Gabrielle Union Shares How Her Surrogacy Process Felt Like an 'Underground Railroad of Fertility'

Gabrielle Union
Ramona Rosales

Gabrielle Union is getting real about about her infertility struggles.

The 46-year-old actress covers Glamour's latest digital issue and discusses how challenging it was to find out information about infertility, and why eventually making the decision to welcome a child via surrogacy was a challenging one to make. Union and her husband, Dwyane Wade, welcomed a daughter, 5-month-old Kaavia, late last year.

"Nobody was really open when I had questions," she says, likening the process to an "underground railroad of infertility."

"The only reason I heard about certain doctors or treatments or new technologies or new procedures -- whether that be diet or Eastern philosophy -- was through a whisper network, and mainly from women who did not look like me or who had a very different journey through life than I did," she said.

Despite the personal nature of her fertility challenges, Union wanted to open up about her struggle in order to dismantle the shame and stigma.

"So much of the Instagram life is creating these perfect illusions, right? People have kids -- even through surrogacy or IVF or whatever -- and the kids just appear. Rarely do we hear how," Union says. "What was the journey? Without understanding what got to baby, it feels like easy and overnight. And that's not the case."

"... I would never say that I'm giving anyone permission, but sometimes it takes somebody doing something to be like, 'Oh sure, I can talk about this. It has no bearing on my value, my worth, the validity of my motherhood journey,'" she continues. "So I try to be as open as possible. I’m telling people the water’s warm. Dive on in."

Gabrielle Union
Ramona Rosales

Though she's delighted by her family's newest addition -- she helps to co-parent Wade's sons, Zaire, 17, Zion, 11, and Xavier, 5 -- Union still struggles with never having experienced pregnancy.

"I’ll see a pregnant woman and I just feel like, Damn, you know? I’ll ask myself, Would my relationship with her be different?" Union says. "And then I go home and have a whole-a** baby."

Union's baby is not unlike other little ones; Kaavia often experiences trouble sleeping, something that Union often frets over. 

"She's like, 'F**k your sleep. F**k my sleep.' It's annoying," Union admits. "I've gotten to the point where I'm OK with her crying. I’ve just gotten used to it. You know, on the airplane they're like, 'You've got to put your mask on first.' But the guilt of feeling like there’s nothing else I can think to do… I don't even know if I’m feeling guilt or fear or exhaustion. I don't know. I feel nuts."

The Becoming Mary Jane star's very typical parenting woes came as a surprise to her, as she thought she'd be the exception, not the rule.

"When they say that everything changes, I assumed not me. I thought, I’m not going to be like the others! And… I’m like the others," Union says. "... Part of the journey is being OK with how others -- specifically moms -- are viewing you, judging you, praising you... You feel raw and exposed and vulnerable."

Gabrielle Union
Ramona Rosales

Union's joy over motherhood's ups and downs come after she was raped while in college at UCLA, something she revealed in her 2017 memoir, We're Going to Need More Wine. After writing about her rape, Union was forced to relive the trauma during her book tour, as well as take on the pain of other women who opened up about their own experiences.

"It just felt like a never-ending loop of evil and horrific pain and trauma," she says of that period in her life. "You’ve created this safe space, which is awesome, but it’s almost like you’re just… I’d start the day off like an empty pitcher. And little by little, eventually my pitcher runneth over. At a certain point, I don't know what's mine and what's yours and other people's. It all just feels like you're drowning in plain sight and everyone's looking for me to save other people."

Union's rape, infertility struggles and other painful events throughout her life made her especially grateful for the joy that little Kaavia brings, and she's unabashed about sharing that happiness with others.

"When you share so much pain and grief over the decades that I’ve been in this business doing press, you’re kind of just like, 'I want to share some f**king joy,'" she says. "She brings me joy."


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