Painful and Often Unspoken Reality for Founders
June 11, 2021 | Education
TRIGGER WARNING: This blog post contains sensitive information.
It’s time to shed light on a rarely discussed topic in entrepreneurship. What happens when life intervenes?
As women, we feel the need to be able to handle it all – kids, family, aging parents – and the unexpected ups and downs life throws at us. While we want to portray ourselves as wonder women, we may be struggling with challenging life situations outside of our businesses.
The Enthuse Foundation was founded specifically to address issues affecting fellow women entrepreneurs. For progress to be made, society needs to understand the unique issues some women business owners deal with.
Even though it is not often talked about, bringing awareness to these taboo topics can help other women realize they are not alone. Also, check out our blog post on “How Entrepreneurs Can Prioritize Themselves” for mental wellness tips specifically for entrepreneurs.
In this post, we discuss running a business while struggling with fertility conditions including miscarriages.
Understanding the Statistics and Medical Condition
The average age of a women entrepreneur is 42, which means many business owners might become pregnant at some point in their entrepreneurial journey.
Continuing with statistics, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, approximately 10 to 25 percent of recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage, making it the most common form of pregnancy loss.
The experience of having a miscarriage can vary in length and intensity, depending on the person and the particulars of the pregnancy. A surgical procedure might also need to be performed depending on how far along the pregnancy was.
While the Family and Medical Leave Act protects paid leave for pregnant women suffering “serious health conditions related to pregnancy, such as a miscarriage,” it is not usually applicable to entrepreneurs or small business owners as an employer must have 50+ employees.
“Pregnancy loss is not commonly acknowledged in our society and women often struggle with their grief in silence and isolation,” said Laura Shook Guzman, Founder and CEO, Conscious Ambition and licensed family and marriage therapist. “For entrepreneurs, this can be even more challenging because, as the face of their company, they feel a strong need to maintain and manage their impressions on others. This can lead them to repress their feelings of grief and loss, minimize their emotional response and push through their pain.”
“I knew that if I let myself grieve; I couldn’t keep going.”
Samantha Wasser, co-founder of By Chloe, a vegan restaurant dealt with multiple miscarriages while opening new locations of the chain. (Note: Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, By Chloe filed for bankruptcy in Dec. 2020).
“I knew that if I let myself grieve, I couldn’t keep going,” she shared with Babe. “I was opening By Chloe locations around the world while going through all of this. I didn’t have the option of breaking down. I just closed off. My husband wanted to talk but I didn’t. I still can’t. I’d give myself 24 hours of being a total wreck and the next day I’d pick up my phone and call my doctor.”
Wasser shared advice for others battling personal and professional challenges in an article for Entrepreneur.
“My advice to others facing a similar situation in business or in their personal life is to set a goal for yourself, keep pushing towards it, and tune out the noise. You can get so wrapped up in what other people think that it can consume you. Bumps in the road are inevitable and a seemingly never-ending black hole that carries with it a huge emotional toll. (Stuff) happens. And when it does, you just need to trust yourself and most importantly, be yourself.”
As of June 2021, Wasser is the mom of two boys Sonny and James.
“You Googled ‘How to be an entrepreneur and have a miscarriage?’”
Blair Kaplan Venables bravely shared her story in a LinkedIn post in November 2020. The British Columbia, Canada-based entrepreneur had endured a miscarriage. In the LinkedIn post, she candidly wrote the phrases and keywords entered in an Internet search looking for any guidance including, “How to be an entrepreneur and have a miscarriage?”
“You are probably thinking,” Venables wrote. “‘You Googled ‘How to be an entrepreneur and have a miscarriage?’ Heck yeah, I did because I had no idea how to navigate the hell I was in.”
Not finding much success in cyberland, Venables shared strategies that worked for her including:
- Be open with clients, customers, vendors, investors, and stakeholders. If there is a delay in communication, address the situation head-on instead of unnecessary speculation.
- Delegate when possible (especially those with looming deadlines).
- If you are up for working, use that time strategically. What can only you do?
- Be kind to yourself – letting yourself do what you need whether that’s a crying session or sleep. It is OK to decrease productivity or retreat from everyday life.
- Keep Your Chin Up and tell yourself “I AM A SMART AND SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEUR.”
Keep in mind what worked for Venables may not give you the same results.
“A company is only as strong as the emotional and physical strength of the founder and team,” Guzman said. “If everything needs to shift to support the founder during a time of crisis, then that is what is best for everyone including the business.”
“Stay grounded in your authenticity but strong and flexible like bamboo.”
Simmone Taitt used her multiple miscarriages as inspiration for her business Poppy Seed Health. Disheartened by taciturn doctors, Taitt turned to the web for information and comfort. What she discovered led her to the creation of Poppy Seed Health, a platform that provides on-demand 24/7 text access to doulas, midwives, and nurses.
Taitt spoke about her unique qualifications as a Black woman who has experienced multiple miscarriages with Crunchbase.
“I see my point of view and life experience as critical to my leadership, the problem we are solving, and the products we are building to be powerful and inclusive. My advice is to show up your most authentic self. The rollercoaster of entrepreneurship will challenge you to become better, every day. Stay grounded in your authenticity but strong and flexible like bamboo.”
There’s Not a Template for Handling a Miscarriage
We are different and there’s not a blueprint for how to handle a tragedy. “As more women step into leadership and launch more companies, I feel that we will begin to see a shift from ‘success at all costs’ to ‘success is sustainability, not self-sacrifice,’” Guzman said.
Here are additional resources to learn more:
- Sisters in Loss is dedicated to replacing silence with storytelling around pregnancy and infant loss and infertility of black women.
- The Pink Elephant Support Network is an Australian-based website that provides the latest resources, information and peer support for anyone impacted by early pregnancy loss.
- Miscarriage Matters, Inc. is a 501(c)3 public charity offering global support to parents devastated by Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Early Infant Loss through programs that educate the public, inspire healing through service to others, and empower the hurting.
- The mission of Share Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support, Inc. is to serve those whose lives are touched by the tragic death of a baby through pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or in the first few months of life.
- RESOLVE also known as The National Infertility Association, established in 1974, is dedicated to ensuring that all people challenged in their family-building journey reach resolution through being empowered by knowledge, supported by the community, united by advocacy, and inspired to act.
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