Fertility Fight Club

I am sitting here singing the song ‘I’ve had the time of my life’ from Dirty Dancing, as I reflect on yesterday’s Fertility Fight club. It was an amazing and rewarding experience.

I was so nervous leading up to the day. I was unsure about my speech – ‘am I saying the right thing?’, ‘what will they think about it?’, ‘will they be offended?’…. so many thoughts were running through my head. I was glad that I could practice my speech in front of my Toastmasters group before Saturday because it gave me the opportunity to refine it and settle my nerves.

I then spent Saturday morning, before heading into London, meditating and playing relaxing music and reminding myself that ‘This is me’ – now I’m singing the song from the Greatest Showman. Do you get the feeling that I like musicals???

The moment arrives… I got up on the stage at the Barbican centre – glad that I was first – and told my truth.

As a black woman, talking about black issues, you never know how you’ll be received (by both black and white people) so to hear the responses afterwards was so amazing. I felt so honoured to have been given this opportunity and to have been received in such a positive way. I have no words (just a huge smile) to describe how I am feeling today but these kind words say it all…

You can see the live stream on FB (click on FB)

For those of you not on FB you can read my talk below…

BLACK GIRLS DO CRY

There was a time when I would have stood before you as an enslaved woman who had no control over her destiny

My body stolen, never mine, wondering if this is personal or just business

but I couldn’t speak up, I couldn’t question, I couldn’t refuse, I could not show you my tears

Enslaved women had;

                  their hopes and dreams                                                      STOLEN

                  their future                                                                          STOLEN

                  their choice to have a child                                              STOLEN

                  the choice when to have a child                                     STOLEN

                  the choice who to have a child with         STOLEN

the chance to nurture that child, watch them grow up, watch them fulfill their dreams                                                                                            STOLEN

Quite frankly I probably would have welcomed being childless back then if it meant that I didn’t have to endure the pain of your control, if it meant that I didn’t have to hide my tears

Afua Hirsch wrote in her book Brit (ish) that

There was no clean break from slavery… Britain’s act of abolition in 1807 curtailed the supply of new African blood to slave owners in the Caribbean, worsening conditions for slaves already there. Planters began to pay overseas a bonus for each female slave they impregnated…

I wonder what value I would have had to my slave owner as a childless woman?

Today I stand before you, childless, my status being met with surprise and disbelief

You see white people think that I come from a long line of strong, sassy, virile, hypersexual exotic women that do not have fertility issues

apparently ‘we breed like rabbits!’

Black men think that their super sperm will cure my condition

Black women tell me not to give up hope, to keep praying, that they will pray for me

They say that its Gods will, God know BEST

While white people call me aggressive and over sensitive

Growing up ‘Baby Mamma’s were disrespected, now as a childless woman I am pitied

But who will see my tears?

I turn to you for help but you do not hear my sorrow, you don’t seem to understand, for heavens sake you don’t even look like me

If a childless woman have no currency in society then what about the black childless women?

Fertility in black women is rarely discussed or acknowledged as a problem

Breeding myths from slavery perpetuate the stereotype that black women do not have problems conceiving

However there are studies that suggest black women may be almost twice as likely to experience infertility as white women

The Women’s Health Mag and Oprah Mag reported that only about 8 percent of black women between the ages of 25 and 44 seek medical help to get pregnant, compared to 15 percent of white women

When black women do seek medical help for fertility issues, failing to see people who look like us in leaflets, on notice boards, in your groups can further discourage us from speaking up and pursuing the help that we so desperately need

For women who look like me not having children has many layers of trauma that is hard to explain unless you have the time to listen

My voice is a voice that is rarely heard

My history reminds me of how silenced I’ve became…

  • when you asked me if I’d ever considered being a shop-keeper as a career choice
  • if I could have less plaits in my hair,
  • when you dismissed my concerns that ‘that was racist’ as being too hard to prove,
  • when you thought that I was aggressive in that meeting just because I dared to voice my opinion

When are you going to stop stereotyping me so that I can speak

When are you going to stop letting your colour-blindness and white privilege stop me from being heard

 If you don’t see my colour you don’t see my pain,

If you don’t see my colour you don’t see my challenges or the barriers I face

If you don’t see my colour when are you going to see my tears?

I convinced myself to leave my house that evening because I really wanted to hear Jody speak. I have been silent for so long now and really want to start dealing with the grief of my childlessness.

I got into my car and drove to the venue. When I eventually got out of my car and walked to the room, I looked through the window then turned around and went home because no-one in that room looked like me

This is a story I heard from a black woman grateful that she could finally talk to someone who would understand, someone who looked like her

For too long WoC have been silenced, through stereotyping and a lack of representation in the profession that is meant to support us

In her book ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race’ Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote that

“…If you don’t even want to see my colour and acknowledge my race how can we talk about the issues I face, how can you possible start to understand…”

Reni goes on to say “… “White privilege is a manipulating, suffocating blanket of power… bullying you into not speaking up… it scares you into silencing yourself…” “Race is essential to changing the system”

I have learnt to be careful about my battles but at the risk of being labeled the angry black women my fertility journey is one that I have had to fight

In her article for the Leadership Academy Morvia Gorden mentions that “her belief is that black people have inherited internalised oppression from 400 years of slavery as we’ve been taught that white people are better than us

Even though no living white person is responsible for slavery, BAME people still bears the scars if it…”

I am not here to play the blame game, I simply want you to understand my tears

I want you to understand that there are women like me who are often crying from what we often feel is a lack of concern or awareness of our experience as descendants of enslaved women

Black Girls Do Cry

We cry because we feel that we’ve lost our choices and that we do not have a voice

We want to be see, we want to be heard

We want you to stop stereotyping us and see us for who we are

We want you to remove your colour-blindness and see our difference

We want you to engage with us in an honest and non-defensive way

We want to have an equal place and better services for childless WoC

Yes there is more to life than children and maybe someday I can tell you about it

Infertility Doesn’t Discriminate

“Infertility Doesn’t Discriminate’, So Why Are Women Of Colour Suffering In Silence?”

After all this time I am still surprised and pleased when someone contacts me to talk because they heard an interview I’d done or because they want to interview me for a particular article. So it was a pleasure to receive Rachel Moss’s email asking if I would be interviewed for an article that she was writing for the Huffington Post. The article is about how infertility affects women of colour and is hooked to Fertility Fest at the Barbican, which I am talking at today – Fertility Fight club. So as I am preparing myself to head to the Barbican I thought that I’d take a moment to reflect and share this wonderful article by Rachel….

What do you see?

I listened to BBC Radio 4s podcast ‘Queenie’ last weekend. Queenie is the debut novel by Candice Carty-Williams, a darkly comic and unflinchingly raw depiction of a young woman trying to navigate her way in the world.

Click here to listen

I came across this purely by chance and found it throughly enjoyable and captivating. Whilst it does have that entertainment value what really struck me was the stereotyping (of Queenie a young black women trying to understand her identify) from the white men she encounters, her identity as a young black women within her own family (which plays out with the relationship she has with her parents, grandparents and friends) and within the relationships within her social circles.

For me Queenie shows the many complex unspoken layers that black women face on a daily basis, most of which are either unconscious or unspoken but all of which are very real. But that’s just my opinion have a listen and let me know what you think….