UPDAT May 2020: Jenna's Story
We wanted to see how Jenna and Grace were doing one year after this article was published. We reached out to Jenna and this is what she had to tell us.
"The last year has been a whirlwind! I finished my psychology degree and got a great job working as a counsellor at Thorpe Recovery Centre which I absolutely love. Grace turned 3 in April and is such a kind, loving, sweet, funny girl; she keeps me on my toes and makes me smile everyday. We are doing well and I am loving watching Grace grow and change through all the phases of toddlerhood."
We are so happy you found your connection and your Joy again Jenna!
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.