Amsu Anpu, Andra Day, Camille Hammond, Caryn Johnson, Charmaine Broome, Chiquita Lockley, Denise Hendricks, documentaries, Eggs Over Easy, Eloise Drane, fertility, Gessie Thompson, Jamila House, Joan Baskett, Jonita Mizelle, Kawana Mitchell, Keisha Schroeder, Kellee Stewart, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Kristen Abatsis McHenry, Maribelle Verdiales, Monica Best, motherhood, movies, reviews, Richard Paulson, Rimani Kelsey Rogers, Robin May, Robin Smith, Tanya James, Tara Young, Tarrio Broome, Taylor Harrell, Tracy Adams
April 8, 2022
by Carla Hay
Directed by Chiquita Lockley
Culture Representation: Taking place in various parts of the United States, the documentary film “Eggs Over Easy” features a group of predominantly African American people (with one white person and one Latina) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: Black women in the United States have various fertility and reproductive issues that are affected by racial inequalities in health care and cultural expectations when it comes to motherhood.
Culture Audience: “Eggs Over Easy” will appeal primarily to people interested in stories about reproductive issues from an African American female perspective.
“Eggs Over Easy” has the subtitle “Black Women & Fertility,” but the documentary really focuses on a specific group of black women: African Americans who are middle-class and can afford fertility treatments. A truly comprehensive documentary about black women and fertility would have to include black women from many other countries, where access to fertility-related health care can vary and largely depends on how much of this health care is dispensed by a nation’s government or profit-oriented companies. Although “Eggs Over Easy” is a very American-centric documentary, it offers an impressive array of topics and opinions about fertility and parenthood from various women who are mothers, who want to be mothers, and who don’t want to be mothers at all.
Chiquita Lockley is the director, writer and one of the executive producers of “Eggs Over Easy,” which is narrated by actress Keshia Knight Pulliam, who is among the women interviewed in the documentary. The movie starts out with a bold statement that people need to hear more often before they ask women if or when she plans to have children: “Don’t ask a woman what her intentions are for her uterus. It’s none of your business.”
Of course, there are exceptions, such as when it actually is someone’s business to ask. Obstetricians and anyone who plans to have a child with a woman need to ask questions about motherhood plans. But for anyone else, those questions walk a fine line between being curious and being rudely intrusive, because motherhood is a touchy and very personal subject for a lot of women. When in doubt, just wait for a woman to bring up the subject instead of putting her in a position to answer a question that she might not feel comfortable answering.
“Eggs Over Easy” very much takes the perspective that a woman has the right to choose how, when or if she becomes a mother. The movie covers the topics of in vitro fertilization (IVF), freezing eggs, pregnancy complications, surrogacy, adoption, and the choice not to have any children at all. It’s a lot to pack in a documentary that’s less than 90 minutes long, but “Eggs Over Easy” does so in a cohesive way that’s engaging and easy for anyone to understand.
The movie takes the approach of having people share their personal stories, instead of getting bogged down in a lot of medical jargon. “Eggs Over Easy” also does not discuss abortion and the political divide around abortion. Most of the interviewees are people who are mothers or who want to become mothers. However, the movie should be commended in acknowledging that not every woman wants to become a mother, and there should be no stigma attached to that choice.
“Eggs Over Easy” mentions that this documentary was made because infertility and miscarriages are still taboo subjects for many African Americans, who might not be as open to talking about these issues as white people are. Part of the reason has to do with racial inequalities related to fertility health care. It should come as no surprise that white women in the United States are much more likely to be able to afford IVF treatments than women of other races. The documentary cites a few medical studies and statistics to prove it.
According to medical information in the documentary, the three most common reasons why infertile black women have a hard time conceiving children are fibroids, endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). And the statistics for black women are pretty grim when it comes to conceiving children, according to Dr. Amsu Anpu of the Aboriginal Medical Association, who says that African American women are four times more likely to have fibroids than women of any other race. African American women also have more hysterectomies than any other women in the world.
Gessie Thompson, a nutritionist and health coach, tells her story about having fibroids and the very painful process she went through to conceive and give birth to a child. Thompson first went public on a national platform about her fertility story in 2014, when she was featured in an Essence magazine article about it. In “Eggs Over Easy,” Thompson said this Essence article opened a floodgate of positive and sometimes heartbreaking feedback from other black women who told her they what they experienced in their motherhood journeys.
“Eggs Over Easy” also follows the IVF journey of married couple Charmaine Brooke and Tarrio Brooke, as they try to have their first child together. The chronicle includes an inside look at their appointments with fertility doctors, as well as the couple’s candid thoughts on how IVF treatments have deeply impacted their lives. Of course, there are tearful moments too, when those IVF treatments don’t result in a pregnancy, or when the stress of anticipating the results becomes too much.
Singer/actress Andra Day appears briefly in the documentary to talk about her decision to freeze her eggs while in her 30s. It was a decision also made by businesswoman Jonita Mizelle, who says she chose to freeze her eggs when she was “38, not 42.” It’s an option that actress Kellee Stewart says she considered taking while also in her 30s.
Stewart says that she was in her 30s when a seven-year relationship with a boyfriend ended. She had to face the reality that she gave what she called her “best baby-making years” to this relationship, and she had to figure out what she wanted to do if any children she had would be from her own eggs. In the documentary, Stewart also says that fertility tests should be a standard procedure for women who want these tests when visiting a gynecologist—and not something that only happens when a woman is going through a fertility crisis.
Knight Pulliam also talks about her journey to motherhood, which included being pregnant in 2016 while going through a very difficult divorce from former football player Edgerton “Ed” Hartwell, who publicly questioned if he was the father of the child. Their daughter, Ella Grace, was born in January 2017, a year after the former couple’s wedding. (A paternity test proved that Hartwell is Ella’s biological father.) Knight Pulliam has since gotten married again. She and actor Brad James wed in 2021.
Women who didn’t have problems conceiving share their emotionally harrowing stories about losing their babies to miscarriages or stillbirths. Tanya James says she was ashamed of talking about her miscarriage until she went public with it and found out that many people in her life went through the same thing. Jamila Hauser talks about having a stillbirth of a baby girl and was still recovering from it when she saw an “Oprah Winfrey Show” episode about infertility that helped her get through some of the emotional pain.
When she was 30 years old, Tanya Cobb had a stillbirth of a 5-month-old baby. Cobb says part of the healing process is talking about the trauma: “In order to take care of us mentally, spiritually and physically, we have to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.” The general consensus is that professional counseling is recommended for people going through fertility issues or who have experienced the death of child. People who can’t afford to hire professionals can usually find free support groups online.
For women who cannot or will not conceive children but want to become mothers, surrogacy is an option for those who have the financial means to do so. The documentary includes interviews with a surrogate named Keisha Shroeder and with Eloise Drane, an egg donor who started a fertility agency for women of color called Family Inceptions. Drane says that the 2016 dramatic movie “When the Bough Breaks”—which is about a surrogate who becomes a nightmare for the couple who hired her—is a completely unrealistic fantasy of what most surrogacy experiences are like. Drane states that most reputable fertility agencies do rigorous background checks and vetting of surrogate applicants before accepting surrogates into their programs.
Adoption is another choice for women who want to become mothers, including “Eggs Over Easy” interviewees Denise Hendricks and Joan Baskett. Hendricks says that, as a single woman of a certain age, she chose adoption after she decided that she didn’t want to have a child through a surrogate and a sperm donor. Of course, the down side to adoption is that it’s usually a lot longer process than surrogacy, especially if the desired child would be the age of a baby at adoption.
As for women who are child-free by choice, Kawana Mitchell and doctor of physical therapy Tracy Adams are two women in the documentary who say they never want to become mothers. It’s mentioned that being a woman who chooses not to have children is perceived by some people as much more taboo to talk about than miscarriages, stillbirths and infertility. People who have hangups about women not wanting to become mothers usually have very backwards and sexist views of a lot of things, because men who don’t want to become parents aren’t shamed as much as women who feel the same way.
Other people interviewed or featured in the documentary include fertility experts, such as obstetrician/gynecologist Dr. Caryn Johnson; Dr. Richard Paulson, president of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine; Dr. Rimani Kelsey Rogers; Dr. Kristen Abatisis McHenry; Dr. Camille Hammond; Dr. Maribelle Verdialis; and Dr. Monica Best. Also weighing in with their opinions are licensed professional counselor Robin May (whose specialty is in counseling black women); Tara Young; Taylor Mitchell; and Robin Smith, a woman who had adenomyosis but was misdiagnosed with having cervical cancer.
The technical production aspects of “Eggs Over Easy” are adequate and avoid being too flashy. The movie has a few scenes with sound mixing issues, where the audio in the scene has too much echo, but the content of the documentary is very informative. The filmmakers also chose interviewees who tell their stories in compelling ways. The “Eggs Over Easy” editors should be commended for fitting so many details in a clear and concise manner.
“Eggs Over Easy” is not boring, but it’s not a documentary that anyone can enjoy. Some of the topics might be too emotionally heavy for some people, while other people just won’t find anything to relate to at all in this movie. You don’t have to be an African American woman to relate to the documentary, but viewers who will appreciate this movie the most are those who want to hear a wide variety of viewpoints from African American women about fertility and motherhood.
OWN and Discovery+ premiered “Eggs Over Easy” on January 4, 2022.