Remembering Ruth

On Dec. 5, 1999, the unthinkable happened.

A father arrived at his home in Lexington, S.C., and found his wife and the mother of his 2-month-old son had committed suicide after a short but fierce battle with postpartum depression.

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Her name was Ruth Rhoden Craven, born and raised on Sullivan’s Island and Mount Pleasant. She was 33 years old and was very much loved by her husband, her friends and her family. She was a perfectionist and loved her job, and she had been excited to be a mother.
 

Back then, no one really talked about postpartum depression. While things are a little better now, too many women still struggle with the shame that comes with it and the lack of education for treatment by health care providers. Ruth’s story is all too similar to the millions of mothers who have struggled with similar prenatal or postpartum battles with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.

But what makes Ruth’s story different is what happened in the aftermath of her death.

Through their grief and anger, Ruth’s mother and two of her best friends started the Ruth Rhoden Craven Foundation in Mount Pleasant, S.C in March 2000. They wanted to bring more awareness to the disorder that took their beloved daughter and friend from them. They wanted to make sure that no more Lowcountry women took their life over a treatable illness, and that no more children would be left behind without their mothers. When they felt ready, they passed the baton to the board members of what is now Postpartum Support Charleston.

We are quickly approaching the 18th anniversary of Ruth’s death, and we want to bring her story back to the forefront of our organization. We are meeting with Ruth’s family members and friends, as well as other integral members to the founding of what is now Postpartum Support Charleston, and we are retelling the story. We want you to know about her and why her story is important to the health of our community.

Postpartum Support Charleston wants to erase the stigma surrounding perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, and we want EVERY mother to be screened. We want to remove barriers that keep women from getting help, and we want to connect them with other women who have recovered, so they can see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

One way you can help us is by participating in our Stand For Moms T-shirt campaign. Proceeds from this fundraiser will help with our awareness efforts in the Charleston area. Your money can help us in our work, and believe us, we are on fire for this cause.

Thank you, and be on the lookout for Ruth’s story and how you can help make a difference to a local mom and her family.

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My Experience with Postpartum Depression (round two)

1 in 5 moms will suffer from postpartum depression or anxiety after the birth of their child and some even while pregnant. Postpartum Support Charleston staff member, Amber, is one of those moms. She shares how she experienced ppd with both of her children and how the path to her recovery was different and exactly what she needed. Thank you, Amber, for sharing your story and "Standing for Moms".

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Editor's note: This blog originally appeared on Amber's personal blog in March 2016.

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Last year in January [2015], I remember vividly what my life was like. My daughter was 3.5 years old, and my son just turned 5 months old. When I went to bed on New Year's Eve 2014, I was cursing my neighbors for lighting (loud) fireworks, causing my dog to have a meltdown and inducing a panic attack over whether my infant was going to sleep through the noise. As I scrolled through Facebook, I saw friends around the world ringing in the new year. I was so jealous, especially over a college acquaintance being on an incredible African adventure filled with yoga, massages on the beach and solitude. What kind of bullshit was that, I asked myself full of anger.

On New Year's Day 2015, I went on a big Facebook friend purge. I deleted that acquaintance, along with other people I didn't consider absolutely essential. That helped, but only a little. I was SO tired, I was SO sad because I was SO tired, and I was SO overwhelmed with juggling toddlerhood with infantdom. Through all this, I was sending emails and Facebook messages to my most trusted people about my sadness. They really tried to help as best they could. It really put a strain on my relationship with them -- I'm sure it was stressful for them to witness this all from a distance. 

By mid-January, I had a phone conversation with a friend of mine who talked to me about her own experience with anti-depressants. This mama had gone through a really tough year and found incredible relief from it. And to me, she would've been the last person I ever would've thought would use pharmaceuticals to help her through something. She helped facilitate the courage I needed to have to admit that, yes, I was dealing with postpartum depression again, and yes, it wasn't going to be the end of the world to go on a drug like Zoloft.

A few days later, I took my kids up to see my health care provider. While the kids were cared for by the staff, I cried to my nurse-midwife that I felt like a horrible mom and that I couldn't sleep and that I wish someone else could take care of my kids and, again, that I was a horrible mom for not wanting to be around my kids all the time. Lots of hugs were given, and my nurse-midwife reassured me that this time was temporary -- that I would one day come off the medication, most likely a year from then, and be in a new and easier place in my life. And she wrote me a prescription for Zoloft.

I took the plunge, and took the meds. And it was the *best* thing I have ever done for myself.

Yes, taking an anti-depressant does change your brain. I was scared about that. But I took them anyway, and a few weeks later, my internal sunshine started shining again. It didn't change my situation with my children. But I could actually sleep at night, without waking up constantly, listening for my baby. I didn't dwell on all the bad stuff as often as I used to. I could actually be the mom that I wanted to be, and the wife I wanted to be for my husband. And I could be the best version of myself in that period of my life.

Like all things, change is inevitable, and I knew that it wasn't always going to be like this.

Fast forward to March 2016. My goal had always been to wean in the spring time of this year, when the sun was shining more and the temperature was warmer. Earlier this month, I decided to act. For two weeks, I halved my tiny little Zoloft tablet before I went to bed. And then last week, I decided that I was done. I knew that the time was right. I didn't need this anymore.

Slowly, I have embraced my old emotional self again: the woman who cries easily when she is sad or happy or when someone else is sad. I missed her -- I missed this version of ME. I am happy that she is back because I love her. I have found over the past week that I still can get pretty angry at my kids; I can still get overwhelmed. Those are things I need to work on, and they are easier to work on because my kids are older and I can approach them differently. 

I share this story because it is important. I am being vulnerable, laying out my story of my experience with postpartum depression (round two). I did talk therapy the first time, and it was awesome and it was what I needed then. And this time, I used medication, and it was awesome and it was what I needed when parenting two kids. Taking medication is never an answer to everyone's problem. It's a very personal decision. But no one should ever feel ashamed to take it. It is only one tool to utilize if the need arises.

Plus, the great thing I have learned by being open about taking medication is that there are so many other women who have turned to medication. These are friends that I never would've guessed would've used it. We don't talk about these things, and it's only a detriment to others. When we get these things out in the open, it helps everyone.

Mama, if you find yourself going through a rough time, just know you are NOT alone. The light at the end of the tunnel may feel far away right now, but you will get there eventually. Open your heart, and let yourself be open to help. I got through it, and you can too.

Amber and her son Evan in December 2014

Amber and her son Evan in December 2014

#Stand4Moms

October was an exciting month for Postpartum Support Charleston. Just a few highlights: 

  • We reached out to the community, sharing our mission and resources with expecting and new moms.
  • Hosted support groups and walks all over Charleston.
  • Awarded four grants to moms seeking professional counseling.
  • And, to round out an incredible month serving moms, three members of our team attended peer support training in New Jersey with Bloom Maternal Wellness. The training gave us a new jumping off point to refocus our efforts and bring it back to where we know moms will benefit the most; peer support.

We are excited to announce that beginning January 2018, you will see peer support groups all over the tri-county area. We'll start by continuing and expanding the Summerville support group at the YMCA, and we'll add a Saturday support group at the Charleston Birth Place in North Charleston. We are fortunate to have such great support from these two community businesses.

In addition to our new support offerings, we are excited to launch our "Stand For Moms" campaign on November 6. We'll be selling T-shirts as a way for individuals to join our movement here in Charleston. By purchasing a T-shirt, you can show moms that you are standing with them and supporting them in their journey to becoming a new parent. 

We'll also highlight personal stories of struggles and triumphs from local moms and share why they #stand4moms. We'd love for you to join us and share your story on your Facebook page and tag us or send us an email and we'll feature you in an upcoming blog post. 

1 in 5 women will suffer from a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder, such as depression, anxiety, OCD or PTSD. That is approximately 950,000 women each year! These moms need us to Stand For Them! With this campaign, we aim to break down the stigma and show moms that this illness is common and with the right help and support it is temporary and treatable.

We Stand For Moms!

Pictured are members of the Postpartum Support Charleston staff and board at the Bloom Maternal Wellness peer support training. From left to right: Elaine, Katie and Amber are all survivors and they #stand4moms.

Pictured are members of the Postpartum Support Charleston staff and board at the Bloom Maternal Wellness peer support training. From left to right: Elaine, Katie and Amber are all survivors and they #stand4moms.

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Our Volunteers Out in the Community

We love our volunteers and want to send a special thank you to these lovely women that were out in the community last month talking to expecting and new moms. 

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Healthy Women's Day

Our volunteer and Summerville support group leader, Tori Leggett, was out at the Summerville Family YMCA's Healthy Women's Day. Tori reached out to PSC last year interested in becoming a peer support facilitator. As a mother of two, she experienced a postpartum mood disorder with both of her children and after her recovery knew she wanted to help other women going through what she went through. Tori has been instrumental in helping PSC expand into the Summerville area. She leads the support group at the Summerville YMCA on the 1st Tuesday of the month. 

When asked why she supports local moms, Tori said, "This group is so special to me. I love facilitating and volunteering with this group because if someone didn't take an hour out of their busy lives, then I wouldn't be here today. I want someone to feel that same feeling of hope." 

Thank you, Tori! You are special to us too!

 

Labor of Love Pregnancy Expo

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Our fabulous volunteers, Mary and Candie, came out on a Saturday morning to help at the Labor of Love Pregnancy Expo at The Shifa Free Clinic! More than 200 people were in attendance and these wonderful ladies talked with many new and expecting moms about our organization and the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety. Both ladies are new volunteers at our organization and jumped right in by helping out at this important event. Mary even lined up a sitter so she could come out and help. Thank you ladies for your support and for helping moms and families in Charleston. We could not do this work without you!

 

We also want to thank our walk leaders, Moms' Run committee members and phone and email support volunteers for all your support last month. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer please reach out to our Development Coordinator, Amber Allen at amber@ppdsupport.org.

 

Spotlight on local mom, Maggie Marlow

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with local mom and PPD survivor, Maggie Marlow. Maggie has a great passion for raising awareness for PPD and for helping reduce the stigma surrounding this illness. This strong woman is a great example of climbing out of the darkness, building a tribe to lean on and moving on from the struggle of PPD. Read on to hear more from Maggie on our first meeting.

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"I finally got to meet the incredible Elaine DeaKyne yesterday. Elaine and I have been trying to meet for some time now and our lives crossed paths in a unique way. I simply made a post about my journey and how I suffered from Postpartum depression after the birth of McGinn and Herrick. I talked about how I did the bare minimum for him some days and how I felt anxious, and not worthy of being a mom. I had emotional ups and downs that my amazing husband Tyson Marlow helped me get through. He was the one who looked me in the eye and told me to tell him when I was having a tough day. That is was OK to feel that way and that he was there for me. I trusted him and did open up to him. I was very fortunate to have him but many women do not have that support or are too afraid to admit that they need it. 

After the birth of Herrick I remember telling myself that it was normal to feel the way I felt, that I went through this after McGinn and that this too shall pass. I remember bottling up my emotions and not allowing myself to go out as much. Not allowing myself to fully be me. I remember the day that I sat crying in my closet because I was sick and tired or feeling sick and tired.

That was the day that I decided to make a change. That rock bottom feeling pushed me to make a change and I have never looked back. I committed to waking up early to get my workout in and read my personal development every day. I committed to eating healthier, to get back in the kitchen and started sharing my recipes again. Sharing just that tiny bit of what made me happy, made others happy. I started seeing the positivity circle in motion and the support coming from every direction. I started dialing into my accountability group and found myself not only holding myself accountable but supporting others and making sure they stayed positive and true to themselves. I worked out and expected to gain a little energy but what I found was a mental and emotional transformation that saved me and my family! I found a group of women who uplifted me and brought me out of a fog that just weeks ago seemed too thick to ever lift.

3 months into my journey I reflected back to how far I had come and realized that I needed to share my story of struggle with postpartum. I realized that there are so many women out there who feel or have felt just like me. I realized that it wasn’t talked about enough and that women felt ashamed to feel the way they did. I realized that I needed to share my journey in order to help others.

I decided that I was going to donate 20% of my commissions for 3 months to Postpartum Support Charleston. Little did I know the impact that it would have. With the donation I made they were able to completely sponsor 2 women within their organization. Although I don't know these women or their stories I am SO BLESSED to know that stepping outside my comfort zone and making a pledge to donate has helped to change others lives...I am EXCITED and SO HONORED to join forces with Postpartum Support Charleston and continue to share my story in order to help others know it is OK to share theirs. Charleston friends need to know that there a place they can go for support and I am do blessed to spread the word... As moms we are all in this together!"

 

Maggie is a Beach Body coach. She lives in Mount Pleasant, SC with her husband and two boys. Follow along on her amazing journey on Facebook at Maggie Marlow - Foodie Fit Mom and on Instagram @foodie_fit_mom and check out her website at http://www.foodiefitmom.com/.