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Olivia's Story

It was a happy pregnancy until election day, November 1968. Eight months pregnant, Wayne walked in at lunch time and announced we're moving to Connecticut. And had to be there by Chris’ due date. Well, I went hysterical on steroids! I had no idea he was even looking for another job, he had not discussed it with me. Well, I cried I screamed I begged, and I cried and I screamed and I begged for probably 36 hours straight. And kept on and on crying.

He finally postponed the move to mid-January 1969 so at least Chris could be born in KY. He did arrive on his due date. He had jaundice, and we both had to stay in the hospital for a whole week. I was so worried about the baby! We came home from the hospital… I was wearing a mask… I was breastfeeding Chris and was so pleased that I was being successful with it because I was not successful in breastfeeding Jimmy.

But then after 2 weeks he got real sick with runny diarrhea, and they said to stop breastfeeding him. I had to drive the baby 45 minutes through those curvy roads to the doctor's office and he had shots in each of his little thighs for about 10 days!

So, we're finally on the way to Connecticut and at the time my sister was living in New Jersey, and we were going to stop there so at least I could see another family member and they could meet little baby Chris… We arrived in Connecticut, and I was stuck in a motel room for days because Wayne could not find a place to rent. I was stuck in a motel room with a brand-new baby and hyperactive 4-year-old… cold … snow… mid-January… I did not even own a coat to keep me warm! I remember seeing a mouse run across the floor in that motel room.

We finally found a house for rent. When we left the motel and were pulling into the house, I started feeling weird things in the back of my head like crickets, grasshoppers, or lightning bolt is the only way I can describe it. I could not sleep, pacing the floor, crying all the time. It just kept getting worse and worse. To the point where I begged Wayne to please stay with me, not to go to work. I was so scared.

I remember one day I bundled up little Jimmy and baby Chris and started walking down the street until I saw a doctor’s office. I somehow had the wherewithal to dress them up for the cold January/February weather, but I never even had a coat to keep me warm. I went inside and put the baby up on the counter and was going to leave him there for safekeeping… but the receptionist told me the doctor was not in.

I remember having Chris up on the dining table in the "infant seat" as we called them back then, and I would be feeding him with tears just rolling down my face and he just sat there smiling. He was always smiling. Thank God in heaven that he was a good baby!

I remember wishing I had cancer, anything but this! I remember bathing baby Chris and so I would bathe him but then I would run and stick him in the crib and then run outside and sit on the steps in the cold weather… I guess little Jimmy was just taking care of himself, because I remember him making himself a banana sandwich, but he used mustard! I didn't have the strength to worry about him I was too worried about the baby, what was going on with my body and in my head.

I would try to talk to Wayne and try to tell him that something's not right and he would just look at me and say "There's nothing wrong with you you're just homesick… I've got a new job!" and he would walk out the door and slam it in my face! I even made him lock me in a bedroom at night, that's how scared I was because I had a nightmare that I was choking baby.

Things got so bad that I was calling around to ministers, and finally one from a Methodist Church had the wherewithal to call an OB/GYN doctor and he came to the house and picked me up and took me to the doctor. Our landlady's son next door came over and watched the kids... but that doctor, instead of hospitalizing me, sent me to a mental health clinic. The social worker had the psychiatrist sit in during one visit and I remember them mentioning the term "postpartum psychosis" but still they never hospitalized me.

I had not slept or rested for weeks. I didn't know there was such a thing as postpartum psychosis, I had never heard of it. When Wayne found out that I was going to the clinic, he tried to scare me into not going and telling me that they would take the kids away. They did prescribe me some sleeping pills but they only gave me six because they thought maybe I could be suicidal. But I was not suicidal I just needed help and wanted help, wanted sleep… so those six pills, I cut them in half and kind of rationed them to myself taking one-half one night, skipping a night and then taking another half the next night and so on. Thinking that would help and trying to make them last longer.

I cried out to God begging for cancer instead of this! I remember one day I called up to the emergency room in Springfield MA and was on the phone with a doctor there when Wayne came in and he grabbed the phone and hung up. Can you believe that doctor actually called back and asked me to come to the hospital where they would take care of me. But I didn't go.

Sometime in late March, I guess Wayne thought it would make me feel better and so he drove us to Ohio to my sister Mary's… I got there I only had diapers in the suitcase. All I could see was death everywhere, when I looked out in the yard there were coffins everywhere. When it was time to leave, I was back in one of the bedrooms and crying and telling my sister I didn't want to go. I was afraid I'd hurt the baby. She begged Wayne to leave me there to rest and she would take care of us, but he would not allow it. Then after we left that's when my sister got on the phone and called my mother and other family members down South. When they all started calling to check on me, Wayne would tell them there's nothing wrong with Olivia she's just homesick.

Finally, one sunny day in April or May it all of a sudden lifted and I felt better physically. However, it consumed me with worry for years. So, one Sunday after I was feeling better, I managed to get them off to church... the church of the minister that came and picked me up that day and took me to the doctor. When Wayne found out that was the minister who took me to doctor, we could never go back to that church again. And I'm sorry I didn't do better but I always wanted the whole family to go together.

In July we drove to Florida. When it was time to leave Florida to go back to Connecticut, I stayed in the back room at my mother's behind the kitchen and was crying and I told Wayne I wanted to stay and I was not going back. He looked at me and said, "Well you can do what you want to do but the kids are going with me." So, I just tucked my tail under like a puppy and followed him out and just pretended to go along because I did not want my mother to see me crying.

So that's the beginning of the wall I put up between us. I learned so much about this condition and I tried through the years to get Wayne to go with me to counseling but he would always refuse. One time I tried to get him to watch Phil Donohue show because they were featuring some mothers who went through PPD, but he refused. I blamed myself all these years until finally a counselor helped me to reframe this.

So, I know I can get through anything after surviving PPP. I had never heard of that in my life at the time. I suffered with the most severe form and was not treated but should have been. I've always felt bad and felt guilty because I was robbed of the opportunity to bond with my new baby. As I said, thank God he was such a good baby.

Experts have all told me how serious PPP is… It’s a very serious condition that requires emergency treatment. They have all told me it was not my fault. They said I should have been hospitalized. After giving birth, a woman’s hormones drop, and that – along with all the disappointments, no rest, the shocking move and without a professional mover, baby getting sick and having to stop breastfeeding, getting to Connecticut with no place to live, no family, no friends, no sleep – just exacerbated it.

There’s so much more to the story… I call it my “resurrection story!” I’m just so very sorry this happened to Chris and pray and wish all the time that I could take it from him. Sorry it happened to all of us, for that matter.

- Olivia


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