I’m lucky enough not to have experienced what it’s like to be really sick. It’s a world I’ve never seen up close. But I did cross paths with it when I was pregnant and going into Sainte-Justine for appointments. I’ve seen first-hand the furrowed brows of worried parents, the wide-eyed innocence of young children and the sleeves-rolled-up determination of healthcare professionals, all at Sainte-Justine. On a personal level, this is where I brought not one, but two lives into the world last year. I could not be more grateful.

I became a patient of Sainte-Justine’s high-risk pregnancy unit (GARE) right after Chloé and I found out we were expecting twins, “Di/Di” twins as they’re referred to in medical circles. Each had their own placenta and their own genetic makeup. There’s a history of twins in my family, and I suspected there were two lives growing inside of me as I saw how fast my belly was expanding. What actually did surprise me was Sainte-Justine. I wasn’t expecting to be treated so expertly and with such kindness. The reassuring manner of all the doctors and nurses was contagious. Sainte-Justine gave me the strength I needed to get through one of the most disorienting stages of any woman’s life: the journey to motherhood.

My case wasn’t particularly special. Like so many others, my pregnancy coincided with the pandemic. Even amid all that uncertainty, I received the very highest standard of care. They kept a close eye on everything, both the physical and the mental. I was blown away by the help expectant mothers like me experiencing a high-risk pregnancy get at Sainte-Justine, from nutrition to psychological support and everything in between

I know that pregnancy and the months that follow can be an incredibly challenging time for parents who are prone to anxiety and depression. I realize that these mental health issues can take their toll on mothers-to-be, the babies they are carrying and, over the longer term, a couple’s entire relationship. But thanks to Sainte-Justine and the wonderful community of donors who are there to support state-of-the-art care and services, most of my own journey was a very happy and fulfilling one, all the way up to and including the delivery of my twins at 37 weeks.

The word “miracle” takes on a whole other meaning after you’ve given birth. I’ll admit my experience felt more supernatural than natural. And what else can I say but “thank you” to the powerhouse group that was there for me along the way — my partner, the attendants, the nurses and the doctors.

I never ended up needing Sainte-Justine to get me out of a critical situation. My sons were born healthy, and I have had the great fortune of staying that way myself. I feel lucky being able to say that, and it has definitely sparked a profound desire to give back. So it was with a very grateful heart that I agreed to serve as an ambassador of the 15th-anniversary edition of the Sainte-Justine Tree of Lights and use my voice to urge the public to step up for our kids.

Ben and Mathias turned one in November. This will be the first year they’ll enjoy the magic of the holidays for themselves. On their behalf and in a show of support for all the young patients and families of Sainte-Justine, I am adding my lights to the Sainte-Justine Tree to spark hope. And I am counting on you to do the same. Because there’s nothing that makes your heart shine as much as watching your children grow up healthy.

Katherine Levac
Mother and ambassador for the 15th annual Sainte-Justine Tree of Lights

*The remarks expressed in this article reflect the opinion solely of the author and should not be considered as representative of the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation.

CHU Sainte-Justine

Leading the way in pediatric and maternity care

Sainte-Justine is a mother-and-child hospital through and through. Unlike other pediatric-only facilities, Sainte-Justine considers the care of mothers-to-be and young patients to be a continuum. From the womb to adulthood, our teams are there for them every step of the way.

Ours is also one of the most dynamic teaching hospitals in all of Canada in the fields of perinatology and neonatology, as well as Quebec’s leading referral centre for prenatal diagnosis.

Thanks to donors like the Rossy Foundation, tremendous strides forward have been made to dramatically transform the experience of high-risk pregnancy for women and their families. The Grande Ourse perinatal mental health project and the Ombrelles program have played a huge part in making this happen. The CHU Sainte-Justine Centre of Excellence in Maternal-Fetal Medicine is growing and developing in multiple ways to generate positive outcomes for mothers-to-be, their babies and their entire family unit.

A respected authority in mother-and-child health

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