Had someone told her in January of 2013 that she would be engaged, married, with child, and living in a new country before the year ended, she would have laughed. But that is exactly would happened to Black Love series cast member Brittany Ingram, and the transition taught her about love, strength, and relationship — with God, with her husband, and with herself.
Had someone told me in January of 2013 that I was going to be engaged, married, with child, and living in a new country before the year ended, I would have called their bluff. After all, I was a moving and shaking city girl manifesting the life of my dreams as a celebrity makeup artist living la vida fabulosa in Los Angeles, California.
Unbeknownst to me, that wasn’t for long.
If you watch the Black Love series on OWN, you may be familiar with Tony and my story. We were long distance friends (he was living in San Diego, and I, Los Angeles) when we fell in love. June of 2013, Tony proposed to me. Two weeks later, we found out we were expecting our first child. A week later, we got married — which was July 10, 2013.
Being that Tony, a Lieutenant Surface Warfare Officer in the U.S. Navy, already had orders for Japan prior to our engagement, and with our unexpected surprise, we knew we wanted to be together during my pregnancy, which meant I would have to move to Japan with him. We like to say Harleigh (our daughter) sealed the deal. She confirmed that this was supposed to happen and happen now.
But what you may not know from the show is that prior to the week before we moved to Japan, Tony and I had not even spent 48 total hours at a time with each other.
Before getting married, Tony and I had not even spent 48 total hours at a time with each other.
Initially, we were scared. Although we were two very responsible adults with successful careers, at that time it didn’t feel like it. We acted more like high school kids who’d ‘oops’ and ended up pregnant. I can “lol” about it now, but then, it was truly how we felt. Our fears were mainly about what other people may think. And with that, together we made the decision to secretly get married and hide the pregnancy for a while. I guess we were trying to buy ourselves some time. We had just announced our engagement, which was already a shock to our family and friends. Now we had to tell them that we were pregnant, and, oh yeah, married. It was too much for us to digest at the time, let alone announce it to the whole world. So we waited.
Everything happened so fast, I honestly don’t think we had time to really think about our feelings. We immediately went into survival mode. We knew we had to do what was best for our new family. Right away, Tony and I started making arrangements for me to move with him, and, though exciting, that meant a lot of very tough changes for me.
I moved to L.A. in 2008 to pursue my career as a professional/celebrity makeup artist. And after working hard and getting myself out there, I had just started working for Tyra Banks and was soon to be promoted to Retail Manager of my counter at MAC Cosmetics. I had “made it.”
So with this new change, my first thought was, “Oh no, my career!” After working so hard, now did I have to give it up to become a mommy and a wife? Is this a dream deferred? If I leave, will I have a career when I return? No one’s going to remember me!
To say the least, I was scared, but my spirit told me that everything was going to work out just fine. I knew I had to choose my new family over my career.
I knew I had to choose my new family over my career.
With all this, we finally knew it was time to announce the pregnancy. And you know how people say the “truth will set you free”? Once I announced my pregnancy, it changed me. Suddenly, I just had a mental shift of, “I really don’t care what people are going to say. This is my life.” I felt so empowered. Honestly, I had to empower myself because there wasn’t anyone around me that had experienced anything like what was happening to me. I began to look at this as the start of a new chapter in my life. This was my journey, with my husband, and we were going to do the best job that we could.
Once that shift happened in my head, I immediately started to prepare myself for the move. I gave away a lot of personal items and sold all of my furniture. And on November 2013, I left L.A. to start my new chapter. I spent two weeks in South Carolina with my family, then shortly after flew out to meet Tony in Japan Dec. 2013.
It wasn’t until I was in Japan, and Tony had left for his first deployment, that I found myself sitting on a foreign couch, in a foreign apartment, in a foreign land, with a foreign object in my belly — and in that moment, everything started to sink in.
Prior to the move, I was moving and going so fast, not really thinking about what was happening. Once I was able to be still in silence, it hit me! I thought to myself, “OMG, What is my life right now?” It was almost like I woke up from a dream and realized I was still in it. I mean, I was doing nothing that I had set out to do with my life. Remember, I wanted to be the career woman living her fabulous city life. This situation was the complete opposite! Here I was with no career, in a city where I didn’t speak the language, newly married with a husband who’d just left for deployment, a growing baby in my belly, and absolutely nothing to do. I knew that I had to trust it. I had to surrender.
I had new surroundings and that included my new role that I needed to cope with. I thought, “How do I do this wife thing?” I didn’t mentally prepare for this moment, so it was a lot to digest. I didn’t know what it was like to cook for a man or clean a house for someone other than myself.
Immediately, I started researching things to do on the base to occupy my time. Military life was new to me, so I had to learn all the “lingo” plus try to learn a little Japanese. Essentially it was like learning two languages.
Being a driven, independent woman, I wasn’t used to depending on a man to provide for me. And although Tony is my husband, it was such an adjustment. The fear of the unknown of that kind of dynamic put me in an extremely vulnerable state — especially the thought of having to ask for money. I did not want to have to ask for money! But this was the situation: I had moved to Japan with my husband, and I was not working. I had to trust in him— trust that he would do what he said he was going to do and trust that it would all work out.
Thankfully he made this transition very seamless and easy for me. I owe a lot of the stress relief to him. He made sure that all of my needs were being met. He was very conscious of my comfort. Tony knew how career-driven and independent I was and how much of a sacrifice this was for me, so he did all he could to ensure I was acclimating well to military life, marriage life, and motherhood.
My love language is gifts, so he often purchased me small gifts through the week to keep my love tank full. He would purchase things like self help books for my career, motherhood, marriage, and God. We wrote our budget together, which made the arrangement feel like a partnership, and he made sure I had extra money just for myself, so I never had to ask for money.
I knew I had to lean on God’s promises and draw strength from him.
I knew I had to lean on God’s promises and draw strength from him. I joined an amazing women’s prayer group. We would meet every Wednesday for about two hours to pray and talk about life, get advice, and fellowship. This was one of the best things I could have done for myself. We were all military women from different backgrounds who connected in faith and a desire to support one another. I could be open with these women about my desires, my wins, and my concerns in confidence, as they could do with me.
I also leaned on my passion — makeup — and began to teach makeup application classes in the clubhouse of our apartment complex.
One of the scariest moments for me was having to give birth to our child with it just being Tony and our doula there for support. Our family wasn’t able to come out, so it was yet another thing that Tony and I had to lean on God for and get through together. But thanks to social media, we were able to post pics and keep everyone updated on our labor and delivery journey. Social media was a huge tool for us to stay connected with our family and friends, which helped me a lot emotionally.
Once Harleigh was born, we grew even closer. Though at the beginning of this journey, Tony and I were new to each other, Harleigh was new to the world! And it was our responsibility to introduce her to this world to the best of our ability.
Then, it was time to return to the states and I had a whole new set of fears — particularly concerning my career. I knew I wanted to be a working mom and a financial contributor to my family, so getting back to my career was a priority for me.
I prayed a lot and trusted that God was going to make it happen for me. While in Japan, I did my best to stay as connected to my L.A. contacts as I could, just so that I would stay top of mind for them.
Upon my arrival to the states July of 2015, Tony and I took two weeks to visit our family, and I hit the ground running. While on vacation I sent emails to everyone I had connections with announcing my arrival and availability. I reached out to one of my celebrity clients. Coincidentally, she had just started a beauty line and was shooting for the catalog. They offered me the job to be a makeup artist for the shoot, which happened the following week after vacation. I was beyond excited!
Shortly after that, I was back like I had never left. Within two months, I was working on TV for the Fab Life doing beauty segments and my clientele was slowly but surely picking up. Things were starting to look up and come together.
Fast forward three years: God has been so faithful.
My career is a dream come true. I thought I had peaked in my career before leaving, but now I know that that was only the beginning. I truly believe God honored my sacrifice and obedience to marry and have a child. Obviously, this was His divine order because it was totally not in my plans.
I owe my strength for my transition to my supportive husband, who made it so easy, and to God. All the glory and honor goes to God.
Moving to Japan was a huge blessing in disguise for our marriage. The experience taught me so much. It taught me to trust God more, trust the process of life, and to live in the moment. My appreciation and bond grew tremendously for my husband and for motherhood. As a couple, moving to Japan made Tony and I have to sink or swim immediately. We learned to depend on each other, lean on one another, and to put our marriage and our bond first.
Although everything happened so fast, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world. I’m very humbled by it and very grateful. Going in, I was scared, vulnerable, and concerned about the thoughts and opinions of others. Coming out, I am comfortable, strong, and know that, when it comes to my family, the only opinions that matter are those of my God, my husband, and myself.