Speaker: OK, letís just start off with you giving us your full name umm ... how old are you, where you live, married how long, the basics on you.
Adrienne: My name is Adrienne Richardson, I am 31 years old, I live in Vineland, New Jersey. I am married with two children and I have been married for four years.
Speaker: So we'll just go ahead and get right into it Ö when did you first hear the term postpartum depression? And in your own words, how would you define it?
Adrienne: I probably heard about postpartum depression long before I was ever pregnant. I have heard about it through the media and watching things on TV, hearing about other things. Iím sorry, what was the second part of the question?
Speaker: How would you describe it?
Adrienne: I would describe PPD basically as pretty much - OK, sorry, do you want me to talk about what I thought it was or what I think it is now?
Speaker: Maybe both because maybe it will show like you know after you went through it, how your definition changed. So what you thought of it when you initially heard about, when you initially heard about it on TV and whatnot, what you thought it was and after your experience.
Adrienne: I, when I first heard about PPD, I would hear things on the news or in the media. I didnít have a lot of opinion about it or thoughts about, I just thought it was women getting very depressed after having a baby. My experience with PPD kind of enlightened me to that it is more than a depression and itís a lot more about isolation and shame and those are things that I wasnít even aware of or gave a thought to previously to me having it.
Speaker: Did you experience PPD with your first child or with your second child? I know you have two.
Adrienne: I had PPD with my first child.
Speaker: Was it a normal pregnancy or was your experience a good one when you found out when you were pregnant? Did you have any type of complications? Or did you have a normal pregnancy?
Adrienne: For me, I have had previous miscarriages so right from the beginning this pregnancy was, I had to take a lot of progesterone hormones lots of doctors visits lots of ultrasounds, so it was kind of riddled with fear from the beginning, very cautious all the time. It was a pretty normal pregnancy besides frequent doctors visits and taking medication. It was really when I went into labor the night before my birthday, it was three weeks early. I really didnít think I was in labor, I thought I had been to the hospital before three times previously thinking I was in labor so I was thinking that I was really not going to go to the hospital unless I was really having a baby so I kind of just, putting it off.
I was in labor for about 14 hours at home and then my water broke at home and my contractions were like every three minutes so I had an hour drive to the hospital with contractions every three minutes. By the time I got to the hospital I was like seven centimeters dilated so they rushed me right up to labor and delivery got me all set and ready to go but because it was early my son had never dropped so they kind of just had me sitting there waiting for him to drop and basically I was dilated to 10 for hours and hours and hours before I ever actually got to start pushing. Once I gave birth, because I had been in labor for so long, my uterus was exhausted and so it couldnít contract so I started to hemorrhage. I lost more than half the blood in my body, they were very close to doing a hysterectomy.
As soon as my son came out they realized he had a problem with his heart. It was beating very fast, about 300 beats a minute, so he was taken immediately to the NICU and it took them about three hours to get my bleeding under control. So it was a very, very horrible, traumatic delivery, extremely traumatic, very, very painful.
And for the first couple days, I didnít even see my son. He was in the NICU and I wasnít even able to even get out of bed because I didnít get a blood transfusion until like three days after I had given birth so it was extremely difficult to see him. They couldnít bring him to me and I couldnít go see him and I really because of all the pain that I was in, it was like I couldnít even think about it. I was thinking about him but at the same time I couldnít even get excited that I had just given birth because I was in such a tremendous amount of pain.
So it was a couple days before I got to go see him in the NICU and he was only in the NICU for five days. He was lucky. Some preemie babies are there for months, I canít even imagine that. But when he came home, he came home on a heart monitor and medications that had to be measured just right or, you know, it could cause more damage than good. And when he was about three weeks old, he became colicky.
And the first couple weeks after he was born I was tearful but I just assumed it was because I just had the horrific experience, you know my son had a heart condition and I had lost all this blood and I was weak, and he was weak. And so in the beginning just being tearful I just thought well Iím sad because I have this sick baby.
But about three weeks into it he developed colic, he had acid reflux and so every time we fed him he was vomiting. He cried all day, all the time, never stopped. He didnít sleep for longer than 45 minutes at a time so I wasn't sleeping for more than 45 minutes at a time. And I was very sleep-deprived. I was still very weak from all the blood that I had lost. I wasnít able to breastfeed. I tried, but my milk would not come down so I was devastated about that because I really wanted to breastfeed.
All around, I just really felt like a failure, like I was so excited, I tried so hard, I wanted a child so badly and now I had this baby and it was like, this isnít what I thought it was going to be. This isnít, I wasnít full of joy and happiness. I had friends that were like, oh I saw my baby and I instantly fell in love. And well, that didnít happen for me and I thought whatís wrong with me?
It was a very sad time and I didnít want to admit that to anybody that I was feeling that way because I felt wrong for feeling that way so I kind of just kept it to myself. People could see that I was sad and tearful. My mom and my husband could see that but they didnít really know the thoughts that were going on inside my head.
Speaker: So at that point when you were tearful you considered that maybe it was just a result of the delivery and how, when did you start to think that it might be a baby blues or even possibly postpartum?
Adrienne: I really, itís a funny thing about PPD is that I donít think that, at least for me, that, you donít consciously think you have PPD, you really just think that, especially for me, that being a very strong independent person it was like, I can handle this. You know, whatís wrong with me? You know, whatís ... nothing I havenít been able to handle before. You just need to get your act together, get over it, this is what it is.
But at the same time it was like, feeling sorry for myself like you know, I donít want to be a mom anymore. This is horrible. If this is what being a mom is all about, I donít want to do this. I was starting to have these bad thoughts. My husband was actually more concerned about it than I was. He was talking to my mom and my mom would say, she doesnít have PPD, she just has the blues. That is normal, every woman goes through this.
I would cry all day and my mom would tell me, this is completely normal, every woman goes through this. And my husband kept saying, something is wrong with my wife. And my mom kept saying, she doesnít have PPD, she doesnít need medication. And it was like this battle going on in my house because my husband felt that something was wrong with my wife and my mom was like there is nothing wrong with my daughter. She doesnít need medication, sheís not crazy, thereís nothing wrong with her.
And I was just kind of keeping it to myself what I was really thinking and really feeling and I remember calling one of my girlfriends and saying to her, you know this is, I kind of opened up to her and I kind of told her how I was feeling. This is whatís happening to me, Iím crying all the time, you know this is how Iím feeling. I said, do you think I could have PPD? And she was like, no way. She was like, you know, she couldnít really relate to what I was going though because she never had experienced that. But at the same time she was like, no it's not PPD, you just need to snap out of it, you need to get over it and move on.
And I just became more and more isolated, the thoughts that I was having in my head. You know, my son would be crying all the time, I would sometimes be like, oh I could just put a pillow over his face. Or I started to have these visions and thoughts of hurting him, you know I would think all the time, I just want to to die, I just want to die. You know, if I wasn't alive it would be better so I just started having thoughts of suicide, I had thoughts of hurting my child. I became very physically violent against my husband and I would blame everything on him -- I wouldnít feel this way if you would do this, it's your fault because you're not helping me. I just started to attack him. And so everybody around me could see what was happening to me but I was in denial, not consciously, but you donít actually chose to be in denial. But the fear and the shame of the thoughts I was having kept me from admitting the problem.
And so I actually never consciously decided I have PPD or never looked for help. It was my husband. He called my doctor, which shocked me. My husband is not the go-get 'em, take control kind of person and how he even knew what my doctor's phone number was I have no idea. But he called my doctor without me knowing and told her what was going on. So she called me and just said, oh Iím just calling to check up on you. And I said, everything is fine. And she said, well you know your husband was a little concerned about you. And instantly I was furious that he had called her and I said, thereís nothing wrong with me, the problem is my husband not me. And you know I just began to complain about him and said, heís the problem not me. If he would just do this or that then everything would be fine, thereís nothing wrong with me.
And she said, well Iím going to order you medication that I want you to pick up and just try and see if it helps. I said, no, thereís nothing wrong with me, Iím not going to take it. She said, well Iím going to order it anyway and I hope that youíll go pick it up.
This, of course, started a huge fight between me and my husband, I canít believe you called my doctor. What did you tell her? Thereís nothing wrong with me, the problem is you. I called my girlfriend and my girlfriend said, donít you dare take that medication, thereís nothing wrong with you, you're not crazy. And my mom said the same thing.
But the next day, I donít know why, but I went and got the medication and I didnít tell anybody and I started taking it without anyone and I thought well, let's see what happens. And it slowly started to get better and then I admitted that I was taking the medication to my husband and to my mom. And my husband was thrilled and my mom was mad and, you know, taking the medication helped.
It took a couple months, it took probably a good three to four months before I was better. And I think that my son was about 9 months old before I actually started to enjoy him and looked at him with that unconditional love that you expect to have when they come out and they are born. And they you know I finally had that joy and happiness and excited about being a mother and really, really, truly loving him. He was about 9 months old so it took awhile.
Speaker: At any point did you go to therapy or any kind of support group for moms or anything like that?
Adrienne: No, and I wasnít aware that any even existed. I do know that my doctor gave me the pamphlet, the Speak Up When You're Down pamphlet and said thereís an 800 number on here that I'd like you to call. Each time I'd go visit with her, she would ask me how I was doing and I would tell her that I was miserable and I didnít understand why people had kids and I was never having any more and it was horrible.
And she would give me the pamphlet and say, you should call this number and I wouldnít. I said, Iím not calling this number and talking to some stranger, thereís nothing wrong with me and I wouldnít call the number and I never did, never did. I never had any counseling sessions, I just had the medication. And had my doctor said, well hey, we have this therapist at the hospital maybe next time you come you can talk to her, I might have been willing to do that. But therapy was never, ever brought up by my doctor or anybody else and I didnít seek it either.
Speaker: So you basically overcame it with the medication?
Speaker: How long were you on the medication?
Adrienne: I was on it for a good four months before I actually started to feel better, feel myself again but I took it probably for about nine months.
Speaker: Can you share what was your first memory when you said, you know what, I like this motherhood thing? What was your first memory of like you said, looking at your son and enjoying him? Do you remember what you guys were doing?
Adrienne: I remember I started to enjoy him more when he was 9 months old but I remember his first birthday and saying, you know I actually might want another child. My mom was like, you're crazy because she knew just how horrible it had been for me and it was his first birthday party and I looked at him and said, I love him so much and I want another one.
And I actually got pregnant that next day with my second child. My son is born on my birthday. It was my birthday and my daughter was conceived then and so that was the first time I remember standing there and him sitting there in front of his birthday cake and me really enjoying that moment and thinking, Iím ready to do this again, which I never for a whole year, I thought I donít know how anybody ever has more than one child. How can you do this and decide to do this again? And my friends were like offended because I was like youíre crazy if you have more than one child. I even asked my doctor why would anyone have more than one child and go through this and decide to go through it again? And at that moment in the kitchen with my son on his first birthday I understood why somebody would do it again and that was my first real memory that I remember that was happy.
Speaker: Most women say that their first pregnancy Iím not going to go through that again. Why donít you talk about your second pregnancy and knowing what you now knew about PPD, what you did to prevent or what you had in your head what to look for the signs and whatnot?
Adrienne: The second time around, I had a different doctor and I kind of asked a lot of my friends and people that were in that industry who they recommend. And I knew that I didnít want to drive another hour away so I was looking for somebody nearby. The doctor that I found I was very, from day one by that time I was done with the shame and the guilt and I could talk about it openly and didnít feel like there was anything wrong with me anymore. So I went to my doctor and on the very first appointment I had I told him I had PPD and I told him I canít go through it again, whatever we have to do, whatever needs to change, you know, we have to do something about it. I donít want, you know, I asked him, is this going to happen again? He said it does increase your chances of getting PPD. If you have had it the first time, the chances are high you will have it the second time.
And when I was very open with him, how bad the PPD was and the thoughts I had and the things I was going through. I didnít hold anything back and so he was like right from the beginning was like you know as soon as your child is born, we have therapists, we can get you in touch with them ,we can have you talk to them. And I want to start you on a medication the day that your daughter is born. And I kind of struggled with that, well should I wait and see if I have PPD first and then start the medication? It was like kind of going back and forth with it.
I had a difficult pregnancy the second time around. It was complicated and so my doctor was doing everything. He did not want me to have the same experience I had the first time as far as the delivery and the afterwards. He was very practical on, we're changing that and so because of the bad hemorrhaging the first time we had planned a C-section that would be in a more controlled environment so he ordered medication for me. At the time I decided I donít even want to take my chances with going through that because what if, again I think there is nothing wrong with me, what if I donít recognize the signs? So I wasnít willing to change it especially because my first child was so young. He wasnít even 2 yet and I thought, I canít melt down like that when I have got a 2-year-old now and a newborn to take care of.
And so we did a C-section and I started medication the day that she was born. And I remember calling him about a week into after she was born and called the doctor and I said, I feel great. I said, do you think that itís the medication because I was only on it for like five or six days and before? It was a different medication he gave me the second time from what I had the first time. I said, you know, do you think itís the medication that is making me feel this way? Or do you really think it's been a different experience? It's a completely different experience.
I felt great, I felt amazing. Most people I had known who had C-sections were like, itís the worst thing ever. And I was like, this is a piece of cake compared to what I had been through the first time, this is great. So he said, I donít know. He said, it could be the medication is getting into your system and I suggest you keep taking it. So I kept taking it and I never experienced any PPD.
I actually had, I was a very happy person after I had my second child and so I continued to take that medication probably for a year and when it came time to get off of it, I couldnít get off of it. I struggled with withdrawal from the medication and it actually took me another six months to wean myself off of the medication. And looking back now you know I think, well maybe I shouldnít have taken it because it was so hard to get off of but you know the alternative who knows what the alternative could have been? You never know.
Speaker: Iím actually curious about your mom. I know your mom was very adamant that nothing was wrong with you and that you were just having a difficult time, it was just the baby blues. Do you think that she did not understand what PPD is or was? Have you guys talked about that and how did she feel knowing that you did have PPD and it seemed like she was in denial too?
Adrienne: I think that because of my motherís generation they didnít know anything about PPD and women who behaved the way that I did were crazy. And so for my mom to hear in the beginning when my husband was suggesting there is something wrong she might have PPD, to me that was like someone telling my mother her daughter was crazy. I think that her denial actually made me -- none of this is her fault -- but her denial actually hurt me because I think that if my mom would have said this isnít normal, maybe we should talk to somebody that I would have been more willing because at the time I felt like I was fighting my husband because I felt like he was just attacking me. I didnít trust what he was saying and so my mom, I think, because of her generation they didnít know anything about it what it was there wasnít a name for it, you were just crazy you know and so she didnít want she was in denial about it too.
After I was actually diagnosed with it and she became more educated about it and through me starting my magazine and things I have done with it, educating other people, my mom very much is accepting of what it is and knows that itís a real thing. She was worried about me the second time and worried that it would happen again. And so I think that her idea of what PPD is or was now is completely different then what it was then she was just uneducated about it because we all were and especially her generation was as well.
Speaker: Looking back over the whole experience with you having PPD knowing what you know now, how would you have handled it differently if you would have been informed?
Adrienne: I think that I would have been more willing to go if there was a support group or therapist or something that I had known about, I probably would have talked to them. Iím not for or against medication. I think that some people need it and sometimes you donít and I think that I probably would have liked to try therapy first to see if it would have worked. Like I said, it wasnít offered to me the first time around, I didnít know anything about it. And for the helpline, I think that it just depends on the person. Some people would feel better picking up the phone and talking to someone who doesnít even know them and would have judged them and for other people they're like, I'm not going to call a stranger and tell them about this.
For me, looking back now, I would hope that now that I know what the signs and symptoms are that I wouldnít have been in denial and would have gotten help sooner. I would have gotten at least a therapist and somebody to talk to because I feel like being able to get out, being honest about what you're actually feeling and not keeping it to yourself is the most important thing because you can't really get the help you need if you canít acknowledge what the problem is if you canít admit the problem. So I would hope that you know, knowing what I know now that I would have sought help sooner and would have been more open about talking about it.
Speaker: When was the date of your son's birth?
Adrienne: May 12, 2006
Speaker: Were you screened at all?
Adrienne: I donít remember. I do not remember being screened, like I said at my follow-up appointment being given the pamphlet I donít remember being screened but my second pregnancy I do remember being screened. I remember being asked those questions, but whatís funny is, knowing that I had PPD the first time and so the second time when I was given the screening questions the way they were given to me I was so disappointed because I felt like if there was a woman who was really feeling the way that I was the first time around this isnít enough. A nurse would just hand me a piece of paper and give it back to me there was no conversation between myself and the nurses. I think for them to ask the questions themselves and kind of elaborate and try to have a dialogue with me before having me fill out this paper would have been more helpful. At least the facility that I was at and the staff that worked with me, they just handed me the paper, had me fill it out and was done with it. So the screening was there and was a step in the right direction but for somebody who was truly feeling the way that I had felt I felt like it was not enough.
Speaker: Do you have plans for having number 3?
Adrienne: My husband and I have bounced that idea back and forth. Itís a possibility. We kind of are like, you know, three means you have to get a bigger car, a bigger house. When you go from two to three now you have five, that really changes the dynamics of your entire family. There is a possibility which I never ever thought in my life I would have three children especially after having my first.
Speaker: I know your marriage had hard times from the PPD. As you healed, did your marriage heal as well?
Adrienne: The damage was long-lasting. It definitely took years for my marriage to recover from that and for some people who have a very strong marriage and are married for a long time before they have children, I think their experience might be different. For myself, we had children very quickly after getting married ... and my husband didnít understand it, he didnít know why I was acting that way and he took it very personal. And it caused major damage to our marriage that took probably three years to recover from, but it is a lot better and luckily heís learned too. And so you know he is on the lookout for, heís always the guys at work, he'll be on the lookout, asking questions and heíll come home and ask, do you think she has PPD? And so, luckily heís learned a lot from it too and we have been able to recover but it took a long long time, a long time.
Speaker: Talk about your publication a little bit and how that was really a reason why your experience was a reason you started it.
Adrienne: Well, when I was pregnant with my first child and I was about five months pregnant, I got laid off from my job and it was two weeks before Christmas and I was devastated. I thought, nobody will hire a woman who is five months pregnant and what am I going to do with myself? So while I was collecting unemployment, I'm kind of the personality where I donít like to sit still I donít like to just do nothing. I wasnít satisfied. I was going to be a new mom, I was reading every book and every magazine and I really felt like there was a lack of resources in the area where I lived and so I had an idea.
When I was attending an unemployment class they said if you have an idea to start a business, submit it to the state and if it's accepted they will send you to classes to teach you how to start a business. So I had an idea to start a parenting magazine so I could have a resource for moms in the local area. I started out with the idea of a moms' group and it went to a newsletter and then it went to a magazine. So I started working on the research and the getting the business started while I was still pregnant.
Once my son was born and I had the PPD it was like, what magazine? I could barely get a shower each day. I was not thinking about a magazine whatsoever. But once I recovered from the PPD it was like that drive and to get this thing going was stronger because I knew there had to be other women out there like me who felt very alone and felt like there was something wrong with them and felt isolated. And I wanted to reach out to those women and let them know that thereís help out there and youíre not alone and you will get through it and it does get better.
And so I really started to work on it once I got over the PPD, I really started to work on the magazine strongly then. My son was 9 months old when I launched the magazine. We do some stuff on PPD and all the time Iím very honest with what I went through. I put in there local resources, I look for support groups. ... Whatís really interesting is, we always, whenever we're going to talk about a topic we look for someone who has experienced it to share, even if were going to talk about a story in general we want to insert a personal aspect of it and share someoneís story. And I can never find a woman to share her story about PPD. I have even offered to keep their names, change their names but theyíre not willing to share and I think one of the reasons of course is there's still this stigma attached to the shame and there is something wrong with you and you're crazy but because my magazine is so local the women are afraid somebody will recognize them. The magazine is read, you know, there are neighbors reading it, they are afraid to share and so this past May, our May issue was the first issue that we had a woman who was willing to share her story openly and talk about her experience.
But for the last three years of having South Jersey Mom, nobody would share their story so I shared mine and every year when we do something about PPD, I get lots of e-mails from women that say thank you so much for writing. We get women who suffered with it for years who were very depressed and their life was a mess for one, two, three years and I get a lot of e-mails from women thanking me for talking about the topic and being so open and you know saying the things that theyíre thinking and arenít willing to say and so I used my magazine as a way to help other women, to educate them on the resources out there because I wasnít aware of them when I was going through them.
Mostly I just want them to know that they arenít alone and it's OK to talk about it and thatís what I do with South Jersey Mom.
Speaker: What advice would you give to a woman who might be going through PPD?
Adrienne: My advice would be to just talk about it with somebody you trust, especially your doctor if you feel like you canít be open with your husband or you mother or your best friend because youíre afraid of what theyíll think of you or that they'll judge you, to at least talk to your doctor. The best thing is to be honest and tell them 100 percent how you feel and what youíre going though and keep telling people until somebody listens to you and offers to give you help.
Adrienne's story | Adrienne's Video