Four years ago, Ayanelli’s struggle with postpartum depression drove her into isolation. But because of the way relationships have given her life again, today, she has a heart to inspire and uplift other families toward brighter futures.
As a little girl, Ayanelli’s parents always worried about her safety
My family lived in a rough area in Mexico called Neza — where back then, there were a lot of kidnappings. My dad was really desperate to get us out of there, especially as women. Women didn’t have a lot of rights, and didn’t have a voice — and we were really scared.
We got to Canada in 2000 when I was 10 years old. It hurt leaving my extended family, and it was such a big change. I didn’t know English; I just knew hello and sorry — two words. But being ‘the foreign kid’ made me special — it made other kids want to know me.
Here, I was really happy. I didn’t have anxiety anymore because I could freely go out and play. I couldn’t believe all these playgrounds were public. I was living the dream!
Ayanelli revelled in her life’s carefree nature until heartbreak hit at 15
My first experience with real pain was after my parent’s divorce. They’d just bought their first home together — and as parents in a foreign country, that was their dream. I wasn’t prepared for them to split, but I think no one ever is.
I had a lot of emotions. It really made me feel like, “This is pain. This is something I need to release. This isn’t something I want to keep.” Their divorce was messy, and I wanted to escape somehow — so that’s when I experienced drugs.
Though Ayanelli’s exuberance faded, her parents instilled perseverance into her
Even though I was going through this pain, I didn’t quit school. I set my ego aside, and that’s something I’m really happy with.
I think that has a lot to do with my values. My mom would always say, “Get up; you’ve put in all this work. You need to finish what you started.” And even though my parents were going through their divorce, they were still there for me, no matter what.
I really love my parents. We’re so connected, and to this day, I turn to them. When I was a teenager and becoming my own person, they never stopped me from being me. That helped me develop, experience, and grow.
Thankfully, Ayanelli realized drug use was only a temporary escape
I remember being at English Bay as high as a kite — my pupils were so wide. I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “What am I doing?” A voice told me, “This isn’t you. This isn’t life. You’re experiencing pain, but this isn’t the way through it.”
Especially after coming to find out that year that we’d lost my aunt because of a cocaine overdose… I knew drugs were not in the equation for me.
So then I really got into music. I used to act tough and sarcastic, but looking back, I was protecting myself. I didn’t want people to know what was going on in my home and thoughts. Music — and connecting with people, and my parents through music — really helped me be, and express myself.
As a young woman, Ayanelli’s curiosity for culture led her to life abroad
I went to live in Mexico — and there, I met my first love. After it ended, I came back home with big-time depression. My mom was shocked when she saw me; I didn’t look like myself.
Then, I started getting back on my feet. I was living with my mom on Robson Street, and working at Indigo. That’s where I met this girl from London who was here on a work visa. It made me think, “I’m just working right now — I should be doing this in another country!”
I wanted to travel Europe, so I moved to London. When I landed — oh my gosh, it was definitely an experience. It was so beautiful, I loved it. It changed my life.
London taught me to try things, even if I failed. That really kept me going. And that’s where I really learned to connect and be vulnerable with people.
London also gave Ayanelli the greatest gift: her beloved son, Morrison
When I found out I was pregnant, my son’s father and his parents were supportive. But my visa was expiring, and I didn’t want to overstay, so I came back to Canada.
I left on bad terms. My son’s father did come to Canada to see Morrison being born, but overall, not being with his son was depressing for him. I carried a lot of guilt for that, but now, I’ve apologized and we have peace.
When my parents found out I was pregnant, they were so supportive. I lived with my mom, and while she worked, my dad took care of me. I remember when the baby was kicking, my dad would be so happy! That really connected us more — I was so blessed.
While Ayanelli’s newborn son renewed her purpose, she also suddenly started struggling with mental health
After I had Morrison, postpartum depression kicked in. It silently took over me, and I couldn’t sleep. I felt like running away, and I was so ashamed. I was scared that if I told anyone, Morrison would be taken away.
I don’t know how I held all that in. Because whatever’s tough and painful — we cannot be carrying that inside. And with PPD, you need to talk about it to let it out.
Thankfully, Morrision’s doctor saw something in me that needed to be fixed, and got me into support groups. That’s when I started opening up, getting help, and meeting other moms.
By getting to know other families, I learned that even if you’ve gone through hell and back, it doesn’t mean you have to stay there. There’s a better way of living.
After two years of healing, Ayanelli and Morrison found an apartment in Strathcona through BC Housing, and began creating their home
Right away, I put Morrison into daycare, and started going to groups to meet other moms.
That’s where I heard about UGM. I told them that I’d just moved and our apartment had nothing, and a lady said to me, “Why don’t you try UGM? They’re great with families, and can help furnish your home.”
Within four days, UGM came with a really big truck full of great things! They started telling me about UGM’s other programs and how they could help, like with meals.
At first, Ayanelli felt shy to come into UGM for meals, and just passed by with her stroller
But the staff who worked in the meal line noticed me and said, “Hey, there’s dinner! Come on in!” If it wasn’t for them actually inviting me in, I don’t think I’d come in.
Inside, I started talking more to UGM’s staff, and I loved how they treat, care for, and protect families like mine. They know that we come in because we need to feed our babies, and they have always been so lovely to me and Morrison.
Every time I’ve needed something, like baby diapers, wipes, or food hampers, UGM has supplied them for me. Still to this day, they help me — I appreciate it so much.
Through all the ways Ayanelli has received life-giving care at UGM, what she cherishes most about UGM is how she experiences God’s love
When I got connected to UGM, I got more close to God. I’ve always believed, but was disconnected. I started coming to UGM’s Bible study and praying, and now I keep a Bible next to my bed.
I love that at UGM, God is put into everything. Because for me, I don’t just want the help — I want to give thanks to God for it.
I’ve built deep friendships with them, and I love how they know Morrison, and can see how he’s growing. These connections haven’t just changed me; they’ve changed so many people in my community.
While Ayanelli guarded herself in the past, today, she doesn’t know where she’d be without her community of families at UGM
When I was completely empty, other people gave me hope — even when they were going through their own pain. It’s so powerful; I want to have that kind of impact too.
I feel God has done a number on me, and it’s so humbling. Because I can look in the eyes of someone different — someone who I thought I had nothing in common with — and see they’re people too. We can have real connections, and help each other feel not alone.
Before, I didn’t think about community like that; but now, I want to serve and protect the families in my community.
As for Morrison, he's now six, and such a happy, loving little boy!
Morrison is honestly my world; he’s a light. He’s so genuinely sweet; when we walk past people on East Hastings who are struggling, they’re drawn to him because he’s always so happy.
His teachers talk about how he tries making everyone comfortable, and brings everyone into a group. Seeing how open and non-judgemental he is has definitely changed me; he’s taught me that at the end of the day, we’re all the same.
And Morrision is a gift to my family; he’s brought my mom and dad together. I can see their personality in him, and he really looks up to them. They’ve taught him so much about love — just like they’ve done to me.
Morrison is the reason I wake up and kiss. When I look at him, I think, “He deserves the world and more.” I have agape love for him — something I learned at UGM — an unconditional love that will never, ever stop.
Today, Ayanelli is giving back by volunteering in groups that once uplifted her, and feels so fulfilled, knowing she’s contributing to the health of generations to come.
At UGM, Ayanelli and Morrison exude empathy and kindness, keeping families going in their toughest times. We’re so grateful to continue walking alongside them, and seeing how their renewed hope nourishes our community’s growth!
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” – Proverbs 27:17
I love that the Bible continuously encourages us to journey in life together. It constantly reminds us that there is wholehearted joy and purpose in uplifting others. We weren’t designed to walk alone, and living, and being part of a community, sharpens us all to become better.
In this issue of Gratitude, you read Ayanelli’s journey has beautifully come full circle, as how she’s now giving the unconditional, agape love she experienced at UGM back to her beautiful son and her community, and inspiring people like you with her story.
Through people like Ayanelli, we can learn what it means to love well, and share in life with one another. I hope this encourages you as much as it does for me, knowing that we are equally as graced, and sharpened, by the wisdom of those who we’re walking alongside.
With a humble heart, I thank you for being part of our UGM family. Here at our new Women & Families Centre, you’re inviting mothers and children into a loving community, and providing renewed hope that will transform generations to come!