My name is Eloise Drane.
I am a black woman.
I am a Mother of black sons and daughters.
I am a kidney donor, a three-time gestational surrogate, a six-time egg donor.
Among many other identities, I am also the owner of Family Inceptions, a full-service surrogacy and egg donor agency, headquartered in Atlanta Georgia, founded in 2008.
As one of only five Black-owned fertility businesses currently in the United States, I wanted to provide a quick overview of my own experience, as a woman of color participating in the field of family building. My hope is that I may provide a helpful perspective for those who may be feeling alienated from a field that suffers from a dismal lack of diversity.
Journey to Black-Owned Agency Ownership
My journey from kidney donor to owner and founder of Family Inceptions is riddled with some all-too-common misconceptions about people of color and fertility.
In 1998, I became a kidney donor for my cousin. This act of service truly opened my mind to other opportunities that could deeply impact the lives of others.
Misconceptions About African American People and Fertility
In 1999, I reached out to an egg donor agency to inquire about becoming a donor. I was told that I would be a great donor however…. “Black women didn’t have infertility issues” and I probably would never get matched. At the time, I admit, I took their words as fact. I didn’t question the validity of their statements. I didn’t know of anyone in my own community who was struggling to build their family, and I had experienced luck with my own fertility, so I filled out their application thinking I would never hear back. Turns out they were very much wrong, and I soon heard back from the agency on behalf of a family who very much did need me.
In 2000, I completed my first egg donor cycle for a family in Michigan. Although I was thrilled to help the family, my experience with the agency was very disappointing. They offered minimal guidance and support and had zero follow up. I had no intention of ever donating again, but God had other plans for me.
Black Women Looking For Egg Donors of Color
In 2002, I came across a surrogacy and egg donation classified site. I added my information and within a few hours, I was inundated with emails from Black women in need of an egg donor of color. This is when I realized just how wrong the agency I spoke to several years earlier were. There was clearly a HUGE unmet need for family building tools for black and brown individuals. I ultimately had six egg donor cycles.
Family Inceptions, The First Black-owned Surrogacy and Egg Donation Agency
In 2008, I founded Family Inceptions, the first Black-owned surrogacy and egg donation agency in the United States, and the first surrogacy and egg donation agency in the state of Georgia. Once I opened my business, people in my life began to open up to me. They had been experiencing fertility or family-building challenges, of which I was completely unaware. I had accepted the lie that people like me didn’t experience infertility challenges in part because the cultural norm was silence.
Black and Brown Individuals Experience Infertility and They Can Be Part Of The Solution
As owner of an agency I am thrilled to be in the position to help normalize the reality that black and brown folks do indeed experience family building issues. Furthermore, black and brown individuals can very much be part of the solution. In fact, we desperately need them to be. The isolation of infertility is compounded by limited social support, reduced access to appropriate donors, and poor representation in the field. We can and must do better!
Last year, after the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other BIPOC at the hands of law enforcement, our nation was forced to confront the realities of systemic racism. Racism exists in the fertility field, and BIPOC have suffered in silence for far too long.
Infertility is still taboo in communities of color. The isolation of infertility is compounded by limited social support, limited well fitted tools (donors) and representation in the field.
Creating Black-Owned Family-Building Solutions
If you are a person of color looking for solutions to your family-building challenges, or if you feel called to BE the solution as a surrogate or egg donor, I hope it gives you some encouragement to see someone who looks like you at the helm of an agency.
For more information about people of color and infertility, I encourage you to check out the resources at Broken Brown Egg, an infertility advocacy blog that aims to normalize the conversation around this issue. You can listen in on my conversation with Broken Brown Egg’s founder, Regina Townsend in episode 17, parts 1 and 2 of the Fertility Cafe podcast. Or Fertility For Colored Girl, (FFCG) a national organization with currently fourteen locations in the US, provides education, awareness, support and encouragement to families of color experiencing infertility and seeking to build the families of their dreams and empower women to take charge of their fertility and reproductive health. Take a listen to Episode 24 as I speak to the founder of FFCG, Rev. Stacey Edwards-Dunn as we speak about black and brown women and infertility.