Paige Sidwell

I am overwhelmed with emotion as I sit and write about my experience with Paige and the incredible day that we spent together.  There are really no words to express my love for her and for this project but I am going to try and hope and pray that my words will do her story justice.  

As I drove to pick her up from the hotel that we put her in for the night I had a moment....a moment of pure excitement that I was going to be able to spend the day with someone that I didn't know, take her and spoil her and celebrate her....what I received in return was SO much more than what Paige received.  This is the greatest blessing of my job.  

When I was first introduced to Paige in the summer of 2011 she was a female welder.  Yes, I am serious.  AND YES I totally pictured Flash Dance and YES I asked if she was a dancer at night.  What I learned about her and her journey was SO much more than my first impressions of Paige.  Not only was she a female welder but she was one of the ONLY females in at least 3 surrounding states, including Utah to be on a Piling Crew which is one of the MOST dangerous crews on a construction site.

My husband worked on a construction site for nearly 20 years and I know what the stereotype for "men on the job site" can be.  Paige was met by those that took her under their wing... acted as a "big brother" and then there were those that would abuse their position to prove that they were in charge, that they were MEN and that she didn't belong.  

There were MANY days that I went home in tears. There were many days that I didn’t know if I could continue. I never showed that at work if I could help it.
— Paige Sidwell

Our first stop was THE BUCKLE, University Mall, Orem.  I took Paige before the mall opened to join the AMAZING and BEAUTIFUL store Manager, Staci for a personal shopping experience.  She had a dressing room all set up with a bag of free goodies, her gift cards and more.  Staci was on a mission to help Paige find the perfect look for her day of celebration!   It was so interesting for me to sit back and watch Paige.  She was overwhelmed by everything being presented to her, offered to her and although I think she secretly hated it (shopping is not her thing)  I enjoyed EVER SECOND of the fuss that was made over her.  She deserved it!  

As we drove to our next stop Paige shared a lot with me about growing up, friends, school and making life decisions for herself.  She talked about self discovery and hopes for the future.  One thing that she always wanted, always needed and searched for was family.  She knew it was the most important thing to her.  She put so much of herself into her friendships and relationships hoping to find that in some form for her life.  

When Paige first discovered she was pregnant she was terrified.  But there was no doubt in her mind of what she was going to do.  She was a mother, she was going to finally have the family that she has always been searching for.  She made all the major choices that she needed to.  She made career changes, she left relationships and she prepared herself for the next pages of this amazing life journey.  She was instantly connected to her child that was growing inside of her.  She was excited and shared the news with those closest to her.  

There was nothing that was going to stop her from accomplishing this great miracle!

Our second stop was to see Vivian Johnson for hair and make-up.  I cried as I watched Paige sit in that chair, as I watched while she looked in the mirror at disbelief at the transformation.  Paige was beautiful inside and out and to watch maybe for the first time her see it through others eyes....it was a very sacred moment to me.  

We had arrived a little early and as we sat on the steps and waited Paige opened up to me.  We cried and shared stories.  I found myself blown away by the connection that was being made as women, as survivors.  We may never see each other again but I will FOREVER be connected to her heart and her story.  It was such an honor to hear so many intimate details of her life.  The things that she shared next.....they crushed me. 

Life is never like we plan, never like we hope, and never like we dream it to be.

I listened as Paige shared the sacred moments of her miscarriage.  Alone, in the early hours she was experiencing so much pain, so much hurt, so much loss.

Her family was being taken from her and there was nothing that she could do to stop it.  

Paige found herself mourning the loss of her daughter.  Never understanding why or how.  She spent time crying to her friends, questioning her actions, placing blame and picking herself up off the floor.....over and over and over.

She shared the great importance of her dearest and closet friends.  Those that she leaned on, that allowed her mourn as she needed.

She shared a very emotional moment when her friends helped her hold a funeral in remembrance of the child that she had lost.   Putting a name to her grief was such a vital step in her grieving process.

I got to put a name to my grief and actually celebrate the life that I had lost instead of just pushing it away, I actually acknowledged and celebrated that life. That was really amazing that I was able to do that.
— Paige Sidwell

Our last stop was to Fotofly Studio, Draper Utah.  I loved watching her in front of the camera.  I could tell that this was so new to her but she shined so bright.  She was so beautiful and so natural.  

It is amazing what is discovered behind the lens.  You could see the pain and loss but you would catch these moments of hope, a shimmer of faith and moments of peace that would all appear in her pictures.

She is thoughtful and careful.  She is vulnerable and real.  Everything you see in her photos is WHO she is.  I loved everything about our photo shoot.  She was inspiring!  

I will never understand why one woman is blessed with the ability to get pregnant, to have a child with no complications and others struggle.  I will never understand how one life will grow and develop healthy and strong and one can't make it past the first few months of development.  It is heartbreaking to stand on the other side, no longer able to have children and see the sadness of those that haven't even had a chance to start their family.  

Paige has inspired me.  Her brave journey is one that so many, too many women experience.   I am so grateful that she opened her heart and shared her loss with me....and her hope for the future.   She has taught me about grief and pain and putting it all on our own timetable.  She taught me to be ok with NOT being ok.  She taught me patience and perseverance.  She taught me courage....so much courage.  She taught me that being a mother looks different to everyone, it comes in many forms.  She has embraced her role as a mother and her faith of seeing her daughter again carries her on.  

One thing that I learned after doing the Big Tough Girl™ Project is that it is ok to grieve in your own time and way. There is not a time table of how you should act and when you should stop being sad. Some days I will be happy and others I can’t even get up off the floor. It doesn’t hurt as much as time goes on but still some days are better than others. No one else can tell me to move on and let it go... After meeting Ashley I still have trouble talking about what happened but I find that it helps to have a sense of community with other women that have lost. I am really excited to see the other women stand up to tell their stories. This is an amazing Project to get women talking about issues that the rest of the world does not want to look at or talk about. I feel honored that I could be a part of it and tell my story about my daughter Ava. My name is Paige and I’m a Big Tough Girl™
— Paige Sidwell

See Paige in her video HERE.

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