My name is Jenni Donato.
I am a wife, a mother of two adorable children, a sister, a daughter and a hard worker, passionate about helping you to find - and live - the life you want.
I left my career as an Environmental Consultant to raise my children and have since undertaken numerous courses to help me realise my dream to become a life and family coach.
This is My Story
I had a good childhood.
I had great parents, I had fun friends, I adored my sister. My upbringing was ‘normal’ and filled with laughter and love.
There were a few ups and downs of course, but my story of self-discovery only really started once I met my soul mate at age 30 - and we knew we wanted to start a family together.
In 2014 my beautiful daughter was born and I was thrilled. Her arrival was not without a few hiccups – a heartbreaking miscarriage, a year and a half of waiting to get pregnant and severe hip pain which rendered me on crutches for the first few weeks of motherhood. But here she was, our perfect bundle of joy. I assumed my life with my children would be ‘normal’ too. For a while it was and we got married, moved into our forever home and decided to try for another child. I was living my happily ever after.
I always knew my child was a little clumsy, but after a broken leg and a broken collarbone before the age of 2 - and after being told by numerous NHS doctors that everything was fine - we trusted our instincts and insisted on a private medical checkup. I went by myself assuming I would just come home after being reassured - yet again - I was just a neurotic first-time mum. However, that was not the case and this was the day my life changed forever. Within an hour my baby was diagnosed with hip dysplasia and I was told this happy toddler, who was racing up and down the corridor, had coped with a dislocated left hip from birth, needed major surgery and a full cast from the waist down, both legs held apart by a broomstick (a spica cast) for at least 3 months. She would then need to learn to walk again, potentially face more surgery throughout her childhood, and probably a hip replacement in her 40’s or 50’s if she was “lucky”.
I was utterly devastated. I was confused and angry at the world - and the NHS - and felt so guilty I hadn’t forced an investigation sooner. I was scared of what was to come and how we would cope, and it was at this moment we found out I was pregnant!
We finally got a date for my daughter’s surgery and, after a second miscarriage decided to have a private scan to check everything was ok before her surgery and treatment. Devastation hit yet again with the diagnosis of a suspected molar pregnancy, where a group of pre-cancerous cells tricks your body (and mind) into thinking you’re growing a baby. I was now facing a traumatic operation of my own to remove the ‘growth’ and come to terms with yet another failed pregnancy and the loss of a baby I was so excited to welcome into our family.
Somehow we made it to my daughter's surgery day and I did a pretty good job of faking a ‘bring it on’ attitude. It was horrible. I will never forget the moment I held my baby while a complete stranger pumped chemicals into her body to force an unnatural sleep. I then handed her perfect, floppy body over to another stranger to cut her open, break her bones and then pin and screw them back together to give her the best chance of growing a hip joint that would do its job for as long as possible. The 5 hours of surgery and the following week in the hospital trying to manage her pain was the worst experience of my life. But somehow we got through and got our baby home.
By day, I was a consummate actress. It is amazing what you can fake when you feel you have no choice. What my daughter and others around me saw was (mostly) a strong, positive, happy mother - not just coping, but coping well. But at night I couldn’t help myself, and I was a mess. I was emotionally exhausted, I didn’t sleep, I cried, I was utterly broken. Only my loving husband saw this side of me and after a while, he realised I needed help. Eventually, I accepted I needed it too and undertook counselling through Talking Therapies, and was introduced to CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). It helped. But I still felt like I lived a life of two halves, neither of which felt like me.
Over the next few weeks, I watched with pride and relief as my daughter turned from a tiny, defenceless toddler into a strong, determined, brave warrior. And I began to laugh again, for real this time.
I realised the actress routine I’d perfected wasn’t really an act, I could be that person if I wanted to. I decided to take inspiration from my daughter and my Aunt, who at the time was dealing with a terminal illness, and decided to be strong. To be happy and grateful for what I had, and what we’d been through. I became a warrior myself, just like my child. Determined not to let this experience break us as a family (though I don’t mind admitting we were close). I was determined to fill our lives with happiness again, for real this time. Determined for all the pain to have a purpose. And determined to eventually return to work - to do something truly worthwhile - to use my experiences to help others going through their own unexpected challenges, to help and guide them to back to their normality. To take ownership of their lives again, to smile again and make their story a better one.
I’ve studied, hard.
I’ve studied life coaching tools and techniques. I’ve personally experienced and now studied CBT. I’ve dabbled in psychology, advanced communication skills, relationship therapy and a whole raft of parenting techniques. I'm also now working towards a Professional Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling.
My experiences have fundamentally changed me - I want to make a difference to people going through challenges of their own – I genuinely care.
For now, my daughter is happy and is recovering amazingly well. Who knows what the future holds for us all, but she is still as strong and determined as ever. She is so loving to her new little brother - who we were finally blessed with in November 2017 - and who has challenges of his own. The love developing between them is beyond heartwarming to watch. There is still a fire in her heart, and to watch her run around you would never know what she’s been through - what we’ve all been through.
We look ‘normal’ again. We’re not of course, and I’m proud not to be. But our new ‘normal’ is - for now - going great.
We have met some amazing people along our journey and our story has made us who we are today. As a family we are closer, we love harder and I wouldn’t change a thing.
So now you know my story, please give me a chance to use what I have learnt to help you change yours.
How do you want your story to go?