Click Read More + Comment for additional photos. Meet, Mother, Wife and Biochemist, Niurka. Not only was she motivated to become natural and cease the “creamy crack” for her little girl by teaching her child to see the beauty in her own hair through example, but to conceive as well… you see Niurka has been diagnosed with fibroids since she was seventeen years old. I met this beautiful young woman and her little girl a few weeks ago by chance in Urban Outfitters. Sometimes I feel chances are meant to be and in this case, to share her heartwarming, beautiful and inspiring story with all of you.
“There’s no reason at all to be concerned”. I have heard this statement time and time again since I was seventeen years old – the first time I was told that I had uterine fibroids. Looking back I think I always knew, deep down, that despite the many clinicians who wanted to convince me otherwise, those fibroids would someday bring me great troubles. After all, despite the fact that several women in my family were diagnosed with fibroids, and that some experts estimate that as many as 20 to 40 percent of African American and Hispanic women have fibroids, what could possibly be normal about noncancerous tumors growing in my womb? Despite my reservations, however, I allowed myself to be convinced. With every annual check up, the casual attitude of whichever doctor or nurse was completing my sonogram would always set my mind at ease. “These folks are the experts”, I’d say to myself, “If they’re not worried, why should I be?”. No matter how well I played the part, though, the fear was still there, and so another year would pass, another checkup completed, and I would always stop to ask “So…those fibroids, are they anything I should be worried about?”.
Fast forward to 2008, having moved out of my parent’s home in New Jersey to an apartment in Manhattan, I began to take notice of, what seemed to me at the time, a curious “trend.” All around me, more and more women of color were proudly displaying their natural hair. Waves, curls, kinds, twists, braids, and locs – texture was all around. This was both intriguing and shocking to me. I had always worn my hair straight. Faithfully, I traveled every week to a Dominican hair salon in Washington Heights. The process was always the same: wash, apply curlers, 60 minutes under a hooded dryer, 20 minutes of straightening with a blow dryer, and a few minutes with the flat iron. Once every eight weeks or so, I’d go also have my hair chemically relaxed. Living in Jersey, that system suited me just fine, I’d drive in early Saturday morning and be out within a few hours. The problem, though, in typical New York fashion, I had ditched my hair for city life, and the one hour train ride from my apartment in Gramercy Park all the way uptown week after week became daunting. So, in December of 2008, partly inspired by the many women I saw day to day on the street with their beautiful natural hair, but mostly out of sheer convenience, I said goodbye to my old salon and ditched the creamy crack for good. I transitioned for 15 months; this wasn’t easy. Dealing with the two textures was frustrating; there were dozens of times I nearly gave in to temptation, but by then I had new reasons to keep me from going back to straight hair. In early 2009, I began to have a strong suspicion that my boyfriend at the time was going to propose. I began to picture our married life together, and my thoughts eventually went to our future children. A question began to haunt me, “If I were to have a daughter, how would I want her to feel about her natural hair texture?” I knew what the answer was. I would want her to feel she is beautiful, and I knew that wouldn’t happen unless I displayed my curls with pride. And so, I stayed the course. By spring of 2009, my natural had grown to just past my cheeks. I realized the time had come, so I made an appointment with a stylist at Ouidad salon and said goodbye to my straightened ends. Later that year, on the rooftop of the Gramercy Park Hotel, my boyfriend asked me to be his wife. Without reservation, I said yes.
It didn’t take long for us to plan our wedding. We knew we wanted to marry on the 18th of December 2010 – the 7year anniversary of the day we first met. The wedding would occur in an old converted barn belonging to a lovely bed and breakfast in Waitsfield, Vermont called the Round Barn Inn. We would exchange vows in the morning, enjoy a brunch reception with our guests, and carry on the celebrations with a bit of ice skating later that afternoon and an after party that evening. It was a unique event, and I knew early on that I would wear my hair natural. We also decided early on that we would begin trying for a baby right away. Our wedding was lovely, truly the happiest day of my life, and I looked forward to starting our family right away.
Months past, however, and still no baby, after a while, I began to worry, and worry always leads to speculation. “It can’t be the fibroids”, I said to myself, “There’s no reason at all to be concerned…is there?” Well-meaning friends and family gave their input, “Just relax” they’d say “It’ll happen when you’re ready”. Over a year pasted and we were still without child. By then, I was done relaxing. It was time to see some experts. And so we did. My husband and I sought out the best fertility specialists in Manhattan. We got an appointment, and soon began testing. Any woman who has ever had to endure the onslaught of invasive and uncomfortable procedures prescribed by fertility specialists will attest – they are awful. I completed them all and waited (not so) patiently for the results to come back. In the end, it was no surprise to me; the no-cause-for-concern fibroids were to blame. What shocked me, though, was the recommended course of action – a myomectomy. “I just don’t see any other way”, my doctor concluded…“If you want to have children, you’ll need to have this surgery”. It was at that exact moment that I decided to quite being a passive member of my healthcare team. My major as an undergraduate was Biochemistry. Upon graduation, I took a job as a medical and scientific writer. The time had come for me to put my knowledge to work for me.
So I hit the books and the abstracts and the medical journal and the Internet, specifically www.pubmed.gov. I became obsessed with finding out everything I could about uterine fibroids. I learned about how they relate to the estrogen/ progesterone relationship in our bodies. I learned the different types of myomectomies performed. I spoke with physicians who were treating fibroid patients with ExAblate, a new noninvasive surgical procedure. I was disappointed to learn this procedure is not recommended for women who are trying to conceive, but I was hopeful that new modes of treatments were still being sought. In my quest for information and options, I met with dozens of doctors. One with out so much as a glance at my sonogram, handed me a prescription for Clomid, a popular fertility drug, that some of my friends had successfully used. However, by then, I was suspicious enough of any drug which directly the estrogen level of a patient, to tear up the prescription once I left that doctors office. Later, I would learn that a friend after having tried Clomid, was forced to get a myomectomy when her fibroids great to over twice their original size after just one round of the drug. Knowledge was power, I decided, and I was going to use all the knowledge I gained to formulate my own course of action.
In the end, I decided on alternative medicine. After reading Healing Fibroids Naturally: A Doctor’s Guide to a Natural Cure, I made an appointment to speak with its author, Dr Allan Warshowsky. This is when everything began to change. He ordered a new serious of tests, none invasive, in order to check for deficiencies. He put me on a vitamin regimen and suggested several changes to my diet. He also recommended that I see an acupuncturist, and so I began to see Sharon Yeung of Five Seasons Healing who, in addition to weekly acupuncture, prescribed Chinese herbs for me to drink with hot water. Sharon advised that we not try to conceive in the 12 weeks I was to take the herbal teas. I followed the regimen very carefully. I said to myself that, if after a year, we still were unable to conceive, then, and only then, would I consider a myomectomy.
When the three-month mark hit, we began to try again, and we conceived, on the very first try. I will never forget how it felt to know that I was carrying a child. That most inhospitable womb was now suddenly my baby’s first home. I made a decision early on; I was going to have this child naturally. With that in mind, I got to work on seeking out the members of my birthing team. I interviewed dozens of potential midwives and doctors. Many of the questions I asked them came straight from Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. In the end, I decided on Dr. Gae Rodke as my OB/ GYN, Chantal Traub as my Doula, and Dr Charles Swencionis as our Hypnobirthing coach.
I cannot say enough positive things about these individuals. They believed in me, and they believed in my body’s abilities. They knew that I was going to be able to deliver this little life to the world, and they were right. On Friday, January 11th after just six hours of labor, at approximately 5:55 AM, I gave birth to the loveliest person I have ever met in my life, Nora. It was the greatest moment of my entire life.
Seven weeks have passed since our little Nora has entered our lives. We are exhausted, for sure, but also completely delighted and madly in love. Recently, I noticed that the ends of her fine baby hair has started to curl. That suits me just fine, and I suspect she doesn’t mind that one bit either. Often, I’ll catch her looking intently at my hair. In the evenings, just before bed I nurse her quietly our dimly lit bedroom. It is during this time that she’ll reach her little hand up and gently stroke my curls just before closing her eyes and drifting off to sleep.
“Anyway, UBB, I share this with the both of you because I wanted you to know that your website, and your advocacy for clean living and natural products have been a huge inspiration to me. I changed so much about how I lived as a result, and I’m certain the changes that I made were the reason I was able to have my little girl without the use of any medical interference.
Thank you again for all of your wonderful work. I’m grateful every day for UBB.” –Niurka