Phuong's Story

Stock photo for illustration only.

It’s funny how life can change in the blink of an eye, isn’t it? One minute you’re going through your day-to-day life, and the next, you’re navigating uncharted waters, trying to find your way back to shore. That’s how it felt for me after having my baby — my whole world changed.

I knew myself as a loving wife and devoted nurse, but now I had to discover who I was as a mom. Sometimes, I find comfort in looking at old photos of my mom. I talk to her and tell her about my days as a nurse and the fulfillment I get from helping people when they’re sick and hurt. I tell her about my husband and our sweet dog. I ask her for advice on how to be the best parent for our three-year-old daughter.

I didn’t realize how much losing my mother at a young age affected me until I had a daughter of my own. I lost my mother when I was seven, so growing up, I always felt like I had to be my own mom. After I had my daughter, I experienced the grief of losing my mother all over again. I had buried it so deep that I realized I hadn't processed the trauma and pain of losing her. My heart ached, knowing that I didn’t have the experiences and memories with my mother that my daughter was going to have with me.

My daughter brought a joy to my life that I didn’t know was possible, and watching her grow and change over these past few years has been wonderful. But becoming a mom also brought stress and challenges that I didn’t expect.

My husband and I started arguing more about little things. I was tired, lonely, and irritable — I didn’t feel like myself. I remember saying to my husband, “you get to have all the fun, go to work, and be with adults, while I stay home with our daughter.” I felt like I was doing the lion’s share of the work and could sense myself becoming resentful. I wasn’t happy; I was running on little sleep, and these bitter feelings were eating away at me. I had a lot of people who loved and supported me, but my husband and friends just couldn’t understand what I was going through. I realized I needed help.

Stock photo for illustration only.

I remember going to my doctor for my daughter’s six-month checkup and telling him that I didn't feel like myself. I told him how I felt like I should be past this stage. He reassured me that how I was feeling was normal and nothing to be ashamed of — so many women experience postpartum depression. He recommended I try counselling, so I turned to Calgary Counselling Centre.

I chose CCC because I wanted to connect with a counsellor that was like me — someone who was Asian and could understand my culture and Catholic faith. I wanted to feel like I could say things about my heritage without needing to explain myself. Being Vietnamese is a huge part of my upbringing, and I didn’t even realize it until I started raising my daughter. There are so many customs and traditions I want to share with her, and it’s nice being able to talk about it with someone who understands.

It helped that my counsellor also shared the same faith as me so that we could talk about my experiences in a spiritual sense. I always felt a bit uncomfortable talking about faith with my friends because I didn’t think they understood that part of me, so having someone to relate to was incredibly comforting.

Stock photo for illustration only.

Through my counselling sessions, I learned how important it was to take care of myself. As a nurse and mom, I spend so much time looking after other people that I started neglecting myself. Counselling helped me recognize my limits and needs, and by doing so, I was able to set boundaries and be a happier, more present person when it mattered.

I reintroduced activities and people into my life that helped me flourish. I took walks, did yoga, and made time for my girlfriends. I started taking time for myself after my workday before picking up my daughter. I would rest, relax, and just take an hour for me. The hour after work may not seem like a big deal, but it helps me recharge so that I can spend quality time with my daughter — it's helped us bond better. My relationship with my husband has also improved, and the time we spend together as a family is peaceful — it fills me up.

I honestly never thought I would have the capacity to work full-time and have a child of my own. I felt that the trauma of losing my mother at a young age held me back from experiencing those things that everyone else around me seemed to be able to handle. But now, I look at myself with so much more compassion.

I want other people to know that when they get the support they need, they can live a full life. The traumas of their past don’t have to hold them back from having a happy future or happy present.

Every mom deserves to feel supported and understood. With your donation to Calgary Counselling Centre this Mother’s Day, you can help moms like Phuong access the resources they need to prioritize self-care and mental wellness. Donate today.