Modern-day renaissance woman, creative director of Poppington, and partner to entrepreneur and music mogul Damon Dash, Raquel is a total vibe and the (very) new mama to their son, Dusko.
In celebration of her journey to motherhood, we caught up with this soulful mom-boss while on location at their ranch in Wyoming *just* before she went into labor.
Here, she shares her 7-year road to motherhood—from IVF to late-term loss—and healing in Hawaii before getting pregnant again. Plus, coping with infertility, creating content, being vegan, and living with gratitude.
Path to pregnancy?
Damon and I were trying to get pregnant for close to seven years. About three years into the process, we began to see a fertility specialist at SCRC: Southern California Reproductive Center. Initially, we started with Clomid and then did three rounds of IUI before venturing into the world of IVF.
Once we decided to do IVF, a series of tests followed with one test, in particular, that made all the difference. This test was essentially a mock IVF implantation and included all the hormones up to the point of implantation, but instead of implanting me, they take a little piece of tissue and send it off to Spain to examine. The tissue examination took about two months, and from that, we found my progesterone levels were too low for an embryo to imbed. This information changed everything and meant that SCRC could more precisely tweak my hormones and give me the right amount of progesterone for the egg to take to the uterus.
To start, we had gone through the process of freezing and fertilizing our eggs. We had seven viable eggs from our first egg retrieval, of which five were accepted, and two were considered “Grade A” quality: a boy and a girl.
Last year we implanted our “A quality” egg girl, and it was a success! I was pregnant with our baby, and every moment was beautiful. Then, heartbreakingly we lost the baby at 7.5 months. This was the most traumatic experience I have ever had to go through, and I am fortunate to have such a dedicated partner. He is so entirely there for me and beyond supportive. By the time I came to after the loss, he had taken away my phone, deleted all my baby apps, removed every baby item from the house, and eliminated as many triggers as possible; I’m eternally grateful.
Originally we had planned on taking a babymoon to Hawaii but after our loss I didn’t want to go because my emotions were so high. However, I knew I needed to get away to avoid spiraling into a cycle of sadness. So we went to heal.
Healing in Hawaii?
When we got on the plane, I was gutted. Inflight I had a conversation with the stewardess who fully transformed my perspective and helped me more than she will ever know; she shared with me the loss of her 21-year-old son. Devasted with grief, it dawned on me that I hadn’t even met my child, and yet this woman had spent 21 years with her son and somehow found a way to heal. If she could, so could I. Through our conversation, she opened my mind and showed me a new path, wherein I could either choose to be sad or decide to accept the loss and move forward. Huge thank you to her. I hope she reads this and genuinely knows how grateful I am.
When we arrived it was raining, but after a few days, everything cleared, and the rainbows appeared; it was symbolic. Every day we would meditate in front of the ocean and swim for hours. Our time there was extraordinarily healing.
At the end of our trip we went to a very spiritual and powerful birthing stone in the village. As the story goes, the local women would come together to help a woman give birth on the flat sacred stone. We went, touched it, and said a blessing to lead us into the next phase of our lives.
When did you decide to try again?
The doctor had informed me that we needed 8 to 12 weeks before we could start trying again. Therefore, as soon as we could, I jumped right back in. Initially, I toyed with the idea of doing another egg retrieval because I’m 35 now and wanted more options if our last egg didn’t stick. However, Damon pushed me to stay focused and implant our last embryo rather than spend time doing another retrieval. In hindsight, I’m so grateful we did this because Covid happened. If I had done the second retrieval, I wouldn’t be pregnant right now, considering all reproductive medicine was shut down unless you had cancer. So, that’s what we did. We went with the last egg, and he stuck; our healthy baby boy!
Getting pregnant again was truly the final stage of my healing. Plus, I believe she’s there guiding him and making sure he’s doing well. It’s interesting to come out the other side to speak openly about my struggles and have the emotional space for other women to share with me. I can only hope that my IVF and infertility story can help another woman feel less alone because, as women, we have to support one another.
THE moment you found out you were pregnant again?
After the implantation, you’re meant to do a blood test to find out if you’re pregnant or not. One of my friends wanted us to do an at-home pee test just for fun because I had never done one before. With my first pregnancy I only did the blood test. So, she came over with a pile of pregnancy tests, and I peed on the stick. Damon was more nervous than I was, pacing back and forth, but it was the best feeling when we saw the two double lines! I did a second one a few days later, just to be sure :).
How have you felt through pregnancy?
Overall, it’s been easy-ish. Before I got pregnant, I was vegan, but early on, I started craving eggs and cheese; I couldn’t stand vegan cheese, Beyond Meat, or any substitute. I listened to what my body needed and indulged. Other than that, I was nauseous the first trimester, but never threw up—even though Damon had his camera ready to get it on film! As I graduated into the 2nd trimester, my energy returned, and I was able to start working again with Damon. We went out to the YEEZY Ranch in Wyoming and produced a 150-page magazine on our perspective of the ranch. The first issue is out to print now and will launch very soon. I never thought I would have been shooting that much or working that hard at that many months pregnant, but there I was, the woman walking around with the belly and the camera! My third trimester is all about nesting. We have the hospital bag ready, the crib built, and the car seat in the car. Plus, I’m hardly sleeping. I’m in bed super early and wide awake before the sun comes up. Not sure if my body is preparing me to be up with the baby or if this is just the new me, but nevertheless, I’m up. Lastly, pregnancy during Covid has been a blessing. I can see people when I want or not, and I be totally isolated without feeling I’m missing out on anything. Ultimately there is no real urge to be social.
Funny enough, Damon had two requests of me when we got pregnant; one was that I get an epidural, and the second was that I get a night nurse! Therefore, I have a night nurse, but not a doula since doula’s haven’t been allowed at the hospital until very recently. Regardless, Damon feels that he is all I need. Leading up to the due date he has been practicing the back massages to make sure that I am breathing correctly and other calming practices. Plus, as mentioned, I’m getting an epidural and I have the cord blood retrieval lined up. Damon is a Type 1 Diabetic, so if he and the baby are a match and anything scientific develops for stem cells and the cure of diabetes in the future, Damon could potentially use those stem cells. I believe this is a cool investment in our future.
Reading through pregnancy?
I have not read much. Instead, I’m planning to rely on my instincts and the amazing women around me, including my night nurse. Too much information is can be overwhelming and only serves to make me nervous.
Working out through pregnancy?
In the beginning, I was working out in the home gym, but now I do a lot of prenatal yoga, and we go for long walks with the dogs (you know, Covid days and all). Also, meditation has helped me a lot, especially with the loss. I usually do my morning meditation after yoga, 20-30 min of each. It’s so powerful and strong.
Cooking these days?
Food is everything in our house and we are always sitting for a meal together; so much so that I have a cooking show, Health is Wealth. I went through this whole phase of baking for the first part of Covid (including Banana bread like the rest of the world). Inspired by our healing trip, we went through a Hawaiian period for a little while, and I’m Puerto Rican, so rice and beans are my comfort food.
Talk about what you’re going through, don’t keep things to yourself. So many women dealing with infertility and loss. The strength of sharing your story allows other women to be strong. If we can collectively open up, we can all heal.