contributing writer

Ladies & Quints: Introducing SuperMoms Nadia + Liz

A special note from Kersh: 
We are so proud to announce the arrival of two new supermom's to our team of bloggers: Nadia & Liz Harris! Nadia and Liz are parents to the fab 5, their Quintuplets (who just turned 3!) Read more about their journey to parenting quints here. 

Part 1: Ladies & Quints
by Nadia & Liz Harris 

Raising one 3 year old is challenging, add 4 more 3-year-olds, now that’s a challenge!

Three years ago on October 4, 2013, I gave birth to BBBBG quintuplets and it was the most magical day of my life. My wife, Liz, and I had always wanted to be parents.

Nadia & Liz with their Quints! ( Photo courtesy of Jane Feldman of NYC ). 

Nadia & Liz with their Quints! (Photo courtesy of Jane Feldman of NYC). 

When we first met, she made it known that she wanted to someday have children. Perfect, because I too, wanted children and wanted even more to carry and experience pregnancy through to the most beautiful part. Labor and delivery.

On June 20, 2008, I met and had lunch with the most beautiful and sexy woman I’ve ever met. She was charming, intelligent and shy, to say the least. I was intrigued and knew from that day, she would be the woman I would spend the rest of my life with. Five months later, we were living under the same roof; totally and utterly, madly in love.

In February, 2009, she proposed to me at an upscale restaurant in Midtown, Atlanta, where the table cloths were white, candles were lit throughout the space and the tables were topped with brown runner paper down it's center.

We had this thing whenever we went out to dinner (which was often in these times), we’d play hangman to pass the time as we waited for our orders. Liz works in HR and  (to release the stress of hospitality running through our blood). Liz works in HR and I, at the time, worked for an audio visual company. All in a day's work.

This night in particular was the night before Valentine’s Day. We got dressed up, valet parked, the mood was flawless and the atmosphere screamed, “Love is in the air.”

We walked into the restaurant and I was in awe. We ordered as usual and talked amongst ourselves. A few moments later, we decided it was time for a game of hangman. I cannot remember who went first but it was Liz’s turn. She drew out her lines and the post where the “man" would eventually, but hopefully not, be hung. As always in this game, you want to recognize how many words there will be. My wife, Liz, my girlfriend at the time, had chosen to create a 4-word-guess.  

A few go’s at it and a few letters later, my hand looked like this:

letters guessed: CTS

_ _ _ _

Y_O

M_RRY

ME

I looked up at her as she written in the last letter guessed (I cannot remember what that letter was) and said, in confusion, “Will you marry me???” Right as I said, “me,” her hands came from her pocket and she placed the most beautiful, princess tri-cut diamond ring on the table. I was stunned. Shocked. Happy. I held back my tears and smiled BIG and said, “YES!!!” We kissed and I just couldn’t believe it! My dream was coming true! I was floating in space yet still sitting in my chair.

We were  married in August of that year on a beach in faraway Connecticut. It was a rainy and cloudy day but ironically, it was the most beautiful kind of rainy day. The clouds were strung across the sky as if God had painted in many shades of blues, greys and ivories. Close family from three different states joined us and the next day, we headed down to city hall in New Haven,CT,  to collect our MARRIAGE LICENSE!

It was official. I had become Mrs. Nadia Harris. Well, I was still Dawson and because we didn’t live in the state of Connecticut (where same-sex marriage was recognized at that time), I had to go through the 90 day process of legally changing my name in the state of Georgia where we resided at the time. 

Four months later, on New Years eve, we had our first IUI (intrauterine insemination or artificial insemination) and we decided after a long talk that Liz would be the one to carry our first baby. Since she 3 years older and we knew we would eventually want more children, we decided that she would go. This would make for a great blended sibling mix and we were excited to have children that would be biologically connected to the both of us.

We found out a couple of weeks later that our plan had failed. We were devastated to say the least. We were certain that this would be a new beginning, a thrill, finally! we had each met and married our soul-mates and now it was time to throw a baby into the mix. We were sadly mistaken. We weren’t sure where to go from there but we knew that we would have to take a break a save a little more money.

We decided that from there on out, I would be the one to carry. After all, it has always been a dream of mine to conceive, carry and spend hours and hours in labor building up to seeing that precious face that I had created. Would it look like me? Have my smile? My eyes? My dark silky, hair??? This baby would be loved, wanted and created out of pure love. Created because two people desperately wanted to become parents. Two “untraditional” parents. And though we knew I would without a doubt be the biological parent, Liz would very much be the baby’s mom as well. She would also have her part in creating this child.

We went through a donor bank located in California by the name of Cryo Bank. Togetherwe searched and sifted through our “matched” donor criteria and profiles to find the “perfect” donor. Initially, we looked for a donor who was similar to Liz. At least we would have the possibility of creating a little human whom could possibly possess characteristics of her like - skin tone, height, athletic abilities, etc. And then, we found “him.” The one whom would eventually be “The Donor.”

He has music abilities, like those from my parental side, he’s athletic like Liz and very intelligent. He’s also tall…unlike Liz, we thought, well, we’ll just have extra tall children. Liz said she wouldn’t mind being the shortest Harris in the household. We’ll see if that remains true once they begin to tower her. I vow, though, never to make short jokes.

In spring of 2010, 3 months after our first IUI, we relocated from Atlanta, to New York City. Laying down our first relo together in the great burrow of the “Boggie-Down Bronx.” It was a great part of the Bronx. We were just blocks away from the legendary, Yankee Stadium and all was well. We began exploring the infamous, Big Apple, skipping along and ducking into secret places. Some known, others you just stumble upon. Winning free bar parties, drinking and eating with co-workers, shopping and embracing this new, fun and speedy life. 

My career had also taken off. I was a first time Director for a small Audio Visual company and i was elated. I had worked my way up the corporate ladder, no college degree, just intelligence, integrity and the will to set and obtain my own personal goals for success and ownership of my own destiny. Liz and I were on top of the world. She was a second time Assistant Director of Human Resources but one of the largest hotel in her company. We were on top of the world, living it up but, something was missing. We knew it was that baby we were planning.

We begin by researching fertility clinics. We wanted to seek a professional who was familiar with our kind of story and ready to just get to it. We found the NYC Fertility Clinic. Certainly with their credentials, we would have no problems getting pregnant right away.

Our initial visits were of a couple of counseling sessions. They wanted to be sure that we were ready, mentally ready to have children before we began anything. We thought at first, “who are they to tell us when WE’RE ready to start a family!?!?! Who the hell do “they” think “they” are?!?!? humf!” Ok, now that that was out of our systems, we figured, whatever, let’s do what we have to do to make this happen. Come to find out, we actually receive some good advice from them.

We were given some literature on how to talk with your children at different stages of their lives involving same-sex families and how explain to them where they came using age appropriate explanations. Fast-forwarding a bit, now that they’re here, we know now that we can take or leave some of that information obtained. Today is much different now than they were five years ago. We’ve also learned that all children are different in the way that they may perceive information given to them. In short, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Once, we were “approved” to begin our baby making journey, I had to go through a few tests and the doctor we worked with decided that I needed a little assistance in becoming pregnant. He prescribed me a fertility drug called Clomid. Three failed IUI’s and $10,000 dollars later, we were left feeling defeated, exhausted and disappointed ( or for a lack of better words, heartbroken). So, we decided to take a break, save more money and relieve ourselves of the toll that the whole process had flushed over us. It was tragic. We spent many nights asking why and questioning whether or not this was the right decision. I began to lose focus on my career becoming cloudy and mentally exhausted while in the office. Not achieving our ultimate goal of becoming Mom’s was the worst feeling I could ever imagine. Liz was totally supportive. We were to each other. We stayed busy and before we knew it, we were relocating to New Orleans.

Our relocation to New Orleans (A.K.A. NOLA - short for New Orleans, LA) happened in August 2011. Once we were settled and enjoying the new atmosphere of parades, festivals and southern comfort, we decided about 6 months later, we would begin trying once again. This time, we thought we would try at home in hopes we wouldn't get caught spending thousands of dollars only to have more failed attempts. I had a close friend that offered to “help” us out. Over a course of three months and 3 home inseminations, we were not pregnant. It was devastating to say the least. We were tired and ready and lost. Why??? Why wasn't this happening!?!?!

We decided it was time to reach out to the professionals and get this done. We talked to our OBGYN, alike, Dr. Stacey Holman, MD Assistant Professor of LSU Department of OBGYN, and she referred us to Dr. Peter Lu at the New Orleans Fertility Clinic. Once, we met with him, he ran a bunch of tests and found out that my body didn't ovulate. This was the trouble with me getting pregnant. During these tests, he also found that I had a few cysts , one the size of a golf ball, on the fallopian tubes. Before we could do anything, I had to take birth control in hopes that they would dissipate. He advised me if in any case, this wouldn't help, they would have to be surgical removed. I remember thinking to myself, “gosh! this is going to be a long process!!! I’m just ready to be a mom!” And…then I was afraid. Surgery? I’ve never been put under in my life. What is this. Well, I trusted in God, as I always do and Liz and I prayed.

It would be two weeks before we would know if the birth control would have worked and…it did! We were ready! Dr. Lu decided to try a medication called Follistim. I had to inject myself in the stomach for 9 days, at the same time everyday to ensure follicle growth. For those who aren't familiar with the anatomy of a woman, the follicle is where a woman’s eggs are grown and released before conception. Over the course of the week and a half that I had to inject myself, every other day I had to go into the office to monitor the follicle growth.

My follicles were growing at a slow rate yet, Liz and I remained optimistic. At the end of this process, I had 1 mature follicle (equivalent to one egg) and the very next day, I was to give myself a trigger shot to release the egg from the follicle. A day later, we would be ready to inseminate.

On the day of insemination, we had already ordered two vials of the donor sperm in the case we would have to try again the following month. Instead, we asked Dr. Lu if we could use both vials, one day after the first insemination. He knew of the struggle we had been through and probably could feel out desperation. He agreed and we inseminated in March 2013, one day and the next. This started our 2 week wait period.

Two weeks later, we showed up and I was given a pregnancy test and yet, we had to wait another two hours to find out. Our favorite mall in NOLA was just a couple of miles away so we set off to window shop in hopes we would get positive news. As we walked through the mall, we couldn't help but look through the windows of children shops and yet walk by with fear that we would yet again, be let down with news that again, we were not having a baby.

And then. My cell phone rang. It was Dr. Lu’s office. I answered and sat down at the nearest bench I could find. Liz stood in anticipation. The nurse immediately told me that I was pregnant! I was elated and relayed the news to Liz for I didn't have the call on speaker. She immediately called her mom (who at this time, lived with her sister in Connecticut). As she told her mom the great news, I was given the news that I was, “very pregnant. We are expecting multiples.” I’m like, “Wow!!!!” and the nurse advised me to take it easy, yada, yada, yada, and come in next week for an ultra sound. I hung up and told Liz verbatim what they nurse said. We thought, maybe we’d be having twins. My youngest sister had given birth to twins and currently (while I didn't know yet) my middle sister was also pregnant with twins.

One week later, April of 2013, we went in for the ultrasound. Nervous and excited to find out about our “twins” was exciting. They called me back and we were led to the back room. As the technician examined me, Liz and I never took eyes off one another. She then said, “well, I see 5 gestational sacs.” I replied in fear…”oh my gosh! Are the cysts back?!!?!?!” she replied, “No honey. That’s five babies.”

 

Part 2: Coming soon! 
 


The Mama Mindset: Introducing Mama J

Hey Mamas!

Mama J here thrilled to be a Contributing Blogger for The Pride + Joy Project to share a bit of my journey as a Black queer mama and what’s on my mind right now. Really...it’s #Lemonade 🍋 On repeat. 🍋 🍋 🍋  Yet, that’s for another post. 

At the time of originally writing this post the Queer Mamas Facebook Group had reached 10k in 10 days!! Now the group is almost 14k! Amazing! In fact, the conversations moved so fast that this post will be the first introduction of my family and I. Being this late when being invited to a party is totally not like me, especially one that links two key dimensions of my identity: my queer identity and mamahood. All I can say is #MamaJuggle. However, I did read the intros and stories the first 48 hours or so before going deep into my own work on identity, healing, and clarity on my life’s work since becoming a mama. Thanks to The Pride & Joy Project we are visually represented in the group’s cover photo collage! We’re the transracial family on the upper row, second photo from the left. 

My name is Jillian, or Mama J..

My wife, Stephanie (aka  “Mommy” in our household or more recently, Ma-ma), and I have been together for 12.5 years (10 of which have been in The Bay Area - Berkeley, CA to be exact). We legalized our commitment first as domestic partners at a UPS Store in 2009 (The easiest place to get our form notarized and oh so, romantic! At least we received a Mazel Tov!). We had our first “wedding” in 2011. At the time, we resisted the term since it was not a legal ceremony, though lovingly that’s how our community referred to it. Then on July 3, 2013 we became legal wives* exactly two years after our July 2011 “wedding” and exactly a week after the Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage nationwide.

I love the synchronicity in our love story! Yep, I said love story! I know the cliche is the U-Haul or some variation of that in a gayborhood. And, when I stop to reflect...those double digit numbers above are significant of a lotta choice. A journey of self-love. The intention. All the choices. Revolutionary love. More intention. More choices. The kind of love that heals some of the past injustice. The time it took to do the work that leads to personal justice and freedom. 

We live in a time of innovative promise and connected intelligence. We can choose hate or love. Fear or hope. Justice amidst the injustice. Love for the future. Wonder. Learning. Lovin’ and livin’. Unlearning. Building community.
                    
Then there’s our daughter, Jaylin, who in the cover photo image is only 5 months old and rockin’ her Mommy’s childhood sweater. Jaylin’s now 18 months. She keeps us on our toes running almost everywhere she goes as she loves chasing our dog Badger, climbing everything only to then figure out how to slide down, often head first. Definitely our sweet lover of life, our light, our adventurer, and our gazer. 

I could go on and on about our family. Telling our story or at least my perspective as a Mamapreneur, which I do over on my blog at www.mamajlove.com. I am a proud mama and wife just like YOU, so today I want to talk about Love: A Means Towards Freedom (my first EVER blog post written back on V-Day 2010!). Keep reading. You can always come back to it later ;)

Seriously, take a minute (ok, maybe 30 seconds since we’re all “busy”) to think about love. The kind of love...safe, honest, brave, truthful, (fill in the blank) that sets YOU free. Okay, now take another 30 seconds to think about how love, for better or worse, can set you FREE! I’m inspired just imagining what YOU are thinking about. If you’re struggling on how to identify with this kind of self love, take a minute to reflect on the love for which you are searching. When we give ourselves space to identify--to create the intentional love that we want and need we are able to find love for ourselves and our world. 

How many incremental, bold, and deliberate choices did you make to be with the one you love? To start the journey of expanding your family? To keep going when the dream to mamahood feels out of reach? To have the pregnancy, the birth, or the family plan of your dreams? Just like our choices, our family of origin changes which affects our own future plan for our family. 

So much choice + love + intent. Plus, a lotta will + courage + faith + truth + blessings.

We as queer mamas know firsthand the challenges, the bumps in the road, and the danger that can arise from living our truth. We respond by upping the ante when we add kids to the mix. We do our best. We have patience. We educate. We love. We explain. We show up - for ourselves, our families, and our community. We show how the choices we make affect our future. Then we love some more. We cry. We get frustrated. We may even feel like giving up. Then you rub your belly, take a breath, and get ready to try again or you look at your kiddo(s) in the eyes and know that there are SO many possibilities in the impossible. 

This is Intentional Justice™: 

Simple and deliberate action each day. 
It starts with a choice. A mindset.
Learning. Dialogue. Reflection. Action.
A Mama Mindset: Choices of Self-Love + Intent
Similar to baby steps--putting one foot in front of the next. 
Each step provides an opportunity to call attention to the struggle, challenge, and suffering (the injustice) in Y(OUR) lives. 
In reclaiming Y(OUR) power, the desired outcome for YOU is with choice, love, and intent to experience the kind of justice that restores and heals.
Leading YOU through a wholehearted transformation of Intentional Justice ❣             

This is my current working definition. As with any term or concept, it’s evolving. When I think about our community acronyms: GLBT to LGBT to LGBTQ to LGBTQIA-- it’s still evolving. Here’s what I know for sure as a Black queer mama, wife, daughter, aunt, sister and friend: we are in a time when space is needed both online and off to connect with like-minded individuals on a particular identity or a passion, cause, interest (really, you name it...it’s out there. I mean, case in point, the Queer Mamas Facebook group). From where I stand we yearn to see the love + pride + joy of fellow queer mamas and families like our own. In our complexity. Our evolution. Our revolutionary love. A #Lovelution of #IntentionalJustice ❣

What makes this group different is this: so much love + intent went into creating it based on a need for such a space to commune to share our joys and our challenges, to be seen and heard safely with love + intent. This, my future friends and fellow mamas, is justice or what I’ve dubbed Intentional Justice. To have meaningful conversations that matter. This is my why, my mission--to inspire a Lovelution of Intentional Justice. I don’t propose answers, just action. I love asking questions, holding the space, and sharing my toolkit as I continue to discover my truth as you uncover y(our) own. ♥  So…

I look forward to chatting and holding space for all that comes up in our epic love stories!

This is just the beginning. So much truth has been spoken! The discovery + connection, the love + intent, the joy + laughter and the plethora of feelings in between the ebb + flow of life + love that will ensue in the days, weeks, months, and years. Truly the possibilities are endless, so let’s connect and start circling amidst the daily injustice with a Mama Mindset!

Wanna learn more and Join the Mama Mindset Tribe?! Sign-up at: Mama Mindset Tribe

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With love + intent ♥

        Mama J.

 

Mamapreneur: Mindset Coach + Love Leader + Equity & Inclusion Consultant + Tech Maven
Mama J. Love Coaching + Consulting
Find me at www.mamajlove.com 
Follow my #MamaMindset  journey @mamajlove1 on Instagram + Twitter!


Find out more about Mama J & the Mama Mindset here: 

Hi! I am Jillian “Mama J" Roth, multi-passionate Mamapreneur with an interdisciplinary approach to how I love + live + learn in Berkeley, CA. I am a Black queer mama + wife using the transformative experience of my own conception, pregnancy, birth, and Mama Sabbatical™ journey to inspire, support, and uplift mamas, mamas-to-be, and mamapreneurs + the soul-searchers to Be the Mama of Your Soul! 

Read more: My Big Why: Inspiring a Lovelution of Intentional Justice