of insecurities for me growing up. My mother had to work twice as hard to ensure that I knew that regardless of how different I looked from them, that we were all one family. It is because of the outpour of love and commitment I had from my parents that I was able to overcome my insecurities, be proud of my ethnicity, and love the skin that I am in. It was that love and support that I had that made me the most excited about one day being able to provide that for my own family.
When my husband and I got married on December 12, 2012, we were very eager to start our family. I was 28 and he was 26, for my Latin family, we were already way behind on their timeline for babies. All my siblings, from both my mother and fathers side, were already parents, even my two youngest ones, so I definitely felt the pressure to get started. We anxiously waited for it to “just happen” ... but it didn’t. Then we started planning and after several missed periods, negative pregnancy tests and disappointing cries, we realized we needed more help. We decided to get checked out and after several months of testing and lab work, we were were told that we could not conceive naturally.
Hearing that news was one of the most heartbreaking moments of my life. Especially coming from a Hispanic background, we are used to having big families. To be told it would be a challenge to just have one baby was devastating. For a long time, my husband and I did not share our infertility struggle with anyone. In part, because we didn’t think anyone would understand but mainly we felt shame that we weren’t able to do what we saw so many others accomplish easily. It didn’t help that when we looked up other couples going through the same, we didn’t see anyone that looked like us. This year we decided that we were going to overcome our insecurities and become that couple that others can relate to. We no longer were going to be ashamed of our story, we were going to own it and support others that are going through the same struggle. We have been documenting our journey through an instagram that we opened, @BabyMcGowan, and a YouTube channel, Baby McGowan. We are excited to start our IVF journey so that I too can be the proud parent of an Afro-Latina or Afro-Latino!"
1. Are there any general stats regarding Black and/or Latinx couples and infertility that you can share?
There aren't any stats that I am aware of or that I could immediately find online.
2. Many of us grew up hearing the stereotype that Latinas are "extremely fertile". Did you?
Absolutely! I come from a very big family, I am one of 7 children and all of my siblings became parents in their teens or early twenties. Everyone would joke that you would look at one of us and we could end up pregnant.
3. How did you react once you found out you weren't able to conceive naturally? What were your first thoughts? Did you ever find yourself in a place of denial?
Finding out that we could not conceive naturally was heartbreaking. I was numb for a long time before I was able to have any real reaction, I was definitely in denial. However, being that we were dealing with male factor infertility, my immediate next step was to be there for my husband. I knew being a parent meant as much to him as it meant to me and I felt I needed to be strong for him.
4. How did your family react when you shared this news with them?
We didn't tell anyone for a year and a half, we were trying to process it ourselves and that was hard for us to do. We didn't really know what to say or how to say it. To be honest, we felt a little ashamed. Something that seemed so easy for everyone else to do, was something we might not accomplish. It was hard but we decided to finally tell our parents and then our siblings. They were all as hurt as we were but masked it with words of love and encouragement. I don't think they really knew what to say or do, it was a new experience for all of us.
5. What online resources do you recommend for couples going through this situation?
There are a lot of sites that are very helpful, they include:
In addition to the above, there are Facebook groups you can join that are extremely beneficial for support and advice.
6. What have you learned while on this journey?
The most valuable lesson I have learned is to remain faithful. Dealing with infertility is an emotional journey filled with ups and downs but you have to believe that God wouldn't place a desire in your heart that he didn't plan on fulfilling.
7. Lastly, any parting words for our readers? Encouragement, advice, insight, anything?
"The most painful part of your process will also produce the most power in your life. Your pain will either be your prison or your platform, its your choice."
Love and prosperity,
Research & Stats: