Welcome to the second interview in this month’s series, Mothers of Women who have Struggled with PPD. Today’s interview is with Helena Bradford, mother to Ruth. Helena has courageously dedicated her life to helping women with PPD through her foundation, the Ruth Rhoden Craven Foundation. She tragically lost Ruth to PPD as a result of inadequate medical care and lack of information provided by medical professionals and is passionate about not letting that happen to anyone else. Helena has a wonderful quote as part of her email signature and it has immersed itself in my life and has kept my bad days limited to being singular in occurence as I remind myself of WHO holds my tomorrow. I want to share it with you and thank Helena for sharing it with those who email her.
I don’t know what tomorrow holds,
but I know Who holds tomorrow.
Helena truly has turned her tragic loss into such a powerful and wonderful shining light, filling those who are suffering with hope and allowing them to know that yes, there are people who care and they are NOT alone in their suffering. Thank you Helena, for your bravery, optimism, perseverance, and compassion. All four are awesome traits needed in the PPD world and we are indeed a lucky community to have your dedication to improving and spreading knowledge and resources to women and families who need it!
What was it about your daughter’s experience with PPD that led you to start the Ruth Rhoden Craven Foundation?
The fact that she received exceptionally poor treatment and died as a result. We received no information about PPD, no guidance in how to help Ruth stay alive, and no support from the medical community. We were certainly never told PPD was temporary and totally treatable, so these are some of the services we provide to the public through our Foundation.
How soon after your daughter gave birth did you begin to notice something wasn’t quite right with her? What were some of her primary symptoms?
Shortly after delivery – like a day or two. Ruth’s symptoms included:
- I’m not sure I’m capable of taking care of this baby
Social withdrawal; behavior totally out of character
Ruth made the statement she felt she needed to be institutionalized and that scared her to death
MEGA frustration and feelings of inadequacy – how can I do everything that has to be done and do it in a manner acceptable to me?
“Freaking out”, internally, every time the baby cried even though she knew there was someone there to take care of Andrew when she didn’t feel she could. Felt it was her responsibility – not someone else’s
Couldn’t sleep because her brain wouldn’t quit racing about how she was going to get everything done for the baby as well as her normal, everyday duties – mega problems with sleep deprivation
- Found her on the floor in a corner between two large pieces of furniture one morning. When asked why she was there, she said she was hiding.
What were some things that you drew strength from during this difficult time with Ruth?
My faith in God and the support of friends and church family.
Has working with the Ruth Rhoden Craven Foundation taken Ruth’s tragedy and turned it into something positive for you?
Absolutely! I believe God has taken Ruth’s totally needless death and saved many lives through the story of her tragedy.
How uplifting is it for you when you are able to successfully help a woman and family in need?
Indescribably powerful and affirming. Being able to rescue moms and their families from the devastation of postpartum depression/perinatal mood disorders removes some of the senselessness of Ruth’s death. It gives positive meaning to her life and to the beautiful person she was.
Do you feel that the resources available to women with PPD have improved?
Yes they have, but we still have an exceptionally long way to go to eliminate tragedies and devastated lives and families as a result of PPD. I would say the majority of medical care givers and lay people are still totally ignorant of facts surrounding perinatal mood disorders and their treatment. That’s unacceptable.
What were some of the things you did as a mother to try to help Ruth?
I lived with Ruth and took care of her, the house and the baby for nearly 6 weeks. In addition, I brought her home with me a couple of times. For 2 ½ months, I was with Ruth more than I was away from her. Although that kind of support is crucial in battling PPD, it may not be enough if bad medical treatment is being received. It certainly wasn’t for Ruth.
I tried to find good medical care for her but was unsuccessful. I wish I had taken her to Raleigh, NC where there is a PPD support group. I think she would have benefited tremendously from the group.
Tell us about your Walk/Run coming up in September that helps to raise awareness for PPD as well as funds for your organization. How did it get started?
Well, that’s a really neat story. One of the sweetest men in the world came to our house one night about five years ago to deliver an oxygen machine to my husband that his doctor had prescribed. While Gary was explaining the operation of the machine to us, we got off on the subject of the Foundation. After hearing Ruth’s story, Gary was in tears and said he wanted to do a fundraiser for us. THAT was the birth of the PPD Awareness Walk/Run.
The Run is held annually at Hampton Park in Charleston, SC. (For more information, please visit our web site at www.ppdsupport.org.) Both runners and walkers are invited to participate. Each year folks from all over our country, who work with PPD issues, travel to Charleston to participate. To me, that’s the most fun part because I get to meet the dedicated, passionate professionals and volunteers (some are PPD survivors) with whom I work throughout the year.
In your opinion, what should all expectant mothers know about PPD?
Postpartum Depression is totally treatable and is a temporary illness. No one needs to die as a result of it.
There is help available. Please reach out for it, and don’t hesitate to change doctors if you feel you are receiving improper treatment or if you are not being heard. Postpartum depression is a valid illness that is equally as serious as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Thank God, it is temporary if treated early on and properly
Although there are definite risk factors for experiencing PPD, to my knowledge there is no way to know who will experience it and who won’t. That’s why I feel good PPD information should be provided in all birthing classes.
Have a plan in place before symptoms appear – just in case you happen to experience PPD. Some of the things a plan should include are:
a psychiatrist who is experienced in treating PPD
a night nurse or postpartum doula to take care of the baby at night so the mom can get plenty of sleep at night. This is critical.
friends/family members who will help the mom for several weeks (minimum) after she comes home from the hospital
Any advice for other mothers whose daughters are struggling with a Postpartum Mood Disorder?
Make sure your daughter finds the best available medical care. Help her understand medication is necessary in most cases, and there is nothing wrong with taking that medication any more than it is to take medication for heart problems, diabetes or a whole host of other physical ailments. PPD is a physical illness that just happens to affect the brain instead of some other “more acceptable” organ in the body. No one deserves or asks for PPD!