Pink balloons and banners, cupcakes and celebration.
Young Sydney waved her arms in excitement, smiling as family and friends sang happy birthday. A first birthday for her. So much joy and love swirling around the room.
And unavoidably, so much pain, too.
This was supposed to be one of the best days of Scott Jenkins’s life. Now it’s taking everything he has just to make it through Oct. 20.
His birthday and his daughter Sydney’s birthday on the same day — but exactly one year ago life changed forever. It would be the last time Scott saw the love of his life.
His wife, Aly Jenkins, died giving birth to Sydney, the tragic outcome of a rare complication during childbirth — an amniotic embolism — almost unthinkable for a healthy 30-year-old.
Now the father of three continues to piece life back together.
WATCH | Scott Jenkins recounts a difficult day, an even harder year:
“My birthday will never be the same. We can’t change that. But we can make it a great day for Sydney and celebrate her and what her mother did for her,” Scott told CBC Sports.
Now in a new home not far from where Scott and Aly started their family in Warman, Sask., Scott is figuring out this new normal for his five-year-old son Brady, two-year-old daughter Avery and Sydney.
“That’s the hardest part. I don’t really know what this is supposed to look like,” he said. “It’s hard. It’s been a grind. I’m still learning. I think I’m going to be learning for a long time and trying to learn what a mother does. They’re special people,” he said. “Trying to be a mother and father.”
In the early, dark days and still today, it’s Scott’s three kids who keep him going.
“They help me wake up every day,” he said. “They cheer me up.
“The hardest part is when they go to bed because that’s when Aly and I would have a hot tub or a glass of wine. Watch a show and hang out. So during the day I’m fine because it’s busy.”
But at night, when sun sets and the kids are tucked in, Scott plays over the 14 years together with Aly. They met at a golf tournament in Waskesiu, Saskatchewan in Grade 11 and fell instantly in love.
“We had the best life in the world. Everything was perfect,” Scott said. “And then you get sent to rock bottom pretty quickly .You don’t really know what rock bottom is until you hit it.”
Everywhere Scott turns in his new home he can still hear Aly.
“If I’m doing something stupid and mess up the bottle or something around the kitchen or Brady is crying, I can hear her say ‘do this or go give him a bath,'” Scott said.
“It’s weird what you hear. You just listen to those voices. She trained me well. Fourteen years of training me for this.”
Aly loved being a mom. Brady and Avery were everything to her and she was so excited to have a third child. Aly was a proud mom, physiotherapist and committed curler, who dreamed of one day competing in the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
“She would have been training and practising like crazy. She would have been angry all these tournaments were cancelled because COVID is in the way,” Scott said, smiling.
“It’s that time of year when she’d have a different jump in her step.”
It’s been the curling community who has rallied behind Scott and his family over the past year, and he wanted to give back to honour Aly.
In September, Scott held the first Aly Jenkins Memorial Tournament with all of the funds raised going to the Sandra Schmirler Foundation, which provides hospitals with life-saving equipment for premature babies born critically ill.
The tournament, which he plans to hold annually, raised $10,000.
“It’s a big thing to keep her memory alive and do something good with it,” Scott said. “She was such a kind and caring person. Seeing the machines when we were in the [neonatal intensive care unit] and seeing how that saved Sydney’s life, it clicked a couple weeks after to start doing fundraising.
“Sydney wouldn’t be here without that help.”
Scott, 32, has been on leave from his sales job with a construction company, making sure he can be there as much as possible for his three children. His family and Aly’s family have helped him through it all.
But he’s worried about what life will look like once he returns to work.
“There’s nothing out there if a mother passes away to get their maternity leave. Aly would have had the option for 12 to 18 months. I was only given 35 weeks paternity leave,” he said.
“She put in the time and paid into it. Why can’t it be rolled over to the father?”
Insurance has helped Scott pay the bills while away from work, but he’s hoping changes can be made to support families who have to go through the nightmare he has.
“I hope things can change for future fathers who sadly have to go through this. It’s something you don’t want to think about. You have enough on your plate for a year,” he said.
WATCH | Tribute for Aly Jenkins:
But this isn’t about the money. It’s about being the best father he can for his children.
“I need to be here for them. I have to be home. I have to be there to raise my kids,” Scott said.
One year later, Scott continues to put on a brave face for those around him, all while honouring a wife, a mom, a curler — his best friend.
“She was super woman,” he said. “We’re going day-by-day still. That seems to help. One step at a time. Take on the new firsts and seconds. Keep carrying on and trying and make it as enjoyable for these kids. Learn. Laugh. listen and help them become amazing moms, a dad, and friends.
“That’s what Aly would want.”