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Meet the creators of 'Stories We Tell: The Fertility Secret'

“Stories We Tell: The Fertility Secret” airs Sunday, December 19th at 10pm Eastern on MSNBC.
Image: Andre Gaines and Sheinelle Jones, the creators of \"Stories We Tell: The Fertility Secret.\"
Andre Gaines and Sheinelle Jones, the creators of "Stories We Tell: The Fertility Secret."Linn Washington

Sheinelle Jones, Executive Producer

For years, I have watched some of my closest friends struggle with infertility. I’m 43 years old now, at the height of my career, married with three elementary-aged children. Decades ago, I can vividly recall late night conversations with my friends in college, and even high school, about how we wanted our lives to unfold. Little did we know at least half of us would begin to have fertility problems after graduating and starting our careers. Personally, the problem appeared to be much worse among my African American friends. It has been quietly heartbreaking in so many ways.

Image; Sheinelle Jones.
Sheinelle Jones.Mary Ellen Matthews / NBC

As I started to dig into the topic, I learned that so many fertility issues that my friends are dealing with today may not have been prevented entirely, but with the appropriate intervention could have eliminated so many physical and emotional struggles. Because we don’t talk about it, I began to realize that this crisis is not just within my own circle of friends, but women all over the world are silently struggling. I want to do my part to open the door to this heartbreaking crisis.

One of my good friends is a fertility specialist, and she is one of a small number of African American women in this field. With her guidance, I was completely blown away with what women must endure physically and emotionally – all while moving forward in their daily lives as if everything is “okay.” From illnesses that cause women pain, countless surgeries and drug treatments, most people have no idea what many women are dealing with. I wanted to create a documentary where people can witness some of their journeys firsthand, learn the facts, all while connecting with these women emotionally. Most importantly, there are beautiful endings and journeys in personal growth for each of the women featured in this documentary that are beneficial for us all to witness. My intention is to spark an honest conversation amongst friends and family members, and young women and their healthcare providers. It’s time to talk about it.

Andre Gaines, Executive Producer and Director

Image: Andre Gaines.
Andre Gaines.

When Sheinelle first approached me about this project, I had no idea how wide of a problem infertility was among women. She started sending me all kinds of articles and clips and soundbites about the subject, and what started as a small trickle, quickly grew into an avalanche of research material. However, there was no film or television series or special dedicated to infertility, and it was then that I knew that we had to make a documentary. While notable celebrities like Michelle Obama and Gabrielle Union have shared their stories, Sheinelle's vision was to be able to tell this story from the perspective of everyday women, and I was right in line with the vision. These were her friends, many of whom has been bridesmaids at her wedding. Telling this story was personal to her but sharing the story on the national stage meant that women everywhere would no longer have to suffer in silence. After Sheinelle said those words to me, the project took on a new meaning. It was more than a documentary, it was the first step to changing lives, and I would be helping to make my friend's dreams come true in the process. I am proud to be a part of the journey, and I hope audiences are informed, encouraged, and inspired.