Speaker: I just want to start off by you sharing your name where you are from and your age.
Thaydra Perez: Iím Thaydra Perez I am from Elmwood Park, New Jersey, and I am 34
Speaker: Are you a stay-at-home mom?
Thaydra: Yes, I am a stay-at-home mom.
Speaker: When did you first hear the term PPD?
Thaydra: I first heard it I was watching a show on TV when I was pregnant with my first son. Ö It was like a documentary about a woman who was pregnant and had experienced the postpartum. I paid a little bit more attention to it because I was pregnant. I probably have heard it before but never really paid attention to it because obviously I wasnít pregnant but that was really the first time I ever really sat down and listened to someone talk about it, so on TV.
Speaker: In your own words what is PPD?
Thaydra: Actually, it is something that women experience, a lot of women experience the blues, most of the women after they have a baby. PPD is more than that. Itís actually more severe. It is going into some sort of like a depression, it is a depression actually, just a lot worse than your normal depression and usually it occurs after the child is born.
Speaker: With your son Stephen, why donít you just give us a sense of what your pregnancy was like? Was it planned? Did you have any sort of complications with the pregnancy?
Thaydra: I did not have any real complications other then they told me that he had a single-vessel umbilical cord, which is a birth defect that isnít really common. Other than that, I really didnít have any other problems. I had to go for more sonograms, obviously, because of the problem. They said that he could possibly be born without limbs, he could have autism, among other problems. We had to go to heart specialists, they said he could be born without the four chambers of his heart and then we would have to terminate the pregnancy.
Other than that, we had a very good pregnancy. We were excited being that we had a miscarriage before that and that was it basically other than that, but that was very upsetting to us being that we were looking forward to this pregnancy.
Speaker: Were you able to confirm during any point during that pregnancy through sonograms that the heart was OK?
Thaydra: We had to actually go to a heart specialist but from the sonogram, the first couple sonograms I think, it was the second we found out that he had the single-vessel umbilical cord. But after that we couldnít confirm it until about three sonograms after we had to go to a heart specialist to do that. So thatís when we found out everything was OK with his heart.
Speaker: Iím sure that alleviated any type of anxiety.
Thaydra: When they first told me actually it didnít. I got anxiety from this. I never had any type of anxiety before this but the minute they told me this I just went to full-blown anxiety I used to get panic attacks from this. Itís actually funny because I was getting full-blown panic attacks and my blood pressure was going up and I went to the doctor and he said to me, you need to calm down. And I said that you just told me that my son can have a birth defect and not be born with any limbs and now youíre telling me you want me to calm down? Thatís something thatís upsetting to us and you know from there gradually it got better. Ö Each sonogram was hard to go to. We got anxiety just going there but then once we heard everything was OK, it was like a sigh of relief. So it got better.
Speaker: What was your labor and delivery like?
Thaydra: For Stephen, I was in labor for about 12 hours and after 12 hours the doctor decided to do an emergency C-section because Stephen wasnít going down in the birth canal and my and his blood pressure was dropping. So the C-section went OK but I was in labor for about 12 hours and then they decided to do that. So once I had the C-section, everything went OK from there.
Speaker: While you were in the hospital after you had the surgery, the C-section, did you notice that you started feeling any of the symptoms then or did that happen later?
Thaydra: It happened later. With Stephen, it happened later. I was ecstatic to hold him, to be with him. I couldnít wait until the nurses brought him in, in his bassinet from the nursery. My family was all there. We were extremely happy especially because we had the miscarriage and we were trying to have him for a little while before we actually did conceive him. That didnít kick in probably for about two weeks later. In the hospital, I was excellent.
Speaker: Two weeks later, youíre home with the baby, youíre into a new routine with him and what made you start noticing? What seemed off?
Thaydra: I started to cry a lot and I didnít really know why I was crying. I would hold him and sob and I would cry and also I didnít feel connected to him. I felt like when I put him in his bassinet to go to sleep I was relieved because that meant I didnít have to be near him and I didnít have to be near him for a while. I would, mostly it was just a lot of crying and not knowing. My head was in a fog. I didnít know what I wanted to do. I didnít know where I wanted to be. I just felt like I didnít want him and I kept telling myself that I do want him and I was trying to convince myself that I wanted him but I knew something was wrong because for me being that I wanted him so bad this was like, why am I like this? Because I couldnít have an answer for that, it was constant crying. I couldnít even take care of myself let alone take care of him so it was kind of not wanting to be by him at all.
Speaker: At that time, did your husband or any family members step in to help you?
Thaydra: My husband was home for two weeks. He had two weeks leave, maternity leave. He was always helping me. He saw the crying, not really as much because I kind of tried to hide it. He did see it and I had told him not to let anybody know, that it was something that I would just have to go through and that Iíll be able to take care of it and Iíll get myself better and a lot of women go through this and it just basically that I was OK and especially do not tell my parents because I knew that my husband would kind of go along with me to try and do what I wanted to happen but I knew that if my parents were involved they would definitely want to get me help but I didnít feel I needed the help.
Speaker: Did you have any other symptoms aside from you not feeling like your normal self and the crying? Was there anything else that you experienced that made it clear in your mind that something is definitely wrong?
Thaydra: It was the crying was the No. 1 thing and the disconnection from him was the other thing. Other than that really, I just, it was scary to be around him because I didnít know if I would do something to him or harm him. I felt like I knew deep down that I wouldnít harm him because I did love him, but I also felt like if I were to, I couldnít, this is crazy but I couldnít watch any shows with children harming because then I always thought, this is what Iím going to do to him.
I canít be near him. As soon as I would feed him and do the necessary work with him that I needed to do like changing and feeding, I would put him right back to sleep. I never really played with him because I didnít know what I would do. Even though deep down I knew I wouldnít, I still had that scary kind of thought.
Speaker: As you were going through these symptoms were you sleeping and was Stephen like a colicky baby at all?
Thaydra: No, he slept pretty good. He would have about two middle-of-the-night feedings so I would get up with him. I had him in the bassinet next to our bed and I was sleeping pretty good. I wasnít sleeping the greatest but I always checked. Another thing I had was, I was more fearful. I was always getting up every so often just checking that he was there and making sure he was OK. In my subconscious, I guess I thought that did I do something? Is he all right? Even though I knew I didnít so I would get sleep but not as much as I really should have.
Speaker: So you mentioned that your husband did notice you were crying a lot more then you normally would. Did he talk to you about it or, do you know, did you guys talk about it and try and figure out what might be going on?
Thaydra: He had told me that he doesnít think itís normal and that if I needed to get help if I wanted to speak to somebody. And I told him, this is something that Iíll get through and he went along with that because he wanted to be on my side. In other words, he didnít want to be a force or push me into anything. He thought that if he just went along with me that it would be better for me instead of trying to fight me on it.
Speaker: Take me to the day when you had your breakthrough, where someone had to intervene or you said enoughís enough.
Thaydra: My mom had come over for, just to help me. She had the day off and she wanted to see him and she came over to help me. And I just started crying and I said, I canít do this and itís kind of like, I didnít expect to say that but I think I was actually asking for help. At that point, I really literally couldnít take care of myself or him. I think I kind of wanted to just help and I had enough with it and I knew my mother would get me that help. So I said to her, I just started crying and she said, whatís going on? And I told her I had been feeling this for a little while and I need some kind of help, I donít know what kind of help but I need it. So at that point, thatís when we had a family therapist, a family friend, and we went to him and thatís where it started on the road to recovery.
Speaker: How long would you say approximately did it take from the time you brought Stephen home to the time that you went in for treatment?
Thaydra: It took probably about two months until I had my first therapy session.
Speaker: When you went to see the therapist, were you diagnosed with anything other than PPD or just PPD specifically?
Thaydra: Just PPD. I did have a little bit of anxiety that was getting better because now I saw he was OK, but I was still very anxious because I was fearful of taking him out and doing things with him and I was kind of getting myself more anxious but it was mostly just the PPD.
Speaker: What kind of treatment did your therapist recommend?
Thaydra: Constant therapy sessions and he put me on an antidepressant and it was just he wanted to see me and he felt also like I needed to hold my son more. He had given me some tips and advice: even if you donít want to, you need to bond and hold him more. And I would start to see that I was getting better especially that I was on the medication it gave me a push.
Speaker: How often were your therapy sessions and did you do any type of other?
Thaydra: The doctor recommended me to do journaling. I started doing that and as I got better I started doing more often. He actually recommended I do it every day but, like I said, at that point I didnít even know what I felt. My head was in a fog so once I started feeling a little better I started doing it more often. And I was going to these sessions I would say about two to three times a week and then I started going maybe like once a week once I started feeling better with the medication. I never really had to go, he never had to up the medication. I was on a certain amount of milligrams and I stayed on them.
Speaker: Approximately how soon after you started getting the therapy and taking the medication did you start to feel better?
Thaydra: About a month or so, a little bit over a month, maybe a month and a half.
Speaker: Can you just share you first memory of when you really felt that you had gotten over PPD and you were able to enjoy your baby?
Thaydra: Probably just wanting to hold him really. Like I said before I just basically wanted him sleeping constantly. I felt more at ease when he was sleeping. So I remember one time once I started feeling better, he was in his bassinet and I went over and I was looking at him and I said, I canít wait until you wake up because I wanted him to be up so I can hold him. I wanted to take pictures of him. I wanted to dress him up. I think thatís when I started to realize that I was getting at least a little bit better. I wanted to interact with him more than just feeding and changing him.
Speaker: Did you continue to maintain the therapy sessions and also the medication? If so, for about how long?
Thaydra: I continued for probably about a year. I went down gradually on the milligrams and finally just got off. The therapy I continued and, actually itís funny, I still continue. Itís an ongoing thing. You really need, itís good to talk to people or to someone whoís not in your little circle that kind of is trained in this also. And thank God I donít have this anymore, but still itís stressful with having three kids and sometimes you just need to talk to somebody. So I actually donít need it but I actually do make appointments every couple of months to speak with him.
Speaker: Now your second pregnancy with the twins, same questions. What was your pregnancy like? Was it good? Were there complications that you found out about?
Thaydra: No, itís funny because you would think with them, you would think it was difficult because there were two, but their pregnancy was excellent. I had nothing wrong with them besides the fact I had gone to hear their heartbeats, my first sonogram and thatís when they had told me that they only heard one but after probably a half hour or less they found the other one so it was quickly taken care of and from there it was a breeze.
Speaker: Being that you had already experienced PPD the first time, did you work with your therapist and doctor at all to kind of create a plan going into the second pregnancy?
Thaydra: Yeah, my doctor told my gynecologist and told -- I had two doctors that were going to be there being as I was having twins I had one and an assistant one -- and worked with them and told them he wanted me in the hospital right, the second day after I had given birth to go on the same antidepressants I was on before. So they had that in their notes and thatís what they wanted to do.
Speaker: So you said the labor and delivery of the twins went smoothly.
Thaydra: Yes, I had a scheduled C-section and we knew when we were going to have them and were prepared. And we went in there and it was like I said, a C-section and it was very quick and very calm, everything was good.
Speaker: When did you start feeling off with the twins? Was it immediate?
Thaydra: It was immediate. It was about the last day I was in the hospital, coming home. When I was in the hospital, I didnít feel as joyous as I did with my oldest son. I felt like I was connected to them in some way but I didnít feel as joyous. When I went home from the hospital, thatís when it really kicked in and I started crying and my husband was also not doing too well with that either. So it was probably the last day I was in the hospital.
Speaker: Just so we can, what date did you give birth to the twins?
Thaydra: May 22, 2007.
Speaker: Were you sleeping at this point?
Thaydra: I was literally probably getting two hours of sleep at night. I was trying to accommodate my 4-year-old. He was home, he was in school a couple days and wanted to be with mommy and daddy and I think that just added on to the depression because I felt like I had spent four years with him and now I threw them in the mix and I think I kind of felt like they were like a burden, so it was kind of hard.
Speaker: Would you say you had the same symptoms with the twins as you did with your first son?
Thaydra: With the twins, I was a lot worse. I started crying. It was, literally, I cried night and day. It was every minute of every hour and I would sob to the point where I just got where I couldnít even cry anymore. I would wake up and my eyes, you couldnít even see them. They were just closed from crying so much and red and puffy. It was extremely worse with them and I had fears of hurting them.
With Stephen, I really didnít have a fear of hurting him as much I kind of just didnít want him around me and I didnít really feel like I loved him like I should have. But the twins it was like I felt scared to be around them and I didnít want them to be around me also, but it was more of like a scared feeling.
Speaker: Since your husband had went through PPD with you the first time, did he notice right away?
Thaydra: Yes, and so did my parents. My mother, she knew right away because of the experience I had had with Stephen.
Speaker: Even though they knew about the medication, did you call the doctor right away?
Thaydra: Yes, I called the doctor. It was after he put me on it, about a week and a half later that this is. I wanted to try to stay on what he had given me but it was getting worse and I told him you need to put me on more medication, up it, because I am getting a lot worse and he had told me he would call and up the milligrams and he wanted to see me a lot more for the therapy.
Speaker: Did you go to therapy more frequently with the twins?
Thaydra: Yes, in the beginning I did. I went a lot more.
Speaker: At any point, had you heard of any momsí support groups or anything that the state was doing or any programs regarding PPD support or anything?
Thaydra: Yes, I heard at Valley Hospital that they were doing a support group and it was for women who had given birth and are experiencing PPD and also it was for women who just wanted to come out and be with other women who had just given birth, maybe get some pointers. And my mom had actually heard from somebody about this. She had told me but even though I knew I had it because I had the experience before I still was in denial where I said, itís not going to work. Iím not, I need to do something else because this isnít going to work. Iím going to sit there and get myself more upset because there are women there who are better and felt like telling me what to do. I felt like pushed away at first until she kind of literally said, youíre getting in the car and youíre going to a group. So if it was up to me I wouldnít have gone to begin with. Iím glad I did and I would recommend it but at the time I didnít feel it was necessary.
Speaker: The second time around, do you remember getting screened for PPD?
Thaydra: I had paperwork that I know I filled out about how I was feeling, but other than that I didnít. The doctor had to ask me a couple of questions and I think it was more so because I had it the first time. Other than that, no kind of medical screening. It was just basically paperwork and my doctor asking me questions and I think it was for my therapist.
Speaker: When the milligrams dosage went up, did things get better?
Thaydra: It was still gradually getting better. I had to go on the highest milligrams that they have. I started out, it was at 25 milligrams and I actually was up to almost 200 milligrams because it was just not getting better. It was getting a lot worse and I wasnít getting any sort of relief. I, at least with Stephen, I had felt some sort of relief and I had felt like more refreshed and more clear, my mind was more clear. With the twins, it was like, I remember I would call my parents and my husband would call me a lot to see how I was doing because they knew I was very bad and they knew I was on the antidepressant and they knew it had helped me the first time. Even though they didnít say it, I think they feared I would do something to the babies or myself because it was extremely bad. And I remember them constantly calling and saying, how are you? And every time they asked I would cry and sob like a child because I didnít know how I was.
All I remember saying is, theyíre going to put me in a mental institution and theyíre going to take away the kids. I canít take care of myself and I canít take care of them. And there would be days where they would be crying for a bottle and I would just sit there. And I knew what I needed to do but I didnít know if I didnít because I just didnít want to be around them or I just felt like I didnít even know how to make a bottle. I was just, it was very bad.
Speaker: What were things like with your husband, him having to work and he couldnít be there with you all the time to help? Was that straining on you and your marriage?
Thaydra: It did. We fought a lot. He actually got a lot more time. He was with me like a month and he got up with me in the night. We were both sleep-deprived so a lot of our arguments came from not getting enough sleep. He was always with me, he helped out. He didnít really understand fully what I was going through. He can say he did and he can say that he was there and by me, but really he was not understanding the full definition of PPD. He knew I was upset, he knew that I didnít feel connected to them, but he really didnít, I felt he didnít understand fully.
But he did try and help as best he could and there was actually a point where he was working and he actually let me sleep and he would get up with them for like a month. He told me, you need sleep because when Iím not here you need to be on your game and you need to have that refreshed feeling and you wonít get it if youíre not getting sleep so Iíll get up with them. And he didnít sleep for like a month and a half and I would sleep. And I felt guilty about that but I knew I needed it especially if I was going to take care of them all day.
Speaker: Did you get any help or did your mom come help with them more as you were continuing treatment and the medication? And how long before you actually did start to feel better?
Thaydra: My mom did come and help me. My husband was there up until the middle of June and my mom was working for schools so they had the month of August off so she was there. She would come on her lunch hours and she would come and help me and see how I felt. My stepfather works from home so he was flexible where he would come and check on me.
I feel like they felt I was going to do something, even though they didnít say that. Looking back, I think thatís what they thought. They wanted to see if I needed anything and my husband would call constantly and, when he could, come home for lunch. He would, I remember telling him when he would leave, I would yell at him and I wasnít very nice, I would cry and say, you get your life, you get to go out and eat with people and go to work. And he would say, listen if I had the opportunity I would be here but I have to work. Donít get mad at me for that. This is something I have to do to provide for you guys. And I would be angry at him. I felt like he had a life and even though it was going to work he was able to be out and to do things I couldnít do. I felt like all I did was take care of babies and I didnít want to do that.
Speaker: When did you start feeling better the second time around?
Thaydra: I started feeling better about five months later, I remember it was around Halloween and with my first son I had the first couple weeks I was good with him so I was taking a lot of pictures of him and he was, we got a lot of clothes as gifts from my shower so I would put him in them and take pictures of him. And with the twins, I didnít even want to look at them. I had so many nice gifts and toys and clothes that people had given me and I literally threw them in a closet because it reminded me of them and I didnít want to have anything to do with them.
They actually didnít get their pictures taken professionally until they were about four months and I didnít have any type, and I have basically have no pictures of them when they were infants aside from what other people took. I never took pictures of them so once I saw I was starting to get better and I wanted to see them in their clothes and started taking things out gradually, thatís when I knew. It was around Halloween.
Speaker: Do you have one specific memory when you really felt like you were enjoying them?
Thaydra: It was probably when they were in their car seats. I would feed them in the car seats. And I looked at them in a different way. They looked at me and kind of looked like they wanted my affection. And when I would look at them before I never looked them in the eye, I always looked away. I would feed them and look away and when I was done I would burp them. I was just going through the motions.
I remember I was feeding them and I kind of said to myself that I wanted to look at them and I looked at them and they both smiled at me at the same time. And thatís when I smiled back and I said to them, Mommyís getting better and Iím going to be able to take care of you.
Speaker: Looking back over both experiences, PPD has affected your life in a big way. Would you have handled either of the situations differently? And, if so, how?
Thaydra: I think that I would have gotten the help instead of trying to hide it the first time. I think that I should have taken peopleís advice and trying to do a lot more to try and help myself. I think I was trying to be like Super Mom. I was trying to feel. I was feeling like I need to be a good mom and right now Iím not and I tried to do things that to hide it. And I think I just needed to have it out there more and tell somebody sooner than I did. Try not to let it go.
Speaker: Do you think it would have helped if you would have heard another womanís story, say maybe in advance when you started thinking maybe something might not be right? Do you think it would have helped if you would have heard another woman share her story?
Thaydra: It would have helped me to know that I wasnít going crazy because really thatís all I used to say. I used to say, Iím going crazy, theyíre going to admit me. I would have felt better. I didnít know if it would have helped me completely but it would have put me at ease knowing Iím not alone in this. There are women who also are going though this so it must not just be me and I must not be crazy. I think it would have definitely helped.
Speaker: You have taken a proactive role in whatís going on in this state for PPD.
Thaydra: Yes, the woman who is the director of the support group in the hospital where I went to the support groups I keep in touch with her and she had wanted me to go to a bill signing with Senator Menendez, Mary Jo Codey and Sylvia (Lasalandra), who is the author who had gone through that. I had gone, I took part in sitting there and listening while they had signed a bill thatís still kind of trying to pass. And I am also working to try and get in the hospital to talk to women in the support groups and just any kind of work that I can do because I think this is something that really needs to have more light shed on it.
Speaker: With the twins, you thought you might do something to them. Was that a generalized feeling or was there anything specific?
Thaydra: My husband would say, we are going to get ready to give the kids a bath and I did not want to give them a bath. I thought I was going to drown them and I didnít want to tell him that because I thought, how could I possibly say I think I want to drown my kids? But I was actually scared. If I was alone, I would never give them a bath, never. I would always wait for him and even with him I thought, oh my God, Iím going to do something and Iím going to drown them. And I actually, a couple times had made an excuse so my husband asked me to bathe them and I said I would be busy. He actually had to remind me that they needed a bath whereas the type of person I am, Iím constantly giving my kids baths. I have no problem doing that, but at the time I felt scared. I felt like Iím going to give them a bath and Iím going to drown them and itís going to be on purpose. So that was really my big thing with them.
I also thought when they were sleeping I would check on them and kind of run away from the room because I thought I would smother them. Like I said, deep down I really knew I wasnít going to, but I still had that feeling like that question, maybe I am, maybe I will, and what will happen? And they will put me away and it was horrible and mainly those two questions.
Speaker: Is there anything you think would have helped you, like if there were a network of survivors who maybe when you give birth you are assigned a couple new moms to call periodically?
Thaydra: Yes that would help. With my first son, I didnít even get paperwork as far as that. With him, I basically, they told me what to do when I got home and I was off with the baby. With the twins, it was a little bit, not better for me, but I was having more knowledge because I went through it, but that was my own. As far as the hospital, I just basically got paperwork saying, how do you feel? Do you feel this way or that way? Do you feel like you are wanting to hurt yourself? It was yes, no questions and I donít think thatís enough.
I think that, like you said, a screening like a physical or something and have people speak with you and if they see you are at risk, they should automatically before you leave have a plan on what you are going to do and have whether it is speak with other women or assigning a therapist if you have insurance, working with them to get a therapist, something, but I think for me it was mostly done like I said because I had a therapist from the previous experience. If I didnít, it would have been yes, no questions and Iím done so I definitely to answer I think there should be something for women who are going through this.
Speaker: So with Stephen it wasnít like that?
Thaydra: With him, I felt like it was OK when I left. I didnít think I needed anything at that point. I felt good leaving. With the twins, I knew automatically I had some sort of depression at that point in the hospital. Like I said, I wasnít full blown where I was very bad, I was just starting to get it. So I thought maybe it could just be the baby blues, but when I got home and I saw it was getting gradually worse and worse I knew something was wrong. So even in the hospital I wasnít that bad, but I still think they should have done something more than what was done.
Speaker: What is your advice to women who are going through PPD right now?
Thaydra: Accept help, to get the help of someone who is trying to help you. Donít feel ashamed that thereís really nothing to be ashamed of. It is not their fault, it is not something that you should hide behind. There is a lot of help out there. It is a shame because I feel like you have to get the help yourself, try to start you off even though there is a lot of help because itís not out there as much as it should be, like publicly out there. With the support groups, you should definitely go. It helped me, No. 1 getting out of the house and before I just wanted to stay in that house and not interact and it helped me to be with women who are going through the same thing. And I think that they definitely need to do that, they need to get out just for your own sanity and also to get knowledge to know. And once they start seeing that, Ö so other women who go through this, that the first step in recovery is acknowledging that someone else is going through this as well and that will help a lot.
Thaydra's Video (Stephen's Birth) | Thaydra's story | Thaydra's Video (The Twins) | Diane's Video (Thaydra's mom) | Diane's Video Transcript | Diane's Story