PPD Survivor Shares her Story for the first time


On Tuesday, this was a comment left by a mom who had never shared her story with anyone besides her husband (who lived it with her). I emailed her to ask if she would be comfortable with me giving it a post of it’s very own. Her story begins when she is 34 weeks pregnant and continues through to postpartum. I hope you find it as inspiring and as strong as I did…..

This is my first time to share my story in any capacity…. I don’t know if I’m ready, but here goes nothing…

My depression started around 34 weeks into my pregnancy… I had never heard of PPD and I didn’t know what ante partum depression was… I started to realize something was wrong somewhere between 30 – 34 weeks. I’m not afraid of medication, and think of it as an aspirin would be to a headache.

I have had depression and anxiety before so, I somewhat, recognized the signs. I told my husband that I wasn’t quite feeling right, and he encouraged me to speak with my OBGYN. At my next appointment I told my doc that I was worrying excessively, and not feeling quite right. It was really a whole new type of depression for me.. I never could and still have difficulty describing the way I felt. But worry was a BIG concern. The OBGYN said it wasn’t a big concern, and not to worry lots of new mom’s worry a lot.

My husband is a member of the “mind over matter” club. While he, I’ll say, tolerates, my need for meds to get my depression under control, he definitely is one of those, “Just push through it,” kind of people.

I saw my OBGYN on Tuesday, and she prescribed me Prozac, I ended up going to the E.R. on Sunday because I felt very overwhelmed; with what exactly, I do not know… They gave me an Ativan shot, made sure I calmed down and sent me on my way, with no real information. Or possible expectations. I then saw my OBGYN again on Wednesday, explained what had transpired over the weekend, and she prescribed me some Xanax. I felt so horrible that day, that we went straight to the nearest pharmacy and filled the script so I could take one. That Sunday I woke up and I felt worse than I thought I ever could. I told my husband that he had to take me to the E.R. So they could take the baby out so that no harm would come to her, if I did end up harming myself.

I thought this was a completely rational thought process; and was even more distressed when they told me that instead of delivering my baby early, they were sending me to the Nut House. All of this scared my husband to death, not only was he in fear of losing his wife, but that there was a possibility that he could end up without a wife and a child, or raising a baby on his own. And it was definitely one of the two, because the baby could not stay in me anymore.

I think that is when he realized, after two weeks of doctors and E.R. visits, that something was really wrong and a real threat existed not only to my life but to our unborn daughter’s life as well! I went to the psych. ward at a private hospital, where they were fairly knowledgeable about pregnancy related depression. The one thing that is VERY FRUSTRATING in my case, is that, since I was pregnant I was having a OBGYN come in and check on me daily, and since I was high risk (because of a blood disorder) I had a specialist coming to see me daily as well. They kept telling me it would be okay for me to get some Ativan, which had provided tremendous relief at the E.R. Visits, but the psychiatrist that was assigned to me when I arrived, REFUSED to give me anything other than Benadryl and Celexa, neither of which were providing any immediate relief.

As I have learned over the past year and a half since this all occurred, most psych. Wards have limited visitation, and mine was no different. My husband could come to the evening visitation and spend an hour with me. The first few days all I did was cry the whole time he was there. He was so scared. I was breaking his heart and that just made me feel even worse. I really just wanted to give him the baby and leave (you know d-i-e…) I didn’t want to burden him with all of my problems anymore. The thought of me not being around anymore, was the thing that was really bothering him. He got it in those moments.

I got out of the hospital and managed to hold it together until 38 weeks!!! YAY ME!!! When my OBGYN, asked if I wanted to go ahead and deliver, I practically took myself straight to the hospital right then. Coincidentally, I went into labor on my own the day I was scheduled to deliver. My delivery was easy… But there were some complications with my epidural, which lead to added stress. It is the most horrible feeling in the world to think back onto that day and to look at pictures and to know in those moments there was no joy, no love, and no want, for my beautiful, brand new baby girl. You can see the blankness in my face and the fakeness in my smile in all of the pictures… It breaks my heart to think of it. Will she understand, what was wrong with me then? Will she know how much she has ALWAYS been loved and wanted!

This was my husband’s first baby, but my second. I have a, now 10 y.o., daughter from a previous relationship, so I had been through the nursing and diapering and everything before. I was uncertain of myself because of my depression and anxiety, but I knew what I was doing automatically. My husband second guessed everything I did. He questioned my positioning of the baby while nursing, and was convinced that she was not getting any milk, despite the fact that the nurses had told him multiple times that everything was going fine. As one would assume this only compounded the problem I was dealing with.

A couple of days out of the hospital and other than the epidural complication I thought I was feeling much better! I look back now and think that the depression was just masked by the Vicodin they were giving me for pain after the delivery. I probably had about a weeks worth of Vicodin, and within a few days after that, I was back in the E.R. I won’t go into all of the how I was feeling… But I ended up back in the psych. Ward.

Telling my husband the second time felt easier to me… With the flawed logic of depression, It seemed very simple. I leave (aka die) and then he doesn’t have to worry about me, he now has his child, life will be easier without me… Yada yada yada… The same visitation schedule existed, naturally, I had just been there little less than a month before… My husband came to all the visitations and brought our daughters. (the first time I lied to the oldest about where I was, she still doesn’t really know why I was there either time) again, in the moment, he was understanding, apologetic, and sympathetic. He just wanted me to do what ever I need to do to get better, and come home to our family.

We had tough decisions to make. Since I was nursing, and since I had the same psychiatrist that I had had previously, she was equally unwilling to provide me with any REAL meds, until I agreed to stop nursing ( as I type that, I think I hate her for that!) Up until the point in which I agreed, I pumped and dumped, my milk every few hours in my room there in the ward. That too was heartbreaking, but I was finally at a point mentally where I knew I had to get better and go home, and without me at home, there wouldn’t be breast milk anyway! So I stopped pumping and finally got some relief!!!

When I first came home my husband was great!!!! He did the laundry without being asked, he made sure there were meals for everyone, he helped out with our new daughter a lot. But as time passed and things have gotten better his back to his same old self. Mind over matter. He really does spend a lot of time wondering what the hell is wrong with me.

I’m glad to report, that I’m now doing great, as long and I don’t have to talk about the time around my daughter’s birth, (this post has resulted in the need to take some Ativan!) And you don’t talk to me about having another baby, which my husband definitely wants to do, and I’m not so sure I can handle it… I can’t even type out what happened to me without having a panic attack!!!! But for the most part I’m GREAT! ;o) I’m down to 30 mg of Cymbalta a day, and Ativan as needed (which is rare!). We are working on weaning off the Cymbalta, but I’m in no hurry! I want to be well and I want to be here with my family.

I’m looking forward to sharing this post with my husband. I think I have stated fairly well, what I will need him to do better next time. I have also printed of a “Me First” letter (got it from a post on a PPD site) and will be well armed if we decide to have another baby! I wish my husband had a better understanding of depression. I which he could remember how VERY REAL everything we went through during our daughter’s birth was. Maybe then he would have more compassion for my now fleeting struggles, and be WELL prepared for the next time!

Sharing the Journey with Adrienne Griffen


Meet Adrienne Griffen, an amazing woman, mother, PPD Survivor, and fellow PSI Coordinator.

Adrienne has been volunteering with PSI for about as long as I have and is located in VA. She recently launched her own non-profit, Postpartum Support Virginia.Not only is she one dedicated woman, she’s from my home state, VA. Gotta show the love, right?

Her first postpartum experience was awesome – she even held a dinner party for 40 people when her new daughter was just three months old! (YOU GO GIRL!) It was with her second child that events quickly spiraled out of control and Adrienne found herself struggling for someone, anyone, to listen compassionately to her and show her the way back out. Finally her husband located a physician who specialized in women’s mood disorders. Adrienne began to recover having finally located the correct help. Her third pregnancy was a lot like mine – she stayed on her meds, educated her doctors (even received an apology) and received a screening questionnaire at her 6 week checkup. (By the way, HAVE you written or called your Senator about the MOTHER’S ACT yet?) Impressed with how far the medical community had come, Adrienne felt great and was now fully dedicated to improving things even more. Read on to find out more…

Just like me, you’ve been driven to help other Moms struggling with PPD through an experience of your own. Would you mind sharing that experience with us and why it inspires you to help other mothers?

After my second child was born six years ago, I had a fairly significant episode of postpartum depression and anxiety. I knew something was wrong because everything about this birth and postpartum period was the opposite of my first experience with childbirth two years earlier. My second delivery was rather traumatic (emergency C-section); my second baby ate more, slept less, and cried more than my first; I had a toddler AND a newborn (which I believe is the hardest stage thus far of parenting); I was totally sleep deprived; and I just couldn’t imagine how I was going to survive the next 18 years until this baby went off to college, never mind the next 5 minutes. Compounding my misery was the fact that my next-door-neighbor had just had her second, and my sister just had her fourth, and they made it look so easy.

The hardest part was finding help. Despite realizing that something was terribly amiss, I couldn’t find the help I needed — or at least the help I wanted. At my 6-week postpartum, I told the OB/GYN that I wasn’t feeling well, and without any discussion she offered me Prozac. When I called the Behavioral Medicine branch of my HMO, I was hoping for a verbal hug from someone who could reassure me that others had felt like this and that help was available. Instead, I was told to call back during normal business hours, overheard the intake nurse tell her supervisor I was “homicidal”, was told that they would report me to Child Protective Services if I had hurt my children, and was charged two co-pays since I saw a nurse AND a doctor. The psychiatrist recommended sleeping pills — I wasn’t sure if he meant for me or for my baby. I called mental health providers but couldn’t find anyone accepting new patients. I called about support groups, only to be told that they were now defunct. I saw a psychologist for several months who never understood how desperate I was. I felt like I was banging my head on a brick wall. Finally, when my son was six months old, my husband located a psychiatrist who specializes in women’s mood disorders and gave me the reassurance and care I needed.

I vowed during this time that I would someday do something so that others could find help more easily. This isn’t rocket science. PPD is relatively easily diagnosed and treated. The hard part is getting information to new mothers and connecting them to health care resources.

Tell us about your organization, Postpartum Support VA. How long has this been in the works and what does it feel like to finally have it up and running?

Postpartum Support Virginia is a not-for-profit organization providing hope and help for new mothers through:

  • support for new and expectant mothers (one-on-one and group support)
  • information and resources for new mothers and their families
  • outreach and education

I think of it as an umbrella covering all the activities ongoing in Virginia dealing with postpartum depression. The website (www.postpartumva.org) lists telephone and email volunteers, support groups, and mental health professionals who treat women with postpartum depression and other perinatal mood disorders.

I’ve been thinking about creating an organization like Postpartum Support Virginia for about three years, ever since I started to volunteer with mothers experiencing postpartum issues. But with three young children (they are now 8, 6 1/2, and 3) I couldn’t devote the time and energy until now. My approach has been to build the infrastructure first, then put the superstructure in place.

In other words, I’ve spent the last few years laying the foundation — helping other volunteers get started, speaking to maternal/child health care providers, leading support groups, networking with others involved with PPD throughout Virginia, attending PSI conferences. The past six months have been about formalizing these operations — creating a not-for-profit organization, building a website, creating a board of directors. The next few months will be focused on fund raising. Postpartum Support Virginia is still in its infant stage, and I really feel like I’ve given birth to my fourth child.

What do you find to be the most rewarding about helping other PPD Moms and families?

There is such joy in helping these new mothers who are swirling around in the whirlpool of depression and anxiety. To see the change after they get the help they need is so rewarding. In particular, seeing a new mother fall in love with her baby is amazing. And to receive feedback like this email from a mom who attended one of our support groups makes it all worthwhile:

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart. The knowledge and encouragement that you all gave me in only 2 visits put me on the path to a better life than I ever could have imagined. I went from the worst time in my life to the happiest I have ever been so I am very grateful. Thank you so very much.”
How did your husband handle your PPD? Any advice for dads struggling to cope with their partner’s PPD?

My husband kept our little family going while I had PPD. He researched this illness and found the psychiatrist who finally helped me. He would come home from work at a moment’s notice when I was falling apart. Whenever I feel guilty about how he carried me through this time, he reminds me that is what marriage is all about. Spouses who see their partners suffer PPD, please remember that this is not her fault, you are not alone, and with help she will be well again.
What is the most challenging thing about motherhood?

The most challenging thing about motherhood is being mentally present for each of my children. They are each so special and unique, requiring different parenting skills from me, that it takes time and energy to give each what s/he deserves.
What is your most favorite thing about motherhood?

The same as all other mothers – BEDTIME! Just kidding.

Three things:

  1. I love making my children smile.
  2. I love seeing the progression towards independence, which is bittersweet but the goal of good parenting.
  3. I love watching the sibling relationship develop.

How long have you been a PSI Coordinator and how did you first find out about PSI?

I have been a PSI coordinator for two years. I heard about PSI from another PPD survivor and volunteer, Benta Sims, who raved about the conference she attended a few years ago. Joining PSI gave me the sense of connectedness and credibility that I needed to do this type of volunteer work.

What do you do when you take time for YOU?

Oh, I take LOTS of time for me to ensure I have time and energy for my family. On a daily basis I exercise and nap — in fact, I have taken a nap virtually every day since I was pregnant with my first child almost 10 years ago. I go to bed at 10:00 every night (except tonight while I am answering these questions!). I see a therapist, go to a chiropractor, get monthly therapeutic massages, and practice yoga. I host coffee once a week with three great neighbors — we solve each other’s problems and keep each other on track. And I have terrific in-laws who take my children for a few days once a year so I can revel in being alone in my own home. This is the best gift ever — and usually when I fall into a novel and read non-stop for two days.

How do you balance motherhood and work?

Balancing motherhood and work is extremely difficult, as most mothers know. I don’t really consider what I do as “work” because I find it so fulfilling — and because I don’t get paid (yet). The way I balance it is being my own boss. I know that at this stage of life I wouldn’t be happy with someone telling me what to do, answering to someone else’s demands or expectations or schedule, and forcing my children into my work schedule. So with my own organization, I can do what I want when I want.

Practically speaking, it means working while my children are at school or at night so I can be fully present for them while they are at home. During the summer I hire a babysitter a few mornings a week to take my children to their swim team or the park while I work from home. I’ve been ramping up slowly, but this year will be a big turning point as my youngest starts half-day preschool.
Finally, if you had a chance to pass on just one piece of advice to a new mom (experienced or not), what would you share with her?

Take care of yourself so you can take care of your family.