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Kellee Stewart’s Personal Fertility Journey of Turning Pain Into Purpose
by Kellee Stewart
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April 29, 2020

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Kellee Stewart’s Personal Fertility Journey of Turning Pain Into Purpose

Kellee Stewart (Photo courtesy of Damu Malik)
Kellee Stewart (Photo courtesy of Damu Malik)

Dear Sis,

We all have one, right? I call mine “the dodged sperm bullet.” You know, that one guy from your past you’re secretly grateful you never conceived a child with. 

It was the fall. The Philadelphia Eagles were playing the New York Giants. We were two toxic lovers shouting profanities at our usual hometown rivals game. The difference was, after this matchup, we actually broke up. After seven long years, my relationship was suddenly over.

Chronic low self-esteem tricked me into believing that since he left, I’d never create the family I desired. Especially when the wind at the door made his exit far more dramatic with a deafening slam that yelled, “You’re single!” Correction, what I really heard was, You’re 37 years old and single in LA! ” 

Do you hear how disrespectful that is? I wasn’t going to take that lying down. So, I rose to my knees and began to pray, “God, really?! Why do you always play me? I thought this was my husband and now…” I wanted to finish, but God rudely interrupted, “Go freeze your eggs!” That’s what HE said. At least, that’s what my spirit heard. And yes, when HE said it, it was kind of rude.

Ever since I could remember, I wanted to be a mom. 

However, I only wanted to start a family after achieving success in my career and finding the right partner. My professional life was off to a great start, but personally, I was plagued by failed relationships and childhood trauma. I became terrified to climb the ladder of age without a suitable romantic prospect in sight. I’ll admit, it’s been incredibly sad sometimes facing the fact that this love thing just hasn’t happened yet. 

Kellee Stewart (Photo courtesy of Damu Malik)
Kellee Stewart (Photo courtesy of Damu Malik)

If I attend one more wedding that turns into one more baby shower, all while still being single, I just might be forced to believe I’m cursed. But, I’m a Black woman; raised on ancestral shoulders that lift faith high above struggle. I believe in God’s love too much to let the devil take over my mind. So, I wiped my tears and picked up the phone.

My first appointment at the fertility specialist was just five days after my break up. I was nervous as hell! Was this the beginning of the end? Would I never do it the old fashioned way? Crying in a clinic and asking a doctor to suck eggs out of my ovaries was not my idea of Black Girl Magic. Yet there I was, lying scared and alone with a physician seated in the gap of my thighs, waiting to hear my fertility fate. This was my start to motherhood. This was not my dream. But, it was my reality.

Alright, sis, here’s the process. 

I injected three shots of baby-making medicine directly into my belly for 14 consecutive days. That was definitely not my jam! Neither were the multiple blood tests, ultrasounds, bloating, and mood swings that took over my life. I grew up in Philly, so I really don’t need extra hormones to help me catch an attitude. We invented them there. 

Each day I gained a little more weight as my follicles hopefully grew to mature eggs. As my cycle neared the end, the doctor determined when it was time for the trigger shot; the last shot before my almost babies would leave their medically induced home. Obviously, this ordeal was an emotional and physical strain on my body. I needed back up, so I flew my mom to Los Angeles to help me. 

Mama Stew, as she’s lovingly called, has been the most kick-ass role model of a mother a girl can have. “We’re going to freeze my grandbabies!” That’s my mama, consistently believing in my dreams far more than I ever could. I think I wanted this to work more for her than myself. Not because she ever pressured me to have children. In fact, she’s the one that told me to go after my dreams and trust God’s timing with all of it. She once said, “If they were doing this procedure back in my day, your ass would still be frozen!” And with that sense of humor, I just couldn’t imagine not putting a baby in her arms. Lucky for us… it worked.  

I have 29 eggs chilling in a freezer in El Segundo.

Courtesy of Shutterstock
Courtesy of Shutterstock

Congratulations to me! Well, maybe? Or, I guess so. I mean, I don’t really know anymore because it’s complicated. My future husband hasn’t shown up yet, but the beauty of knowing I didn’t settle for the wrong relationship gives me a peace I’d never trade. However, the possibility of getting pregnant has more roadblocks than I initially considered. Am I going to pursue motherhood alone? Is single-parent adoption on the table? Should I research donors? And, the hardest one, how much time do I actually have left?

Cue the brutal panic attack causing me to feverishly call my embryologist, “When you buy eggs at the grocery store, there’s a sell-by date. Is there a fertilize-by date for my eggs?! Do they expire?!” After calming his laughter he assured me I have plenty of time, then stated, “I get a lot of panicked calls from women about this. You’re not alone.” 

Related: Overcoming the Fear of Fertility During My Egg Freezing Journey

I’m not alone?! Well, that royally pissed me off! Why are women out here panicking? Why are we waiting until the ninth hour to understand our fertility health? And, why did I stay with a man for seven years without realizing I gave him — here comes the gut punch my biology.

I needed to do something. I wanted to get the word out. I wrote a comedic love story to my ovaries and sold the screenplay to a major network. I want to tell the story I wished I’d seen before I let the years pass me by. When I first walked into a fertility clinic, it didn’t take long for me to learn about my ovarian reserve. It was a simple blood test measuring my AMH (Anti Mullerian Hormone) and FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) levels. These tests give women an estimate of the number of follicles inside their ovaries, and therefore a possible egg count. I also had an ultrasound while on my cycle, which enabled me to see and count my new follicles in real-time. This testing is the first step of assisted fertility treatments and is also called a fertility diagnostic test. It took approximately twenty minutes of my time. 

So, my question is, why are we not offered the option of fertility tests as part of our annual gynecological care? 

During my yearly pap smear, I’m always asked if I’d like to be screened for sexually transmitted diseases. “Would you like a fertility test?” seems like an equally easy question to ask. When women are ready to have a baby, they’re often told to try for a year, and if it’s not working, infertility testing is recommended. The problem with that is, well, EVERYTHING! 

Kellee Stewart (Photo courtesy of Damu Malik)
Kellee Stewart (Photo courtesy of Damu Malik)

I didn’t write this letter to tell you to freeze your eggs. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll ever defrost my own. I feel compelled to share a message encouraging women to be proactive and learn about their personal fertility health, regardless of age, relationship status, or timing. Don’t wait for panic to set in to start learning about your ovarian reserve and the options available for you to plan ahead. 

Related: Black Obstetrician/Gynecologist Dr. Jessica Shepherd on the Importance of Maternal Health

I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit I didn’t even consider fertility testing until my life circumstances made it urgent. Our medical community isn’t geared toward informing women about personal fertility until we’re in crisis mode, and that needs to stop. It only changes when we refuse to suffer in silence and begin to educate ourselves, whether we want children or not.

With all the complications that many of us face, including finances, pre-existing medical conditions (fibroids, endometriosis, PCOS, etc.), and the persistent disproportionate pregnancy-related deaths of Black women, we can’t afford to keep our problems or solutions to ourselves. We need to lean on each other. This letter is me leaning on you. So, in the spirit of solidarity, take your sister by the hand, share your story, and leave no egg behind. 

Love always,

Kellee Stewart

Here’s a fun fact, so you never forget how amazing women truly are! The smallest human cell, not visible to the naked eye, is a sperm cell. The largest human cell, and the only cell visible to the naked eye, is that of an egg! You are literally LIFE sis! Live it to the fullest!

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