Tia Mowry wishes people would be honest about what the journey to parenthood looks like — so much so that she has opened up about her own path to becoming a mother in hopes it inspires others to do the same.
When Mowry was in her 20s, she experienced debilitating pain, eczema and migraines.
"I was not being taken very seriously when it came to my symptoms," the 43-year-old actor and author told TODAY Parents, adding that she felt lost and alone. "You know your body more than anyone. You are the one living with what you’re going through day in and day out. Don’t let anyone tell you that something is not wrong with you."
On the advice of a friend, Mowry finally was referred to a specialist.
"She’s a Black woman from Harvard," Mowry said of the gynecologist who was able to diagnose her. "Right away, she knew exactly what it was."
Mowry was diagnosed with endometriosis.
"When she told me that, I couldn’t even pronounce the word," she said. "It was something that wasn’t talked about, but she told me how she knew was my symptoms. I’m a Black woman, and I was in the age range. I was basically a textbook story."
Though shocked with the news, Mowry said she also felt a little bit of disappointment.
"I experienced four or five years of debilitating symptoms," she said. "Why didn’t the other doctors (I saw) diagnose me if I was a textbook story?"
Endometriosis is a disease in which the tissue that lines the uterus, or endometrium, is found outside the uterus. It is a chronic, painful condition that most frequently involves a woman’s ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining of her pelvis.
The tissue presents like normal endometrium, but because it has nowhere to exit from the body, it stays trapped, eventually developing scar tissue and adhesions.
At the time of her diagnosis, Mowry was struggling to conceive.
"I never heard the word 'infertility' growing up. It just wasn't part of conversations with my family and friends," Mowry told TODAY. "We as women growing up, we are just like, 'OK, I’m going to get married, I’m going to have kids.' You have your life planned out and it doesn't always work that way."
When Mowry, who has been married to husband Cory Hardrict since 2008, found out she was pregnant with her second child, a daughter named Cairo, it felt too good to be true.
"When you have endometriosis you’re prone to having an ectopic pregnancy, because of the scar tissue," she said, adding that she took pregnancy tests for the first two months. "With my firstborn Cree, I was experiencing excruciating pain after getting pregnant and that was a fear that the doctors were talking about."
Through her struggles, one thing has kept Mowry going: her ability to make other women feel less alone in their own journeys. And of course, cherishing her role as mom to Cree, 10, and Cairo, 3.
"I don’t want people to feel or go through what I went through with being diagnosed and trying to understand what that means," she said.
The mom of two recently partnered with the baby brand Coterie for its Becoming Parents campaign, which challenges the outdated norms of an oversimplified path to parenthood.
"It’s all about dismantling the traditional norms that we grow up with when it comes to having a family and starting a family," Mowry said. "And sharing the challenges and triumphs that come with that."
The brand also released a book to accompany the campaign called "Not Another Parenthood Guide." All proceeds from book sales will go to the nonprofit Baby Quest Foundation, which provides financial aid to help families pay for fertility treatments.
"The more awareness and stories we share, the more people won’t feel alone or discouraged or depressed," Mowry said. "And the more we talk about our own stories, the more we get rid of the stigma that comes along with IVF, surrogacy, sperm and egg donation ... there are amazing ways that families become families."