By Aleisha Yawney
My wakeup call came just after having my 6th child (a beautiful girl named Klara). I chose to have a home birth because I had hoped to avoid hospitals during the pandemic. As a registered nurse, I knew that the hospitals were a difficult place to be – with visiting policies and general COVID policies changing by the minute and hospital workers that were quite stretched. The birth itself was a beautiful experience.
But when Klara was less than 48hrs old, I developed a fever, chills, terrible muscle aches and tachycardia. I knew something was wrong and made the decision to go to the ER to be assessed. I ended up being admitted for 6 days and was found to have an infection that could have a 30-50% mortality rate if it wasn’t caught early. Thankfully we caught it early and I made a full recovery.
Being so sick, however, stirred something in me. It woke my desire to truly enter into life in a deeper way. Don’t get me wrong; I had a full life. I was an involved mother who cares deeply for my family. I have always been a practising Catholic who prayed, participated in the sacraments, and read scripture regularly. I had an amazing job as a palliative care nurse consultant. I volunteered and lived on a farm that has a mission to serve the poor, but I was not able to be truly happy. I felt stressed and anxious most days. I felt like I was in a box of expectations, and I was going through my days just surviving and waiting for something to change.
I decided to start working on my physical health. Having 6 children in 10 years as well as struggling on and off with mental health had taken a toll on my body. I was exhausted all the time, had low energy, and physical activities were getting more and more difficult for me. My husband would take the kids out skating, swimming, or biking, while I stayed home as the thought of doing those activities was too overwhelming, and I would not be able to keep up.
I decided to join an online workout platform that a high school friend was promoting. First, I was suspicious about it; but I was surprised by what I found. The women were so encouraging, motivating, and full of gratitude towards life. People were striving to develop good habits so they could show up more fully in their lives. After building the habit of moving my body 5 days a week, I slowly started to have more energy, my mental fog lifted, and I started to feel like myself again.
In my prayer time, I went to the Lord and asked Him “Lord, is it OK that I am finding so much help and joy in a secular fitness group?” I was mystified and uncertain as I thought that my healing and joy should come from my prayer time, or mass, or a retreat – not by my 30-minute sweat session. Over and over, I brought it to the Lord, and over and over, I heard Him tell me in different ways: “I want you to be happy, keep exercising, I am with you in this.”
I listened and kept going. The support group I joined was also into “personal development,” which was done mostly by reading books on areas you want to grow in and listening to podcasts that are in the “self-help” realm. I was very hesitant, to say the least, and worried it would all be “new age-ish things”. Instead, I found practical and helpful titles to help me build habits, to be consistent, and keep disciplined.
Affirmations were promoted where you tell yourself “I am_____” and you fill in the blank for what you need to hear at that time. I thought it was foolish until it hit me one day like a ton of bricks. The affirmations aren’t bad, they just don’t go far enough. I am strong because He has made me strong. I am enough because He has made me enough. I am lovable because He has made me lovable. I said it out loud. I allowed myself to feel it. To know it. And to receive it. It’s not all up to me.
On the days when I don’t feel strong, lovable, or enough for my family, it’s OK, because it doesn’t stop with me. I am made in the image and likeness of God: that is a powerful truth when you know it in your bones. I am a reflection of Him, and I can do amazing things because of Him. I am on a journey of self-discovery. I have a new curiosity about who I am and what I am called to do. I have more confidence in myself and am more excited about the days ahead of me. So, say it with me: “I am … because He made me.”
Aleisha lives in Ottawa with her husband and six children. She currently lives and volunteers at Waupoos Family Farm. She spends her time homeschooling her kids, encouraging women on their health journeys as a wellness coach, hiking in the woods and reading when she has a spare moment.