Meet Alex Gilmore: A Community of Support

First-time mother Alex Gilmore describes her experience giving birth during a global pandemic

Winnipeg-based entrepreneur Alex Gilmore is no stranger to challenges. Alex and her husband JT Gilmore are known throughout Winnipeg as the co-owners of Thrive Active, a local business that specializes in high-intensity interval training workouts, bootcamps, and personal training. This hard-working couple opened not one, but two locations during the pandemic, finding huge success in their friendly, fitness-loving community.

The pandemic brought along an additional challenge that neither Alex nor JT could have seen coming when they first planned to expand their family—the isolation of Alex having to experience the prenatal care by herself.

“Because of COVID, JT wasn’t allowed to attend doctor visits,” Alex explains. “During one appointment our baby was flagged for a potential genetic issue. It ended up not being a problem, but at the time I was so scared. It was nerve wracking to not have my partner with me.”

What began as a time of uncertainty led to a time of community and support. Fortunately by the time Alex went into labour on July 3, 2020, pandemic restrictions had eased and JT was permitted to stay with her while she gave birth. Shortly after going into labour, Alex and JT were greeted, at the HSC Women’s Hospital by a triage nurse. What wasn’t expected was that the nurse was a member of Thrive Active! Roles now reversed, the Gilmores found themselves being coached through labour by someone they had previously trained.

Alex and JT Gilmore with son Kylo at HSC Women’s Hospital.

Both their obstetrician, Dr. Carrie Palatnick, as well as their post-natal nurse, Angela, were also part of the Thrive Active community. After months of having to attend appointments by herself, Alex now found herself surrounded by familiar faces—a very welcome change.

Coached by their medical team, Alex and JT went through labour feeling supported every step of the way. “The staff at the hospital were so wonderful. Throughout the entire experience the nurses stayed calm, helped me change positions, and showed JT how he could support me.”

Ten hours after going into labour, Alex gave birth to her son, Kylo John Gilmore. “Because Kylo was healthy and I was doing well, we only stayed at the hospital for an extra day after he was born. The staff were wonderful; they really helped us through our first day as parents and answered any questions we had. Going to HSC Women’s Hospital was a wonderful experience.”

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Reflecting on anorexia nervosa

Victoria Rempel describes her anorexia nervosa as “a shrinking in every way—physically, mentally, emotionally.”

She was 12 and living with her family in Steinbach when she first realized that something wasn’t right. “I remember wanting to be congruent in a way. I felt out of control and unimportant and I wanted that to be reflected on the outside,” she says of her dramatic pre-teen weight reduction. “That was my way of sharing that feeling with everyone, which was pretty messed up, obviously. I was very unwell. I remember not really understanding what was happening.”

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by a deep fear of gaining weight. Some people with eating disorders induce weight loss through vomiting, the overuse of laxatives, or consuming an excess of appetite suppressants. Rempel simply reduced her eating to next to nothing, sometimes “just a few spoonfuls of food a day”.

Rempel also recalls the social impacts of having an eating disorder. “I had to withdraw from a lot of things in my life, like school and extra-curricular activities.” She also recalls the devastating impact on her family: “My mom was extremely scared,” says Rempel. “I know it was hard on my sisters, because it became such a focus for our family to make sure that I got better, that perhaps they didn’t get the same attention that they would have otherwise gotten.”

Victoria Rempel with her niece and sister. // Victoria Rempel: “Things got really, really scary. I came very close to, you know… I was at a danger level and I didn’t want to become a statistic.”

The months passed, her weight dropped, her health suffered, her isolation intensified. Rempel remembers that even at her young age she eventually had the presence of mind to realize she needed help. “Things got really, really scary. I came very close to, you know… I was at a danger level and I didn’t want to become a statistic.”

She arrived a turning point. “Through my own will I started to make some progress—when I got scared enough. It took a lot of time,” says Rempel.

She battled the condition on her own for a few years, and struggled mightily along the way. In 2014, when she was 19, she and her family found the eating disorder program at HSC. It was a 12-week program that included group therapy, individual therapy, meetings with a dietician, and exposure to a variety of resources.

“The group therapy was instrumental to my recovery,” says Rempel. “I remember walking into a room and how disarming it was to see a range of different people experiencing what I was. That was extremely important for me.”

Rempel largely credits her HSC experience for her progress in the early stages of her recovery. Although she has had struggles and setbacks along the way, Rempel describes herself as “cautiously recovered” for the past two years.

A tattoo on Victoria Rempel’s hand related to a song by Regina Spektor called ‘eet,’ which reminds her to eat.

At 27, Victoria Rempel is upbeat and forward-looking. She lives in Winnipeg, works as a Chartered Investment Manager, and serves as the volunteer board chair of SHADE, a charitable non-profit that provides housing for immigrant and refugee women and children who have been affected by domestic abuse.

She also facilitates a weekly peer support group for young women battling eating disorders, a role informed by her experiences as a participant at HSC. “I learned many things and many skills at HSC that I carry with me,” says Rempel. “You can choose to act on what you learn or not, but you can never unlearn. I’m grateful that I participated in the program at HSC from beginning to end, grateful for what they taught me, and grateful for the effort they put into my recovery.”

Follow Victoria Rempel on Instagram where she aims to bring a message of healing and empowerment to young people. @edfreemb