By Sherina Maye Edwards
Currently, I am just over seven months pregnant with my second child. And, while joy is an emotion I feel, there are many emotions that I’m experiencing that are unique to this second leg of my motherhood journey. Fear. Anxiety. Stress. Hopefulness. Optimism. Prayerfulness. Jubilation.
To really give you a peek inside my journey, I’m sharing my conversations with two of the women who helped me along the way. Brianna Sharpe is actually someone I call a soul sister — a soul mate and sister all in one. She also happens to be the First Lady at my church, which isn’t necessarily relevant to our relationship but I acknowledge because she truly is anointed with the gift of compassion. My husband and I have bonded with her and her husband and cultivated a family relationship with them that usually doesn’t form at this stage of life. Then, there is Stacy Frazier. Stacy is truly one of my best friends who also happens to be my sorority sister. We met through her mother almost two decades ago and became close when we moved to Chicago and are now neighbors.
It is my hope that sharing the following “girl talk” will help women who may have had rose-colored glasses put on them during their own journeys to motherhood.
Me: Michael and I have been married for seven years. Four years ago, we had our first child, our daughter McKenzie. We got pregnant with McKenzie naturally, after actively trying for about six months.
Stacy: When you got pregnant with McKenzie, I was in the midst of parenthood and I was just excited for you. Everything was not easy during your pregnancy, but I was excited to have a friend who was having a baby. My boys were 9 years old and 6 years old then and my daughter was 4 years old. I remember you were nervous. You had questions. I tried my best to answer what I knew, at the time. Parenthood still felt new to me. Parenthood is a journey. It’s a marathon, not a race. And, it’s a learning experience. It’s the one thing I think in life that matters the most, but we don’t have any formal training for it. It’s a “learn on the go” job where you learn from what you have seen your parents do and try to figure out what they did right and what they did wrong and just try to get better.
Me: It is absolutely a journey. And, every pregnancy is different just like every child. In 2020, Michael and I started trying to get pregnant naturally with our second child. I was over the age of 35 by that time, and had heard about research that said women my age should consult a doctor after trying and not getting pregnant for more than six months. When I hit that mark, I called my doctor and asked to do a Clomid treatment. Clomid treatments, also known as Clomiphene therapy, have been around since the 1960s and are used in infertility treatment to help women ovulate. I was prescribed tablets that I took 1-3 times per day for about a week. The treatment essentially created “superovulation,” allowing me to ovulate multiple eggs. Typically, a woman only ovulates a single egg during her period. My doctor told me that after doing Clomid twice I would need to see a fertility specialist. I remember freaking out a little bit when she said that. That was like the worst thing that could ever happen. I didn’t want to go to a fertility specialist because that would mean I was broken. After three months of trying the Clomid treatments, my doctor gave me two fertility specialist referrals. One had a waitlist of eight months and the other had a waitlist of six weeks. I ended up going to the latter one, and doing two rounds of IVF with them. The first round was in November of 2021 and the second was in January of 2022. Both were unsuccessful and I was devastated.
Brianna: I’m not a parent. I don’t have any children. I don’t know anything about parenthood. But when you told me that, I felt for you. It was actually kind of sad to hear the different reports every time you would try in the process. At times, it was discouraging. I was trying to be sisterly and encourage your spirit with little messages. But, even that got rough. Especially because I knew you desired it so badly. I prayed for you a lot.
Stacy: I remember you telling me for the first time, Sherina. You came over and broke down. I wanted to give you hope. You know, I’m slightly older than you. And, at that point I had experienced my own miscarriage. I also had tons of friends who experienced fertility difficulties. One of my friends had 12 miscarriages before becoming pregnant. And, I could tell you didn’t know as many people who had these experiences. So, I tried to give the little bit of hope I had to you and explain how I saw these women’s pregnancies still come to fruition.
Me: It was just so intense. I was trying to keep it private and not tell people. But, IVF, in and of itself, is intense. The daily injections and medications. My hormones were all over the place. I felt like people thought I was crazy. After two rounds of IVF failed, Michael and I decided to take a little bit of a break. I needed it physically, mentally and emotionally.
Brianna: I focused on creating a safe space for your emotions. I wanted you to be able to feel and vent. I also wanted you to process what was happening. I tried not to be quick to be like, “Oh, even though it didn’t work this time, it’s going to work next time.” I just wanted to make myself available because I know sometimes your presence means more than words. I also made sure to be a deep listener. I tried not to ask you too many questions and just allow you to share how much you wanted.
Stacy: And, I’m not sure if you remember, Sherina, but at one point during the treatments a friend of yours got pregnant and when we talked about it you said you were both happy for her and sad about it. I remember telling you that did not make you a bad person or friend. Because we’re all human. You were celebrating and grieving at the same time. And, I just wanted to be there to give guidance without judgment. Beyond my own experience, I even talked to a few of my friends for advice so I wasn’t just like pulling from straws when we talked. I wanted to have helpful insights and do my own research.
Me: There was so much research that I began realizing I could have done beforehand. When we took our break from treatments, Michael and I found the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine (CCRM). It’s ranked the No. 1 fertility clinic in the nation, and they’re No. 1 for a reason. They have very high fertility statistics. It’s very costly, but we decided to try them. In May of 2022, we flew to Denver and did all of these procedures and tests. We learned the reason that they have such high statistics is because they self-select. So, basically, they will only take women who they believe have high success chances for getting pregnant through treatment.
Stacy: And, I just want to take a moment to interject and emphasize that infertility is costly. It’s not a free process. And, getting pregnant is not easy, not even in your 20s. It’s definitely not easy as you get older. I want us to normalize those realities as women. And, I think talking about it more is how it becomes normal. I also want to point out that there are also some racial pieces to this. I don’t think Black women talk about the journey and process of pregnancy enough. And, the reality is that just like any other healthcare issues, like cancer and heart disease, there are some inconsistencies in the medical field of how different ethnicities are treated and there are some complications that different ethnicities are prone to, like fibroids in Black women. We, as Black women, need this foresight.
Sherina: Very true. By the time I was trying out Colorado, I had an entirely new perspective. Unfortunately, it was because I had gone through so much, though. So, I did finally end up being selected by the center. They said I was going to start IVF with them in June of 2022. I had to let them know the first day of my cycle so I could start the estrogen priming. I got busy traveling for work so the center reached out to remind me. At that moment, I realized my cycle hadn’t come. The center told me to contact my doctor to get what they call a “trigger” for my cycle. My doctor explained that I would have to do a pregnancy test first as a part of protocol. I took the test and I was pregnant! On a last hope with this center, it turns out that I got pregnant naturally during my break from IVF.
Stacy: I remember getting the news and reflecting on your faith. I think when you struggle to get something your immediate sense of gratefulness increases. When you work hard for something, you see value in it. And, now you are sharing your story with others. Your struggle wasn’t in vain. It was for a reason. And, I think that’s why sometimes God gives us struggles — so we have some sort of testimony to give to other people.
Me: I’m sharing my testimony, but I’m also sharing you! One of my biggest recommendations for anyone reading this is to find people who you trust who have gone through infertility complications. We all have our girlfriends, mothers, and sisters who will ride or die for us. But, if they have not gone through IVF, I promise you they will not understand quite the same way.
Stacy: Struggles in our life are not meant for us just to struggle. They’re meant for us to do something with it. I think it’s really amazing that you are talking about your experience instead of, like many, keeping it to yourself and trying to heal yourself only.
Me: Brianna, you are not being left out of this too! Sharing you is also a true gift. Some of my closest friends who had not undergone infertility treatment, like you, truly got me through the darkest of days. As a matter of fact, you were the first person I called to come sit with me while I took the pregnancy test! Having a full, diverse village is a must.
Brianna: Having a circle of friends is one thing. Having a circle of friends who believe in prayer and can intercede your behalf is another thing. Sometimes you don’t have space or even know what prayers to pray. I’m just glad I could be a part of this season with you and for you. This has been a journey for sure. But, I’m so excited and happy to see how it has unfolded. It happened in God’s timing. It’s a reminder that if we just cast our cares and share our desires with God, we’ll be happy with the outcome.
I close by saying that I have learned love in a way that I can’t even imagine through this journey. Love for myself. Love for my husband. Love for my family. Love for my friends. Love for my child. If you are reading this, and you are facing challenges on your journey to motherhood, do the research you need then take action. And, let love drive you along the way.