“My pregnancy story does not begin as one of those happy-go-lucky stories. I want to tell it honestly. Five months into my first pregnancy, my water broke while at work. It was 4 pm. I had to deliver a little boy, but he was too young to survive. It never occurred to me that something so terrible would happen to me. I was healthy physically. I was athletic. But I was working too much and I was stressed. A week before I lost the baby, I was at the Golden Globes smiling and grinning on the red carpet. I didn’t realize how stressed I was.
The point is that losing a child changes everything you feel and do from there. After, the next pregnancy was pins and needles for me and everyone around me. Anytime relatives received a late-night phone call, they worried I had bad news. But the second pregnancy was really a perfect pregnancy. I didn’t have a day of morning sickness or any other real problems. Probably the biggest problem was me. You always feel that it is your fault when something happens. But I just tried to do everything I was told to do. At five months, they stitched my Cevix closed, and told me to lie down flat or on my side but really never on my uterus until it was over. It was hard, but I did it. I just laid there and waited on God, believing that he wouldn’t be that cruel twice. And after I made it past twenty-eight-weeks — when they say a baby can survive outside the womb — then I was okay. But I wasn’t okay until then.
The most important thing women should realize is that you must listen to your body. I didn’t listen to my body with the first pregnancy. The night before I lost the baby, I crawled up the stairs thinking that I wouldn’t make it because I was so tired. I was working sixteen-hour days. I was extremely unhappy on the cable network show and they weren’t respectful of my pregnancy. I couldn’t even find my chair to sit down in between takes. I finally made it up the stairs that night and I laid down. The next day I went to work and my water broke. You have to listen to your body.
As a Black woman, it’s not always easy for us to say, “No” or “I cant,” but if I could give up the so called success– the TV shows, the movies, or whatever — to have that baby back, I would do so in a second. So I was forced to say, “I can’t do this anymore.” I basically gave up acting for motherhood, and it’s a decision I have no regret about. It’s definitely hard to have a talent burning inside of you that you want to express and you can’t because you’re doing something else, but this is an incredible part of womanhood and life. To me, having children is just more important than anything. I understand it’s not so for everybody, but it is for me.
That’s why, for me, the best advice I got was to get back on the horse and try again. After the loss, I had surgery to have my fibroids removed. The doctors don’t know and will never know if the fibroids affected my miscarriage, but I had them removed. Six months later, I got pregnant again. I know everybody’s situation is different, but I also think you never truly get over that kind of loss and you never trust your body again until you see a healthy child come. When my daughter came and she was healthy and happy, it made everything okay.
And so after my daughter, Asia, I tried yet again. With my daughter, I didn’t have a day of morning sickness, but with my last pregnancy, my son, I was sick for about four and a half months. Plus, I was hungry every 3 hours around the clock. And I was so busy with this active toddler I didn’t do all the things I did for myself before. With Asia, I totally pampered myself; I got massages twice a week at home, I had a manicurist and a pedicurist come to my house – I was on bed rest at the time so it helped pass the day away. You really need that so you don’t go crazy on bed rest. I watched a lot of TV; I was on the computer a lot and read a lot of books. I really got into nesting mode and decorated my whole Nursery from my bed by telephone and internet. Now I tell every pregnant woman to get some sleep and get organized. Do everything you need to do so you can be rocking and waiting in that chair. Be ready, because your life will never be the same.”
We’ve seen Lela Rochon Fuqua in a lot of roles. We love her as Robin in ‘Waiting to Exhale’ and watch her do her thing in ‘Why Do Fools Fall in Love?’– and ‘Any Given Sunday’. Your man will probably always remember her as Sunshine in ‘Harlem Nights’. One role we haven’t seen much of is Lela as a wife and mother of two. She’s been married to ‘Training Day’ director Antoine Fuqua since 1999, and as she will tell you, pregnancy and motherhood have been her toughest roles yet.
Excerpted from The Mocha Manual to a Fabulous Pregnancy (Amistad/HarperCollins, 2005) by Kimberly Seals Allers