We had an uneventful and healthy pregnancy up until my last visit at my OB office. My fluid levels were slightly lower than normal, so we were sent to the hospital for a very unexpected induction. 30+ hours later, my beautiful daughter, Natalie, was born. We both had fevers at this point, which sent her to the NICU after a couple of snuggles and pictures. I was so exhausted, angry and scared. After a week, she was able to join us at home. Breastfeeding was difficult for us; I was never able to produce enough milk for her despite doing anything and everything I could to increase my supply.
I felt like a horrible mother due to my inability to breastfeed exclusively, for her NICU stay and for being induced. I struggled for four months with crying, feelings of guilt and inadequacy. While I knew I was at risk for a PMAD due to a personal history of depression and anxiety as well as the loss of my teaching job, I found myself in complete denial of my situation. One day, the lightbulb finally lit up! I knew and accepted what was going on and reached out for help. I called a local support group and found a therapist. I am eternally grateful for the help I received, especially from the support group. Here, I found camaraderie and my tribe. This is where I found moms who cried along with me, who felt the same way I did, who didn’t pretend that motherhood was always wonderful. They understood. They didn’t judge. Eventually I felt better.
When Natalie was 18 months old, we got pregnant with our little Chloe. Our pregnancy was, again, healthy and uneventful. I went into labor naturally on a snowy January night. Our labor was quick and “easy” (about six hours start to finish!). Chloe was healthy, but unhappy (she cried for 2 hours straight, no matter what I, my husband or our nurses did!). We all went home together as scheduled and she breastfed like a champ.
We thought we might get lucky and avoid the nasty PMAD monster this time. We were very well prepared this time! We hired a postpartum doula to help me when my husband returned to work, welcomed help from my family, had been taking care of myself and had other support available when needed. Unfortunately, after my doula left, the sleep exhaustion, stress of a family health crisis and managing a home with a two year-old and infant caught up with me. I also had a difficult time getting back to sleep after night feedings. I became anxious, exhausted, angry and suffered from anxiety attacks. Luckily I knew what was going on and reached out for help quickly. With therapy, my support group and sleep training, I recovered and felt better.
My kids are much older now; eight and almost six years-old and I am doing really well now. After feeling better, I followed through with a promise I made to myself back in 2012 while attending my support group. I started volunteering with the Postpartum Resource Center of New York and competing in pageantry with the goal of raising awareness for PMADs. I also wrote my own book, Me, Again: How Postpartum Depression and Anxiety Transformed My Life. I am currently serving as Mrs. New York USA Ambassador 2020, competing for the title of Mrs. USA Ambassador in July 2020. My goal is to share my story and information to help moms, dads and families feel like they aren’t alone and know that there is help.
If you or someone you know is in need of help in New York State, the Postpartum Resource Center of New York is an amazing resource – they have a directory, information, a state-wide help line and more.
State-wide Helpline: 855-631-0001
Outside of New York, Postpartum Support International is full of information, a Helpline, online and telephone support groups and more.
You are not alone. You are not to blame. With help, you will be well.
Bridget Croteau lives in Suffolk County, New York with her husband, Beau, their two children, Natalie and Chloe and labradoodle, Jake. She is the author of Me, Again: How Postpartum Depression and Anxiety Transformed My Life. Bridget is also serving as Mrs. New York USA Ambassador 2020 to raise awareness for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and to help moms, dads and families feel less alone.