Jackie and Jeremy's journey to becoming first-time parents was not one they had envisioned, but has brought them more joy than they could imagine.
The couple began their journey to conceive their first child in 2011. They suspected they may face challenges because of Jackie's age, so they sought fertility treatment in hopes of starting the family they've always dreamed of. In 2014, at age 49, Jackie would become pregnant, but would later face a miscarriage.
"I was quite surprised as it was not something that ever came to mind. It was difficult to accept it given all the effort required to get this far," said Jackie. "I did grieve the loss and believe I managed well, all things considered."
In 2015, Jackie and Jeremy would once again begin fertility treatments, and in February of 2016, were delivered the news of the successful in-vitro fertilization cycle. Jackie shares they were cautiously optimistic once they received this news.
"We both didn't want to get too excited or attached given the previous loss. I was actually quite surprised we were successful based on our experiences up to that time."
As Jackie's pregnancy progressed, she began to really question whether she wanted a child at this time in her life. She had feelings arise about giving up her independence, her ability to be a good mother and whether it was fair for a child to be an only child with elderly parents. These thoughts and feelings are what led to what Jackie refers to as the "pregnancy blues."
It would be the summer of 2016 when Jackie and Jeremy would receive news that would change everything; their unborn daughter had a complex congenital heart defect.
"It was devastating, overwhelming and extremely difficult. The first few days upon learning the news it felt quite 'grey," said Jackie. "The news took away any happiness and joy that other expectant parents are able to have. We didn't have a baby shower, nor did we have a nursery. We were told that there were no guarantees that her heart would be fixable. We bought the car seat and baby supplies the day we were discharged from the hospital."
At the time, Jackie found comfort and support in her husband, struggling with both her mental health and the news of her daughter's heart defect. She shares 'they really understood how each other were feeling.' However, given the unknowns of her pregnancy and the struggles she'd had with her own feelings, Jackie thought she may need support in the future, and more specifically, when Londyn (her daughter) arrived. It was at this time she was referred to the BC Children's Hospital Reproductive Mental Health program, and was waitlisted for an appointment.
"While the news of Londyn's health was heartbreaking, I felt something shift within me, and how I was feeling about becoming a mother," said Jackie. "Hearing this news made me want this child more than ever and I wanted to be healthy and strong so I could love and care for her."
Jackie and Jeremy had already experienced so many obstacles, but it wasn't the end of the road for them. About one month before Jackie's due date, her water broke. Because of Londyn's heart defect, they could not yet deliver her, so she was placed in bed rest for one month at BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre. It was during this time, she would first meet Dr. Fulroop Sidhu, a psychiatrist with the Reproductive Mental Health program.
"My first meeting with Dr. Sidhu gave me the hope (which I didn't have) that I could and would get better," said Jackie. "She could relate to everything I was struggling with and was able to articulate the 'why'. She put together a plan that addressed my sleeping issues, my inability to leave the house and ways to use my own network for support."
The timing could not have been more perfect, as it would be two months before Londyn would receive her open heart surgery. Jackie says with the support of Dr. Sidhu, she was in a good place in her recovery and was able to manage through a high-stress and difficult situation. Jackie received support and care through Dr. Sidhu and the Reproductive Mental Health program until February 2017, and is now happy and health with her beautiful 18-month old daughter, Londyn. She shares she's thankful for the resources and the steps she took to get help.
"I have the strength to take care of my daughter and her needs now and into the future," said Jackie. "I have a healthy state of mind that allows me to enjoy every minute of every day with my family."
Jackie is sharing her story as a part of Maternal Mental Health day. Women of every culture, age, income level and race can develop perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Symptoms can appear any time during pregnancy and the first 12 months after childbirth. Jackie shares she wants other women to realize it's okay to share their stories, and to reach out for help when you need it.
"The darkness does go away, and you can and will be yourself again. Don't suffer alone. As difficult as it is to reach out, confide in someone you trust and get help."
Want to learn more about the BC Children's Reproductive Mental Health Program and resources available? Visit the website.
Want to get involved? Please participate with BC Children's on Twitter for Maternal Mental Health Day – tag us with your social shares and use the campaign hashtag #MaternalMHMatters.