Redefining Entrepreneurship and Motherhood After Loss

“May the 4th be with you!” I yelled as I waved goodbye. It was May 4, 2017, and my husband and I had finally made the leap to move from Los Angeles to Seattle—willingly exchanging sun-soaked afternoons for stretches of overcast gloom. We and our three cats departed LAX to discover new horizons and start our next chapter.

Like anyone who moves to a new city, we wanted to start fresh and seek new opportunities. For me, that meant saying goodbye to a corporate job and starting my business. For us, it was a chance to make one final effort to conceive by changing our lifestyle.

We wanted to start a family because we wanted to multiply our love.  After nearly a decade together, having a baby became more than wishful thinking. For me, it was a full-time job that required losing weight, counting macronutrients, reducing stress, increasing exercise, taking vitamins, and routine doctor visits. And when that wasn’t enough, I turned to acupuncture, naturopaths, fertility diets, hormone injections, and neurotic period tracking. I was one unroasted, unsalted almond away from going nuts and giving up.

So I centered on my passion project turned business. Black Tie is a professional makeup studio that provides makeup application, lash extensions, and microblading in the greater Seattle area. But more than that, it’s a space I created to empower women through beauty and give them agency over their body.  So I buckled down and perfected my business plan to qualify for a business loan. I set my sights on finding a commercial location and attended every networking event I could find between Seattle, Bellevue, and Tacoma to spread the word.

For six months, I looked for space. I changed agents three times and toured everything from run-down storefronts in Pioneer Square to shoebox units in Belltown. But no one would take me. So I pivoted. I started renting event space from The Riveter, a co-working space built for women by women, to showcase our services at Black Tie. I recruited the best makeup artists and hosted one pop-event each quarter to help spread the word.

With all the time and energy I was pouring into Black Tie, I didn’t notice my missed period. As someone with an ovarian syndrome, I know that a missed period and nausea are pretty ordinary. But then I missed another period. This wasn’t ordinary—it was extraordinary. My husband and I were expecting our first child, and we were already two months along!

When the initial shock faded, the reality of a possible miscarriage sunk in. The rate of miscarriage for women with my ovarian syndrome is one in two. So rather than get too attached, we waited until we were at the 12-week mark to see our child in an ultrasound. We waited 20 weeks to tell our inner circle. We waited six months until we announced it to the world: We’re having a girl!

The pregnancy progressed and Black Tie started to gain momentum. I needed to be realistic about the future of the business, and how I would share my time with it and a newborn.  Unlike my last job, my role as the founder at my company meant I was indispensable to its growth. At this point, I was used to making pivots on my journey through motherhood and entrepreneurship. So I met with my team and developed a new plan: to build a studio on my property. It was the only way I could nurture both babies—my child and my business.

The greatest pivot came at 37 weeks when I went into labor and a complication arose. The baby’s umbilical cord prolapsed, and I was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. Within two minutes of arrival, I had an emergency C-section. On August 1, 2018, I gave birth to our daughter, Anna Luna Delrey. She was perfect. Ten fingers, ten toes, and a full head of black hair. My eyes and his nose. She was alive, but the doctors confirmed our worst fear—she had lost too much oxygen. Five days later, on August 6, she passed after we terminated life support.

I have experienced heartache. I have experienced loss. But never in my life have I felt so consumed by darkness. The type of darkness that swallows you into a spiraling black hole, where you see no light at the end of the tunnel. This little girl had been wanted and loved. Our journey to had been so difficult. I cursed the universe for ever allowing me to get pregnant. My daughter, whose life had grown inside me, was dead—and a part of my soul died with her.

In the months that followed, I went through the quintessential five stages of grief. But I still felt out of control and powerless. So I started assigning myself one task daily. Today, I will check the mail. Today, I will make a pot of soup. Today, I will go for a walk. Each today passed a little quicker than the last, and two months later, I started to think about the business.

After Anna passed, the business was put on hold. Naturally, the motivation and drive I’d previously felt had dissipated. Running a small business requires energy, dedication, and passion—feelings that were buried so deep inside me that it seemed they’d take years to uncover again. I started to form a long list of excuses in my mind. “It’s too hard” was the one that I repeated over and over again. Then there was, “I should just go back to a corporate job where I can clock in and clock out.” But the excuse that stood out was, “If I continue the business, would I be choosing it over her?”

Moving forward made me feel guilty. In my grief, I felt I kept her memory alive through my pain. The universe heard my distress call and presented me with signs. The one that caught my attention was an unsolicited and unexpected spirit medium. She approached me and said, “She isn’t dead. She is here with you in spirit. And if you want to honor her, you will finish what you started.” The medium jokingly followed up that Anna was declaring she was the co-founder, and this was her company, too.

I was skeptical of her advice, but following that moment, I felt a redistribution of energy in my soul. To move forward was not to move further away from her, but to move forward with her energy in my heart. She was the ember I needed to rekindle my fire to shine light on the dark corners within me. Like the daily tasks I assigned myself as I healed, I started working on the business piece by piece. I responded to emails parlayed into team discussions. Team discussions led to the studio completion. The studio completion culminated in the grand opening.

I’m still shaping my comeback story and struggling to feel my faith is greater than my fear. Grief, like my business plans, isn’t linear—it’s unpredictable and uncomfortable. It creeps up on me when I’m with a client. It’s home waiting for me in bed. But the pain reminds of how much I loved Anna. It reminds me that every day, I have a choice as to how I honor her. I choose to honor her by sharing her story and letting her memory live on in the women we touch through Black Tie.

About the Author | Lisa Del Rey

Lisa Del Rey is the Founder of Black Tie Makeup Studios - a beauty bar that specializes in makeup artistry, lash extensions and microblading. Her passion is to empower women through beauty by making them feel confident in their own skin. She lives with her husband and three cats, Tito, Salsa and Queso in Kent, WA where they regularly enjoy Mexican food.

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