“Real Life”… with “Momentrepreneur” Yvonne Pierre
“Real Life”… with “Momentrepreneur” Yvonne Pierre
Yvonne Pierre is a Momentrepreneur and a Special Needs advocate who uses her experiences as the mother of a Special Needs child to inspire other parents. She discusses parenting, personal growth, advocacy, and a variety of other topics with guests one her Blog Talk Radio program, The Yvonne Pierre Show . She’s founder of Have Ya Heard (HYH) Online, a website that features the accomplishments of individuals with Special Needs, Special Needs advocacy apparel, books, and a parent support club. Yvonne is also a motivational speaker and is currently involved in the production of an upcoming documentary about stigmas and the disabled. Yvonne’s memoir, The Day My Soul Cried, will be available June 10th, 2010.
Both of Yvonne’s two sons were born with Special Needs. Zair, now 17, was born with two club feet so severe that Yvonne was told to accept that he would never walk. As an 18 year old single mother who was already struggling to overcome illiteracy, addiction, and an abusive past, Yvonne had to choose between fighting for her first baby’s future or continuing with the self destructive lifestyle she was using to cope.
Zyair didn’t just teach Yvonne about advocacy, he also taught her about potential. She began to look for value and potential within herself. In her quest to become a better mother and a happier person, she started examining her past and trying to take control of her future. But the obstacles continued to block her way.
PSN: Yvonne, you abused drugs, alcohol, and sex through your school years and were barely able to read when you graduated from High School. Now you’re working on your Master’s Degree and have all these accomplishments. Were you afraid that people would hold your past against you and view you as less accomplished if they knew your story?
Yvonne: No, I was never afraid of being judged. Initially, I wanted to write the book but would sabotage myself. I had started a totally different, motivational book years ago, and had taken it to an Editor. He told me to take myself out of the book, that I was a “nobody.” So, I put the book on hold and focused on advocacy. My fears about writing the book were about not letting myself be successful. I had to re-live my life to understand this.
Sharing my story with members of the Special Needs community and people opening up to me about their problems really gave me the confidence to tell the story. I wanted to write the book because people get caught up in what they’ve been through. You’ve already survived it, why are you holding onto it?
PSN: Why does Special Needs advocacy inspire you?
Yvonne: My advocacy with the Special Needs Community has been a bigger inspiration than I can express. I’ve met some of the most amazing people that have made a major impact on my life who happened to be “disabled.” I see people who have working limbs and the ability to change who they are making excuses and not accomplishing anything. Then I see people with no limbs accomplishing more and not making excuses. Everybody needs inspiration, not just the Special Needs community.
I’ve learned so much about myself, about trusting God. I’ve become more spiritual because I went through these challenges. Seeing Zyon do things we were told he would never do and to see him pushing and not giving up makes me look at myself. Seeing what would have been predicted for my life and overcoming my own challenges, going through my own battles with education then having a child with a Special Need such as Down Syndrome has helped me to believe in Zyon and trust that he can overcome his challenges, too.
PSN: How did you go from the experiences of your past to being the mother your children needed?
Yvonne: With Zyair, I quit drinking because I needed a sound mind. I had tried before after a serious incident of alcohol poisoning, but this time I just did it. Something kicked in that I didn’t think I had when I was told that Zyair would probably never walk. I went into survival mode.
With Zyon, I had no clue what Down Syndrome was and only knew negative things about it. After the diagnosis, his father Steffan, who has been with me all this time, was with Zyon. I was in the bathroom crying. I suddenly realized that I needed to be there with him, not crying. This is not about me.
PSN: What advice would you give to parents of Special Needs children who want to overcome their own personal challenges to become better people and better parents?
Yvonne: Parents struggle with what people think about them, not just about their Special Needs child, but themselves. A lot of stuff they’re struggling with is stuff they had before they had the Special Needs child. The struggles could be about any child with or without Special Needs, or a loved one with a serious problem. It’s not just the child going through obstacles, it’s the parents going through obstacles outside of the children. We all have things we can and cannot do, so in some respects we all have Special Needs.
I choose to focus on the person and what needs to be done, not what has been done. My grandmother taught me that pitying and crying “isn’t going to get you nowhere” You can sit here crying if you want to, but nothing’s getting done. Focus on what you need to do and focus on your child, step by step, not looking at results but at what needs to be done. If I had focused on what they can’t do or might not be able to do then I wouldn’t be there for them. I couldn’t pity myself and focus on helping them, and in helping them was helping myself.
PSN: Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are coming up. Is there anything you want to say to parents of Special Needs children?
Yvonne: I want to encourage mothers and fathers to enjoy your child. Sometimes you can miss the blessing and the many miracles that God is showing you by focusing on the obstacles. There is so much society can learn from the Special Needs Community in regards to self-acceptance, perseverance, determination and overcoming obstacles. If we can somehow see past the disability we will not only learn to accept and love unconditionally, we will learn to love and accept our own flaws and see that anything is possible.
Yvonne will be giving away an autographed copy of her upcoming memoir, The Day my Soul Cried on Anara’s blog, able2able… Your Special Needs Resource Directory.