Ariane Audet

Stefania, Montréal QC (CANADA)

Ariane Audet
Stefania, Montréal QC (CANADA)

I’ve always been a very anxious person. I’m the oldest of three, and when I was 18 months old, I lost a sister to SIDS. I don’t remember it, but I’ve been told that had to see a psychiatrist because I was hurting myself. Kids feel things, and maybe it was a way to get more attention from my parents. Then at 14, I tried to commit suicide. I saw someone, and it helped, but at 21, I relapsed. I had vasovagal attacks because of my anxiety. Despite everything, my partner and I decided to start a family when I was 24. We had been together for 7 years, and we felt ready. It took me nine months to get pregnant. Nine months of worries, but it finally worked. Everything went well until my 22nd week. The baby wasn’t growing, and I had to have an ultrasound every other week, on top of the usual appointments. It was very stressful and lasted the whole pregnancy. Of course, you blame yourself. They kept telling me, “There’s a heartbeat, but…” If I didn’t feel more than 10 kicks 3 times a day, I had to check myself into the maternity ward. I was there often. At 26 weeks, I exploded in my OB’s office. She sent me to a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with prenatal depression and wanted to give me pills. I refused, and therapy was so expensive I couldn’t afford it. So I muddled through. I ended up being induced at 40 weeks. I had a difficult labor, but I gave birth to a healthy baby girl. Doing the autopsy of the placenta, they found out that membranes had ruptured so the nutrients couldn’t get to her, and that’s why she wasn’t growing properly. But she was there, and she was fine. Then at about 4 hours of life, she started to choke on her own mucus and turned blue. My partner was holding her and screamed “Oh my God! Oh my God!” It was like an automatism, and I began the first aid technique for choking while he went to get help. Nurses came in and suctioned the mucus out, and she started breathing again.

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After that, they told us to do a lot (a lot) of skin-to-skin. And that’s what we did. Of course, it strengthened my fear of SIDS. When we came back home, I got the Angel Care monitor, which I still use with my second daughter. Breastfeeding was really important to me, but we had trouble. First of all, she was born with one tooth. I didn’t know what to do with that. Today I can laugh about it, but I remember going to the pediatrician when she was 3 weeks old, crying because I couldn’t nurse her and she wasn’t gaining weight. They told me, “Your daughter needs a healthy mother: give her formula.” I mixed-fed for a while, but it caused my milk to go away on its own. It played a huge role in my depression. I felt like a failure for not being able to feed my own child, so much that I would often go to bed hoping I wouldn’t wake up the next day. Thankfully, my partner was there to support me. As much as he was getting on my nerves because I was so anxious, he was also doing everything to make me feel better. He’d known me since we were teenagers and he was legitimately scared for me. One thing that helped with the depression though was to start working out when she turned 3 months old. I was also paying attention to what I was eating, and it would give me a daily goal. It was my way to take 30 minutes a day to take care of myself. It made me feel better mentally, and I was also seeing results on my body. I had some sort of control over this, unlike having a baby, which is completely unpredictable. When I think about it, to become a mom is extremely violent, especially in our modern societies. We don’t have the tribe of women we used to have. Recently, I’ve heard a lot of people talking about a postpartum party instead of a baby shower. I think that’s a great idea. I clearly preferred having my mother-in-law bring me food and clean my apartment while I was sleeping, over baby pajamas. Especially when I felt like I wanted to die.

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Two weeks after I came back from maternity leave, I lost my job. I used to work in a daycare, but our current government had done so many budget cuts in social programs that they had to let me go. I didn’t work for two months. I got lucky because my boss from my old insurance student-job called me and said, “We know your situation, and we’d like to help. We’ll pay for school and training, and if you’re willing to come back, we’ll take you.” This wasn’t what I had wanted to do with my life, but it was handed to me on a silver platter. I started there in October 2016, and in March, I found out I was pregnant again. I freaked out. I even contemplated the idea of getting an abortion because I was so not ready. But finally, we decided to keep her. She was doing fine, but I had a lot of physical pain. From week 22 to 36, I was at the hospital every three weeks because I had really intense contractions. Their machines never detected them, but I knew what they were, and it hurt. I fought through, but at 33 weeks, I couldn’t handle the pain anymore, and my OB gave me a work release form. It was so excruciating that I would cry at the office, break things at home… I was extremely choleric. My partner even told me he didn’t recognize me anymore. I think he’s still traumatized to this day. I made it to 40 weeks, but I was in labor for three weeks prior. It was so stressful on our relationship. We were always on alert. I was induced once again because of my previous pregnancy and premature labor. It went well. I had the feeling I was a bit more in control, less stressed. She came out in three pushes. Breastfeeding was a charm this time, although less so when we came back home because I had vasospasm. She was born mid-December, so we hustled to find nurses and made trips after trips to the clinic. We even called a lactation consultant right before Christmas. It was hard, but was really committed this time.

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When I was about 15 weeks pregnant with my second daughter, I began to see a therapist. I didn’t like my psychiatrist who was really cold and uncaring, but I wasn’t feeling well with all the changes happening and I needed to talk to someone. My new job had private insurances so I was able to find someone and we clicked almost immediately. I'm still seeing her. She really helped me to get ready for the delivery and gave me advice on how to deal with negative emotions. I remember a particularly difficult evening with my second daughter. She was screaming of hunger, I was crying from the vasospasm, so I held her up and yelled, “Why don’t you want to feed!” Then I did it: I shook her. Just a little bit, nothing big, but I’d done it. I couldn’t believe it, so I put her down, walked away, and started bawling. Before, I might have judged a parent who did that, but here I was. I called my partner, and he came back home from work right away. I went to see my therapist, and she’s the one who told me to “give myself the gift of a lactation consultant for Christmas.” There was a lot of guilt during that time. We forget how physically strenuous it is to give birth and to force yourself to get out of the house because that’s what you’re supposed to do - like spending hours at the mall to get a picture with Santa Claus... In reality, you don't have to do anything that doesn't feel right. It was hard for me, and to be honest, it’s still hard for my partner. But it’s my turn to understand what he’s going through and to give him space. We’ve been together for 12 years, and he proposed to me this year. We are built to last, even if right now it’s more difficult. I wasn’t sure if I’d be ready to expose myself today, in front of so many people. But I want to make sure other moms know that this is normal and that there’s help. There’s no shame in needing therapy or medication or saying “I can’t do it anymore.” It’s stressful, to show yourself under that light, but I don’t want to be stigmatized anymore. Becoming a mom didn’t turn out to be what I thought it would be. But it’s still a beautiful story, and I made it through alive. I'm proud of that.