GUEST SPOTLIGHT: MELISSA SULLEY OF JOSIAH + CO.
I’m Melissa, wife to Thomas, mother to Ezekiel & Eliyanah earth-side, and five babies Heaven-side. Our story has many pieces, but this piece began I think when we got pregnant with Ezekiel in 2013 before we were married. Being part of the church/ministry culture, this was extremely difficult and I felt a lot of shame and embarrassment. I felt I had to hide my entire pregnancy so people wouldn’t calculate that we got pregnant right before we were married. After Ezekiel was born, I subconsciously wanted to redeem my pregnancy experience so I could enjoy every single stage of the pregnancy journey.
We also wanted our children close in age. We got pregnant for the second time when Ezekiel was 8 months old. I was beyond excited to announce our pregnancy and started dreaming of our young kids playing together. At our 20 week anatomy scan, my husband was away in Ghana, and Ezekiel was at daycare. The ultrasound tech did a couple scans and then said she needed to go check to make sure the pictures were showing up ok. I thought that was odd, and laying there on the table with my shirt up and belly full of gel I started imagining the worst case scenarios. I had to keep pep-talking myself—telling myself everything was fine. But it felt like she was gone for a really, really, really long time. When she came back, she was with a doctor and a nurse. I knew right away something was wrong.
“I’m really sorry, but your baby does not have a heartbeat”.
I wailed… my cries echoed off the hospital walls. I still remember having to call my husband on the other side of the world to tell him that our baby had died. I delivered the next day, without my husband. Josiah was the tiniest baby I had ever seen and held. Following Josiah, we had two early losses and then we welcomed our Rainbow Baby, Eliyanah in 2017. Shortly after her birth I started josiah+co. as a way to process my grief and to share our story with others. I wanted others to know that they weren’t alone in their grief, and that it was okay to feel devastated by a miscarriage, whether it was early or late in pregnancy. Since then, we have experienced two more late losses—we lost our son Jeremiah at 18 weeks on Valentine’s Day 2018, and most recently, we lost our son Jordan at 16 weeks on September 19th, 2018.
Q. 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage and 1 in 8 couples are walking through infertility. With so many women being affected by these issues we believe there is power in the story. What was the turning point for you to feel safe enough to share your own journey?
A. I’ve always been a fairly open and honest person. But the turning point for me, was when I started to really struggle postpartum with our rainbow baby and I knew I needed to process all my grief and emotions. Sharing my thoughts has always been quite freeing and healing for me, so I started taking the first steps in sharing our story when I started josiah+co.
Q. Was there ever a time someone said something insensitive to you about your pregnancy, pregnancy-loss, or infertility? Knowing what you know now, how would you respond?
A. Oh gosh yah, alllll the time. Someone JUST today was telling me about how in their culture they don’t tell anyone they are pregnant until just before they give birth in case anything goes wrong during the pregnancy. I just felt sad for her, and made me realize how many women, for so long, have felt they need to suffer alone in silence, and how it’s even more taboo in other cultures.
But in general when people say insensitive things I usually just nod, I’m not one to argue really. I do need to be more brave though, depending on the situation, and telling people that their comment was really hurtful. Because often people don’t know that what they are saying is insensitive, and we can’t change that unless we speak up.
Q. We are firm believers that every woman who opens her heart to have children is a mother. What is your favorite thing about motherhood? And what is the most difficult in motherhood?
A. Motherhood is some hard shit, excuse my language, lol. It’s definitely not as easy as I thought it was. And the process of becoming a mother is a lot more difficult than we are led to believe. I’ve learned that we need to be sensitive of other’s journeys and difficulties along the way. We need to be kinder to one another; we really don’t know what some people are walking through.
Q. How are you using your gifts to lift others up who are walking through pregnancy-loss, infertility, or other pregnancy-related issues?
A. I’ve been sharing my story through social media, and also through each pair of booties that I make. I can’t tell you the number of times people have walked up to me at a craft or mom show and said “hey I follow you on instagram… and we’ve had a miscarriage too.” I’ve been able to connect with a lot of women through this platform and help walk some of them through some really complicated emotions and questions. I’m a firm believer that sharing our stories brings healing to ourselves and others.
Q. Grief and loss, especially with miscarriage, infertility, and pregnancy-loss, can feel very isolating. What is something you would say to yourself in the first days after your loss?
A. You definitely are not alone, and it’s okay to feel a wide range of emotions after a loss. While you are in the thick of it, it may feel really dark for a while.. but the light will come again.
Q. Is there anything else you want to share?
A. As much as being a part of this “club” really really sucks… I’m so so so ridiculously thankful for all the women I have been able to connect with in this journey. They are some really strong, brave ass women in this community.
Do you know a rainbow mama who would love a pair of beautiful, handmade booties?
Are you a loss mama in need of some uplifting words from another fellow loss-mama?
Head on over to josiah + co. for more information!
There is power in the story.
Thank you for allowing us to share a little bit about Melissa, her background, experiences, and story. We want to continue to support our community while lifting others up. Did you enjoy this? Do you know a mama who would be a good fit for a Guest Spotlight with us? Feel free to comment here, or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear what you think!