Nichole Holmes was hesitant to reveal her past fertility struggles on television. The Nashville real estate agent, however, couldn't let other women feel alone.
"So many women go through this. If I can just help one person not feel so alone or like they're defective, then it's well worth it," Holmes, 46, tells PEOPLE in an exclusive conversation about her journey to now being mom to 5-year-old daughter Arya.
On Marriage or Mortgage, the new Netflix reality show that she co-hosts with wedding-planner Sarah Miller, Holmes tries to sway couples into investing in their dream home rather than spending their savings on their fantasy wedding.
It's in the third episode that Holmes briefly mentions her history with infertility as a client, Precious Styles Bullard, breaks down in tears opening up about her own difficulties. "I just want you to know that you're not alone in all of this," she comforts Precious in the emotional scene.
"I was a little bit hesitant," Holmes tells PEOPLE, "but I'm sitting across from a real-life couple, she's in tears — I could just feel such empathy for her. I could feel that she truly believed she was less of a human being and she felt like she was failing her soon-to-be husband. It breaks your heart."
"The human being in me just wanted to reach out and let her know that regardless of what life looks like on the outside … everybody has their troubles and issues," she says. "I just felt like this was the right time, if I was going to discuss anything. I could see that she was hurting."
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Celebrities on Dealing with Fertility Struggles
During her first marriage, Holmes, a former beauty queen (she was Miss Illinois in 1995), suffered a miscarriage at about 12 weeks. It was after that, she recalls, when they realized she had a reproductive "abnormality." Through various tests and appointments, doctors determined that she had one functioning ovary and a misshapen uterus that would require surgery.
After that "laborious process," Holmes says she was given the go-ahead to try for another pregnancy. Her marriage, though, soon ended.
"At that point I was 36, and I came to grips with the fact that I may not have biological children of my own and I have to be okay with that," she says. "I knew if I wanted to be a mom, I certainly could do it through adoption. I came to grips with that, and I was fine."
But when she turned 40, Holmes met a man who would become her second husband — and the father of her daughter. "He made it clear that he wanted kids and he wanted kids quickly," she remembers. "So we jumped in with both feet."
Holmes then consulted a specialist, who placed her on fertility drugs. "That was the route we took, and that was successful for us, thank goodness," she says. "It happened much quicker than we anticipated."
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The pregnancy was not without its complications, she points out. "It wasn't smooth sailing," as Holmes puts it, recalling how she was put on bed rest at 30 weeks, and how Arya was born two months premature.
Now, Holmes and her second husband are divorced, and she says they have become experts at co-parenting, both prioritizing their daughter above all else.
"He's an amazing father, we just weren't meant to live in the same household!" she says with a laugh. "I think we do a pretty damn good job, I'm not gonna lie. The one thing we can agree on is how amazingly fantastic our daughter is."
Currently single, Holmes adds that she would consider welcoming more children if she met the right partner, whether that be via adoption or with stepkids. For now though, she's cherishing time with her daughter — who is enjoying watching Mom on Netflix.
What would she tell Arya in the future if she were a guest on Marriage of Mortgage? To make the "sound and wise investment" of opting for a house, of course.
"Especially given my background and my history: I learned that lesson. I had a big wedding the first go around, and look how well that turned out," she jokes, adding, "If she had to choose, I'm obviously gonna say choose mortgage, come on! Do as I say, not as I did."
Marriage or Mortgage season 1 is now streaming on Netflix.
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