Motherhood Journeys: Emmy Award-Winning Reporter Darla Miles on Coping With Grief and Fertility Struggles

Darla-miles
Darla Miles. Image: courtesy of C'est La Zee Photography.

Emmy award-winning WABC investigative reporter Darla Miles is known for her no-nonsense approach to journalism. In 2019, Miles went viral for a clip of her being interrupted while on-air by a rude passerby who attempted to block her shot. Without pause, she raised her arm up to block the man from ruining her segment while seamlessly continuing her story. Her poise and control in that moment gained attention and praise from thousands online who lauded her as ‘unflappable’ and ‘cool-as-a-cucumber.’

On-air she is always so even keeled and professional, you would never know about the immense grief and fertility struggles she’s faced in her personal life. Miles, who has rheumatoid arthritis, had three devastating miscarriages at the age of forty-one. The day after her third miscarriage her husband had a catastrophic stroke and died. The unexpected loss was so emotionally apocalyptic for her, she waited eight years to speak about it publicly. 

Now, at age forty-nine, Miles has come to terms with her grief and wants to continue her journey to motherhood. However, she faces even bigger challenges after having to undergo two spinal fusions (due to rheumatoid arthritis) in ten months and being turned away by her fertility OB, who told her that she’s too old to use her own eggs. According to most fertility doctors she consulted, she was labeled ‘too old’. But in October 2021, the tides turned. She discovered a fertility clinic, founded by a groundbreaking Chinese doctor, who supported her in the egg-freezing process. Now, Miles has three eggs in the bank, continuing cryopreservation (freezing embryos) every month and holding on to hope.  

In conversation with EBONY, Miles details her journey through love and loss, the power of community, and remaining optimistic throughout her fertility process. 

What made you decide to share your experiences publicly and important is it for you to show a non-conventional motherhood journey?  

It has taken me eight years to get to this point and discussing it still difficult. Some of the things I’ve recently shared publicly, I have never even discussed with my mother, sisters nor any of my family. First, I’ve been empowered by the recent dialogue elevating the discussion with regard to infertility in African-American women. No one was listening before. So this has been another struggle that we as women, have had to endure in silence. Secondly, I believe in practicing what I preach. When I knock on the door of a crime victim, and ask them to share their story, I strongly believe that I must do the same. Testimony, without fail, inspires others. 

How has your perception about the value of time and community changed?

As I approached my 49th birthday, it hit me like a ton of bricks – I’d lost time!!!  Between losing my husband at 41, the grieving process, the pandemic, two spinal surgeries and one knee surgery all which left me incapacitated for a number of years collectively, I started spiraling. I’ve always pursued my life so that I would have no regrets, but I found myself backed into a corner with no way to achieve what I have always wanted most in life, to bare children. Over the years I’ve considered adoption, and even started to complete my homestudy to adopt a child from foster care, and that is still something I plan to pursue. Yet, my desire to bring life into this world never waned. I fell myself regressing into the state of hopelessness I experienced when I lost my husband. I shared with a few of my closest friends and they went into action mode! I have been supremely blessed by a circle of encouraging, supportive, the bomb-dot-com African-American girlfriends who would NOT allow me to give up! One friend instantly initiated a three-way call with another friend who started her fertility journey late in life who was also told no, but was ultimately successful and had a baby girl. She then shared her physician’s contact info with me. Another girlfriend immediately looped her bestie with expertise in infertility, who didn’t know me well at all, but did not hesitate to jump in to counsel me.  As for my unconventional approach, it has only been by pushing the envelope my entire career that I have achieved the level of success that I’m blessed with today. “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.”

After the unexpected passing of your husband and multiple miscarriages, what do you credit for getting you through such a difficult time? Is there anything that you would suggest to anyone in the same position? 

My losses have been emotionally apocalyptic. I followed all of the “rules” – got an education, launched a successful career, got married then attempted to start a family – to have my personal life implode within a matter of 30 days with a third miscarriage and his passing. I’ve heard people say their lives pass before their eyes when they die, I felt my life pass before my eyes when my husband died. I remember it very clearly while at his bedside after his passing. My mind was like a computer processor trying to solve a formula that came up with no answer. I couldn’t understand why me and what to do next. I’ve always achieved my “Plan A.” It may have taken multiple approaches, but I’ve never had to divert to a “Plan B.”  I could not think of a way forward. What I did, however was surrender. I surrendered to the grief, the pain, the loss. I allowed myself to feel it, no epidural. Pun intended. But honestly, I really didn’t have a choice because at the time I didn’t have the bandwidth to do anything otherwise. I also think what helped me most is that I’ve always been good at setting boundaries in my life. I didn’t allow anybody to tell me how to feel and what I should do and blocked out all the noise. Protect your brain, protect the energy you allow in your space unapologetically.

How has rheumatoid arthritis affected your ability to conceive? 

First, let me just explain for those who don’t know much about rheumatoid arthritis, what it is. When people hear the word arthritis, they immediately think of inflammation in the joints caused by repetitive motion like athletics, running, or other sports activities. That is not what rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is. RA is a genetic auto immune condition in which my body‘s immune system attacks itself, i.e. all of the joints, soft tissue and sometimes internal organs.  The inflammation is caused by white blood cells attacking. Treatments include steroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, immunosuppressant medications and chemotherapy.  So while many women have difficulty conceiving, I initially had a different scenario. I conceived easily, but my body would attack the fetus as it was foreign, soft tissue. I had to see a number of specialists to try to strike the balance between managing my RA symptoms, getting pregnant and staying pregnant.

Can you detail the experience of being turned away by your fertility OB and did the experience discourage you from continuing on? If so, what brought you out of that place? 

When I began to spiral in late 2021 realizing that I was running out of options, I returned the fertility specialist that I had always seen and had great confidence in while my husband alive. This is one of the highest ranking fertility practices in the country, so it didn’t even occur to me to question my prognosis under their care. I was still recovering from back surgery and told I should not get pregnant because of the bone growth agent in my spine, I am not in a relationship and I wasn’t ready to have a baby on my own. So my girlfriends encouraged me to freeze my eggs – to basically open a savings account. When I had my third miscarriage, I was told at the age of 41 my eggs were too old to freeze and I never questioned it.  But this time, I was determined to go back to my same doctor, and advocate for myself and insist that I freeze my eggs. I knew this could still be a dead end because of my advanced age, but I would at least have the peace of mind knowing that I had exhausted all of my options. 

During my visit, I stuck to my guns, to no avail. My best friend, who is a psychologist, joined the virtual visit to back me up. Her presence only seemed to infuriate the specialist because they were being questioned and pressed and some physicians simply don’t respond well to. I was flat out told me they would not help me. I did even know there was such a thing!! A doctor, who refuses help you!?!!? But that was the gauntlet for me. In the back of my mind, I knew I still had one spade in my hand. I had another girlfriend, who had many fertility struggles and had given birth within the last year at the age of 50. I didn’t remember all the particulars of how she finally achieved success, but I knew whatever she did, is what I wanted to do! 

Knowing I still had options, gave me hope. And that is how I was able to forge ahead. 

Can you describe your experience at your new clinic using Eastern medicine? And any effective, alternative practices they use

My new clinic practices traditional medicine, but with an Eastern lens. There was absolutely no judgment when I told them I wanted to begin freezing my eggs at the age of 48. I wasn’t frowned upon, I wasn’t responded to as if I was being unrealistic or crazed. They were okay with starting at square one with me. The science and technology is groundbreaking, and it is a customized, not a one size fits all approach. Even location is non-sterile like a traditional hospital, with large windows and views of Central Park and spa music and a beautiful aquarium. It changes the entire vibe. I

n my particular case, there is no stimulation, we are just capturing and grading the follicles produced through my natural cycle. I am monitored on a weekly basis and my course of treatment changes depending on my hormone levels and the size of follicles my body is producing. But there is no stress with daily injections or anything like that. There is also an acupuncturist, who I have yet to work with but I am looking forward to it. And they also offer PRP injections to stimulate fertility. 

With traditional egg freezing, my physician tells me that I should have 15 to 20 eggs in reserve. I’m not sure if I am going to get to a count quite that high, but I’m just going to keep putting everything in the bank until I’m ready to cash out! In fact, I have a retrieval scheduled this week so I may have more in the bank by the time this article is published!

Overall, how have you kept your strength and positivity throughout this process?

I have kept my strength and positivity with the love and support of my tribe. My prayers, their prayers for me when I have been unable to pray for myself and knowing now that I’m not out of options. Again, this may fail, but I will have peace of mind that I tried everything I could. Most importantly, it is my faith. I have great faith in the path I’ve chosen.

You are such an accomplished journalist, did these trials in your personal life ever affect your career? 

Absolutely. I take my trials, my pain, and my struggles into every assignment that I do, especially with crime victims. We all share the traumatic experience of a sudden loss. I draw up on these emotions for which it is difficult for anyone to find the right words, to elevate the stories I tell with dignity and respect. I feel it is a calling and my duty to do so. I am humbled and take great pride in it.

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