In honor of October being Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month, fertility advocate and former Mrs. North Carolina, Nichelle Sublett shares her own story of both loss and triumph. She also shares tips for those who want to give meaningful support to a loved one who has experienced pregnancy or infant loss.
Journey to Motherhood:
My husband, Harold and I were married in April 2013, and I immediately stopped taking the pill when we returned from our honeymoon. I was so excited to be finished with the extra hormones. After 6 months of not conceiving, my OB/GYN ran some tests and diagnosed me with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, which affects 10% of women today.
The hallmark symptom is the inability to ovulate. Learning this news was difficult, but only scratched the surface of what we would endure over the next 5 years of our marriage. We embarked on a tumultuous journey that included: 2 rounds of Clomid, 7 rounds of Letrazole, 4 IUIs, 2 egg retrievals, 2 IVF embryo transfers, 2 naturally-conceived pregnancies, numerous genetic and chromosomal testing, and 5 miscarriages. Not only did I try many traditional medical treatments, but I also tried many holistic treatments like acupuncture, yoga, gluten-free, dairy-free, and fertility meditations.
In Nov. 2018, I had the honor of winning the Mrs. North Carolina pageant, and Harold and I took an entire year off from trying to get pregnant. We both really wanted to be present and enjoy my reign. I chose infertility awareness as my platform, and spent the year speaking, making appearances, traveling, and preparing for the Mrs. America pageant. I didn't go around sharing my story for sympathy or just because, I had a clear intention and a purpose.
I felt compelled to put a face and a voice to this silent, yet pervasive disease that many don't believe affects women of color. I took my greatest pain and transformed it into my greatest purpose by attempting to inspire hope and resilience in other couples dealing with this, but I wanted to help prevent this pain in others. I started a movement aimed at encouraging young women to start asking their doctors for fertility assessments, hence the name #startasking.
Doctors can assess egg quality, egg count, uterine integrity, and measure the reproductive hormones, all long before a woman is ready to conceive. In Dec. 2018, we went back to our fertility clinic to try one last embryo transfer. The third time was a charm, and I got pregnant, stayed pregnant, and gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy on Sept. 6, 2019. He's our greatest gift and blessing from God.
How To Offer the Best Support
As someone who experienced five pregnancy losses, many people have asked me how to support someone who has just gone through a miscarriage. I think it's very caring that so many people want to do something constructive for their grieving friends.
Here are ten things you actually CAN DO rather than say, "Let me know if there's anything I can do."
1. Don't ignore it. Acknowledge her loss and let her vent and express her emotions.
2. Send a heartfelt card, email or text of support
3. Drop off food, cook a meal, or send a favorite treat
4. Don't ask invasive questions like "How far along were you?" Whether someone is 5 weeks or 5 months, the pain is real and it hurts. You don't want to trivialize someone's pain or make your friend feel like she can't be sad because she "wasn't that far along."
5. Send flowers.
6. Offer to take care of tasks or errands.
7. Don't make phrases like, "At least you can get pregnant."
8. Don't forget to ask how the father is feeling. We must remember dads are grieving too, but maybe not showing it in the same way.
9. Provide ongoing support by continuing to check in on your friend.
Nichelle Sublett, Fertility Advocate, TEDx Speaker, and former Mrs. North Carolina 2018, lives by the quote "Be the change you wish to see in the world." She is a Business Development Specialist for Atrium Health and her passion is bringing awareness to infertility, which affects one in six couples nationwide. Nichelle and her husband Harold welcomed their miracle son, Hudson Dean, in September 2019 after six, arduous years of fertility treatments and five miscarriages. Through her advocacy work and the #startasking movement, she aims to reduce the stigma associated with infertility, and spread hope to affected couples by sharing her story of resilience and persistence.
You can connect with Nichelle on IG: @nichellewsublett, FB: Nichelle Wynn Sublett, Twitter: @Nichelle_Bianca