Sadija A. Smiley is the Founder and CEO of Stillborn and Infant Loss Support (SAILS), dedicated to raising awareness and creating a supportive environment for families who have experienced a stillbirth. SAILS was created to honor the life of her daughter, Ivyanna Salene, who was born sleeping November 13, 2003. She currently serves as Executive Director of Sinai House, a Washington, DC program that enables families to move from homelessness to independence by providing safe and affordable housing and comprehensive social services. Sadija has dedicated her career to improving the quality of life outcomes for underserved, minority, and low-income communities. She has spent the last 18 years in human services and non-profit work, serving in both management and direct service positions, in organizations that provide services surrounding case management, mental health, substance abuse, housing, workforce development, financial education and employment skills. Sadija is an honoree of the 2019 Prince George’s County Forty Under 40. A Philadelphia native and first generation college graduate, Sadija holds a BA in psychology from West Virginia State University and an MBA from Strayer University. She currently resides in Maryland with her family.
Born Into Silence speaks to those affected by a stillbirth, pregnancy or infant loss. Our babies were born into silence, but together we will break the silence around stillbirth, pregnancy and infant loss, honoring the lives of our babies and letting others know that they are not alone. I asked Sadija why she started her business, “When I lost Ivyanna, there weren’t a lot of resources and safe spaces for me to talk about my experience. This made it extremely difficult for me to cope and heal. As I progressed further into my journey of healing, I thought that if I needed this support then others that have experienced such a devastating loss might need this support also. I started the nonprofit, Stillborn and Infant Loss Support.”
Starting a business and remaining successful is a feat. Sadija says the hardest parts for her have been, “The hardest parts about running SAILS, is the sensitivity of the topic and our cause. It is hard for others to talk about the death of a child and often others get uncomfortable. It is necessary for us to get comfortable making others uncomfortable, as we break the silence.” While it has been hard she uses her experience as a Human Services Professional and life experience help be to be successful today. “Both have taught me to be compassionate, that I deserve compassion and how to serve others with a sincere heart.” She believes Business Owners should know these 3 things, “Their purpose/mission/vision, their customer and should know how to partner.”
We discussed Changing the Narrative and how Sadija feels she is currently doing this in her business, “I am intentionally changing the narrative by sharing my story. My mission is to spread awareness around stillbirth, pregnancy and infant loss. Letting other survivors know that they are not alone. Assuring them that the pain, disappointment and brokenness they feel is normal. I am joining forces with other survivors, non-profits and platforms to spread that awareness. It is my vision that this public health issue, will be talked about as openly and freely as HIV/AIDS, Cancer, Hypertension, Diabetes and other health issues.”
I wanted to know more personally about Sadija, so I asked…
Tell us a secret fact about you?
I sleep with socks on. I CAN NOT sleep without socks on my feet, issa NO lol and yes both in the winter and summer months.
If you could have anything in the world what would it be?
It would be my daughter, Ivyanna Salene Fields.
Give us a personal quote
Jer. 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
I am inspired by…..
the strength of my ancestors and what they endured for me to be here today!
What do you do to keep a healthy mental health?
I exercise, rest and write as often as I can.
What brings your peace?
Spending time with my family and friends, empowering others to persevere through their pain and serving others brings me peace
How do you deal with challenges?
By order of importance. I always ask myself if it’s more important to win this challenge or is this something that I should let go.
How do you deal with grief?
Daily! And quite frankly, sometimes it deals with me. What I mean by that is, if I haven’t slowed down to give space to my grief and I try to continue on, avoiding it-it will overcome me. So I try and give space to my grief, I cry, write, sleep and then I remember the good times that preceded the grief and the lessons learned because of the grief.
What is your favorite part and worst part of what you do?
My favorite is hugging those who have experienced this type of loss. They exhale so heavily, saying “thank you for the work you do. You know exactly what I haven’t been able to say yet”. The worst part is when members of the community approach me asking “Why haven’t their family member gotten over the loss of their child yet.” But see this also turns in to another one of my favorite parts, because I now get to educate this person, on what is happening with their family member mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. I am also able to empower them with ways that they can support their loved one on their journey.
If you could tell your 20 year old self anything, what would it be?
I would tell 20 year old Sadija, to enjoy life’s precious moments. Don’t try and plan out every single move. It’s ok to have an idea and a plan, but it’s most important that you don’t get so caught up in achieving and planning that you miss out on enjoying the current happenings of life.
We are SAILebrating the official Launch of SAILS with a brunch, on Saturday, August 24th at 11am, at the North Laurel Community Center, 9411 Whiskey Bottom Road, Laurel, MD 20723.
Tuesday October 15th, National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day we are hosting a wave of light, 7p-8p, at the Maryland Russet Library 3501 Russett Common, Laurel, MD 20724.
We will light a candle in remembrance of our babies gone too soon.
Exposure Reader Offer(s):
I would like to invite readers to our SAILebration, the official Launch Brunch of Stillborn and Infant Loss Support, offering 15% off their ticket purchase using discount code EXPOSURE19
IG @_bornintosilence @iamsadijasmiley
FB @bornintosilence @Sadija Smiley