The following is an excerpt from a talk given at the General Federation of Women’s Clubs National Convention, held in Hollywood, Florida, on June 30, 2013.
I am a wife, a mom, a blogger, a dancer, and an advocate for global health. Looking back on my life’s path I can see now how advocacy has naturally become a part of my life.
I’ve always wanted to be a mother. Growing up, all other interests and potential future pursuits were secondary to wanting to be able to stay home and raise children. I married young, and had my first baby, a daughter, eight days after I turned 22. After that, though, my world was turned upside down.
My second child and first son Taylor, was stillborn. Loved ones near and far rallied around us. Letters, cards, phone calls, and flowers poured in and let me know that our little family was loved and supported in our time of trial. For me, the connection to others at that point was vital, and I’m ever grateful for all who reached out and supported us at that time.
After a while, the phone calls slowed, but those that did come had a different focus. A friend would call and with a reverent tone in her voice share with me, “My sister just lost her baby. I don’t know what to do.” Or instead of their sister it was their cousin, or their neighbor. I heard of people who had lost infants or young children, and gradually I became a resource to help others know how to help their loved ones in their time of grief. I always prefaced my suggestions with the reminder that everyone mourns differently, but this new opportunity to help others made the burden of my own loss somehow lighter.
Time has marched on, and I’m raising five children who know they have a brother who passed away. In 2005 I began writing a blog, and in October of that year (and now each year since) I wrote and shared some feelings during what has come to be known as Taylor Week – the week surrounding Taylor’s birthday where I mourn and cry and have time to myself.
I knew that sharing my experience online might make me vulnerable, but something very interesting happened: by sharing my story more widely, my circle of influence and friendship expanded. More and more people were reaching out and participating in the conversation, via email or Facebook or blog comment, to share their own story or look for a connection. It’s been incredibly humbling to participate in this conversation.
In 2012, I became involved with the United Nations Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign which raises awareness and funding for life-saving vaccines for children in developing countries, who need them most. Last August, I participated in online fundraising through a blog relay called ‘Blogust,’ and in October I was invited to travel to Uganda to see the fruits of those fundraising efforts. While I was thrilled with the opportunity to see those kids get the medicine they need, I wanted to talk with the mothers who had lost children: how did they do it?
I found that with all our differences, mothers around the world have more in common than not. What do we all want for our children? Health and education. And from the women who have lost children, I gained valuable insight. They shared with me that they have endured patiently. I sensed, more than ever, a global sisterhood of love and support, something I’ve been able to extend as my own community at home continues to support one another.
My journey to becoming an advocate for children’s health has involved personal loss and a drive to move forward in support of others. What’s YOUR story? What experiences have you had which drive you to move forward with passion?
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