When I was a kid there were three things that I wanted to do when I grew up. Two of them I really wanted to become: a doctor and a meteorologist. I had the ultimate doctor set-up gifted to me as a rocking Christmas gift, and I used it to hone my best doctor skills. When not pretend-practicing medicine, I would stand in front of the TV and pretend to be my adult self while sharing the temperature highs and lows, and incoming weather fronts. I would do this while wearing my mom’s high heels, because obviously when pretend-forecasting the weather as an eight year old, you need high heels. The third possibility I considered as an eight year old was being a teacher, but truth be told I only wanted that job to be able to boss people around. I was also gifted a teacher’s kit and I used it well as a means to tell my younger brother and sister what to do. I’m pretty sure that once I realized what a teacher actually did, I knew I was out.
Turns out, I went none of those routes.
I graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in Nutrition and became a Registered Dietitian. I didn’t know that was a profession until I was 19. It’s a great field, with lots of job security. I enjoyed being a clinical dietitian, and I practiced as one for a while until our family, and all that we’ve been through, required me to take some time off.
That’s kind of where the nonprofit starts — right where “our family, and all that we’ve been through” begins.
To give you the shortest possible version of the story, our second son passed away shortly after he was born. It was obviously a horrible time for us as we grieved our child. During that time however, I met so many people who were somehow connected to the loss of a baby. Whether it was them personally, or their mother or sister or friend or cousin, they too had a connection to the loss of a baby. Maybe their neighbor just had a miscarriage or their coworker’s baby died of SIDS. Whatever the story, I began to see that it was all around me.
But I never knew it was all around me until I started talking about my loss.
This caused me to see how taboo of a topic it is. Obviously no one wants to talk about babies dying. We are a culture that doesn’t like or do death well; tack onto that the death of someone young and we just get weird. I’m certain that to some I am just the strange baby death lady. But I couldn’t understand how so many of us had been through something so awful, yet never talked about it. Why didn’t people ever talk about miscarriages or stillbirths or infant deaths? It’s taboo, and I wanted to change that. Ultimately, I wanted to create a community for women who had been through such a loss themselves. For those who longed to hold their baby in their arms but couldn’t — they needed a space to be free to grieve and not feel alone.
Thus started my nonprofit — Project Gabriel. Our mission is to support women who have lost a baby to miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. It’s named after my second son, Gabriel, who died after fewer than two hours of life.
I never dreamed of growing up and starting a nonprofit. I never would have picked any of this for my life. But I also can’t explain how much it has changed me. Without Gabriel’s death, I wouldn’t have a heart for moms who have lost a baby. In fact, I would be scared of those moms, as if they had the flu that I could catch. I used to think that way: The “don’t get too close or else it could happen to you, too” mentality. I don’t think I purposely thought that way, but now I see how wrong that mindset is. It’s also just a bit crazy. All of that to say that I am a very different person than I was before our Baby G, and he changed me for the better.