To read part two of the series on infertility, click here.
Debra Peek-Haynes seemed to have it all: a successful career as a commercial relator, a supportive family and a loving husband, Dr. Frederick Haynes III, who pastored a large church.
However, few knew that although the pastor and first lady of Friendship West Baptist Church in Dallas seemed to lack nothing, one thing was missing.
The newlyweds were having problems conceiving.
“I had stopped taking birth control pills and within a couple of months my menstrual cycle stopped,” said Peek-Haynes.
She visited five different physicians in the Dallas area, one of whom predicted that if she did conceive, she would lose the baby in the eighth month and possibly develop lupus.
Through it all, her husband Frederick remained her strength, she said.
“He’s a very brave person and we talked about it,” said Peek-Haynes. “He made it clear that if we had a child, that’s fine and if we didn’t that’s OK too. He was very supportive and made it known that being with me was most important.”
Few friends were told about the couple’s painful struggle.
“I like to say I’m a private person but I’m very cautious about when and what I share, so only a few very close family members and friends knew. I made sure those I shared it with were sensitive and supportive,” commented Peek-Haynes.
This is often a wise course of action for couples struggling with infertility, some experts say.
“We strive to help couples emotionally get through the process because it’s stressful,” commented Dr. Matthew Will, physician at Midwest Fertility Specialists. “It’s someone trying to create a family and that’s important. For a lot of people they’ve been successful at so many things in their life that they want to be in control of this, but it’s out of their control.”
After years of doctors’ visits, one would think financial stresses would take over the situation, but Peek-Haynes said she was more frustrated by doctors. “After speaking with five negative physicians it gave me hope to meet someone who could help me,” she said. “It was more of having faith that God was leading me to my answer. I was very much in tune that God had something for me because I refused to take what the other doctors said seriously.”
During a trip to Detroit, a family friend informed her about a gynecologist in the area that practiced holistic medicine. The following day on a return flight to Dallas, Peek-Haynes sat next to a colon therapist who said she got referrals from a holistic practitioner. The business card Peek-Haynes was handed was for the same person her friend in Detroit mentioned the day before, Dr. Jewel Pookrum. Next, she said, healing began with a two-hour examination by Pookrum.
“It’s very important to change your mind to make a mental adjustment in how you see your health,” stated Peek-Haynes, who believes her infertility was due to nutritional deficiencies. “She gave me a book about diet and emotions and that’s when I became passionate about my health.”
One year after committing to a macro vegetarian diet and taking better care of her body, Peek-Haynes was pregnant.
Dr. Desiree McCarthy-Keith, reproductive endocrinologist at Georgia Reproductive Specialists said among the 7.3 million women in the U.S., about 11.5 percent of African-American women experience a variety of infertility problems compared to 7 percent of their white counterparts.
According to Fertility for Colored Girls, an organization founded to provide a voice to women struggling with infertility, a variety of holistic approaches can be tried, including acupuncture, yoga and massage therapy.
Peek-Haynes said at the time she was told there weren’t as many fertility clinics in the area and the one mentioned was very expensive. Adoption crossed her mind, but she was determined to have biological offspring.
Today, 22-year-old Abeni Jewel, named in tribute to African traditions and the holistic doctor who helped her mother conceive, has heard her “miracle baby” story many times now, as her mother often tells the story at seminars and workshops.
Peek-Haynes has written a book titled The Beginner’s Guide to Healthy Living, a cookbook with a collection of meals and healthy living tips. She puts a twist on hearty comfort foods and mentions key items to keep in your pantry.
“I never thought about writing a book, but after the first few years of my experience at speaking engagements and cooking demonstrations, people continued to ask ‘Where’s the book?’” The main theme of the book is ‘you can take responsibility for your health,’” said Peek-Haynes.
On Nov. 1 she will speak at Eastern Star Church’s main campus, 5750 E. 30th St. for their healthy living event titled “Heart 2 Heart” where she will sell and autograph her books.
“It was very important to find someone that made sense to me,” said Peek-Haynes. “We all have the capabilities to find the answer but in the process we must be proactive.