A Mother’s Fight for Connection

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A Mother’s Fight for Connection
Jenna is a vibrant, beautiful mother to an equally spirited, beautiful daughter Grace, born April 2017. Jenna, who is a dance teacher, is a nurturing mother to her busy toddler. You often see Jenna walking hand and hand with Grace, or carrying Grace on her hip. She never rushes Grace, and gives her toddler time to explore the world, while she answers the steady stream of questions that a two year old often asks. The love between them is palpable.

You would never know that when Jenna first became a mother to Grace she was overwhelmed with Postpartum Depression (PPD) that would leave her with sadness, frustration and emptiness. She felt completely disconnected to the baby that now she loves so much. In her darkest moments, when Grace was a newborn, she remembers thinking, “How high would I have to drop my baby from so I could get some sleep.” Jenna is not alone. Canadian Mental Health Association states, that more than 15% of Canadian women are affected by PPD in the first year after the arrival of their newborn.

For Jenna, it came on suddenly. She had a healthy, wanted pregnancy and a typical childbirth, but afterwards she remembers something going terribly wrong.
“I had my daughter and had no history of mental illness but as soon as she was born I felt zero connection to her. I remember just crying and not wanting her to be around me while I was in the hospital, the nurses talked to me about the baby blues and said that was what I was going through.” The term ‘baby blues’ is a condition that occurs just after childbirth where a mother can have a feeling of sadness and increased emotional responses. However, baby blues differs from postpartum depression as it should start to get better within the first few weeks and doesn’t invoke feelings of self harm or harming others.

“Baby blues” is something to be taken seriously though, as it was for Jenna. What was thought of as “blues”, quickly spread into full-blown depression. Jenna had dark, irrational thoughts about hurting her baby and although she loved Grace and never thought of following through with those thoughts, it haunted her first year as a mother. Not only did she have dark thoughts, she didn’t bond to her baby like she expected and felt a growing sense of emptiness, “I felt super disconnected immediately when Grace was born. I’d get really angry. I was having thoughts that were dark and nothing like I imagined being a mom would be. I felt like such a bad mom because of the thoughts I was having towards this baby I was supposed to be crazy about.” She reflected. “Admitting to having such dark thoughts is hard because moms aren’t supposed to feel that way about their own children.”

She remembers feeling cared for by the delivery physician and maternity nurses when Grace was born however, when she got home after delivery, it was a tumultuous year of finding the right healthcare provider that took her concerns seriously. Everytime she mustered up enough courage to express her feelings to her doctor, she got a dismissive answer and was told it would get better with time. “I ended up feeling dumb, and not wanting to pursue getting help.” Jenna is not alone in that either. Many women reported feeling alone and brushed off by their healthcare provider.

She says her most valuable support came from her family, friends and her daughter’s father, Cody. “They listened without judgment.” Jenna’s support system got her through some of the most difficult times of her postpartum journey. She recalls feeling like her mother didn’t understand PPD, however she was helpful and compassionate when it came to helping her care for Grace. This was especially important when Grace developed a milk allergy and needed some extra attention. “My mom did not understand what I was going through, but she would take my daughter when I needed it. One time I called and said I had to leave for a while and couldn’t take it anymore. My daughter was constantly crying and my mom instantly left her meeting she was in and drove out[to help].” Jenna feels like she couldn’t have gotten through it without her, especially when the days were exceptionally dark, and she couldn’t often see the light at end the tunnel.

Jenna’s daughter celebrated her 2nd birthday this past April and those dark thoughts and emotions that Jenna have been plagued with have subsided to make way for bedtime snuggles, silly games and everything else that goes along with raising a toddler. Jenna feels a strong connection with her daughter and contributes that to reaching out, taking time for things like exercise and not giving up. She is grateful that she had such strong people in her corner and a community that helped her through that feeling of emptiness and sadness, and gave Grace the love and care she needed when she couldn’t. “It gets better when you reach out.”

Jenna wants people who suffer from postpartum depression to know they are not alone, and life can be better when they have the courage to speak out. “People need to know these thoughts don’t make you a bad person, you don’t need to feel ashamed and no one can do anything to help if they don’t know anything is wrong.” She says, “Having kids is truly one of the most overwhelming experiences I’ve ever gone through. It completely turns your world upside down, so there is no shame in reaching out for help.”

The My Why Team would like to thank Jenna for participating in The Mother Series. A partnership with the Lloydminster Region Health Foundation for Project Sunrise.

Evolving The Dream

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By Jessie Mann and Kristen Traverse with My Why Revolution
Featuring, Rob and Angelina Stirton

When you first meet Angelina Stirton you are immediately drawn to her vivacious, energetic spirit and her smile almost literally lights up the room. While she embodies optimism, positivity, confidence and enthusiasm, Angelina and her husband Rob, are faced a challenging and arduous journey. Angelina, a Licensed Practical Nurse, may not be a “mother” yet however, she knows her and her husband will be parents one day.

Rob and Angelina have experienced infertility and infant loss like so many families unfortunately face. Through In Vitro Fertilization, Angelina experienced endless blood work, injections and countless appointments. All felt worth it if they could just have their own baby. That was not the result and they had four miscarriages in three years losing a total of five babies. During the last miscarriage Angelina was diagnosed with anxiety and postpartum depression. As Angelina comments, “Who would’ve thought a 33 year old lady with no children would have postpartum?” It is not often society engages in discussions about postpartum depression and typically it’s not associate it with those who may not have that baby to hold in their arms.

When they lost their last baby Angelina not only lost a child but she suffered a major hemorrhage, jeopardizing her life for the second time. She survived a subclavian blood clot, which can often be fatal, and they were told that she was no longer able to carry a child without “catastrophic consequences”. The thought of risking Angelina’s life to have this dream realized was not an option for this couple. Instead of letting the fantasy fade, Rob and Angelina have just evolved their dream.

“In my heart of hearts I feel that at least one of our children is in this world,” said Angelina. “I have told close family and friends this. I feel there is a child that was not made of my bones or shares the same blood but I feel connected to adoption and to this mystery child. In my dreams it’s a beautiful tanned boy with a gorgeous smile. He is about 2.5 years old. Sometimes I see a second boy and the two are skating together and someone asks me if I know them, I say “those are my boys.” I always wake up feeling content and that this is the path for us.”

As much as the couple has accepted that surrogacy or adoption will be their pathway to becoming parents, the process is not easy. “We went to our first adoption meeting with a social worker and it wasn’t the best experience,” Angelina shared. “It makes me very sad to have someone ask you how much alcohol, drug and substance abuse you are okay with the birth mother doing during pregnancy. Or, how much physical, emotional and sexual abuse are you okay with a birth mother  or child experiencing?” The meeting was the definition of disconcerting for the couple, “Not because we don’t want to be parents to these children but we were saddened by how much a woman can abuse her body while carrying what would be an ultimate gift for us. Many children are born with challenges before even taking their first breath. No one wants to see a child being dealt this hand.”

Following the last loss, Angelina describes her feelings as a “hormone storm”. She explained it to be the “darkest of the dark, saddest of the sad and lowest of the lows.” There was a time she feared she would never see the light again and felt as though her husband may never get her back. As if the fluctuating and overwhelming hormones and insomnia weren’t enough, the couple was inundated with unsolicited advice, mean spirited comments and gossip. Through the dark times Rob and Angelina had the insight and strength to take time off trying and tackling these unchartered waters to “heal and reconnect”. Angelina has gone to counselling, adapted her diet, gone for massages and other health therapies to regain strength. They also sought professional support and Angelina ultimately decided to start sharing their story to help others and quell any misconceptions that surrounded their journey. At the end of everyday Angelina shared that they will, “continue to love each other and search for our rainbow- just sometimes the cloud seems dark and heavy.”

If you would like to follow the Stirton’s as they continue on their path to becoming parents you can check out Angelina’s blog: The Stork With a Broken Wing @thestorkwithabrokenwing on Facebook. The My Why Team would like to thank Rob and Angelina for participating in “The Mother Series”. This personal story and complete campaign are funded by Project Sunrise, a mental health initiative by the Lloydminster Region Health Foundation.

What’s Your My Why?

Thank you to the incredible Meridian Source for the following article:
By Taylor Weaver 
May 1, 2019

Lloydminster’s My Why Revolution presents The Mother Series

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Photo by: Taylor Olivia Photography

What started out as a dream in the summer of 2017 for Kristen Traverse and Jessie Mann has evolved into a life-changing experience for the two as well as the many individuals and families they have worked with over the years.

The dream was quite simple. Meet new people in the community who have gone through some tough times, share their stories, create conversations and reduce stigmas through these educational and inspiring stories.

The two first met and worked together at the 2017 Inspiring Women’s Conference and immediately clicked. It wasn’t until that summer they really reconnected at the Lloydminster Hospital when Mann was overcoming a broken pelvis and multiple broken vertebrae in her back following a barrel racing accident.

Traverse, a registered nurse who in 2015 had a cryptogenic stroke that left her with aphasia and apraxia, was there to support Mann as a nurse and friend, which is when the My Why concept began to take shape.

“During the downtime, we started dreaming about meeting inspiring people in the community,” said Mann.

“We are constantly inspired by people in Lloydminster and surrounding area and we wanted to spend more time with them and give them a platform to tell their stories.”

“We immediately hit it off because we have the same passion for doing things that are out of our comfort zone and building others up,” added Traverse.

“Jessie is such an absolute force and inspirational woman you cannot help but love.”

The two knew they couldn’t do it all on their own, and brought on Kim Capiral of Narra Studios to bring the magic to life and started envisioning how they could turn these tough times and pain into something that could make a difference.

It wasn’t long before My Why Revolution was a registered organization and a member of the Chamber of Commerce.

“We felt if we really threw ourselves behind this passion, that together the three of us could really tell brave, inspiring and educational stories from some of the many truly remarkable people we live with here,” said Mann.

With a strong belief in Project Sunrise, the team approached Malcolm Radke, CEO of the Lloydminster Region Health Foundation, and with support and guidance from Radke, the group devised a three-part campaign to share the stories of people facing mental health struggles and addiction.

“A big part of breaking down the stigma involved in mental health and helping people realize what local support is available is storytelling and helping people see what a real challenge this is for everyone, so on the storytelling side, they’ve really done a great job finding individual stories of people right here in the region who deal with these things,” said Radke.

“It’s your neighbours, your coworkers, friends, family members, anyone you walk by on the street. They’ve done a great job of pulling out the emotion and making people feel the impacts of the various mental health challenges people face.”

To date, the series has included “Jordy’s Story” and “Tyler’s Story,” which can both be found on the My Why Facebook page, and “The Mother Series” is being released this month.

In honour of World Maternal Mental Health Day, the Meridian Source will be publishing stories, written by My Why Revolution, about four of the women in The Mother Series.

“Our event in May is the largest we have taken on so far. We will feature nine women on their motherhood journeys and share their stories through the Meridian Source, Prime Time Local News, social media, a trailer released May 1 and a full feature film to come at the end of the month. We launched the event on May 1 (Maternal Mental Health Day) at the event at Home Hardware with the Mother’s First group,” said Mann.

As a nurse and a mother of two, this project really hit home for Traverse, especially considering postpartum depression affects approximately 15 per cent of Canadian mothers in the first year after giving birth.

“This statistic is probably underestimated because it often goes unreported. There is still such a stigma and misunderstanding around it. It affects the family and affects the lifelong development of the child if the mother does not get appropriate help and support,” she said.

“As a mother myself, I knew that if I could give a platform to this, My Why needed to help and give a voice to mothers in our community. When we decided to do this, we asked if anyone was willing to share through social media. There was such an overwhelming response in our community and Jessie and I are so passionate about bringing this to light.”

For Traverse, her My Why is a combination of many experiences throughout her life, but a big aspect of it is advocating for others and being the best mom she can be.

“The stroke completely changed my outlook on life. I wanted to show my kids they can choose their life and can face any adversity with grace and dignity,” she said.

“I now know hard work and tenacity can take you far. I know how valuable and needed a voice is. I started saying yes more. I loved more.”

The two have spoken together at conferences across Alberta on their personal experiences with resiliency, including speaking at the Edmonton Women’s Show. The pair has also put together written lesson plans for Alberta Health Services.

Mann’s My Why comes through tough times, lost loved ones, as well as the ups and downs of a lifelong autoimmune disease, and explained: “through each low point I have tried to learn and grow.”

“The people we have had the pleasure of working with have done so much more for us and the community than we could ever do for them,” she said. “But, being a tiny part of sharing their incredible journey’s means more to me than I can honestly put into words.”

They both agree the most rewarding aspect of the experience to date has been the people they’ve had the pleasure of meeting and how they have entrusted them to tell their stories.

“Kristen is one of those people you can’t believe you get to spend time with,” said Mann.

“I am lucky to call her a friend, but truly honoured to share the mission of our organization with her.”

As for the future, Traverse simply said, “The sky is the limit. Jessie is a such a passionate and hardworking person, so between the two of us we are very motivated to make this movement grow.”

 

The Why behind “My Why”

In 2015 Kristen SURVIVED a cryptogenic stroke. The word survive is used intentionally as Kristen didn’t let herself suffer during this trying time. She turned recovery into a full time job. The stroke took away much more than her ability to communicate. It took the way she related the world. It took her ability to tell her kids she loved them, and took her energy to care for them in the way that they deserved.

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It took her ability to choose to follow her passion in nursing and stole her identity and who she thought she was. As hard as this was, when all was said and done, the stroke gave me more gifts than ever took from me.

PLEASE VIEW: A Stroke Could Not Silence This Hero.

It gave her a gift of knowing time is finite, and the gift of valuing her life and those in it. It gave her purpose in helping others that are affected by stroke and to bring more compassionate care to our healthcare system. As crazy as it sounds, it made her life better in a lot of ways. After seizures, a heart surgery and another Transient Ischemic Attack she continues to fight through the tough stuff and re-evaluate her WHY.

2017 was a defining year for Jessie. It could have been said that 2017 was an awful year for Jessie, but she didn’t treat it as such.

One day Kristen and Jessie were planning a photoshoot and the next thing they knew, Jessie was texting Kristen that her horse stumbled and rolled over her, crushing her pelvis and vertebrae in her back only moments before she was going to barrel race for $50,000.

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Jessie was cracking some jokes and told Kristen that she was in unbelievable pain but that she would, “be just fine- no painkillers needed.” Because as much as she was in an insane amount of pain, a liver disease she lives with everyday prevented her from taking any pain medications.

There she was facing a crushed pelvis and who knows how long off her feet, with no pain relief. When she learned to walk again, she FINALLY sold her house after years of being on the market, she moved, then the sale fell through a day before possession and then had to move back to the original house again. She ended up getting a bad case of shingles, pneumonia, having her grandpa in and out of the hospital, and 2017 wrapped up with losing her dad very suddenly just days after Christmas.

Never once did she complain. She is resilient through and through and probably a little too stubborn. 

Jessie and Kristen had these gifts. As heart breaking, difficult or discouraging as the troubles have been they had to redefine their purpose. Gifts and messages come in unique ways if you are open to receiving them and these two were listening, loud and clear. Ultimately time together in the hospital bonded these two and showed them how similar everyone’s journeys through recovery can be.

FROM KRISTEN AND JESSIE:
You see too often we believe that people think that happiness is this drive to the top. When, WHEN, you get to the top you will be happy. Interruptions aren’t good, bumps along the way are bad and only after you have found success will you have freedom and TRUE happiness.

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Society seems to tell us that we need to have this straight line through life.
Graduate, go to post secondary, meet someone, get married, have two children, work, retire, travel, die an old person with our perfect person. Unfortunately, few of us in the room are going to have that straight line through life. That is reality. Many of us in this room don’t want much of what I just said and some that is all they dream about. Our lives have been anything but what we expected. In fact, everything we thought we once were and everything we once had perfectly planned- is no longer. We have learned that when you learn to make the struggles worth it- the roller coaster can be a part of the fun.

We see this differently. We don’t think there is an up, or down, top or bottom.

Life for us, we try and see as a journey, a mess of highs and lows, loops and valleys AND it is apart of that crazy ride that gives us contentment, meaning, fulfillment and purpose.

It maybe shows us we work too much or work a job that is more of a job and less of a fulfilling career. It might show you that you need more self care, teach you which battles to pick, or put forward who your true friends and family are. It can show you where you spend your time that doesn’t matter and make clear where you should be spending it.

To make the struggle worth it and use the pain to benefit we have taken those lows and experienced greater highs than we knew prior to the tough stuff.

THE FOUNDATION FOR the My Why REVOLUTION

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It is safe to say that we have had our fair share of interesting issues over the past few years. It has made us realize that we no longer want to spend time working for what looks good on a resume. We want to spend time on how people will remember us. If we were to die tomorrow, What do we need to do today? Were we kind enough? Did we make the wrongs right? Did we learn from the mistakes? Are we helping enough? Are we spending time doing things that matter?

We think it’s important to look at building a ‘legacy.’ It’s important to look at what we are doing today that we will be remembered for tomorrow.

There have been times we have been driven to developing the ‘resume’. We were the YES people. We almost found a sense of security in that resume. That “security” was false security though. Giving up that we have any real control when it comes to the big things in life has given us a freedom we can’t explain and a focus on what we love, what we enjoy and the quality people to surround myself with. Thus, My Why was born. We want to tell stories for those who maybe don’t have the platform, courage or support network to be open, honest and vulnerable. Spending time with the true heroes that walk has meant more to us than we could ever explain.

Thank you for reading and learning about how My Why got it’s start. If you would like to have a coffee chat, book us for a workshop or presentation or have a story you or someone you know would like to share, ‘Contact Us’.

 

 

Jordy’s Story

Making this with the incredible Haughian family was something we will never forget! Thank you for being brave enough to share your story with us, and the world. You are courageous and you are strong. You are not only an inspiration but the work you are all doing in Lloydminster, and our entire community, is making our home a better place.

Thank you to the Lloydminster Region Health Foundation for the partnership that made this possible. http://lloydminstermentalhealth.ca/

Here is, “Jordy’s Story”

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