Celebrate with me

I cannot believe I am finally here!

It’s taken me just over 3 years, but I am officially taking over my own lease in April.  I’d like to celebrate by telling you my story. Will you celebrate with me?

I don’t want you to pity me because of what I’ve gone through so, instead, let’s celebrate together like this. As I share my story with you, I want you to remember that I could be your neighbour; the one you wave at as you take out your garbage, or grab your flyers. I could be the person in front of you at the grocery store, or another mom you smile at when you pick up your kids from school. My life isn’t written on my face any more than yours.

I had a great life once. I grew up privileged, knowing I could be anything I wanted to be, the whole world seemingly at my fingertips. My parents loved me so much. I was their miracle child, born after they had given up hope of conceiving. They adored me, and I’m certain that if they were still around today, I’d be living a completely different story.

While I was in university at Brock, I met a man. He was finishing up his degree while I was beginning mine. He was my whole world. I became pregnant during my first year of school and he said he would make enough to support us.  He told me he wanted to take care of me and, if I’m honest, I had always dreamed of being an at-home-mom, so that became our plan. We got married. We were happy. Baby boy was thriving, and our lives were settled.

The first couple of years were fantastic; then came year three.  We found ourselves looking forward to the birth of our second child, not realizing everything was about to shift. After our daughter was born, I didn’t experience the joy I had with our son. I’m embarrassed to admit I wasn’t a great wife during that time. I wasn’t a great mom. I didn’t want to hold my daughter; cringing every time I had to pick her up. I didn’t want to be near her. I didn’t want to be near anyone.

I found myself not wanting to get out of bed.  I didn’t know what was happening to me, but I constantly felt guilty, trying to understand why I would hold my daughter, with tears running down my face, even after her cries had stopped. My husband stopped trying to understand, and instead chose to pack his bags and leave us with nothing-to start another family-with another woman.

Without a job, an education, or any financial assistance, it wasn’t long before my children and I were facing eviction. There’s no real shelter for people like me in West Niagara. I think most people assume if you live this area, that you must have money. Instead, what you have are fewer options. I was lost until the day someone suggested that I connect with the West Niagara Affordable Housing (GAHP at the time).

Once we met, GAHP immediately put a roof over our heads at the YWCA’s shelter in St. Catharines. I finally had a diagnosis for post-partum depression, and all of the supports I needed to overcome it, and other mental health issues I faced. They provided me and my family with what they call ‘wrap around supports,’ and that’s exactly what it felt like.  Like we were finally safe and cared for.

Those supports were all I needed to get us back on our feet, and it didn’t take long before I was ready to enter into the West Niagara Affordable Housing program. Here, I’ve been able to get a new lease on life. I’ve been working really hard through some of the YW’s skills development programs to learn the things I need to keep my family on track, and the future is so bright. I finished my schooling this last June, and I have a job, and now, my own lease!

So with this, I wanted you to celebrate with me because you made this happen. You gave me a chance to have the supports to get back on my feet, to love my children, and support them, as a mom should. To have a home in my community. To feel like myself again. To thrive. You did that. I want you to celebrate that I am able to feel strong enough to tell you my story. I really would not be where I am today, taking control of my life, without your help.

Thank you for supporting the YW’s West Niagara programming. My children and I are grateful, and celebrating you. Celebrate with us.

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