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If you’ve ever struggled with infertility or miscarriage, you know that part of what makes it so difficult is how lonely the experience can be. When my husband and I were unable to conceive our first child after 18 long months of trying — and then went through scores of fertility testing and diagnoses — we felt entirely isolated in our experience.
It felt like the whole world could have babies with no problem, while our own bodies were failing us. And it didn’t help that infertility was something viewed as far too taboo to discuss in the open. We felt like we had this shameful secret, and no one to commiserate with us. No one who truly understood what it was like.
Thankfully, times have changed since then. In the 12 years since my husband and I dealt with infertility (and then thankfully conceived our two beloved sons), it has become more and more acceptable to discuss the struggle of infertility — thanks in part to several high-profile public figures and celebrities who have courageously shared their stories.
Gabrielle Union, star of BET’s Being Mary Jane, is the latest celeb to do just that. In her new memoir, We’re Going To Need More Wine, to be released this October by Harper Collins, Union candidly discusses her experience with infertility, including failed IVF treatments and miscarriage. And her refreshingly honest take on the experience is an amazing show of solidarity for any parent who’s struggling with infertility.
“I have had eight or nine miscarriages,” Union shares in the book, which was excerpted in People Magazine. “For three years, my body has been a prisoner of trying to get pregnant — I’ve either been about to go into an IVF cycle, in the middle of an IVF cycle, or coming out of an IVF cycle.”
While the 44 year-old actress, who’s been married to NBA star Dwayne Wade since 2014, has previously opened up about her desires to be a mom and her struggles with IVF, this is the first time she’s revealed such heartbreaking personal details about her experiences.
Union doesn’t hold back on those graphic details, either, describing the discomfort of IVF in ways that anyone who has been through it can totally relate to. The actress is even able to add a dose of much-needed humor to the experience as she recounts it all.
“Once a month I look like I’m in my second trimester because I’m bloated,” she writes. “It leads to the questions and it leads to the rumors and anytime I go into a doctor’s office I feel like I’m a member of SEAL Team Six undercover because I don’t want people to speculate.”
The struggle is real, and anyone who has been through IVF knows that the bloating that goes along with it is majorly uncomfortable, to say the least.
Surprisingly, as much as Union longs to be a mom right now, she says she didn’t go into the whole marriage thing with expectations of mommyhood. It was only after raising Wade’s three boys (his nephew, Dahveon Morris, 16, and sons Zaire, 15, and Zion, 10, from a previous marriage) that Union got bit by the baby bug.
“I never wanted kids,” Union tells People. “Then I became a stepmom, and there was no place I’d rather be than with them.”
Of course, going through infertility and IVF treatments in the public eye has been understandably difficult for the actress. The problem is, says Union, that people can sometimes overstep their boundaries (i.e., be incredibly nosy) when it comes to asking questions about fertility or plans for babies.
And this sort of thing isn’t just limited to celebrity moms. I’d venture to guess that all parents who are struggling to conceive can relate to Union’s frank words.
“For so many women, and not just women in the spotlight, people feel very entitled to know, ‘Do you want kids?’” Union explains. “A lot of people, especially people that have fertility issues, just say ‘no’ because that’s a lot easier than being honest about whatever is actually going on. People mean so well, but they have no idea the harm or frustration it can cause.”
That’s for sure. When you’re in the thick of it, any little reminder of what you are missing can really sting. And as much as you want support, intrusive questions are really not where it’s at — so kudos to Union for bringing that into the light.
Still, despite all of Union’s struggles, she shares in her book that she’s determined to keep going, and that she and Wade “remain bursting with love and ready to do anything to meet the child we’ve both dreamed of.”
I hope with all of my heart that this dream will become a reality for Union and Wade sooner than later. And I’m so grateful to Union for bravely sharing her story, and for giving voice to an issue that many women who can relate, but which is often kept under wraps.
It’s so important that we bring this issue into the light, because women everywhere deserve to feel less alone in their struggles with infertility.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to Dwayne Wade as an “NFL star” rather than an “NBA star”. We regret the error.