Today we’d like to introduce you to Alena Smith.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was born & raised in New Jersey where I excelled in track and field. At Trenton Central High School, I won state titles and was nationally ranked. My hard work and talents earned myself a track & field scholarship to North Carolina Central University to run the 100 & 400 hurdles. College is where I began to transform into the women I am today.
Living over 400 miles away from my family, I quickly learned that to persevere on my own I had to apply myself in the classroom and on the track because going back home was not an option. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Physical Education from North Carolina Central University and a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix.
I have always been passionate about helping people and giving back, not just as a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated but also professionally. I have worked in higher education for over 11 years at several different universities. Currently, I live in Atlanta, GA working as a Human Resource professional at Accenture and I also work part-time at Southern New Hampshire University Online as a Reviewer for Associates and Bachelor’s Degrees.
I hold many titles, but my most important and meaningful title is being the mother of my two miracles (Wendell III) 7 and 1-year-old (Charlie) and wife to my husband, Wendell Smith Jr. Over the last year, my family and I have embarked on an unimaginable journey. As a woman of phenomenal strength, encouragement and resilience and delivering both of our sons prematurely, I never wavered in my faith or strength to ensure that our boys were cared for and had the necessary tools to live a normal and healthy life.
I know first-hand what it’s like to go through the premature delivery and emotional roller coaster of NICU journey not once, but twice. The impact of our journeys has resulted in me establishing a nonprofit organization called Trust Your Strength, to pay it forward, share our experience, offer support and encouragement to mothers. We provide donations to those families that are in need and have set out on a journey to educate and be a vessel to let other Mommas know they’re not alone.
On April 6, 2011, Wendell Smith III was born at 31 weeks weighing 3 lb 12 oz and stayed in the NICU for 5weeks before being released. Recently, our youngest Charlie was born November 2, 2017, at 25 weeks weighing 1 lb. After 328 days between two hospitals he was finally discharged for the 1st time on September 26, 2018, only a few weeks shy of his first birthday.
During his stay in the NICU/TICU, he underwent several surgeries, including having a tracheotomy, countless blood transfusions and coded twice and was brought back to life. To say that this year was a major test for our family, would be an understatement, but again during our deepest and darkest times, we steadfast and mustered up the strength to keep fighting through the trails for ourselves and for Charlie. As a family unit, we are now pressing forward and making new strides every day at home.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
One day spent in the NICU is one day too many, and unfortunately, this was now our second time experiencing having a child in the NICU. It is an emotional roller coaster as things change sometimes in an instant. I can recall times with both children that things were fine while we were at the hospital and then you get that scary phone call at night telling you, you need to come in ASAP.
The first scary call we received with Charlie was when he was not even a month old and still 1 lb. He had to be transferred to another hospital for emergency surgery due to potential testicular torsion. Testicular torsion occurs when a testicle rotates, twisting the spermatic cord that brings blood to the scrotum. The reduced blood flow causes sudden and often severe pain and swelling.
When Charlie arrived at the new hospital, he stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated to regain conscious, due to the amount of stimulation during the transfer it was too much for such a tiny baby. The surgery was ruled out due to his size, and later it was discovered to be only a minor hernia repair that was needed and very common in preemie babies.
After moments like this you learn to take it one day at a time, a statement that is commonly used in the NICU is that the journey will be one step forward two steps back. Meaning you will make progress but then suddenly experience events that cause you to be further behind than you were when you made the progress.
Going through many of these experience and seeing other moms on their own personal journey I often wondered if they shared the same emotions I felt at times, so I started to do research to see how I could help when our journey was over, I knew we would get through this but I also knew that I wanted to help someone else get through their journey even if that meant providing hope from our own testimony.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Trust Your Strength story. Tell us more about the business.
Trust Your Strength is a non-profit organization dedicated to create additional awareness of the mental support needed in the NICU for mothers and to make a difference for families in need. Our vision is to encourage and strengthen Mommas of Miracles born prematurely and of medically fragile children.
We will provide self-care packages, financial assistance, and support while working to strengthen mothers through self-care events. Studies suggest an estimate of 70 percent of moms whose babies spend time in the NICU may grapple with symptoms of depression, yet there are not good screening measures in place to help them.
Through our organization, we will provide the tools and support needed to better assist Mommas in building long-lasting relationships that will allow them to lean on each other and acknowledge them for a job well done. Babies born prematurely or medically fragile come into this world fighting for their lives.
Knowing first-hand the mental strength, a mother must possess while caring for my babies in the NICU and seeing them through this fight I recognized that these babies that survive are miracles, warriors and champions.
Trust Your Strength, has chosen Northside Hospital and Children Health Care of Atlanta (Scottish Rite) as our donating hospitals to provide catered lunches, dinners, transportation assistance, and other resources to assist families.
Annually, we will also host a Trust Your Strength fundraiser to support our mission and acknowledge moms for their bravery, courage, and strength during some of their most difficult times. We will acknowledge local doctors and nurses for their skills and expertise in their respective fields and use the event to overall create awareness in the community and advocate for moms about the need of mental support while on the NICU journey.
November is world prematurity month, on November 17 we completed our first initiative and donated $25 gas cards to ten families currently on their NICU Journey. We chose families at Children Healthcare of Atlanta (Scottish Rite) and through our social media page. We are so thankful for our supporters that have helped us carry out the mission as we can’t do it alone.
If you would like to donate to Trust Your Strength and to read more about our initiatives visit our website at https://www.trustyourstrength.org/. To see and read the stories of Mommas and their Miracles visit our social media on Instagram @Trust_Your_Strength
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
As Christians, we know that nothing happens by accident. We can make our own plans, but God determines our steps. After two premature deliveries and miscarriages, I believe God was preparing me to help other women and families through this organization. I have watched two miracles survive right before my eyes, and there are so many other
Mommas and Miracle babies that have made it through, but it’s not talked about. It’s not until you experience it yourself that others began to share stories about how they can relate. Many women have admitted to sitting in their own pain embarrassed to tell their story.
Through our organization women can tell their stories, lean on each other, and participate in self-care workshops to help cope with the emotions they carry around, so they are in good mental health to raise their children.
Life has a way of taking you through obstacles but God positions you to be ready to turn your test into testimony, and that’s what we are doing to help others.
- Website: www.trustyourstrength.org
- Phone: 919-696-7514
- Email: TrustYourStrength112@gmail.com
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/trust_your_strength or www.instagram.com/alena0916
Kristen Kleppe Photography
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