The Life and Death of Ruth Rhoden Craven and the Birth of Postpartum Support Charleston
Editor's Note: This is part three of a four-part series, airing every Friday, that retells the origin of our organization. (Read part one here and part two here.) Some of the content may be disturbing, as it is a story of maternal mental illness, gun violence and suicide. If you find that you need to talk to someone about it, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to the discharge summary of the hospital’s psychiatrist, he wrote: “The patient is a 33-year-old white female with no previous psychiatric history admitted for depression and suicidal ideation. The patient had her first child on 9/20/99 after a normal pregnancy. Since then she has had a decreased mood, increased anxiety, and significantly reduced sleep. The patient took an overdose of 8 Ambien prior to admission. She denies psychosis, use of alcohol or drugs. She was started on Zoloft 50 mg two weeks prior to admission but that was recently increased to 100 mg. The patient’s medical history is significant for being postpartum, otherwise, unremarkable.”
Ruth Rhoden Craven was admitted on Oct. 10, 1999, to the adult psychiatric unit in Columbia, S.C. She continued to take Zoloft and was given medication to help her sleep, which seemed to improve her mood, according to the psychiatrist’s notes. “During the hospitalization,” the notes state, “she continued to deny any suicidal ideation and was noted to have brighter mood and affect. By 10/14/99, she had improved sufficiently for discharge home.”
But according to the records obtained by Ruth’s family, Ruth conveyed to her caretakers in the inpatient psychiatric unit that she was still unsure of her ability to be a mother.
On Monday, Oct. 11, the notes say that she was very tearful, saying that it was the first time she had really cried about her situation. She had feelings of guilt that others were having to take care of her baby. The staff offered reassurance, according to the notes, and talked with her about how to receive adequate sleep while rearing an infant. On Oct. 12, the notes indicate that Ruth vented feelings of incompetence about taking care of her son. Others thought it was “no big deal,” but she said she was left feeling insecure. Ruth said she was still stressed out about Andrew having to be re-hospitalized shortly after his birth due to jaundice. At that point, though, Ruth reported feeling more well-rested and more competent.