by Regina Townsend
The Broken Brown Egg
Myth: Black women don’t have fertility issues.
Busted: This myth is the very reason for my organization. Infertility affects women (and men!) of all races. In fact, some studies find that black women are 1.5 times more likely to experience infertility than women of other races. Many of the factors leading to this higher incidence is in our hesitance to visit the doctor, as well as higher rates of conditions such as fibroids. One great way to squash this myth is to start talking. By opening an honest and guilt-free dialogue, we can make a huge step towards removing the stigmas that holds so many of us hostage.
Myth: Fertility treatments are expensive fads that the “average” woman of color can not afford.
Busted: This is a myth wrapped inside another myth that is snug inside of another. First, it is wrong to assume that all white women are wealthy! Second, we have to stop assuming that it is only white women who need to visit fertility clinics. Lastly, and best of all, we must understand that not all fertility treatments are expensive.
While the media will have you believe that fertility treatments are the hip thing for white celebrities and upper-class white suburban women, this is not the full picture. While income and education are definitely factors, a good number of women visiting fertility clinics are “average” women. The median family income for the US falters somewhere around $50,000. With infertility treatments ranging anywhere from $8k to over $15k, it is highly doubtful that any of us are the big-spenders this myth would like us to believe we are.
However, even with that being said, with some clinics offering shared-risk programs, scholarships or low-cost treatments, it is possible to get a handle on your fertility without going into the poorhouse. There are grant programs sprouting up all over the country that are giving all couples the opportunity to build their families through ART or adoption, and that is most definitely not a fad!
Myth: If God wanted you to have children, you would have them.
Busted: And if God wanted me to know you were His spokesperson, He’d have told me so! But seriously, regardless of your personal beliefs, I’ve found that in nearly every faith-based community there are stories, myths and fables which tell of how that particular people’s god chose to bless a woman or couple who were childless. Christians and Jews have Hannah, Sarah, Rachel and even Sampson’s mom! Having children is seen in many cultures as one of the most dynamic ways for God to show his mercy or strength. To tell someone else that their childlessness is a result of their faith is not only inaccurate, but a cruel judgment of their faith. Until the blessing happens, let’s all hope that the next thing God wants is for YOU to mind your own business.
Myth: Black women don’t “give up our babies”, and we don’t adopt.
Busted: The irony of this myth is that many adoption agencies are actually dealing with expectant black mothers who are having a hard time finding “couples who look like them,” to give their baby to. I can’t even begin to list how many adoption agencies have contacted me asking that I spread the word about their African-American targeted programs in an attempt to fill this need. With so many young black women finding that there are greater chances their babies will go to non-black homes, I’m confused as to where we even got this idea from. Black women are just as capable of the strength and courage it takes to choose adoption for their children, and they deserve the respect of us acknowledging it!
Secondly, the idea that we don’t adopt is misguided. There are differences in the way we adopt, not in the act itself. Many of the racial disparity studies related to foster care find that African-Americans are at higher rates of “kinship care” than other races. What that means is that while we may not be first in line at the adoption agencies, we are leading the pack in terms of adopting and fostering family and extended family members. Beyond the formal studies, I’ve learned from my own family and from speaking to many other families of color, that many of our adoptions occur unofficially. We take in a distant relative’s children, and they become our own. This is adoption. The capacity to love and nurture a child that you did not give birth to is a universal gift, and one that should not be bound to official documentation, formality, or race.