After recently welcoming a child via a surrogate, the actress sat down with Oprah to talk about what to say to someone struggling with fertility problems.
For Gabrielle Union and husband Dwyane Wade the road to parenthood has been particularly difficult.
Which is why she calls their daughter Kaavia James – born via a surrogate after a long labor and an unplanned C-section in November – her “miracle baby”.
The 46-year-old shared the news of her baby joy on her Instagram last month. Clad in a hospital gown, Union held her daughter close to facilitate skin-to-skin contact with her new baby.
“We are sleepless and delirious but so excited to share that our miracle baby arrived last night via surrogate,” Union wrote in the caption. “11/7 will forever be etched in our hearts as the most loveliest of all the lovely days.”
A month after their baby was born, Union and Wade sat down with Oprah’s OWN for an in-depth and candid interview about Union’s arduous and challenging journey to motherhood. As revealed in her 2017 memoir We’re Going To Need More Wine, Union had “eight or nine miscarriages” over the course of three years of intensive, invasive IVF treatments, including one miscarriage immediately after Union and Wade’s 2013 engagement.
“I’m watching her do things to her body and to herself, where it’s getting to the point that it’s not healthy,” Wade told Oprah. “I always told her ‘I want this baby just as much as you do, but I married you. And you are the most important thing to me.’ I didn’t want something to happen to her, and it was getting dangerous. She was trying so many things and methods.”
Wade continued: “I had to step in and say ‘Baby it’s me and you. I want to grow old with you. I want our miracle baby, but I want you.’ Once we got to that point, and I think she heard me, we started to look at other possibilities to bring our baby in to the world. That’s when we got introduced to surrogacy.”
Speaking to Oprah, Union emphasised how isolated she felt during the lowest point of her struggles with fertility. It’s something she hopes no woman suffers through alone again. By speaking out about miscarriage, Union hopes to dispel some of the stigma surrounding it and to help those struggling with infertility to “feel seen”.
“You are not alone,” Union told Oprah. “There’s many paths to parenthood and motherhood. It doesn’t have to match your friend’s, your sister’s, or your mama’s. Every path is beautiful, real, valid and worthwhile. You don’t have to suffer in silence or alone. There’s hope and answers. We got you.”
Union added that it wasn’t her age that impacted her fertility, it was undiagnosed endometriosis. “I would’ve had the same issues in my twenties, but I was not correctly diagnosed or treated,” she said.
She also cautioned against judging women for the decisions they make about their body when it comes to fertility. “If you’re going to be all up in our business, have the right information,” Union said. “There are all different ways you can become parents. Everyone’s journey is different. Everyone’s journey to surrogacy is different. There’s all kind of different routes to that, whether the couple opts to share that with you should be on them.”
“Some couples will tell you everything, and they want to be fully transparent,” she added. “Other people have suffered losses you couldn’t imagine. So how they got to their surrogacy, IVF, IUI, or [fertility treatment] clomid journey is really personal.”
If someone you know is dealing with fertility issues, or has recently had a miscarriage, Union stressed the importance of listening deeply and without judgment. “It’s best to say, ‘How are you doing, is there anything I can do for you, or is there any information you want me to know?’” she told Oprah.
Many watching the Oprah interview praised Union and Wade for their honesty and candor. “I was so inspired by this story,” actress Naturi Naughton wrote on Instagram. “I laughed, I cried, I learned so much… my spirit was truly moved.”
For their part, Union and Wade were inspired by Michelle Obama, who detailed her and husband Barack’s experience of miscarriage in Michelle’s recent memoir Becoming.
“What Michelle and Barack did was like another strong, powerful voice in the African American community stepping up, educating, and having a responsibility in saying, ‘You’re not the only one,’” Wade said. “It was great for us and the reason we decided to talk about everything that we went through.”