For some couples, having a baby can be one of the greatest moments in a marriage.
However, in the United States, infertility affects 1 in 8 couples. While the experience is different for everyone, having open conversations can lead to more education and create a sense of community and support.
Tomiko Fraser Hines, one of Maybelline’s first African American cosmetic models who has also graced the big screen, has been dedicating much of her time to share her fertility story. She has also been a huge advocate and brand ambassador for RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association.
During a recent interview Tomiko shared her story and explained why the conversations surrounding infertility are important. At the age of 39 she married her husband Chris and within the first year they decided that they wanted to have a baby.
Planning for a family is such an exciting time, but early on, the process was difficult and eventually Tomiko was diagnosed with pre-mature ovarian failure which was causing her trouble to conceive. The couple was advised by a reproductive specialist that they should seek out an egg donor but adamant to conceive naturally, Tomiko and her husband continued to try on their own, even attempting acupuncture and natural remedies. After six years, the couple decided to heed their doctors’ recommendation and seek out an egg donor.
Initially, this process led to a different obstacle, IDing an African American donor.
Tomiko states “If we went to a site and there were 100 egg donors available, maybe 5 of them would be African American and of those 5, only one would be a darker complexion. I am a darker complexion and my husband is medium toned and I wanted someone that had similar features to me.”
This really indicates that representation is important in many aspects of life. Seeking and providing more education in regards to egg donation can encourage more women from all backgrounds to donate. This can ultimately increase the donation pool and be more inclusive for all couples.
Tomiko and Chris were able to find a donor who did have a similar complexion to her and within less than 3 months she was pregnant with twin boys who are now 5 years old.
While early on in the process Tomiko was disheartened at the lack of diversity in the donation pool she says “At the end of the day it doesn’t matter because it’s all in the genes and you don’t know how they’ll mix in there. We are just happy to have happy, healthy, thriving boys.”
While she was happy to be pregnant Tomiko went through a period where she had concerns that the babies she was carrying were not her children and she was just an “oven” that was cooking them.
RESOVLE: The National Infertility Association provides many resources for couples dealing with infertility. One of the RESOLVE pamphlets she read gave her a sense of peace that although her story included an egg donor that she is still the biological mother of her babies.
“However your child comes to you, your child is your child and you will have a connection with them. Whether it’s adoption, IVF, etc, it is your child”-Tomiko
Although infertility has been talked about much more recently it is still not spoken of very freely, and RESOLVE seeks to change that. They host walks, events, classes and much more to create a community and uplifting culture for families going through infertility.
To support RESOLVE, Ferring Pharmaceuticals launched #TalkAboutTrying to help start the conversation around infertility and to support and empower couples trying to conceive. This campaign aims to raise awareness and hopefully create a sense of unity and let couples know they are not alone in this.
Every time the hashtag #TalkAboutTrying is used on social media, Ferring Pharmaceuticals will donate $1 to RESOLVE to help with their mission.
Having as much positivity and hope in your life while you’re going through something as devastating and heartbreaking as infertility is important and there are resources to help. My Fertility Navigator is a website and support program that provides many resources for women and couples and they are currently hosting a contest where upon sharing your story at MyFertilityNav.com/contest through May 11, you will be entered to win a weekend getaway for two to Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa. Fertility for Colored Girls is another source Tomiko says was helpful to her.
Not only does infertility affect the women, it affects the husbands and significant others as well. While we work to provide support and sources for the women it is important to remember that men need support and uplifting too. Couples are in this together and should be offered support as a unit and individually which RESOLVE does a great job with.
Tomiko has a remarkable story and along with sharing her journey she seeks out to empower women all over the world.
I asked her for some final words of encouragement and she beautifully said “Please seek out support. Whether it be family, good girlfriends’ church, RESOLVE, support groups etc just seek support. Be gentle to yourself. Be loving to yourself. You are dealing with something that is unthinkable and the pain that it can bring to you. Don’t blame yourself there is nothing wrong with you. Have open communication with your partner and share your feelings and allow them to share theirs. Your fears, worries, concerns all of it. Maintain hope and surround yourself with loving people.”
You can follow Tomiko on Instagram @goddesstomiko and Tomiko Fraser Hines on Facebook.
My Fertility Navigator: https://www.myfertilitynav.com/
Fertility for Colored Girls: https://www.fertilityforcoloredgirls.org