When I was younger, I always dreamed of being married, having kids and having my career solidified by 25. Of course, when we are younger, we have no concept of time and how long it truly takes to cultivate these things. I didn’t even meet my husband Jimmy until I was turning 25.
We got married in October of 2018 and have been together for nearly 10 years. After Jimmy and I met, we really wanted to enjoy our relationship, so the conversation about family building and marriage didn’t come about for two years, and then the conversation got serious really fast. For me, I was determined to start my family before the age of 30. For him, he was in a place of, “I’m still figuring it out. I don’t know if that’s exactly what I want to do right now.”
So there was an interesting, very challenging point three years into our relationship. We decided to take some space to figure out what we both wanted for about five or six months. I say we were broken up, he says we were not, but we were still in communication so we were still very closely connected. He proposed to me soon after we got back together.
After getting married, we started to have that conversation again in depth about starting a family. It wasn’t until the pandemic where we decided that we were going to actually start the process. For many people, the pandemic was not a great time, but for me, working in the wellness, fitness and health industry, it was one of the most lucrative periods for me. We bought a house and decided that we were going to settle down in North Carolina, but then I got a job in New York and we ended up moving up here. We sold the house, and in the midst of the move is when we intentionally started trying to have kids. All the way through our relationship and up to that point into our marriage, we were using protection because it was really important that we were very intentional about when we started our family.
About four or five months into trying, I was starting to raise some eyebrows at the process because it wasn’t happening. For so long, you try not to get pregnant and then you just think, the moment I decide that I want to, it’s going to be easy. Being a Black woman and being a part of a family and various communities that don’t have these discussions about women’s reproductive systems and the fertility process, you really can be left in the dark as to how challenging this could potentially be for you. I was truly green to the process of infertility. I just thought, this is strange. We’re really trying to do this thing and have children and it’s not working. So, six months in, we went to see our very first fertility specialist.
They told us the first order of business would to be testing. We did the standard test, we did AMH, we did FSH, we did HSG, and we did some blood work. Jimmy gave a sperm sample and they tested it. We were ultimately given the thumbs up, and they told us both of us should continue on the process of trying to conceive on our own. At that point, nothing else came into play and we just proceeded on the process of trying to have kids. We tried various positions. We used a sex book given to us by one of our friends. We were trying everything, having fun with it. We had gone on a trip and while on it, we naturally conceived for the first time.
We started to plan how we were going to tell our loved ones and were really excited. It was having this major win after really, really trying our hardest to get to this point. And so, we were really, really crushed and devastated when, two months later, we lost the baby.
It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever faced in my life. Most of it felt isolating and I hadn’t heard of very many people who were close to me who had that experience. This was the first time that I really honestly felt like I had to face something alone. I felt a lot of shame around it. I asked myself questions like, what’s wrong with my body? Why wasn’t I able to hold the pregnancy? What could have gone wrong? What did I do wrong? From that point, I was never the same.
It was also difficult to get into a sexual routine with my husband again. We felt a little disconnected from each other. We both felt like, do we want to go through that again? Do we want to put our ourselves mentally and emotionally through that process again? Are we sure that this is what we really want? It had been nine months going on a year of trying and we just had to ask ourselves some serious questions.
We navigated that through therapy and through leaning on community, and were ultimately able to get back into a level of intimacy with one another. We started trying again three, four months after the miscarriage and were trying to conceive naturally because, at that point, we had indicators that our bodies could do it. I got frustrated a little sooner this time around. Three months into the process I thought, maybe we are going to need a little assistance. That is when we went to a different fertility clinic, and it was the first time that we heard of assisting options for fertility and the first time we heard what a proper diagnosis for infertility was.
We found out about IUI through this process after only knowing about IVF. When the doctor presented us with a less invasive and less expensive process, we thought maybe this could be a good option for us and so we started May 2022.
We were well into the journey of IUI at that point when I made this decision that I didn’t want to suffer in silence. I really wanted to be on a strong pursuit for my healing and I knew that so much of that would come with me using my voice. Being a Black woman using my voice has been super impactful because I have connected with so many other incredible Black women who at one point chose to suffer in silence because there was so much shame around infertility. My healing journey has allowed me to fully and authentically show up as myself and not have to worry about always putting on a smile for everybody else, always performing and always having joy be the thing that resonates with others. My true life experiences have made me even more deeply connected to my community and that’s actually been a rewarding part of this journey.
After attempting IUI, we started having conversations about IVF in December. I did a retrieval that month, which was really tough on my body. It was a very, very challenging procedure. It was also a disappointing procedure because we got 13 eggs but we slowly watched those numbers dwindle as seven of them were mature and then, from there, only five were showing normal signs of fertilization once introduced to my husband’s sperm. Then four of them stopped growing in the lab and so we ended up with one embryo that we had to wait for genetic testing results to come back for. We got the testing results, and they said it had 46 completely normal chromosomes and they rated it as a 4AB, which is a really good grade of an embryo, and they put it on ice. We thought we were getting the news of a transfer date and were excited about it.
But my doctor, who I trust and I’m so happy to have a woman of color as my doctor, she gave us the advice to do a second retrieval before any transfer to get at least two or more embryos in the bank. However, for the sake of my body and for the sake of my husband’s mental space, we both decided it just was too heavy and too much in the moment. We opted to take a break and really just focus on our marriage; focus in on each other, travel and enjoy life. That’s really where we’ve landed after that process.
What’s helped me hold onto joy throughout this journey is friends and family. I’m really, really conscious of the people I surround myself with. I stay around a lot of people who just bring me joy. It’s also been important during this entire process to have support from people who have been through similar experiences. I joined a fertility support group last year and it’s been very, very helpful. I’ve become very close friends with my fertility support group leader, and formed close connections with various other members.
Journaling and therapy have also been key resources in this process. I love to read a lot, I love to do a lot of research and so, for me, it’s been so great to educate myself through this process. And just being able to be a source for other people and allowing others to be able to have conversations with me has meant so much. I think my greatest outlet has been a new passion project of mine, my podcast. I host it with a fellow Lululemon ambassador and dear friend Alicia Ferguson, and it is called Dose of Duality. It was actually birthed from my own personal experience with my fertility journey and that is a great gift that I’ve received along the way.
As an optimist, I’ve decided to lean into the things that have brought me joy on this journey. I don’t believe anything happens by accident. I really do believe that God is using me for a bigger plan, a bigger purpose. I don’t know how my story is supposed to be written but, at the end of the day, I am glad that I’m still here, that I still have life and that I still get to enjoy it.
Family is really, really important to both Jimmy and I. We went into all of this with this idea of how we ideally wanted to build our family, but we’ve also talked about other ways in which we can build this idea of family together. We’re now in a space of really loving on each other. We’re harvesting all the joy that we have in our household with lots of hope in our hearts that, eventually, our dreams of being a larger family will come true.
Be sure to follow Deja on Instagram and check out her podcast, A Dose of Duality.