Normalizing the Infertility Conversation in the Black Community with Advocate, Sherelle Gilbert

Sherelle Gilbert and her husband have been dealing with infertility for five of their almost eight year marriage. She shares, “It has been a long journey and we are still on it.” 

One reason Sherelle wants to bring more awareness to this issue is to support other people battling infertility and show that people of color are affected by this, too, as she rarely saw people who look like her talking about IVF or challenges around conception.

Q: When did you know you first may have a fertility issue and when did you start IVF?

In 2019 I was diagnosed with endometriosis, diminished ovarian reserve, fibroids and hydrosalpinx. I’ve had a total of 3 surgeries, one that resulted in the removal of both my Fallopian tubes, leaving IVF as our only option for conceiving. In January of 2020 I started the IVF process which resulted in only 1 viable embryo. Because of my low AMH/DOR diagnosis there were only two eggs retrieved and only one made it to blastocyst. We transferred our one and only embryo in September of 2020 and it was a successful transfer. Unfortunately lost our baby girl to miscarriage at 7 weeks. This was such a devastating time for us as I had already been through so much with the surgeries and cancelled treatments due to the pandemic. 

Q: Where are you now in the process of trying to conceive?

We are now in the grief after loss stage of our journey and also making plans to move forward with our next round of treatment. Although we have not gotten our miracle yet, we truly believe our rainbow baby is on the way. 

I recently decided to take a “time out” from my infertility journey because I found myself experiencing extreme anxiety talking about starting treatment in March. Initially, when I met with my RE in January I was eager to start again, but as the time got closer and closer I found myself feeling more anxious and that is not the way I want to go into another round of IVF. I knew that I needed to take time to focus on my healing after miscarriage and not rush into another round. My husband was in agreement with this as well. I think it’s so important to be mindful of your mental health and to listen to your body and mind. Also, because timing is such a big part of fertility, we can feel rushed on this journey. I had to recognize that my RE will be there when I am ready and I didn’t need to rush into the next cycle.

Q: What made you decide to share your story publicly?

What made me decide to share my journey was the lack of representation of black women and women of color in the infertility community. I felt led to be that representation for other women who looked like me and were walking the same path. 

I felt led to be that representation for other women who looked like me and were walking the same path.

Infertility can be a very isolating journey and it often leaves couples suffering in silence and going through it alone. For me, I didn’t know how long our journey to children would take and I refused to deal with it alone. I wanted to help in normalizing the conversation around infertility in the black community and just bring more awareness to those who didn’t know that it affects our community heavily. Because we don’t have these conversations, many often weather the journey alone and carry feelings of shame, guilt and may even experience depression. I didn’t want that to be my story and I didn’t want that to be the story of another black couple, if I could help it!

Q:  Did you know any other black women going through this when you were growing up or even more recently?

 In regards to being a black woman going through infertility, I initially felt like it was only a few of us because of the lack of representation in the infertility community. If I’m being honest, growing up and even up until a few years ago, the face of infertility and IVF was a white woman. 

When I started this journey, I didn’t know of many black women dealing with infertility let alone going through IVF. I looked long and hard on IG and YouTube in search of black women sharing their story and their journey through IVF and found only two at the time. Aside from nobody really talking about infertility or treatment in the black community, I will say that IVF is very expensive and I know that for many in our community that is a barrier to conceiving and many will often go through life never even seeking treatment. But again, I wanted to break down those walls, the misconceptions and be a light in this community for black couples. 

Q:  How has infertility impacted your relationship with your partner?

The more I shared my journey the more I realized that men are often forgotten about on this journey. We often check on the wife and encourage her because she’s the one physically enduring a lot, but we forget that the husband endures just as much emotionally.

Infertility has greatly affected my relationship with my husband. It has helped us get in the habit of having hard conversations surrounding our feelings and emotions on this journey. Those emotions run high with infertility and you have to check in with each other or you both will suffer silently in your own way. 

The more I shared my journey the more I realized that men are often forgotten about on this journey. We often check on the wife and encourage her because she’s the one physically enduring a lot, but we forget that the husband endures just as much emotionally. 

I got into the habit of “checking in” with my husband. If I’m having a rough day, he’s the first one I talk to and vice-versa. Ultimately, this journey has brought us closer on an emotional level. We have learned to better take care of each other and it’s because of infertility. 

Find Sherelle on IG at @sheexperienced