Actress Gabrielle Union penned an essay for Time Magazine where she opens up about her journey with surrogacy. The Being Mary Jane star welcomed her first biological child with her husband, former NBA player Dwayne Wade, in 2018, a daughter named Kaavia James Union Wade.
Gabrielle begins her article by sharing that in 2016, her doctor Kelly Baek tol her, “Your best chance for a healthy baby would be surrogacy.” The actress went on to share what her thoughts were at that moment. “I had been through an adenomyosis diagnosis and more miscarriages than I could confidently count, and all I could do was nod. I was not ready to do that. I wanted the experience of being pregnant. To watch my body expand and shift to accommodate this miracle inside me.”
For the next year, Gabrielle instead opted to try IVF cycles, which were unsuccessful. She then decided to try something different. She considered taking Lupron, “which basically quiets the adenomyosis.” Her doctor told her that her chances of bringing a baby to term were 30% with this method. The side effects of taking this drug, however, are intense. But instead of taking this route, Dwayne said something that changed her mind. “You’ve done enough.”
Upon hearing those words, Gabrielle was displeased. “I was fighting with my husband about what was best for my body? Did he really think that surrogacy and a baby was our chance to set it right? To rebalance?” she wrote. But Dwayne was unwavering. He told her, “As much as we want this baby, I want you. We’ve lost too much in our relationship for me to be okay with encouraging you to do one more thing to your body and your soul.
Gabrielle was nervous about getting started with her surrogacy journey. She met anonymously with a potential surrogate over the phone, connected and went through the process with their agency and Gabrielle’s doctor, and ultimately met. It turned out that her surrogate, Natalie, was a big fan of Gabrielle’s. “This is such a trip,” she said when they met face-to-face. “I have your book on hold at four different libraries.” The Bring It On star described Natalie and her husband as, “Free spirits with an aura of goodness to them. They had an easy rapport and were affectionate with each other. I hadn’t known that would be so important to me, knowing that she had a partner in this.”
As grateful as she was to her surrogate, seeing another woman carry her baby was difficult for her. “This growing bump that everyone thought I wanted to see was now a visual manifestation of my failure. I smiled, wanting to show I — we — were so happy and grateful. But part of me felt more worthless.” Seeing her daughter on the ultrasound brought back the memories of the babies she had lost. “When I miscarried in the first trimester, I never thought I had lost a baby baby. I had never let it count. Looking at the screen, I understood how many potential babies I had lost.”
At the five-month mark of Natalie’s pregnancy, Gabrielle finally allowed herself to be excited about her daughter’s arrival. She and Dwayne were in Beijing with friends. He was so sure and excited about this pregnancy that he revealed they were expecting, something they had never done before when they had been pregnant. They celebrate the news and Dwayne decided he wanted to get a tattoo of his daughter’s name, a name that had been on Gabrielle’s wish list for decades.
As they sat in the tattoo parlor, Gabrielle had a thought. “I thought of something he [Dwayne] would sometimes say to himself and to others: ‘My belief is stronger than your doubt.’ He usually said this when he was counted out after an injury, or walking away from a deal everyone thought he was crazy to turn away. But this was different. I didn’t know if his belief was strong enough for both of us.”
A few months later, Natalie gave birth to Kaavia via emergency c-section. “My body seized in a full release of every emotion,” Gabrielle wrote on seeing Kaavia for the first time. “Relief, anxiety, terror, joy, resentment, disbelief, gratitude . . . and also, disconnection. I had hoped that the second I saw her, there would be a moment of locking in. I looked over at Natalie and her husband. There was a stillness to them. I looked at Kaavia James on the table, and then back at them. It took all of us to create her, so I wanted to share this time with them.”
Gabrielle closed out her essay by sharing her fears. “I will always wonder if Kaav would love me more if I had carried her. Would our bond be even tighter? And Dwyane leaves me with another riddle that has no answer. I can never know if my failure to carry a child put a ceiling on the love my husband has for me.” She concluded her story by writing, “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.”
Thank you so much to Gabrielle for sharing her story candidly and with beautiful truth.