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Adrienne Griffin

PSI Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator
Virginia Co-Coordinator

In 2002, I suffered from post-partum depression following the birth of my second child. I knew right away that something was wrong: lying on the operating table after an emergency C-section, I felt virtually no connection with my newborn son. Where was the joy of the miracle of birth that I felt with my first delivery?

In almost every way this experience was the complete opposite of becoming a mother for the first time two years earlier. My first child arrived after a relatively easy pregnancy, labor, and delivery; she was a happy, predictable baby who slept through the night at two months. I felt euphoric about this beautiful baby and our new little family. How else could I have hosted a dinner party for 40 people when she was only three months old!

My second child arrived after a brief but frightening labor and emergency surgery. He cried more, slept less, and ate more. His screams ripped me from sleep and interrupted the nice routine I had with my daughter. I was sleep deprived, irritable, confused, and hopeless. On good days, I put the garbage in the laundry basket, forgot my own last name, and wondered how I was going to survive the next 21 years with this screaming baby, let alone the next twenty minutes. On bad days, I yelled at my children to stop crying, tried to run away from home, and told my husband I wanted a divorce.

It was easy to see that something was wrong. The hard part was getting help.

At my six-week postpartum checkup, I told my doctor that things weren’t going well. With no discussion about symptoms, she asked if I wanted Prozac. I still remember thinking: Why are you asking me if I want medication without even asking what is wrong? I left her office with nothing more than a business card for the mental health experts in our HMO.

Two weeks later, after a particularly sleepless night, I called the number on the card. Thus began one of the worst days of my life. Even though I was distraught, I was told to call back during normal business hours. I was passed from person to person, each time crying as I retold my story. I overheard a health care worker tell her supervisor that I was homicidal. I was warned that I would be reported to child protective services if I had hurt my children. The doctor’s recommendation was sleeping pills. I wondered if he meant for me or for the baby.

All I wanted was a verbal hug from someone – anyone – who could tell me that I was going to be all right, that there was help available, that others had been through this and had survived. Instead, since I had seen both the nurse and the doctor, I got a bill for two office visits.

All right, I thought, I can find help myself. Internet research turned up no referrals in my area. Several psychologists I called were not accepting new patients. Local hospitals advertised postpartum depression support groups; none were available. By the time I would log onto the Internet or make a phone call, one of my children would be awake and crying and needing attention. Doors were slamming in my face despite my best efforts.

I tried other therapies – massage, acupuncture, counseling, exercise. But the stress of arranging childcare, especially for a high-maintenance baby who refused a bottle, outweighed any benefit I received from these outings.

Eventually my husband found a doctor who specialized in women’s mood disorders. After six months of trying to get help, I got the reassurance I needed: others had been through this and there was a solution. Anti-depressant medication quickly returned me to my old self.

Two years later, in 2004, my third child was born. With support from my doctors, I remained on anti-depressants during the entire pregnancy and while breastfeeding. When I reminded my OB/GYN that I had raised concerns about depression following my son’s birth, she apologized for not being more sympathetic and said that the medical community had learned a great deal about PPD since then.

This time, at my six-week postpartum appointment, I received a screening questionnaire about depression. The medical community has indeed come a long way.


Adrienne was graduated from the U.S Naval Academy and has a Master’s degree in Public Policy from Harvard. She spent 7 years on active duty in the Navy.

During her ordeal with postpartum depression, she kept thinking that it shouldn’t be this hard to find help. She is a well-educated and resourceful person living near our nation’s capital in the most developed country in the world. How could she struggle for so long? She vowed that when she got it “back together” she would help others so they did not have to suffer as she did.

As well as being a PSI co-coordinator for Virginia and a regional coordinator for the MidAtlantic Region of the U.S., she is nurturing a relationship between PSI and Stroller Strides, a national fitness program for mothers and their babies. The two organizations have hosted LUNAFEST, a traveling film festival of films about…for…by women, with all proceeds going to charitable organizations, including PSI.

Postpartum depression is a fairly easily diagnosed and fairly easily treatable illness. The problem continues to be connecting new mothers with the resources available. Thus her passion as a PSI coordinator: to provide new mothers and their families the information and encouragement needed to seek help, and to speak out about this illness.