A message to our readers: the following article covers mental health and stillbirth.
In July 2017, Catherine was at BC Women’s Hospital, waiting for her hormones to kick in so she could deliver her stillborn son. She had moved to Vancouver from Belgium one year prior and was isolated from her family.
She found herself scrolling through a Facebook group for Moms and decided to make a post herself. She was looking to this online community for support and strength. Within a matter of days the group had set up a fundraising page to contribute to the cost of her son’s tombstone. They arranged nightly meal drop-offs for Catherine’s first month at home.
The following day, Dr. Deirdre Ryan, Medical Director of the Reproductive Mental Health Program at BC Women’s Hospital visited her and set her up with regular counselling. This continued until Catherine’s next pregnancy, and five months after that.
Catherine recalls always feeling relieved and lighter after her monthly sessions with Terri Kipnis, a Nurse Clinician with the Reproductive Mental Health team. One memory that stuck with her was her first daughter playing in the waiting room before Catherine went into her sessions. “In those early days I felt confused, sad, even revolted, guilty, and angry. Those conversations really made my journey easier.”
When Catherine was expecting her next child, her experience at BC Women’s continued. Her water broke at 28 weeks and she needed to stay at the hospital for two months. Her daughter, Yasmine spent time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit after her birth. But Catherine describes feeling that this experience felt surprisingly smooth. Catherine was excited to introduce the Reproductive Mental Health team to her new baby.
When her time with the program was coming to an end Catherine felt ready. She felt proud. She’s since taken the opportunity to spread the word to others in her community about this incredible program that so few women know is available to them in Vancouver. She also emphasizes how important financial support is for this program to expand, since she knows the need is so great.
When Catherine was presented with the BC Women’s Health Foundation’s Her Mind, Her Health campaign, she gravitated towards the emphasis on online tools and resources for women. She described those early days, and how she and her partner found themselves wanting to read as much as possible about stillbirth. That information helped them process their experience.
“I know that I will always feel anxious and sad in the weeks before my son’s anniversary. I’ve experienced these emotions every year. But I accept it. I know it is part of my journey. It was a hard one, but I can say today that it was also somehow a positive experience, a transformative one. I experienced first hand that life continues, that we are extraordinarily strong and resilient human beings.”
- Buy tickets for GLOW, an interactive broadcast raising funds for reproductive mental health research.
- Donate today to ensure women’s reproductive mental health needs are met.
- Learn more about our Her Mind, Her Health campaign.
- Do you have a lived experience with reproductive mental health you’d like to share? Use your voice. By sharing your story, women across the province can relate, find solace, and muster the courage to share theirs too.
BC Women’s Health Foundation is BC’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the full spectrum of women’s health. The information shared is intended to educate, inform, and point readers to credible sources. It is not intended to substitute professional medical advice.
If you are struggling with your mental health, or concerned about someone else, call the BC Mental Health Support Line: 310-6789 (do not add 604, 778 or 250 before the number). It’s free and available 24 hours a day. If you prefer to access help and support via email, contact email@example.com.