Fruci experienced her first miscarriage in June 2021 and the second right before Christmas 2021. “We were expecting our baby to be here right about now. This second time felt bitter and cruel,” says Fruci. “We were preparing, we bought shoes, we had gone away, and we were just about to announce to our family and all of that just sort of went upside down.”
Fruci wrestled with the idea of using her experience as a conversation starter, given infertility was not something society openly explored without stigma, labels, and more pain. After experiencing the loss of two babies, Fruci was unsure what to do with the post-journey that came with loss, how to define it or where to go. “I knew I needed a community of people I could talk to. I needed someone to walk me through the process of what I was feeling,” says Fruci.
“Grief is very confusing,” says Fruci. “I still struggle. I cry, I get angry; I feel disconnected. I feel left out. I feel this deep sadness that I can't describe. First, it comes from the silence of just feeling so drained. And then it comes in the form of an outburst of tears because of what I know I Iost,” adds Fruci.
Fruci details that grief takes over everything, making her feel guilty for being happy. “I understand that it is okay to feel the way I do. That it’s okay that I don't have all the answers, that it's okay to be this hurt,” describes Fruci.
Fruci could find a sense of security in the idea brewing and shaping out to be a future lifeline for mothers who experience infertility. Agape, launched this year, July 12, started as a thought after her first miscarriage and soon grew into a starting network of resources, funding, medical experts, mothers, and more. “I wanted to find all the women especially being a Black woman; this is something we don't discuss. We're ashamed of the situation that we're in and because we've heard so many times, and I've been told this in a ridiculous conversation, that people who have miscarriages are not real women,” says Fruci.
Fruci says Agape is an open space for women who are experiencing miscarriages, going through IVF journeys, experienced stillbirth, given birth but struggled to do so, or experienced the loss of a child in different ways. This statistic represents the commonality of infertility: 1 in 6 couples face infertility (getting and staying pregnant). Unfortunately, the silence surrounding this topic is a dangerous combination that is taking women's lives. Fruci says the statistics need to change. “The more we talk about it, the more we normalize it, the more women step out of the shadow and into the light, knowing that they are not different from anybody else. They are worthy of being mothers, and they will be mothers,” says Fruci.
Fruci says with Black women the statistics are even higher. “There is a high case of insufficient medical attention, not just for childbirth. Let alone when you’re having a miscarriage,” says Fruci.
“I wish someone had told me how much my body was going to change,” Fruci says, citing that she has high blood pressure and has to monitor it more than once in the day. Fruci says aftercare after miscarriages are another season of pain. Fruci says going into a hospital for surgery and allowing her body to be brave was the scariest thing she’s seen. “Waiting for my baby to come out of me naturally, I had to prepare myself mentally to see them in whatever form they are going to look like. That image will burn into my memory for the rest of my life. That’s why Agape exists because I don’t want anybody to go through that alone and not have somebody to talk it over with,” says Fruci.
Now Fruci is on an IVF journey, and she details the endless blood tests, doctor appointments, injections, and sets of 10 to 15 alarms for different medications, some late as 11 pm while others are as early as 6 am. “Sometimes when I'm just about to rest, or my mind is just finally settling from a thought, then it would just go off, and then I'd have to go upstairs and insert this or take this injection,” says Fruci. Fruci recalls when she’s out and has to find the nearest bathroom to take an injection.
“When I missed even one of the medications at one time, I remember just crying in the middle of shoppers because I didn't have an ID and I didn't have a prescription, they couldn’t give me the actual medication, so I couldn't even pick up a spare,” says Fruci. Fruci remembers thinking that a missed pill was to blame for things not working out.
For egg retrievals, Fruci says you must take injections for some time to ensure your eggs are fertilized. This makes you feel like you’re already pregnant, describes Fruci. “That is another emotional roller coaster that comes because you’re preparing yourself, you're talking to yourself about this excitement, you have pain everywhere, you feel exhausted, you feel the same way when you're pregnant,” says Fruci. In addition, Fruci says that paired with the hormonal medication you’re on, your hormones become imbalanced, and you face a flood of emotions.
When your eggs are prime and ready to be harvested, you visit the doctors for a retrieval. “You're excited; you're happy, and you're hopeful. But you're also scared; you're nervous, and your anxiety is going through the roof. And you're asking yourself so many questions that I couldn't even answer,” says Fruci.
Fruci says her husband, Tom, couldn’t walk through his pain because he played an active role as her caretaker until she came out of her fog. “He was not in a position to talk to friends, to see people, his tendency for conversation was similar to mine. So it was eye-opening for me to experience that from my standpoint,” says Fruci.
Fruci’s vision for Agape is to have a community of medical doctors and fertility experts that can support her mission and provide free services to mothers, including free counselling. A space for learning, grieving and simply feeling. Fruci says she wrestled with the question, ‘why me?’ but knows that offering her experience can provide mothers with agape love, the purest form of love that any human can give to another human because God gave it to us first, says Fruci.
Agape will host its first event on August 10. “I've been able to focus on helping other people, doing things that I'm passionate about, and doing what I love best, which is bringing communities together. And that honestly has been a saving grace for me,” says Fruci. Fruci says women can sign up with Agape, follow their work, and receive a 30-day celebrate your wins playbook. Women can also share their stories anonymously and submit affirmations, encouragement, tips, and more.
Fruci says fertility processes are expensive, so she encourages companies with women employees to create benefit plans that cover these costs, including mental health. To support Agape, you can donate to its parent company, Odihi, through Paypal on its website.
“Infertility doesn't define us as women,” Fruci reassures, “I don't need people's pity. I need help and support. I need love and respect, but most of all, I need their kindness and compassion without judgment. To ask me, ‘what is it that you need?’ ‘What does your heart need today?’ " adds Fruci.