Selfie - Resilient
Inner Light - My optimism, being grateful, trying always to see something positive in things that appear negative
Message to women everywhere - “You’re f-ing strong and awesome. Go after what you believe in and you can do it.”
Lina Chan has two daughters. Big sister Luana is a spunky toddler who says no in such a way that makes you say yes. Little sister Thalia smiles trustingly into the crescent eyes she inherited from her mother. But Lina’s first daughter’s name was Mia, which in different languages carries the meanings "mine", “beloved" and "wished for child." Mia also had a middle name Tianshi, meaning angel in Lina’s heritage language. Lina carried Mia Tianshi for 25 weeks, holding her with hope through each abnormal scan and scare, rooting for her every heartbeat until one couldn’t be detected. Then Lina labored over eight hours and delivered her beloved wished for child into the world before letting this angel go.
Lina was a nurturer long before she expected to become a mother. She is the kind of friend who goes out of her way to bring you soup when you’re sick. At meals, she first serves everybody else, cutting up the food just so before offering it lovingly. Born in Brazil to Chinese immigrant parents, Lina grew up in a large, close-knit family, who worked hard and took care of each other. After meeting her husband — “who’s really my good best friend” — in business school and backpacking around the world together, Lina was ready to start a family. Like with everything in her life, Lina approached motherhood with optimism, dedication, and a great love for adventure. What she didn’t expect was a journey of heartache.
Lina experienced complications early on in her first pregnancy with heavy, back to back bleeds. In hindsight, Lina sees how she was at high risk for losing her baby. Everything was pointing that way, but she fought to bring Mia into the world. After delivery, Lina was not able to hold her baby right away. "I was in shell shock. I was so confused. There were all these decisions I was asked to make: do you want to hold the baby, do you want to name her, do you want to have an autopsy.” All these practicalities to handle, and all Lina could think was here’s my daughter, but she’s dead, is she still my daughter?
Lina didn’t give up hope of having a family and began trying again six months postpartum. It took nine months and various fertility measures to conceive successfully. Only to miscarry at eight weeks. “I felt like I was being kicked when I was already down. I was so angry with the universe. Why did I have to lose another baby?” She was also angry with herself, “Why didn’t I learn from my first heartbreak and go and put myself through this again. Maybe I wouldn’t be able to have a family after all." Having to acknowledge this as a woman made Lina feel ashamed, guilty and full of doubt.
In losing her babies, Lina lost herself. “I didn’t trust my body or my instincts. Here was something that I was built to do, that I was supposed to know how to do, but I didn’t. And I had no control over any of it.” Reeling with grief and confusion, two things were clear to Lina. One was how very present her husband was throughout this struggle. Tyler was there through every checkup and contraction. Tyler cuddled Mia until Lina was able to hold her. He was there through Lina’s physical recovery and their emotional healing. Lina says, “I remember telling him how scared I was this would break us. I'd lost a child, I didn’t want to lose my husband. And we committed to healing together.” They started a gratitude practice that shared a daily ritual of seeing the world through the glass half-full. The practice helped them through grieving. It also gave them a way to keep communication lines open, and having a common language kept them from self-blame or turning against each other during a time when it would have been easy to do so.
The other clarity Lina saw early on was her need to be connected to her body. Through recovery, she trained to become a yoga teacher. She did a nutrition course. At the time Lina thought these were things to help her get outside of her grief and have some structure to move from day to day. In retrospect she realizes that the process of getting back in touch with her body helped her trust herself again. Lina says, "For me, feeling strong in my body is a non-negotiable for filling my bucket. Now I tell other loss mothers, 'When you’re ready, get up and go out for a walk, move. Little by little you’ll begin to feel like yourself.”
It has taken Lina several years to trust herself again. With the support of family and caregivers, Lina has harnessed the strength to rebuild herself and successfully start a family. Now Lina is launching Adia, an online platform that provides the nuclear support system for every woman and her partner from the moment they decide to have a baby through delivery. Adia gives women and their partners access to reproductive health experts, wellness practitioners, and peer community. Lina envisions a holistic approach of connecting mind, body and spirit around reproductive health so couples can self-advocate and thrive along the pregnancy journey. Lina says, “We manage risk for all sorts of things in our lives. How is it that we don’t have better risk management for our reproductive health?” Modern medicine takes us a ways, but Lina also believes where science can’t reach, our higher selves can help make us whole. “I trust in the mind-body connection. We always have a choice to see things through an optimistic mindset. Where our mind goes, our body follows.”
Adia will also provide mothers-to-be with buddies who have experienced similar fertility challenges. From experience, Lina knows how struggling in isolation makes things much harder than they need to be. She recalls how helpful it was when she was connected with others who shared similar experiences. Like the loss mother who told Lina not to miss the chance after her stillbirth delivery to spend time with Mia. Lina took this advice and appreciates how healing it was they were able to take time together as a family, how much love was shared amidst the sadness. Lina says, “If I can help others in their struggle to start a family, somehow be a part of their not suffering in shame or isolation, it would bring meaning to my own journey. And it would fulfill Mia’s life purpose. However short her life was, it had meaning."
Recently, Lina was soothing her daughters to sleep. Luana slept on Lina's shoulder while Thalia rested inside the crook of Lina’s other arm. Lina says, “I felt so thankful in that moment. Well, first because the girls were actually sleeping. But mainly because this is what I wanted: my children are here, they are healthy, we are a family. This whole experience, our ability to create, is a miracle.”
Photos from Lina Chan