I could not be more excited to share this incredible guest blog by Jacqueline Villeneuve. It is hard to accurately put into words just how amazing Jacqueline is, and the wonderful things she has done/and continues to do. She is the owner of Olive and Annie a social enterprise that specializes in unique products for children and women. It is an ethical, handcrafted product line that supports orphaned children and mentors and educates youth to end sexual violence.
Jacqueline is also the founder and director of Zawadi la Tumaini, a children’s home that provides a loving home to orphaned and abandoned children of all backgrounds. They provide children with proper nutrition, education and health care within an environment that builds strong family bonds. So basically she is an absolute badass/rockstar of a human being.
Jacqueline shares about her personal struggles and experience as a single mom, and the hardships she faced within her relationship with her child’s father. I hope that you find it as inspirational and courageous as I do. Thank you Jacqueline, I am honoured to share your story.
A Single Mother’s Experience of Walking Away From Abuse
By Jacqueline Villeneuve
**Trigger Warning. This post does contain details of abuse, and may be emotionally triggering for some. **
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine myself becoming a single mother. All my life I thought I would never have biological children of my own. From the age of 16 I have been working in Kenya with orphaned and abandoned children. Advocating for orphans and vulnerable children is my passion. The children who became my family at my children’s home are my heart and soul. I never saw myself becoming a mother. Being pregnant wasn’t a part of my plan. Sometimes things happen in life which we don’t plan for, my pregnancy certainly fell into that category.
From the moment I saw my pregnancy test I knew my life would change forever. I was 20 years old. Living in Kenya on my own. Running a children’s home and planning to begin university. Having a child was REALLY not a part of the plan. A million and one thoughts ran through my mind. How would my donors react? How would my family react? Was I capable of being a mother? Then I immediately thought of the father of the baby.
A Positive Pregnancy Test…….
It was not a serious relationship. I devote my life to my work and by the encouragement of friends I started dating a person my own age – aiming for a fun loving relationship I could enjoy. “Act your age for once Jacquie – don’t let life pass you by”. I tried for some time but the relationship was rocky. I saw signs of the person being aggressive, overly protective, manipulative and I ended conversation.
After a trip back to Canada we reconnected, which was supposed to be only one time. Shortly after reconnecting I was reminded of the traits I had seen months before and ended communication, but suddenly there I was, staring down at a positive pregnancy test just 3 weeks later. There was no question in my mind. I was keeping this baby. I believe things happen in life for a reason. If I was meant to get pregnant, there must be a reason for it.
Sharing The News with The Father
Things were not easy. I shared with the father of my child that I was pregnant and he seemed to care less. The evening I told him I was having his child he spent the night partying, with another woman. He told me to do what I wanted. Weeks later said he never “asked” for a baby and suggested I should abort. I was young and scared; I tried to keep pushing through, for the sake of my child, to show him that the child deserved a “family”.
I hadn’t even shared the news with my family. My grandparents came to Kenya and it was my grandmother who I first shared the news with. She was a young mother, married to my grandfather at 16 years old. Many people thought they were too young to be having children. Many people thought they would not succeed. But they did. She was an amazing mother to 4 children and then became an incredible grandmother to 6 grandchildren. One of the strongest women I know.
Telling My Grandparents
I will never forget the moment when I told her the news. I took her upstairs to my room in the children’s home. She had no idea what I was about to tell her. Tears streamed down my face before I even got a word out. She hugged me, almost as if she knew. “I’m pregnant” ….
Tears streamed down my face before I even got a word out. She hugged me, almost as if she knew. “I’m pregnant” ….
Finally, the words were out. She and my grandfather helped me for those next 3 weeks. They held my hair as I had morning sickness, well – let’s call it ALL DAY sickness. Each of them held my hand when I was crying, scared out of my mind becoming a mother. They tried their best to help the father of my child and I find common ground and tried to share experiences with us in hopes that he would support their granddaughter. They supported me through those first few weeks, when I needed someone there for me the most.
The Verbal Abuse Began
In the weeks that followed I shared the news with the rest of my family. I tried my best to get the father of my child even remotely interested in this child’s life. I shared the news with the children at my children’s home, my family here in Kenya, and they were beyond thrilled. Though my family in Canada were happy for me, and my children and family in Kenya were happy to welcome this child, the father wasn’t. My heart was broken.
It was shortly after I shared the news of my pregnancy with the father of my child that the verbal abuse began. It continued throughout my entire pregnancy. Something I’ve come to learn is very common for single mothers. We try so badly to make someone, who clearly does not want to be involved, have the same love for our baby as we do. Forcing love only leads to pain.
All Of The Pain Disappeared
When I moved back to Canada I was 6 months pregnant. I was incredibly depressed, anxious, and scared. I continued my work advocating for orphaned children and fundraising for my children’s home. I was grateful that many of my donors for ZLT supported me through my journey to becoming a single mom and thankfully many of my mentors and family throughout the city did as well. When my daughter was born I gave birth with my mother and grandmother by my side. 16 hours of natural labour and finally here she was, my daughter.
I remember staring down at her, completely in awe that she was finally here with me. It was as if all the pain I had gone through – the sickness, the abuse, the fear… it all disappeared. She made me stronger than I ever could have imagined. It took me over one year to understand that all my daughter really needed was me, and the family who loved her since day one.
Walking Away from Abuse
It took over one year of verbal abuse, sexual violence, and doubting myself and my value before I stood strong, for the sake of her needs and my own, and walked away from the abusive relationship I had with her father. After I found my peace, found healing, and moved forward I was happier than ever before. I realized that all she really needed was love. Family isn’t always defined as the biological mother and father to a child. Some families are different, unique, and to my daughter – I was her family.
Flash forward to present day, she’s now two and half years old. We have spent nearly one year of her life living in Kenya with my children and she gained 27 cousins who love and treasure her, she and I have traveled to 4 continents together, we moved from my parents’ home into our own apartment, and I met a man when she was just over a year and a half old who loves and supports us and thinks of my daughter and I as his family.
The Strength Of Motherhood
If you had asked me three years ago when I stared down at that positive pregnancy test if I would be in University, own a social enterprise called Olive & Annie, still be operating ZLT, and be in a beautiful and healthy relationship my answered would be have been a definite NO. Becoming a mother inspired me in ways I never imagined. It made me strong enough to walk away from my abuser, it made me strong enough to see my value and my worth, and it inspired me to start Olive & Annie – a company which empowers and supports single mothers in Kenya and advocates to end sexual violence. Most importantly it inspired me to become the best version of myself.
It Always Seems Impossible Until It Is Done
Becoming a single mother is challenging. During your pregnancy you feel embarrassed, you feel ashamed, you will often experience loneliness, and honestly carrying on seems impossible at times. The moment you see your baby for the first time all of those fears, all of the sadness – it fades away. Things are difficult but you will be stronger than you ever believed possible because you are the light of your child’s life. You are their heart. You are everything to them.
“It always seems impossible until it is done.” – Nelson Mandela.
Despite dealing with the challenges that come being a single mother never give up. You will rise stronger than ever before.