“All of a sudden I learned I might have trouble having kids one day.”
I never thought I would have infertility issues. No one around me, including my mother and family members, had ever talked about having trouble getting pregnant; it was never something that crossed my mind. So about 15 years ago, when I was in my mid-20s and had been dating my then-boyfriend, now husband, for some years, the natural next step was to talk about marriage. Although we weren't immediately ready to start trying to have a baby, we knew we wanted kids at some point.
And then I was diagnosed with endometriosis.
The diagnosis wasn't the first time I realized something might be wrong. I'd been experiencing extreme pelvic pain for years and went to several doctors. Each one would brush me off. "Those are just really bad cramps, some women get them more severely," one told me. "Just put heat on it," one suggested. Another doctor simply said: "Get on the treadmill—working out helps."
Deep down, though, I always knew what I was feeling was more severe than just cramps. No one should ever have cramps so bad that they're ready to call an ambulance. I once found myself crying in the back of my car, and my sister Tamera had to drive me home because I was in too much pain to drive.
Back when I was in college, I would sometimes skip class because I just needed to sit on the toilet to relax the muscles around my uterus. Even though multiple doctors told me not to worry about my symptoms, I knew in my gut this was serious.
Finally, in my late 20s, I ended up going to an incredible African American doctor who immediately knew what I had. She explained that endometriosis occurs when the tissue that belongs inside your uterus grows on the outside instead. It's very painful, and many African American women are often misdiagnosed because there's been less research done on the prevalence of endometriosis in our community.
She also let me know that this diagnosis meant having children could be very difficult for me. That was a shock that sent me into a bit of a depression. I had found the man of my dreams, and we were talking about our future, and all of a sudden I learned I could have trouble having kids one day.
My first question was how do we get rid of it? My doctor told me you can't cure endometriosis, but you can manage it. She warned that inflammatory foods could make my symptoms worse, but to be honest with you, I didn't really change my eating habits at that point. I was in my 20s, so I just kept eating whatever the hell I wanted.
I ended up needing to have multiple surgeries because my symptoms got so bad. I will never forget sitting in my doctor's office and her telling me: "Look, if you want to have kids one day, and you don't want to keep having surgeries, you're gonna have to change your diet." And that's really when I took everything to the next level. I started following a diet that limited foods like dairy, added sugar, and alcohol and focused instead on healthy choices, such as probiotics, legumes, and lower-sugar fruits.
I still had a lot of pain, and I knew the scar tissue from my surgeries would make it difficult for me to have a baby.
I felt really alone. I didn't know anyone who had dealt with this. But I really wanted a child, so I kept focusing on my diet as we tried to have a baby.
About a year later, I was in Atlanta, working on the TV show The Game, when I found out I was pregnant. I called my doctor crying with joy because I was so happy.
I gave birth to my son, Cree, who's now 7, in 2011. After he was born, I thought I was in the clear; I didn't have any more endometriosis symptoms for about five years. And then, in my late 30s, when we were trying for another kid, my pelvic pain returned. That brought with it more doctor's visits and paying special attention to what I ate, plus yet another surgery. But finally, earlier this year—at age 39—I gave birth to my second child, my daughter, Cairo.
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