I cannot believe in all this time I have not taken the time to share my story and let you know why I do this. Okay, I can believe it. I’ve just been extremely hesitant to share because
This… Is… Hard.
I’ve always known I wanted to be an entrepreneur. When I was 11 my family moved from Oakland to Saudi Arabia. I remember cornrowing white girls hair at school for 5 Saudi Riyals per braid. Between overpriced braiding and babysitting, I made enough money to come back to California dripping in gold.
That’s the first creative venture I can recall.
After graduating from Spelman with a degree in psychology, I worked here, there and everywhere. I temped all over Atlanta, not wanting to work permanently because I never planned to stay anywhere for long. I started a catering business, then attempted to open a boutique, then created and sold beautiful cookie bouquets. I was totally NOT fulfilled. So I went back to school and got my degree in nutrition and dietetics. I knew then that I wanted to use my education to start my nutrition counseling and consulting business.
Then one day, out of the blue, after 17 years of being away, I just felt in my spirit it was time to move back to Cali. So without question, I moved from Atlanta to Oakland, got married, and had my first child – all in the same year. I had no idea I would be married 3 weeks after making that move, and a mom to a beautiful little girl 10 months after that.
After graduating the second time I got a job, then a couple more jobs, went back to school to do my dietetic internship, then got another job. I hated working for people. Always have. I honestly don’t remember where I think I was headed at the time but somehow becoming a wife and mom kinda sidetracked me from my dream of having my own business (and a show on the food network). But some dreams are not meant to be left behind.
Fast forward 3 years or so. I delivered my second child when the unthinkable happened. We found out in the delivery room that something was terribly wrong. It’s quite a blur now (5 years later) but our precious little girl, born only 5 weeks early, was clinging to life. The next morning I was told they did an emergency tracheotomy on her in the middle of the night. That’s when I think I really realized how ill she was.
Our baby girl was rushed to a high acuity facility that night, and to UCSF Medical Center the next morning for exams, tests, you name it. Three weeks later she was transported to yet another hospital. It wasn’t until then, when she was 3 weeks old, that I first got to hold her.
I had been pumping and saving milk all that time, only to find out that she would remain on tube feeding.
Let me just say that if they had called me that night and let me know they wanted to resuscitate and do an emergency trache on someone so tiny and precious, I think I would have said no. But I was not given the choice.
Our baby girl was finally released to come home with us after 4 months of NICU life. We were overjoyed, and maybe in denial. She was still with a trache, still on tube feeding, with all kinds of equipment to help her breathe, and very little promise of any quality of life. We had no nurse, and no more insurance. Just us, and CPR training.
We treasure the time she was with us. Little Miss Serene passed away just 2 days after coming home with us. I don’t think any of the hospital staff was the least bit surprised. Like I said, our insurance had run it’s course. They were basically just keeping her alive from day one.
How in the world do you come back after something like this? Why? Why me? Why us? Why her?
I don’t know if I can ever answer any of these questions, but I know one thing little missy did for me – she gave me my purpose.
For the next 2 years I baked. I baked like a mad woman. I baked so much I had to open a business, of course. I named it Sweet Tooth Therapy, because the baking and the eating were both so therapeutic for me.
Two years went by before I was ready to get back to being a nutritionist.
So I got another job. And I loved it. But I still wasn’t fulfilled.
So I started blogging. And I wondered how people blog as a business. Then I went to Blogging While Brown, and they broke it down. So I blogged while developing programs, and writing for Urban Faith Magazine, and working. I called my blog Soul Food Therapy. But I wanted to offer so much more.
My perspective was no longer “I don’t want to work for anyone”, but “I want to contribute all I can to the world.” So I changed my blog/business to Well Diva Lifestyle, to allow me to offer more of me. Yes I cook, and I’m a nutritionist, but in the weeks to come you’ll see that I have so much more that I want to share with you.
I want my life to have meaning, and my life’s work to have purpose, big purpose. And that came from Serene. I know that if she had lived she would have required 24 hour care and not had much quality of life. I had a chance to stay with her for 2 nights at George Mark Children’s House before she came home. That is where parents with very ill children take their children when they need a rest from caring for them. I now know that I was not put on this earth just to keep my little girl alive. And that is precisely the only thing I would have been doing had she lived. But because our little butterfly chose to go on I am able to touch many many many more lives. LIke they say, God can turn your mess into your message.
I recently met a woman who told me her story of multiple miscarriages before finding out she had a gluten intolerance, and that there are studies that show a connection between the two. I too had a miscarriage a year after we lost Serene. I too have a gluten intolerance.
The only thing we were ever told about why our baby was so ill was that she was born with an underdeveloped cerebellum. I have since read that cerebellar problems can be traced back to gluten sensitivity as well. Other than that, she had normal chromosomes, was carried almost to full term, and had a perfect heart and lungs.
I know that my growth and development that has come as a result of overcoming something so tragic qualifies me to be Well Diva of the week, or even the year, thank you very much. And fyi, I did finally come up with my own definition of a Well Diva:
Yes, that would be me. Thank you, little butterfly Serene.