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October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. To help shed light on this time of the year, we spoke to Monique Rodriguez about how her own loss helped her to find her purpose. 

When Mielle Organics CEO Monique Rodriguez was going on eight months pregnant with her third child and first son, she felt a terrible pain. She went to the hospital to figure out what was going on and assumed that she would be admitted to stay to be monitored by her doctor. She had been a nurse for years, so she felt that would have been recommended as the next step. To her surprise, she was released to go home.

“The one thing I wish I would have done was go somewhere else when I initially felt pain,” she said. “I thought it was just a regular contraction and my doctor sent me home. I should have advocated for myself to stay at the hospital.”

Unfortunately, Monique’s uterus ruptured. It’s a condition that, according to experts, only affects one percent of pregnant women. In the time she was at home waiting to go into labor with her son, she had no idea that each day he was losing oxygen to his brain.

The day she delivered, it was yet another disappointing experience in the hospital. Her husband had to push medical staff to care for her and their child on the way as they continued to let too much time pass.

“He rushed me to the hospital and when we arrived, he was very adamant and pushing the personnel to get me to labor and delivery,” she said. “By the time we got up to labor and delivery, it was the night shift, so the doctor was not on the floor. The nurses called my doctor and we basically had to wait until the doctor arrived instead of the unit calling the on-call doctor to the floor to do an emergency C-section. I heard my baby’s heartbeat slow down and there was nothing I could do.”

By the time she delivered her baby boy, whom she named Milan, he was born brain dead. Though there were no signs that he would be able to live a healthy and happy life, Monique kept her son on life support until he passed away at six months old. It was a decision she made based on her strong faith.

“We knew God had the final answers, not the doctors,” she said. “We believed that he would wake up and no one was going to force me into doing something I wasn’t ready to do. If I would have taken him off when they said, I would have always had on my conscience, ‘What if I would have waited longer?’ So we had to do it on our own terms.”

The loss wasn’t an easy one. Monique says it’s something she still grapples with all of the time. However, she has been able to find solace in her belief in God, and in the creation of her successful company, Mielle Organics, in 2014. It is one of the fastest growing natural hair care companies.

“I still deal with it. It never goes away,” she said. “My faith and going to church was my therapy. Indulging in my business was also an outlet and a form of therapy for both my husband and I. It kept me busy by talking about something I loved, which was hair care.”

She was also motivated by her son to help others. She launched her foundation, Mielle Cares, to help unite and empower other women.

“My hopes with Mielle Cares is to use my platform to give back to our community and our next generation and to serve others,” she said.

Monique also continues to honor the life of Milan. Six years after his passing, she hasn’t ruled out the possibility of having another child, but she isn’t technically planning on doing so.

“I feel that’s in God’s hands,” she said. “If He moves me to have another child, I will, but my husband and I both have to be in agreement on that.”

If she does though, Monique would advocate for herself with doctors and medical staff once again, and would encourage other mothers-to-be to do the same.

“As a nurse I was a great advocate for myself. I spoke up and we even demanded for them to do a C-section,” she said. “I would tell any mom to definitely speak up and to demand your care if you feel something is off. Make your doctor listen. If they don’t listen, go somewhere else.”

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