Gabrielle Union Shared an Incredibly Raw Look at Her Surrogacy Journey
"It's a pain that has dimmed but remains present in my fears that I was not, and never will be, enough."
In 2016, Gabrielle Union was told by her reproductive endocrinologist that her best chance at having a healthy baby would be through surrogacy. On September 10th, Time published an excerpt from Union's upcoming book You Got Anything Stronger? in which Union describes the pain that comes with surrogacy (and stays with a person) that is rarely talked about.
"I had been through an adenomyosis diagnosis and more miscarriages than I could confidently count," Union writes, saying she was desperate for the experience to be pregnant. "I would shake off the distrust society has for women who, for whatever reason—by choice or by nature—do not have babies. I had paid the cost of that for years, and I wanted something for it."
She tried to get pregnant for another year to no avail. "I had a new plan to take Lupron, which basically quiets the adenomyosis," she continues. Adenomyosis occurs when the endometrial tissue that normally lines the uterus grows into the uterus muscular wall, thus enlarging the uterus and causing heavy, painful menstrual cycles. "Dr. Baek told me I would have a 30% chance of bringing a baby to term. But the side effects of Lupron can be intense: you're basically throwing your body into early menopause and you can break bones very easily."
Her husband, Dwyane Wade, wasn't comfortable with Union's decision to take Lupron. "You've done enough," he told her, and Union described feeling a "desperation of wanting things to be right with us" from him during this time.
Buried heartache over Wade fathering another child during a brief breakup made Union angry. "The experience of Dwyane having a baby so easily—while I was unable to—left my soul not just broken into pieces, but shattered into fine dust scattering in the wind," Union writes. "So much of what made the decision so difficult was that if I didn't submit to a surrogacy, then I was convinced I needed to let Dwyane go. Even if he didn't want to, I had to let him find someone who could give him what he wanted."
"I invested so much time in making peace between us that I gave myself absolutely no self-care. And now there I was, still putting my life second to some shared mission," she writes. "If there was another way for me to bring my baby into the world, and have my health, why was it so hard for me to make peace with that?" Finally, Union got to a place where she was coming around to the idea of surrogacy.
She and Wade chose "the most ethical agency [they] could find," and within two months, a surrogate was found. "There had been so much fear and failure, but now there was a vague relief that I was finally here," Union writes about finally meeting her surrogate. "And something else: anticipation. I had not let myself have that for so long that I had difficulty recognizing it."
Union, Wade, and their surrogate, Natalie, found out they were pregnant in March 2018, and when the couple met Natalie and her husband at the first 4D ultrasound, Union says she felt Natalie's growing stomach was a "visual manifestation of my failure." She writes, "I smiled, wanting to show I—we—were so happy and grateful. But part of me felt more worthless."
And when the two couples saw the baby on the monitor, "I lost it," Union writes. "It was grief. I'd had so many miscarriages ... Looking at the screen, I understood how many potential babies I had lost." She adds, "I saw my husband so happy, and I was not a part of it."
When Kaavia James was born, Union writes that "relief, anxiety, terror, joy, resentment, disbelief, gratitude ... and also, disconnection," flooded over her. "I had hoped that the second I saw her, there would be a moment of locking in," she writes, noting that wasn't the case. "So much time has passed. So many firsts. Yet the question lingers in my mind: I will always wonder if Kaav would love me more if I had carried her."
"We met as strangers, the sound of my voice and my heartbeat foreign to her," she writes. "It's a pain that has dimmed but remains present in my fears that I was not, and never will be, enough."
Union continues, "I can never know if my failure to carry a child put a ceiling on the love my husband has for me ... If I am telling the fullness of our stories, of our three lives together, I must tell the truths I live with. And I have learned that you can be honest and loving at the same time."
You Got Anything Stronger? comes out tomorrow, September 14th.