Wendy

Wendy: My name is Wendy, I live in Hoboken, and our daughter is going to be 2 in March.

Ron: My name is Ron and my daughter is also 2 in March.

Wendy: Umm, the pregnancy was planned and we were very fortunate to get pregnant right away. The pregnancy was very normal, sick for the first three months and after that. I live a fairly healthy lifestyle, practice yoga for a long time, I eat very healthy, and I remained very active and worked up until six months. I’m a flight attendant, and they let you work up until six months. The pregnancy was very normal, I was really happy.

Ron: And another thing, we were very well-informed, with the Web you have so much access to information, and I think a lot of couples here in Hoboken and the rest of the country have so much access to information. So you go into this thinking, I know everything, oh this, this, this and this, it’s all laid out for you. We felt like we had control of the information and control of ourselves, and we know what’s going to happen and how everything progresses. But we felt like we had the bases covered, not to be hyper-controlling, but we felt like we had all the information we needed. So what could go wrong other than things happening with the birth?

Speaker: Were you aware of PPD prior to the birth?

Wendy: I was aware of it, I had read about it. I had heard about, Brooke Shields was open about it and had written a book about it. I had read about it in the preparation for pregnancy, and that after birth this could happen. And I have to be honest, I kind of skipped over those chapters. This is supposed to be one of the happiest times in my life, you don’t want to have to read about something that might not apply to you. So I just figured we’d cross that bridge when you get to it type thing.

I remembered seeing this one commercial about it, a father's at work and someone’s asking, “oh, how’s the baby?” And in his mind he’s thinking, oh everything’s terrible, my wife doesn’t want to be around the baby, and (choking back tears), and I remember when he answers he says, "oh, everything’s perfect, everything’s fine." And I remember seeing the commercial thinking, oh that poor woman. But that seems so far off, I didn’t think I was at risk at all.

I thought from what I understood, it affected women with a history of depression, history of depression in their family, their situation was possibly unwanted pregnancy or having a stressful time in their marriage. Certain things were just lined up if you’re at risk, and I thought I’m not at risk, so I just dismissed it.

Those things I didn’t read of all the certain things that could go wrong. Why would I fill my head with those things? I had heard of it, but hadn’t heard much about it other than depression. I had heard of others with depression and for me there was always a sense of, well, after a time can’t you just pick yourself up and snap out of it? Can’t you just do certain things in your life to make yourself happier? I didn’t understand it until I had it myself, and then there was just this aha moment like, oh, these people are suffering. It just shed a light on depression and mental illness for me that I could never have understood unless I had gone through it.

Speaker: Was your labor particularly stressful?

Wendy: I wanted to attempt a natural birth. I had a midwife and I really felt that birth is a natural thing, your body knows what it’s doing, let’s not let medicine and doctors get in the way, wanting things to happen too controlling of it, so let’s just let my body do what it does. So my water broke at 3 o’clock in the morning, I was a week overdue. I would say the only time was the week I was overdue, it was starting to bear on me, all the calls, did the baby come yet? Did the baby come yet? And I don’t know if that had anything to do leading up to the situation. My water breaks ...

Ron: We called the midwife, we said things were OK, and we were told the contractions were too far apart so we should just go back to sleep. And we woke up and everything was normal, but she slowly started to feel irregular contractions, so I figured I’d take the dog out. There was nothing consistent that I could say, well, we should go. I come back about an hour later, it was about 11 in the morning, and at this point she’s just gripping the table. So what we started to do was time them to say what’s going on, to get a sense. For about 30 minutes we were doing that, it was starting to really hit, so it was like Ricky and Lucy, running back and forth, I got this, you got that, it felt like that to some degree.

We get in the car at about noon. We had the route figured out. We go through the toll and ... we’re stopped dead, the lights for the tunnel go to red. And we’re in between the toll and the mouth of the tunnel. So I said, the traffic's not right, so I put it in park, tell the cop, and he said a bus is broken down in the tunnel. So I pull over to the side, the cops are radioing back and forth. And once they told me about the bus, I said, why can’t we just go around the bus? The ambulance then came, and we looked at each other and said, I guess this is going to be our story. The cop said, “Will you guys go to the Jersey City Medical Center?” And I didn’t know there was a hospital there, because they called it a medical center, she got into the medical center.

Wendy: At that point I didn't care, just get me there. I didn’t want it to be in the ambulance. The woman in the back with me said, if you need to push, just push and we’ll pull over. And I was like, I am not having this on the side of the road, I’m not going to be on the news tonight.

Ron: It only took 90 minutes, here I say, oh it only took 90 minutes. It was a relatively new hospital, the experience of that was exciting and different.

Wendy: At that point I surrendered to it. Once the baby was out and safe, everything was fine. Before we left, I had to fill out a sheet on postpartum depression, it had maybe 10 questions, and I’m thinking well, I haven’t experienced any of these things, I’m exhausted and delirious, and I’m thinking what kind of questions are these? I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine.

Ron: We were thinking, oh, it must be a little overreaching in these questions. Oh, it’s only people who have had a history of all these things going on for this to hit you. So that was the only thing about this information. If it had been structured in less of a broad spectrum, you kind of felt like you could wave it off. We put it in our folder, and filed it at the bottom of our pile of papers.

Speaker: Did you feel a sense of disappointment about how the birth didn’t go the way you wanted it to?

Wendy: To be frank, I was really happy that we had a little story, and happy that we could do it naturally. In many ways I fulfilled what I wanted, just not in the location I wanted.

Ron: I wanted our daughter to be born in New York City, she was going to be born in New York and live in New Jersey. Which is fine, it was one of those things, one of those stories you have, more of an oh shucks.

Wendy: I don’t think there was a sense of disappointment. It was exciting.

Speaker: So you guys come home and are completely clueless.

Wendy: My mother came in to stay with us for a week, and I really thought that was going to be perfect. And I don’t know which night it was, it was the second night we were home, she was maybe 4 days old, we were watching a movie at night, and I had my daughter and I was holding her, and this feeling came of being overwhelmed. These feelings came in of - what was I thinking? I can’t be a mom. I can’t do this. This is completely, no, I didn’t sign up for this, and now she’s ours. And I remember sitting here and I was like, Ron, and I started bawling. I am completely overwhelmed, I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t know what I’m thinking.

Ron: We were told in advance that your body is flushing out a lot of different chemicals and hormones, even if you read about it, it's more than what you’re expecting.

Wendy: It was this constant buzzing going on inside of me, it was getting to the point that I couldn’t ignore it. I couldn’t sleep, whatever I was doing it was always there, when I sat still I could feel it crawling inside of me.

Ron: Plus, she stayed pretty active, it’s not this obvious dramatic thing, she still went about doing what she would do. We kept trying to be active, let’s keep busy, maybe that could help it out.

Wendy: I was nursing, it was important for me to nurse. I had enough milk, but it was nothing compared to the stories I hear. I was very fortunate, and because of that, and a friend of mine once told me, and she told me, you know the baby nurses every two hours, and they nurse up to an hour. And I thought, I could deal with sleep deprivation, I was a flight attendant, I’ve done red eyes.

But the sleep deprivation just accumulates and accumulates and accumulates, and with the anxiety it was pumping my body full of Cortisol and anxiety. So when I had a moment I couldn’t sleep. I just fretted and fretted. I thought, I’m not cut out for this. And I look outside and I see all these other women with children and I thought, how do they do it? And my friends said, it’s hard, and you just do it. And a couple heard in my voice, they were like, Wendy, you might want to talk to somebody.

I was really asking, how do I get through today? I can’t get through the rest of today, I feel like I’m going to jump through the window at any moment.

It just was so overwhelming and I couldn’t see past her infancy. And I thought, for 18 years I’m going to feel like this. I can’t make it to 8 o’clock tonight; I can’t make it to her first birthday. And I guess that’s part of what depression does; you can’t look past the small things.

Ron: You get tunnel vision. We were fortunate because we had one mom who could be here for a week, and my mom who could come out here whenever we needed. I was able to take off three-and-a-half weeks from work. And we thought to ourselves, imagine the people who don’t have these kinds of resources. They don’t have family, don’t have the money to take the time off, and they have to deal with having postpartum depression, just the combination of those things. So it’s not just the sort of class issues, it’s the human issue. Any woman can be hit by it, it can sneak up on anyone, you can think you have all the information, but you don’t know, you just don’t know. And that’s why it’s important to separate the issues of it's not about the issue of you just being weak, thinking, I’m the only one suffering this.

Wendy: From what I could see, everyone was fine, and I was a defective mother because there was no sense of ease with her. I would care for her, kiss her, but when my mom left, I broke down. I really thought I was going to jump out the window.

Ron: That was when I started feeling a little, uh oh, not just for her, but the translation to me, thinking, I can’t take care of the kid by myself. I knew it was serious, but I thought it could work its way out. I had gone through battling the black dogs as they’re called, I had gone through periods of dealing with depression. I thought I’d be the one feeling overwhelmed, I mean, I was overwhelmed when we first got our dog.

Wendy: That was the interesting thing. We were so excited, everyone tells you it's tough. I am up for the challenge, I can make the sacrifices ...

Ron: I had to convince myself, I overanalyze things, and I’m dead asleep upstairs, and a lot of what happened was, I knew what was happening to her, but I wasn’t sure if it was just a mild case of the blues, and I could feel a little edgy, feeling the ghosts of my own problems. But I knew what she was going through, and tell her this is what’s happening, this is what I felt like for me.

Wendy: I was so very fortunate, because he was able to, I called him constantly, it's coming, I can feel it. That was the thing, it was this underlying feeling of anxiety, through the morning and afternoon everything was OK, it’s going to pass, it’s a new day, and then the day went on, you could see it coming. And the women that I’ve talked to say, yeah, you see it coming, and you’re like, oh, I’m kidding myself, aren’t I?

Speaker: Do you have a memory of your lowest day or what prompted you to get help?

Wendy: I do remember a couple really bad times, one was later, when she was three months old. The initial time I decided to find help was when the baby was three weeks. It wasn’t that I wanted to hold her or being around her, but it was just that, please somebody take her, take her off of me for a minute, I need to clear my head, I couldn’t see clearly at all.

Ron: The nursing was the problem. Well, I can’t even get away for three hours, because she always had to go back, so even if she could get a breath, no one could take over feeding. It was almost like this kite, depression, was tied to her. She could walk down the street but she was always pulling this thing along with her.

Wendy: The awful thing about that was that at the same time, I had this option of giving the baby formula. I truly started to feel that I was so incapable as a mother, I was doing such a disservice that I wasn’t feeling joy of mothering her, that at least I was giving her my milk. It was something I didn’t have to figure out. The milk was perfect for her, it didn’t what was in my head, one of the things that really couldn’t get my milk.

Ron: I felt bad going to work. It’s like, well, your brain exists in two, you have this one side that’s ... scrambling around like crazy, but you have to pull yourself by your boot straps. You tell yourself things you have to do to give structure, you go to the gym, you eat, but doing things, being around people, seeing people going about their lives, it gave a sense of flow to what was going on around you, that didn’t make you feel so separate from what was going on, and you could have a connection with people which helps to ease the clouds in your head. But whatever remedy you’re seeking, it makes it better to follow it. You start seeing a pattern saying, well I got out of that day, how can I get through today?

Wendy: The low point was, we were at a coffee shop, the baby was two weeks old. Another mom there had a baby, a couple weeks older than my daughter. She said, we go to this moms' groups, and I thought, people had told me about groups and I thought, I have enough friends. But when she told me about it I put it in my head, and maybe the baby was two weeks old and I thought, maybe I should go to this to see if this is what everyone was feeling. But it was canceled that week and I cried. But I waited until the next week and I went. And I didn’t break down that week, but I remember them talking about PPD, and a psychiatrist came in, and he said I’m available to talk anytime, give me a call and come talk to me.

And the very next day was bad, it was really bad. I was sitting in the back room just weeping and weeping. I couldn’t get out of this head, it seems like it’s never going to end. I can’t ever foresee finding any happiness in anything I found happiness in again -- listening to music, I would listen and think, oh that’s when life was this way, it will never be like that again. I’ll never be able to surf the Web again.

And I called to get a hold of the doctor, and I made an appointment for the next day, and the thing that was so wonderful was that, No. 1, when you’re so sleep-deprived and in a state that your normal functions, you can go to the bathroom and eat, but to try to organize or look something up, she was on me all the time so making a phone call, the easiest thing, seems so overwhelming because I had no time. The hour I had between feeding her I was trying to sleep or I was eating, or I was changing my clothes. It was like, oh, time to feed again, and so I made one phone call and she told me to come in.

And seeing Dr. Barnett, I see her once a week, and it was a professional that was watching me, monitoring me, so if I were going off the deep end, and I needed more than just talk therapy, she would catch me if I needed to be caught. And there was something so relieving about that. And she was really able to help me see, to cope with how to get around caring for the baby so I could sleep, rework my schedule, rethink things so I could get more sleep.

She said, “If I think you need to take medication I’ll let you know.” I had asked my midwife when my baby was a month or two old, and I asked her, can I still breastfeed and take antidepressants? And she told me that I couldn’t to her knowledge, which I’ve found out since that you can. But I don’t know if I should take them.

Ron: I was more against it because I know how the basic antidepressants work. There’s a time to use them and a time to wait and see. And one of the things about it was, to say you couldn’t use them it bothered you because you felt like a potential safety net was taken away from you. Sometimes knowing you have the pill in the cabinet is a reassurance, not that you have to take it. I remember you thinking, maybe you should be taking it. From what my own experiences were, well maybe, I would wait longer than the three months, because doctors said after three or four months you should take antidepressants. And I was like, I was on a more conservative viewpoint of it, so unless you have total desperation ...

Wendy: There were really only a couple times that I was on that edge. I remember thinking, I got to get out of here, and I thought, well, if I run what am I going to do? I’m nursing, that’s not going to solve anything.

And for the first time in my life I felt like such a burden to my husband and my baby. And not that I was calculating how to end my life, it seemed like that was the only way to end everything. I won’t have to deal with the feelings, trying to figure out how to get through this for the rest of my life. I was calling him all the time, he was constantly talking me off the edge. How long will my friends and family want to have to hear about all this? I’m even tired of hearing about it, maybe I should contemplate leaving this Earth, not calculating how am I going to do it ...

Ron: Committing suicide is like having this option, like the pills. In a lot of ways it’s almost a relief to think about doing it, and you don’t go and do it, and it’s not something you should be scared of, you shouldn’t think about isolating yourself as a result. It’s a normal thing that normal people go through. It becomes an option, it’s just something people sometimes think of. I had gone through it.

She said, you’d probably be sick of hearing this. I thought, at my worst, I was like this for a year. I didn’t sleep for a year. You haven’t even gone through what I went through for a year.

We were lucky because I had been through on my own. What happens if you’re that women who’s on her own? You have to go through it, maybe if you have a stronger will, but it’s harder the more isolated you are.

What’s worse is, they expect the opposite thing, you get farther away because it pushes you into isolation, not just being on your own, but expect the opposite emotion coming from you. And it pushes you apart, and you have to find a way to get un-isolated, de-isolate yourself, and that’s where seeking help on a website, that’s the great thing about the Web. You can type something in and get the right information, sort through the right information, and the important thing is to get through the isolation thing.

Wendy: I agree. It was like, reach out, reach out, and that’s the important thing about the new mom group. New motherhood is challenging. You’re in this group of women where everyone was challenged, everyone was sleep-deprived. We’re all nursing in front of each other, and we’d all say the best and worst of the week. And it was nice to hear people's challenges, and it felt like a safe environment, which is so important to just let it out. It was such a load off the first time I said something, everything just came gushing out of me. I told everything, everything I was feeling.

I couldn’t stop it, and tears were streaming out and I talked about how miserable I was feeling, and I felt so much love from everybody, and Robin came over and hugged me and said, you’re going to get through this. We can figure it out.

Iit’s so much more difficult to do by yourself, you suffer longer and it’s just such a relief to hear other people, my baby’s 2 years old and it’s still so comforting to hear other women say they’ve been through these things. You feel like a freak, so to feel comforted ... once you reach out, it starts to take on its own source of support where more people can get involved, people checking up on you. You’re also so involved in nurturing your baby, you need someone taking care of and watching you so that you in turn can take better care of your baby.

Speaker: At what point did you think you started to get better?

Wendy: I think probably I’m guessing maybe three months ... I sort of saw things coming, but after June (her daughter was born in March) I started to have more consecutive good days and I remember Robin having told me that, be aware for a year you can still come in and out of this, and I’m so glad because I’d still have some bad times.

Ron: You get ambushed, you can get ambushed any time, just be aware when it occurs.

Wendy: Your mind will tell you terrible things, and you want to believe them all, and the very least I can say no, they said this would happen and I can come out of it, and I would. So then I would say, I nursed her up until a year, and after I stopped nursing, for that full year it was a slow and steady climb. But still I'd fool myself, I’d say, you're pretending to be a good mom, and you’re not. And there’s still times I feel like, oh, am I a good mom? And now it’s like, the more time that passes, the further it gets away, the more time I get under my belt of being a confident mother it seems like it’s more of a blip on the screen.

Wendy: We’re not meant to raise children in isolation. In nature you would have the whole community around you, your mom, your aunts, your sister, someone would always be there to step in, and either nurse your children, or cook for you. You get your sleep, so even though PPD clearly occurred back then, you had the support group around you, other women were there for you, and that’s how the human race survived.

Ron: And now we have modern solutions for different problems. Modern life has isolated us more. We have apartments, we have a tendency to think we’re raised as individuals. The modern solution is that you have therapists, websites, literature, nannies to get breaks. And if you don’t have the money, there are avenues, like with New Jersey, the state has things available. These are the modern solutions to help you get through it, that’s fortunate that this is where we’re at now.

Ron: And now we have modern solutions for different problems. Modern life has isolated us more. We have apartments, we have a tendency to think we’re raised as individuals. The modern solution is that you have therapists, websites, literature, nannies to get breaks. And if you don’t have the money, there are avenues, like with New Jersey, the state has things available. These are the modern solutions to help you get through it, that’s fortunate that this is where we’re at now.

Speaker: Is it different the way you deal with your friends who have babies now?

Ron: I understand what it’s like to raise a child now, that’s the real difference. From the standpoint of suffering I’m more aware, you give that second look, or you may ask, did you notice anything different? But not so much that I react differently.

Wendy: Pregnancy should be a happy and hopeful time, but I always stress, you’re going to need more help than you think, you can get ambushed.

I do look for it, there’s always a little bit of me that’s waiting to be there for a friend, to help them see their way through it, and none of them, thank goodness, have communicated to me that they suffer through it. I didn’t think I’d be a candidate, and I didn’t think it would happen to me, but part of me is like, the statistic is this, something is going to have to suffer from it.

Ron: If you hear somebody else has gone through it, you don’t feel that isolation, you feel like, at least it wasn’t just me.

Speaker: People expect you to be happy ...

Wendy: Our friends were getting e-mails saying, I’ll e-mail you back when I have something good to say about motherhood.

Ron: I remember thinking, telling other people, this one friend of ours felt like I overdid it. What did you expect, saying like, it's 100 times harder than you expect. And she actually didn’t follow up with her. It was hard to deal with, but it wasn’t like, oh darn, I remember thinking also, I overdid it.

We’re not going to be like, oh, it’s so wonderful, we wanted to be like, this is what it’s really like, what we went through is what we went through. There's no mathematic equation that says, you have to go through it for three months. There maybe something wrong, but it’s not an issue of time element. You have to go through your suffering on a certain time element, you have to go through your suffering the way you go through it. It’s very individual and very specific and you shouldn’t compare yourself to other people, because that’s another thing that isolates you. You just have to find ways to get out there and find help in your own way.

Speaker: When did you send out the e-mail, I’ll tell you when something good happens?

Wendy: It was probably the first week, that first week where things just didn’t let up and they didn’t let up for a while. I can laugh about it now, but at the time it was so painful. I didn’t realize how depression was so very painful, not physically just that emotional pain of that you feel bad, it’s just that feeling of hopelessness, that nothing's ever going to feel good again. It's lower than the lows of having a bad day and it lasts longer than you ever imagined. And you start to think, this is the way it’s going to be for a long time, I can’t live like this.

Speaker: Do you remember your first moment where you had good thoughts about motherhood?

Wendy: Yeah, there were times when she would do something that would make me laugh. She would giggle so loud and it was infectious and it just felt so good, it felt so good. I couldn’t say when.

Ron: Even if you had a temporary parting of the clouds, the predominant feeling was that you would always go back into that feeling bad, and even if it only felt a few hours, it always dominates your thoughts because you fear that you’re going to go back into it.

Wendy: And you just don’t feel like they were genuine moments, because once you go down you’re like, that’s not real.

Speaker: Did you feel like you could have joy as a father with all this going on?

Ron: I had my own things trying to deal with a newborn baby. I thought I’d be the one to be more concerned and partly it was more of a time management, as scientific as it sounds, it’s an issue of administration. If I could put structure to it in my brain, during the time it was definitely colored, and I felt bad that she was missing out on the joy of being a mom and enjoying that thing. But I definitely remember plenty of times enjoying what it was like to be a dad, holding her, having her fall asleep on me.

Speaker: Did you feel guilt about enjoying it?

Ron: No, I know it's specific to the individual. I felt a little guilty if I wasn’t trying to help her out and understand what she was going through. Why am I enjoying it and she’s not? But I understood what she was going through. You feel bad for her, that you wanted her to feel better about things, but you don’t let that color your experience.

But time flies by so quick when you have a baby, next thing you know they’re not as small anymore. It would’ve been nice to have a smoother ride but ultimately I don’t feel like it was terrible, because here we are, it wasn’t terrible, this is our story, this is what it is.

Wendy: I would tell them, you’re going to get through this, you’re going to get through this. You've got to reach out and share what’s on your mind, you have to be honest, there’s support right there. Just let it out, let it out and you’ll feel so good. And look at me, I’m on the other side, you’ll do it, you’ll do it.

Ron: I remember, about four or five months, when we had more time, we started to look back and I think the summer, when the weather changed ...

Wendy: I’m so lucky, my husband knows what I’m going through. I’m lucky I have supportive friends and family, I have a moms' group. If there’s a silver lining I was so very fortunate, that I had all these other things in line. At the time I didn’t think I was fortunate, at the time I was drowning, so my heart goes out to women who don’t have the stars aligned. It’s a little more difficult, they’ll still get there.

Ron: But there is a way to do it, there’s a lifeline out there.

Wendy: Whatever gets you through the day, don’t worry about tomorrow, just get through today. I thought I can’t get through this for 18 years, I was honestly thinking this is what it’s going to be like, you just tick off the days, you tick off the calendar, you’re 5 weeks, you’re 6 weeks ...

Ron: We had a healthy baby; she was on the better end of health. She cried a bit, and adding all these other things to women, and you add in all these things that we had and others didn’t, you just need to find ways to get support.

Little things just pile on top, and that’s the other thing that make you feel worse than you thought you were, we had certain things that made us lucky and still the effect was strong. So anyone who has even less of that, even more so need to try and find ways to get out there and get help.

Wendy's Video | Wendy's story | Ron's Story (Wendy's husband)