Previous Guest

Michelle Valiukenas (she/her)

Michelle joined Momma on October 9, 2023 live on Twitch to talk about Parenting After Loss

About Michelle

Michelle Valiukenas is the proud mom of her angel Sweet Pea, who she lost due to miscarriage, her angel daughter Colette Louise who she lost at nine days old, and her only living child, her rainbow baby, Elliott Miguel. Inspired by her journey with Colette, Michelle and her husband founded The Colette Louise Tisdahl Foundation, whose mission is to improve outcomes of pregnancy, childbirth, prematurity, and infancy, as well as aid in the grieving process through financial assistance, education, and advocacy. Their flagship program financially assists families dealing with high-risk and complicated pregnancies, NICU stays, and loss. The organization’s ability to help families relies on donations and grants and they are grateful if you are able to donate. Michelle also participates and advocates on issues of maternal health, maternal mortality, infant health and safety, and pregnancy complications. Michelle lives in Glenview, Illinois with her son Elliott, husband Mark, and dog Nemo.

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References / Things Mentioned During the Stream

Episode Summary

Calling all resilient souls navigating life's messy journey – tune in as the inspiring Michelle Valiukenas share heartfelt insights on parenting after loss, offering a dose of wisdom and encouragement for anyone savoring the beautifully imperfect taco that is life.

This episode contains a meaningful conversation with Michelle on Parenting After Loss. The interview explores the challenges and experiences of individuals who have faced loss, particularly in the context of pregnancy, fertility issues, NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) stays, and the broader spectrum of parenting.

Michelle, the founder of The Colette Louise Tisdahl Foundation - dedicated to supporting families dealing with pregnancy complications and loss, shares her insights and personal experiences. This conversation explores the emotional and financial struggles faced by families undergoing high-risk pregnancies and NICU stays, and the toll it can take on parents. Michelle emphasizes the shock and suddenness that often accompanies such situations, highlighting the significant drop in income during these periods and the increased expenses families incur. The interview touches on the impact of loss on families, including the difficult decisions they suddenly find themselves faced with. Michelle stresses the importance of providing support to help families navigate these challenging times without being burdened by financial constraints. 

The conversation expands to address disparities in healthcare, particularly concerning race and class. Michelle sheds light on the higher maternal mortality rates among black mothers, emphasizing the need for addressing implicit biases within medical institutions. The podcast underscores the importance of transparency in healthcare systems and the ongoing efforts to advocate for changes and improvements in maternal health, infant care, and overall healthcare support for parents.

Michelle shares a powerful story of a 16-year-old mother determined to break the cycle of generational challenges. This teenager, supported by Michelle's foundation, expressed a desire to complete her high school education and create a better life for her child. The story serves as a testament to the impact of the foundation's work in breaking cycles of hardship and empowering individuals to strive for a brighter future.

Michelle and MommaFoxFire share their own experiences and reflections on mental health, anxiety, and the importance of seeking help. They remind listeners that mental health is a universal aspect of life and advocates for normalizing conversations around mental health. 

The episode concludes with a discussion about the need for better healthcare support, including paid family leave, improved insurance coverage for mental health, and dismantling the stigma associated with seeking help. Michelle expresses hope for positive changes in healthcare policies, emphasizing the benefits not only for individuals but also for businesses in the long run.

This interview provides a poignant exploration of the complexities of parenting after loss. The conversation explores the emotional, financial and systemic challenges faced by families, while also highlighting stories of resilience and hope. It underscores the importance of support, both financial and emotional, for individuals and families navigating the intricate journey of parenting after experiencing loss.

Still I Rise

Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?

Why are you beset with gloom?

’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells

Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?

Shoulders falling down like teardrops,

Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don’t you take it awful hard

’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines

Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise

That I dance like I’ve got diamonds

At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame

I rise

Up from a past that’s rooted in pain

I rise

I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.