My pregnancy with my first daughter was wonderful. Except for some morning sickness early on, I felt great! My precious peanut was healthy and growing as expected. Because my pregnancy was going so well, I had expected to go into labor at home or while out and about like you were “supposed to.” However, that did not happen!
At our weekly check-up around 40 weeks, I started leaking fluid. The fluid was tested and it was not amniotic fluid. My doctor sent me for a sonogram to be sure everything was okay. During the sonogram we were told that my fluid was a little low, but she didn’t make a big deal about it. The sonogram technician left the room to call our doctor and returned saying, “Congratulations! You’re going to have your baby today!” I thought, “What?! Why? Are you serious?” but somehow managed to respond with a “Thank you!”
I was in such shock and disbelief: they were sending me to the hospital for an induction. My husband and I were both terrified, confused, and worried. We went home to get my hospital bag and call our family to let them know what was going on.
After over 30 hours of painful labor and two hours of pushing, my daughter was finally born! During delivery, both my daughter and I spiked fevers, so after a couple of family pictures she was taken to the NICU.
I had been looking forward to cuddles and breastfeeding her happily and the waves of love and euphoria that I expected to feel.
Instead, I felt exhausted, frustrated, and scared. It felt very odd to not have her with me for the first time in over nine months.
I had my heart set on breastfeeding my daughter, but was not allowed to until the following afternoon. We tried so hard to get her to latch, but she just couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do it! I accepted help and lactation advice from anyone and everyone willing to offer it, but the result was the same: she just had a hard time latching (sometimes it took an hour!). As if the breastfeeding wasn’t hard enough, some of the nurses kept repeating that we should stay “on schedule” while we were struggling to feed her. We were even told that if she didn’t eat (meaning giving her formula) she would never get to go home (thanks for the added pressure!). Some nurses were really supportive and helpful of our efforts, others were really pushy and made my husband and I feel awful for wanting to breastfeed her. In the end, we did supplement with formula after each feeding because we just wanted her to come home.
FINALLY after a week, we took our baby girl home. I had hoped that once we got there, things would get better. But things didn’t get better.
The first couple of months home are mostly a blur in my mind. I was completely obsessed with breastfeeding—it was all I could really think about. All I remember doing was pumping, cleaning pump parts, tracking output, drinking tea, and trying to get my baby girl to nurse. Finally, three weeks later, she started to breastfeed, but my supply was so low I had to pump and give formula to supplement.
I muddled through the following days and weeks, putting on a happy face when family and friends came to visit. I told everyone how happy we were and how much I loved being a mom. But inside, I struggled with immense feelings of guilt about my “failed” labor, my baby’s NICU stay, and my inability to breastfeed exclusively.
I felt very alone.
I felt like everything that had occurred was my fault. I thought of what I could have done wrong for all of this to happen. I cried frequently and often wished I could run away. I felt like I wasn’t a “good” mother or wife and that my family could manage just fine without me.
After four months of feeling miserable, I finally opened up to my family. They were very supportive of me and already knew I was not myself. They told me they loved me, would support me in any way I needed and assured me that I would get better.
I reached out to the Mother’s Circle of Hope support group and started therapy. I read several books about women’s experiences with postpartum depression. The support group was especially helpful to me because the other members understood me and EXACTLY what I was feeling. I no longer felt alone!
Slowly, I began to feel like myself again. I made more time to spend with friends, started doing more things for myself including a new hobby – ballroom dancing.
As awful as postpartum depression was for me, it changed my life for the better. I learned so much about myself. I learned to love myself. I learned that I had to care for myself if I was going to care for my child. I learned to ask for help when I need it. I learned that life won’t always follow my plan.
To those brave, beautiful and wonderful mamas out there who are feeling badly, you will feel better. These terrible feelings will not last forever.
Always remember: you are not alone.
Bridget Croteau is currently preparing to compete in the Mrs. New York America pageant in November (she is Mrs. Suffolk County). The Postpartum Resource Center of NY is one of her platforms. She wants to use her experience with PPD to help others. She loves dancing, reading, cooking and spending time with her family. She resides in Bay Shore, New York with her husband, Beau, two daughters, Natalie and Chloe, and labradoodle, Jake. Find her on Facebook and the Suffolk County Pageant’s site.
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