Massachusetts Mom Dies By Suicide 9 days after having twins
This story is about suicide. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call or text 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741741 or visitSpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for more resources.
Tyler Sutton, a Massachusetts police officer, was cautiously optimistic when his wife, Ariana, became pregnant with twins.
Ariana experienced postpartum depression (PPD) after welcoming their first child, a daughter named Melody, in 2018. According to Tyler, Ariana’s symptoms were so severe, she was hospitalized twice.
I was very nervous, Tyler tells TODAY.com in an interview. But being a mother was Ariana’s favorite thing in the world. And I thought if I stayed vigilant, it would be okay the second time around.
They had a plan in place, Tyler notes: Ariana saw a psychologist weekly, and her OB-GYN was aware that she had a history of PPD.
Everly and Rowan were born several weeks before May 22nd. Nine days later, 36-year-old Ariana took her own life.
We were both so excited to have twins. I can’t even describe how happy she was, says Tyler. There were no signs that anything was wrong. You would never have a clue. She always joked about her swollen ankles and how she couldn’t wait to drink a big cup of coffee.
The voice in her head, screaming
“I never imagined it could happen. It happened so quickly and so suddenly,” she says.
Tyler says Ariana was devastated when the newborns were taken to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
She started talking about how she wanted them back in her tummy. I was like, honey, they’ll be fine. They arrived early, but they are healthy and have a great team of people watching them 24/7,” Tyler recalls. But I haven’t been able to reach her. No one has been able to reach her.
Tyler says he remembers a conversation he once had with Ariana where he described PPD as feeling like a little person settled inside his head.
That little person would drown out all the positive things people say to her. And she would be yelling at her, “You’re a bad mom!” You are not doing your job! It’s your fault! Everything is your fault! says Tyler. It was as if he couldn’t hear anything other than that voice.
The morning Ariana died, she pumped breast milk for Everly and Rowan. Tyler recalls feeling relieved that Ariana was out of bed.
The hardest time for her was in the morning when she was seething in her thoughts. As the day wore on, she would get better. But then, at night, she would be afraid to fall asleep again because she didn’t want to experience it again the next morning, she says.
Tyler says Ariana left him a suicide note.
It was clear in her letter that she was depressed. She said she felt like a burden. She was anything but a burden, she says. She just needed help. I wish she had waited for me to get home so I could have helped her.
Recognize the signs
When Ariana experienced PPD after the birth of her first daughter, it took several weeks for her symptoms to develop. Tyler recalls that Ariana has become a borderline obsession with cleanliness. She has also begun to fixate on the family’s water supply.
She was worried there were bad things in our tap water, and she would call the water department in town to discuss it with them and even after she was assured everything was fine, she couldn’t drop it, Tyler says.
Recognizing that Ariana needed help, Tyler took time off work so Ariana could focus on her mental health.
I was thinking, this will give her an opportunity to relax and take care of herself, but it ended up having the opposite effect and made it worse. He was like, “My husband is doing my job, and I’m a bad mother,” she says. She lay in bed crying.”
After two hospital stays for PPD, Ariana slowly came back to her senses.
It took months to find the right drug and the right dose, Tyler says.
Ariana ditched her antidepressants when she became pregnant with twins. Tyler says she was worried they would harm the fetuses.
Studies show that the most commonly used antidepressants are safe to take during pregnancy, and experts say you should discuss with your doctor what’s best for you and your pregnancy.
It’s typically not necessary to taper off antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), during pregnancy, according to Dr. Angela Bianco, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist with the Mount Sinai Health System.
All the data we have to advise patients is very reassuring, Bianco told TODAY earlier. We have a fair amount of retrospective data that appear to be associated with very good pregnancy outcomes.
Nicole Warren, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, warned that if a person comes off an SSRI, they could start to experience worsening symptoms of depression.
The fact that Arianas’ symptoms came on so quickly with the twins could indicate postpartum psychosis, experts said, a disease that affects one to two out of 1,000 new mothers.
It’s an illness that’s most commonly associated with suicide and infanticide, Rebecca Brent, a clinical psychologist at Allegheny Health Networks’ women’s behavioral health program, tells TODAY.com.
Postpartum psychosis typically occurs within the first two weeks after delivery. It’s associated with bizarre thinking, cognitive disorganization, racing thinking, and a reduced need for sleep, according to Brent.
Other symptoms may include seeing or hearing things that aren’t there and delusions or false beliefs.
A mother might believe she’s still pregnant even though it’s been two weeks since she gave birth, and you can’t convince her otherwise, Brent explains.
Related: Warning signs and resources for postpartum depression, anxiety, and psychosis
Brent says postpartum psychosis is complicated because it can wax and wane, making it difficult for a doctor to diagnose.
One minute she’s feeling things, and then the next minute she’s totally clear-headed, says Brent.
Tyler says she’s sharing her story in hopes that the medical community will start paying more attention to perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
When newly pregnant women go on their first appointment and are talking to their OB, they should know the risks and signs of postpartum depression, Tyler says. And they should continue to have these conversations throughout the pregnancy.
A GoFundMe has been created to help Tyler raise three young children as a single father. He has a long road ahead.
“Ariana was Melody’s favorite person in the world,” Tyler tells TODAY.com. “She was the picture-perfect mom.”
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