Model & Actress Tomiko Fraser Hines Shares Her 6-Year Battle with Infertility; Gives Birth to Twin Boys (pics)
You know her beauty as the first African American face to represent Maybelline–or any major cosmetics brand, for that matter. But behind the face that has graced countless ads and even racked up some film credits, Tomiko Fraser Hines also has a personal story,one that she’s sharing for the very first time in hopes of inspiring and empowering black women in ways that no age-defying, skin-enhancing, last-all-day beauty product can.
Tomiko’s story is of her personal struggle with infertility. After a successful career in modeling and acting, various advocacy roles and meeting the love of her life, Tomiko set her sights on becoming a mother. But six years ago, she was diagnosed Premature Ovarian Failure–an autoimmune disorder that is likely a family trait given that Tomiko’s sister died from Lupus and an aunt died from scleroderma, a rare autoimmune disease.
“I never thought something like this would happen to me,” Tomiko said as we spoke via telephone the other week from her Los Angeles home. (Spoiler alert: Tomiko has since delivered her two beautiful boys, Kaden James Hines and Bryce Harrison Hines, who were featured on the Ellen DeGeneres show. Check out Tomiko’s Facebook page
for baby pics)
Having Premature Ovaria
n Failure meant that her eggs were no longer “viable” and fertility specialists said that her only option for carrying a child would be to use an egg donor. But Tomiko,was determined. She and her husband spent the next five years and a good chunk of their retirement savings on an emotional roller coaster ride trying to conceive.
“We tried everything from invitro and artificial insemination. I would produce eggs but they wouldn’t take–it was breaking us emotionally, physically and financially,” Tomiko shares. “We would take breaks.But we were exhausting our finances. We went through more money than we actually had. We cried. We despaired. I don’t think there is an emotion that I didn’t experience. Even jealousy of my girlfriends who were able to get pregnant so quick….We even considered that “it just isn’t meant to be for us” and began thinking about being a childless couple.”
Throughout her journey she remembered the shame and guilt so many women have around this. She experienced her own.
After taking some time off, Tomiko and her hubby recommitted to their passion to become parents and opened their mind to a donor egg. The egg donor process was going to cost about $20,000 including the agency fees and legal costs– so they dug further into their retirement funds. Once she opened her mind to a new way of becoming a mother, everything else seemed to fall into place, Tomiko says. They found the ideal woman who would anonymously donate her eggs. “Once the paperwork was done, it was just a matter of linking up our cycles and then combining it with my husband’s sperm.”
On January 17th, she gave birth to fraternal twin boys (check out her amazing pregnancy pics!) . “We chose to put in two eggs, just to be sure. Both took. She is the genetic donor and I am the biological mother.”
Besides for realizing her dream of becoming a mother, Tomiko says she wants to use her journey to inspire other women who may struggle with infertility.
“We have no reason to be ashamed about infertility.”
There’s an even stronger stigma to infertility in the African American community. It’s a taboo subject in a culture where we are subjected to media messages that say black women are breeders who are always having babies. It’s an important issue that I’ve addressed before.
“I wanted to speak to the African American community because I feel like there might be an added level of shame that my husband and I were looking to dispel.” Tomiko also noticed that there were very few African American egg donors. That limits compatible options for infertile black women who may want a donor with similar skin tones and features. “Out of 100 donors, perhaps 2 were African American and one was brown skinned like we were looking for,” Tomiko says.
“I want women to know that all is not lost when you receive a diagnosis of infertility. Remain powerful and informed throughout the process and surround yourself with people who support you.” she says.
Welcome to the motherhood, Tomiko. We are honored to have you. Enjoy your beautiful boys.
Kimberly Seals Allers