After relocating from Vancouver Island to Penticton, Danielle Meise, an Indigenous woman, of mixed-Cree descent found herself unexpectedly pregnant with her third child, Hunter.
Meise, her husband, and two daughters had just recently moved to Syilxw/Okanagan territory. Her husband, who was part of the 60’s scoop, became disconnected from the Osoyoos Indian Band.
They moved back to the South Okanagan to reconnect with his family.
“It was really scary. I had no real connection to anyone — my family lives in Vernon, B.C., and his family’s down here, but we didn’t really know them — so it was kind of us against the world,” Meise says.
They’re raising their family Syilxw and Cree, following her and her husband’s family traditions.
Meise sought out community resources available for low-income families and came across One Sky community resource prenatal program in Penticton.
Meise says she suffers from high anxiety and PTSD stemming from childhood trauma. She felt nervous moving to a new city and never expected to develop new friendships in a pregnancy program.
“After the second session, it was great. There were some great friendships and some good connections. One Sky has so many resources,” she says.
Jill Taggart, director of services at One Sky Community Resources in Penticton says about 20 per cent of the pregnant women who access their pregnancy support program identify as Indigenous.
The program is open to pregnant women, new moms with toddlers, and mothers who want to conceive in the South Okanagan.
“Anyone who can get to us in the southern Okanagan is more than welcome,” says Taggart.
Still, Meise wants more support in smaller towns for expecting mothers.
“These small towns don’t have the money to get the programming that would benefit them,” she says.
“I have a very bleak view. I’ve had three children in the Okanagan and aside from friendship centres and you know, these very great nonprofit programs,” she says, “there isn’t a whole lot unless you have the money to pay for it.”
While the lack of programming available became obvious during Meise’s pregnancies, she praises One Sky as a program that can help pregnant women in the Okanagan.
“The best resource that I got from One Sky was their care closet program,” says Meise, “Being that we were only a one-income family, there’s not a lot of money for new baby stuff.”
Hunter was her “first strictly breastfed child,” so she was able to book an appointment with The Care Closet program and pick out outfits for the baby, she says.
“I didn’t know what I needed to actually prepare myself. They helped me pick nursing pads and bottles, and showed me the different options for pumps and things like that.”
Meise doesn’t think there’s enough support for new moms, young moms, and mom’s that don’t fit the “status quo,” she explains. “Where you’re married and have a husband and the money to actually go and find these resources, that in my opinion, cost an arm and a leg.
“I just hope that more people find out about these programs and that they do get supported and that the community can come out and stop the stigma around poverty,” says Meise.
“I just wish more people would kind of take into consideration the idea that it does take a village to raise a child.”
Chehala Leonard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse