When Ada Ojeh-Teme would lie down, she’d notice that something that looked like “a mountain” protruded from her belly. Eventually, her doctor told her she had a fibroid and that she’d need to have surgery to remove it. While the seven hour surgery gave a name to her symptoms — endometriosis — she had no idea that the years of pain, surgery and endometriosis would make having children difficult.
“In my mind, I thought, ‘I’ve paid my dues. I’ve dealt with the pain. I’ve missed classes. I’ve rescheduled my wedding. When it’s time to have a family, you have a family,’” she said. “I never put two and two together.”
Ojeh-Teme, of Miami, is one of five women of color featured in a new documentary on infertility, “Stories We Tell: The Fertility Secret,” which will air on MSNBC on Sunday, December 19 at 10 p.m. TODAY’s Sheinelle Jones served as executive producer for the project and she shared a first look of it this morning.
“That’s a common theme. As you’ll see in the documentary some women deal with pain for decades or they’ve had surgeries with no idea that what they’re dealing with could ultimately affect their fertility,” Jones said. “Many women, as you know, are getting married later in life or staying single, but still want to have a family. So it’s our hope that by sharing, we can start to lift the veil on these topics to heal and empower anyone who may feel isolated and to educate women and men.”
The women share how they grappled with infertility, in-vitro fertilization, egg freezing, surrogacy, fibroids and endometriosis. While families experiencing infertility know these terms all too well, sometimes they’re afraid to bring them up with loved ones because infertility remains taboo.
“Quite often there are stereotypes,” Jones said. “Even within their own families that they get married finally and they, you know, start to struggle, they don’t talk about it. These women are going to work, they’re sitting next to you at work. They’re sitting next to you at church, in the gym and you have no idea they’re carrying this painful secret.”
Jones said she hopes that the documentary encourages people to feel more comfortable sharing with their loved ones. It’s already worked. Her mom confided in her after hearing about the project.
“She said, ‘Oh you know I had a miscarriage before your little brother’ and I was like, ‘Mom, really,’” Jones said. “We just don’t talk about it … It’s one of those things where I think it affects the whole family.”
CORRECTION (Dec. 7, 2021, 3:10 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this story referred to Ada Ojeh-Teme as Ada Teme.