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WHL Academy

Overcoming postpartum depression through hockey

Hi everyone! Thanks for clicking that link that brought you here to my first blog entry in eight years.

You see, Women’s Hockey Life (WHL) was created eight years ago while I was playing in Switzerland. I was sending these long emails to my friends and family back home, keeping them up to date with all of the adventures and experiences I was having. Then I thought, I can’t be the only one who is doing this and what a unique opportunity it would be to not only share my story, but to have others share theirs. By doing so it could potentially inspire someone else to want to go play overseas after their college career.

Fast forward to the present day and WHL has expanded and grown exponentially.  We have had hundreds of players, coaches, parents, and fans write about their experiences with the game.  We have also launched a few branches of WHL to help players achieve their dreams, and we have no plan on slowing down.

I’m coming out of (writing) retirement and will be sharing my thoughts, experiences, and expertise in the women’s hockey world, as well as what it’s like to run a business as a mom of twins—you ready?

My kids were 11 months old when I started to formally create what is now WHL Academy.

At the time, I was in a dark place—Postpartum depression hit me HARD after giving birth to our twins.

Most of it stemmed from the fact that I was no longer a hockey player. I was no longer a hockey coach. I was no longer “in the game”. My identity had been stripped from me. I went from an elite athlete and NCAA coach to a full time stay-at-home mom of twins.

Before kids, I would roll out of bed at 8am after a full night’s sleep and be at work by nine. I would enjoy a nice WARM coffee (ah, the things you take for granted before motherhood) as I watched SportsCenter and had some peace and quiet. I was coaching at UConn and my days were filled with hockey, adult conversations, and doing what I loved most. My evenings would normally end with a few of my favourite TV shows, an NHL game, or binge watching the latest Netflix series.

On June 5, 2016 my entire world changed. Our twins, Justin and Julia, were born and sleep became something I longed for. I no longer spoke English, but was fluent in baby talk and could tell you what Justin or Julia wanted based solely on their cry. And TV… what’s that? As soon as I fed, changed, and got one child down for a nap, the other would be waking up. Repeat… All. Day. Long. And don’t even get me started on personal hygiene 😉

I soon realized something was missing, though. Something besides sleep. I was in uncharted territory, having no idea how to beat PPD, let alone how to keep two tiny humans alive. I love our kids more than anything in this world, but I needed more. I needed to be stimulated in ways they couldn’t provide—in ways only the game of hockey could.

I lived in denial for a while that I was actually living with PPD. I just thought that what I was feeling: the isolation, the fear, the insecurity, was all a part of being a first-time mom, which to some extent it was. But, I never felt overwhelmed with joy after the kids were born (I swear I love them to death), which then sparked the guilt for feeling that way. I felt numb and rarely smiled. I never wanted to leave the house. I was irritable and cried ALL of the time. I lost interest in the things I loved most. I felt completely defeated. The “baby blues” never left after those first few weeks or even months.

Justin and Julia were 11 months old when I finally started to see the light and decided to invest in myself and my company. I just knew that I couldn’t continue with things how they were, so I put my energy into a solution. I was seeing a therapist to work through what was going on, but there was never an “ah-ha” moment that made me turn things around. It happened gradually over time.
With each passing day, my confidence grew. I had ZERO idea how to be a mom, let alone to twins, but each day I put one foot in front of the other and fought like hell to make it to the end of the day. I figured it out along the way (as most parents do). My nights, their naps, and any free time I had, I spent diving into making Women’s Hockey Life what I always envisioned it could be (and we are only just getting started).

For the first time since Justin and Julia were born, I finally felt alive again when I dove back into my work with WHL. A part of my old identity was coming back and I was finally able to take back control of my life and create the future I wanted—one with kids AND hockey.

There are still moments and days where the same symptoms of PPD rear their ugly heads. The insecurity, the fear, the not-knowing-what-the-heck-I’m-doing kind of thoughts. The biggest difference from when those symptoms were present after giving birth to today is that I have built up enough mental muscle to combat them and keep them at bay. As soon as I had the vision for what I wanted WHL Academy to look like, motivation found me and I haven’t slowed down since.

I am most proud of WHL Academy and the team behind it because of the impact we are having on so many young female players. This is the reason I started Women’s Hockey Life in the first place, and through my darkest hour, I needed to get back to this to find my purpose as an individual again and not just as a mom.

I had a phone call with one of our players the other night who just got offered a roster spot by two NCAA Division 3 schools, only two days apart. The coolest thing about all of this, in my EXTREMELY biased opinion, is that my team and I have never seen her play. Not once. Not even in video. We never once called a coach on her behalf either. She did it ALL. We simply gave her the map and walked beside her.

You see, the whole point of WHL Academy is not to do the work for the players. Instead, we give them all of the tools that they need to do the work themselves and achieve their dream of playing hockey in college. Yes, we give them all of the information that they need to make that dream a reality, but it’s the TRANSFORMATION that they undergo that ultimately makes them successful. We’re trying to create strong, confident, independent women who can literally do anything when they set their mind to it and put in the work.

Just like my own transformation, I’m honoured to see these players become better versions of themselves. We all have the ability within us to overcome struggle and rise to success, we just need some help along the way. Through my own journey of self-discovery, I realized that I had all of this knowledge and experience to not only give to my kids, but to give to the women of the hockey world as well. I chose to better the hockey world, but in turn, the hockey world bettered me.

From my darkest days came my proudest creations (our twins and WHL Academy).


Editor’s Note:

To learn more about WHL Academy, click here.

To join our Facebook group with other players and families learning how to navigate the college recruiting process, click here. To follow WHL Academy on Instagram, click here.

To follow Jaclyn on Instagram, click here.

 


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