The courage to try again: Mrs. North Carolina 2018’s victory over infertility

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Photo courtesy of Nichelle Sublett

Former Mrs. North Carolina Nichelle Sublett struggled to conceive for years. From several heartbreaking miscarriages to painful IVF treatments, she experienced it all.

Now, Sublett and her husband, Harold, are now pregnant with their first child — a boy. The couple couldn’t be happier.

After winning the crown for Mrs. North Carolina in 2017, she made it her mission to use her platform to spread awareness about the painful realities of infertility.

Women near and far began reaching out to her through the hashtag she created — #startasking — to share their stories, as well. It became an outlet for women to open up and to build a sense of community.

Now, Sublett is sharing her updates and further discussing how infertility issues continue to plague women, especially women of color.

Photo courtesy of Nichelle Sublett

The latest

Last July, the Subletts made the decision to sign up with Southern Surrogacy in hopes of being matched with a woman to carry a child for them. At the time, the wait list was about 5-8 months.

But something told Sublett to try just one more time. She knew there would be less pressure this time around because they had the surrogacy plans.

The preparation for embryo transfers takes about two months. During that time, she took pills and wore up to three estrogen patches that had to be changed every three days. She had to endure painful injections in her hip with an extremely large needle at the same time each morning. If the transfer “took,” she would have to continue the injections 11 weeks into pregnancy.

In the end, it was all worth it.

Around Day 5, Sublett knew it had worked. She took an at-home pregnancy test, against doctors’ recommendations, and it was positive.

On Christmas Eve, Sublett and her husband got the official confirmation from their doctor that they would welcome their first child in nine months.

“I was blown away,” Sublett said. “Even now, at 26 weeks, I still can’t believe it. I literally walk past mirrors and stop because I see my growing bump. I heard my baby’s heartbeat for the first time on January 9. We recently found out that we’re having a boy!”

Courtesy of Nichelle Sublett

Sublett describes her pregnancy as being very scary after experiencing so much loss in the past. Her obstetrician was understanding and supportive of her concerns, so she initially went for visits every two weeks instead of the usual four weeks.

As she awaits the birth of her baby, she is serving as a support system for other women experiencing infertility.

“I want to be there and give them hope. Keep the faith. It is possible.”

How to support others

When someone close to you experiences loss or infertility, being there for them is very important. But how do you do that? Sublett shared three ways to offer support.

  • Let them lead the conversation when they’re ready to open up.
  • Acknowledge their feelings.
  • Check in on them, but try not to be overly pushy. A simple, “I’m thinking of you,” text means a lot. Sending scriptures and/or encouraging words can help.
Courtesy of Nichelle Sublett

Infertility and women of color

While infertility plagues women of every race and ethnicity, studies have shown that it’s twice as likely to affect black women. Assumptions that black women are “more fertile” and don’t suffer from the same issues just aren’t true. And medical marketing heavily targets affluent white women, as if other women don’t face the same issues.

“In our community, we don’t talk about our issues,” Sublett said. “The silence is hurting us.”

Thankfully, more groups are forming to offer support to black women who deal with these issues. Fertility For Colored Girls is a national group with a chapter in Charlotte that is seeking to break that silence and bring awareness.

“I was so ashamed and confused when I first found out about my infertility issues. I didn’t see women who looked like me. I would ask myself, am I some kind of outlier? Where are the women of color?”

She said it’s important for companies to include diverse images on their websites and in their branding. Women need to see faces just like theirs to know they aren’t some type of oddity, she added.

The shift on testing for these issues needs to start sooner, as well, she said.

“Doctors should routinely screen women once they turn 30,” Sublett recommended. “We shouldn’t have to wait until we try and fail for doctors to then step in and explain the why. If your doctor isn’t asking, speak up. It’s better to know early, so that you can prepare accordingly.”

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