by Bridget Croteau
I had my whole life planned out – until things didn’t go as planned. I did everything I needed to do to build my resume and get the job I always wanted – teaching middle school science. I “knew” I would do a good job and “would” be secure in my job once I was granted tenure…all schools need to have a science teacher! However, I lost my job due to budget cuts when I was granted tenure. Many other school districts did the same, leaving hundreds of teachers without a job.
My husband and I decided to use this time to have a baby, as we were planning on trying for one soon anyway. We were excited and terrified when we saw the two pink lines on the pregnancy test. I hoped for a baby girl and dreamt of all the time I would spend cuddling her and just being incredibly happy. I was elated when we found out our baby was a girl.
Our pregnancy was healthy and uneventful, until my last appointment with my nurse practitioner. I leaked fluid and was sent almost immediately for a sonogram. My daughter looked healthy, but my fluid levels were a little low. We were sent to the hospital to be induced. We were not expecting this! We were scared and didn’t really know what to expect.
The induction was long, painful and scary. After over 30 hours of labor my daughter was born! I should have been excited at this moment, but I was terrified and exhausted. During delivery, I had a fever and my daughter had a fever at birth. After a couple of cuddles, she was brought to the NICU and remained there for a week.
When I visited her in the NICU later that night, my heart broke into a thousand pieces – she was covered in what seemed like a million wires and monitors. I felt like I must have done something wrong for her to be in here. I was absolutely determined at this point to make breastfeeding work, because everything else went “wrong.” But, breastfeeding didn’t work like I hoped in would, even when we went home.
For four months, I felt like a failure. I felt like a terrible mother, wife and person. I felt so much guilt and cried almost daily. I finally realized that I wasn’t myself and that something was “wrong.” I have suffered with anxiety and depression previously in my life, so I knew I needed to talk to someone and get help. I talked to my husband and my parents about how I was feeling. I called my OB and a local support group.
Later that week I saw my OB and began attending the support group the following week. I found a therapist that I began seeing shortly thereafter as well. I absolutely loved my support group, I finally felt like I wasn’t alone. One of my favorite parts of the group was “Family Night.” I had the opportunity to bring my parents and husband with me to a meeting. They were able to ask questions and we all heard from a mom who had gone through a PMAD and is now doing very well and from her mother, who had helped to care for her. This was one of the first times I had the thought of when I get better, not if.
Eventually I was well and myself again. I started to take care of myself – my new hobby was ballroom dancing. I love dancing. It allowed me to have an hour a week for me. Soon thereafter we decided to try for baby two! My pregnancy again was uneventful and healthy. I was worried about having PPD again, but we had a plan in place this time.
We had some serious family health issues begin towards the end of my pregnancy. We knew our family member would be taking care of her health (and rightfully so!), so we hired a postpartum doula to help me with our then 2 year old and my newborn when my husband returned to work. I stocked my freezer even more than I did the first time (we had to send some to my in-laws house to freeze!), and I was still attending my support group.
My second daughter’s birth was a breeze compared to her sister – even with driving 40 minutes in a snow storm! She was healthy and we went home the following afternoon. She breastfed like a champ. All seemed to be going well, until my doula’s time with us ended. My daughter didn’t sleep well…she was up numerous times a night to breastfeed. I had a lot of difficulty getting back to sleep. This left me exhausted. I started to become anxious about so many things, but mostly about anything relating to sleep. I had panic attacks. I became angry. I soon realized that I needed to go back to therapy and I continued attending my support group. These helped me find ways to deal with my anxiety. But, what I really needed was sleep. My daughter was still breastfeeding and refused any bottles or sippy cups we tried to give her.
Our pediatrician told us that she was worried about me and that I needed sleep. She highly recommended sleep training her. I was skeptical it would work, but my husband and mom convinced me to at least try. I agreed (mostly to be able to say “I told you so.”). Sleep training worked like a charm. She finally slept through the night and I started to sleep better. I began to feel better and have the energy to manage my anxiety in a much better way.
Four years later, I am doing really well. I was so thankful for the support group and for the Postpartum Resource Center of New York that I began volunteering in 2015 by fundraising and speaking at support groups and other events. I began competing in pageants to raise awareness for PMADs and wrote my own book about my experience. The biggest and most important message I want to share with you, is that you are not alone and that you will be well with help.
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Bridget resides in New York with her husband, Beau, and her two children, Natalie and Chloe and labradoodle, Jake. She is an author and teacher. She currently holds the title, Mrs. Suffolk County America and will be competing for the title of Mrs. New York America in March. She has been volunteering with the Postpartum Resource Center of New York since 2015 and was awarded Volunteer of the Year in 2018. She is passionate about sharing her experience with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety to help moms, dads and families in New York and beyond feel like they are not alone and to offer the hope and comfort that they will get better with help.