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Challenge: Pregnancy and Infant Loss

4 Ways My Stillborn Daughter Gave Me New Life

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Maeve Evalyn McAlister, born still March 4, 2015. Photo: Hanna Salonen Photography

“The turning point of those who succeed, usually comes at the moment of some crisis, through which they are introduced to their ‘other selves.’”

-Napoleon Hill

As a longtime high-achieving, motivated, go-getting entrepreneur, I lived for many years under the illusion that life was pretty much in my control.

On March 4, 2015, after a perfect pregnancy, my daughter, Maeve Evalyn, was inexplicably stillborn, shattering every paradigm I had with her beautiful, tiny, lifeless body.

In the profound grief that followed, every relationship in my life changed, including the one with my work, and I began to re-evaluate what I was choosing for my priorities, my legacy, and the one I was creating for my daughter.

As I set out to make sense of my new, upside-down world, I deeply identified with Napoleon Hill’s discussion in Think & Grow Rich of many famous figures such as Charles Dickens, Helen Keller, and Abraham Lincoln, who transmuted the deep grief of personal tragedies into lives of great positive significance.

Over the past 18 months, I’ve grabbed life with new determination and passion. I started a new company using my Zone of Genius (as Gay Hendricks, PhD. discusses in his must-read book, The Big Leap) with the mission to help women know that no matter what they’ve been through, it’s possible not only to survive, but to thrive.

I’ve supported women around the world in getting unstuck and starting their own businesses, taken a long-awaited trip to Europe, and moved into my dream home. My husband and I co-founded a non-profit to provide support to other families like us.

How have I accomplished so much in the midst of--even because of--that horrible day?

Here are 4 key lessons that have helped me mindfully move forward:

1. Say “yes” to offers of help.

Learning interdependence and accepting help when it was offered saved me. I found myself unable to ask for help (likely a product of my lifelong insistence on independence), but suddenly saying “yes” to every offer for it.

Not long after Maeve’s passing, a client of mine wrote a newsletter article on resilience and how it’s linked to the strength of your support network. I clung to that newsletter, literally, and to that knowledge as, for the first time in my life, I watched myself choose time with people over that extra to-do item.

2. Get vocal.

Sharing Maeve’s story has fulfilled my desire to ensure she is not forgotten, as well as given permission to so many who have suffered without support to feel connected. It’s true that whatever is personal is universal, and I knew this was my opportunity to be a voice for change.

3. Go back to basics.

Re-examining what really gave me life and energy, and giving myself permission to make time for those activities, helped me recover who I am at my core, and move forward from that energy, rather than out of obligation or exhaustion.

4. Stop playing small.

That whole “life is short” lesson hit home, and as I drew strength from realizing that I’d survived what psychiatrists classify as the worst loss, the fears of failure and what other people think lost their power. I used that strength to take risks in life and business that I would have talked myself out of, and to enjoy the rewards that came along.

Above all, I realized I had a choice. As Charles Swindoll said, “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.”

You have that same choice. I invite you to make it and discover the strength on the other side.

Get free resources for female entrepreneurs at Life With Passion, and check out our our non-profit for pregnancy & infant loss, Miles With Maeve.

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