Faces of Recovery: Mental health battles after birth


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Early lunch-goers are crowding Cafe Zata in Westover Hills.  As they order their meals, sip on coffee and snack on pastries, Abby Dini sits among them, reflecting on how far she has come.  This friendly, welcoming space was her escape when she truly hit rock bottom.

“I really just needed to sit and think about what course of action I needed to take in order to make myself well,” she remembers.

Dini had what is called a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD) not once but twice after the births of both of her sons, who are now four and one.  Dini is a social worker and knew the crying and detachment of postpartum depression would be possible, but sometimes it is so much more.

“I envisioned throwing my son over the bridge into oncoming traffic,” she flashes back to that frightening thought that came out of nowhere as she and her husband walked with their newborn son Adrian to the 2011 Richmond Folk Festival.

“I was so ashamed of myself,” she explains why she told no one, hoping it was the first and last upsetting vision she would ever have.  However, only two weeks later it happened again.

“I was sitting there nursing him, and I envisioned smashing his head into the corner of the table and I was like, ‘Oh my God, there’s something wrong with me,’ and so I just started sobbing.”

Dini was diagnosed with postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder, which she managed with regular therapy and support.

She braced for the same upsetting thoughts when she was expecting her second son, but it was a different birth, a different baby and a different mental health battle all together.

Marcelo was beyond fussy, and he cried practically all day every day.

Dini was very hard on herself.  “What was wrong with me, as this child’s mother, that I couldn’t comfort him?”

Dini says her anger was explosive during those early days with Marcelo.  Her sons’ pediatrician casually asking how she was doing at an appointment put her over the edge.

“I was really at a very low point, and I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was thinking of harming myself,” her voice trails off as she fights back tears.  “And so I called my husband and called my boss because I’m really close to my boss and I said, ‘I need, I need somebody to help me.'”

She was sitting at the comforting cafe when she made that desperate plea.  It took medication and counseling plus her loved ones taking over meals and housework to make it more manageable this time.

“I can’t believe it took me so long to get help that I was so ashamed that I was angry all the time,” Dini says.

Dr. Sarah Kye Price, a researcher at the VCU School of Social Work, has conducted many studies on the challenges new moms face.

“A lot of times women are very concerned that if they give a voice to something other than joy that they’re going to be judged, that there is something wrong with them, that they’re going to be a bad mother,” she describes what she has heard from so many new mothers.

Dr. Kye Price says baby blues affect up to 80% of women; they cry frequently, are irritable and may be detached from the baby and loved ones.  Around 15% will develop a full-blown disorder, like depression, anxiety or rage.

“It was like a weight was lifted off of me,” Dini says of her PMAD diagnoses, treatment and support following the births of her two sons.

Her mental health is under control now, thanks to family, friends who she calls her “Tribe of Women” and neighbors who still help out with meals, errands and childcare.

Dini says societal pressures and the glorified image of early motherhood have to end now.

“That’s what I want moms to know.  It’s okay to feel this way, but it’s not okay to be ashamed,” she spreads a message so close to her heart.  “That doesn’t mean you’re a bad mother, it just means that you need some extra support.”

Dini recommends coming up with a self-care plan while women are still pregnant so they don’t have to navigate those first days and months of motherhood alone.  They should ask themselves what they will need to make the adjustment smoother.

Also, everyone has a responsibility to ask new moms how they are doing.

“Just check in and ask how she’s doing,” Dr. Kye Price recommends.  “Everyone, of course, wants to see the adorable baby, and that’s always one of the things that’s so wonderful about being a new mom.  But there is a mother attached to that, and that’s one of the things that gets lost in the picture.”

There are two upcoming events to raise awareness about PMAD in our community:

On Saturday May 7 from 4 pm until 8 pm, Athleta at Short Pump Town Center is hosting a fun nightof shopping, refreshments and more, with a percentage of sales benefitting the group Postpartum Progress to raise awareness about PMAD.

A “Climb Out of the Darkness” hike will take place on Saturday, June 18 at 9 am at Mid-Lothian Mines park in Midlothian, VA.

There are several resources available in the Richmond community for mothers who need some extra support:

— Coffee Chat Mamas (conversation for moms and babies who need to get out of the house and meet other moms and babies). FREE

2nd Wednesday at 10 a.m., Stir Crazy Cafe, 4015 MacArthur Ave, hosted by Erica Angert, PCD(DONA),ericathedoula@gmail.com

4th Wednesday at 10 a.m., 14051 St Francis Blvd, Midlothian, VA 23114,  hosted by McRae Brittingham, CPD, auntmcrae@gmail.com

Mothering Circle FREE

1st Tuesday of the month, 7 -8:30 pm

Clover in Carytown, contact sarah.allenshort@gmail.com

–PPD support group FREE

3rd Friday of every month

10-11am. Babies in arms welcome.

People have to email her to get details and confirm attendance

McKenzie Casad, LCSWmckenzie@cypresscounseling.com

–River City VBAC Support and Cesarean Prevention. FREE

2nd Thurs at 7:30

Better Bodies Chiropractic right behind Johnston Willis

Mary Callender 804-382-8222.

No website but a closed FB group- you have to ask to join.

–ICAN of Richmond FREE

Last Wednesday of every month

6:30 pm

Emily Bruno

Oriental Medicine Specialists

5500 Monument Ave, Suite Richmond, VA 23226

–Healing from birth

4th Wednesday of every month


8401 C Mayland Drive, Richmnd, VA 23294.

Linda Zaffram, LCSW. lzaffram@healingcirclecounseling.com


Fee per group as it is a psychoeducational and process group.

Bereaved Parents Support Groups: All FREE

–For mothers and fathers enduring the death of a child

Support Meetings for MISS RVA are currently held

Every 3rd Monday of the month

7:00 P.M. – 8:30 P.M.

This group is open to parents grieving the death of a child of any age

St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church

1101 Forest Avenue, Richmond VA 23229

Karla Helbert Facilitatorkarla.helbert@missfoundation.org

–Pregnancy After Loss Group

Every 2nd Thursday of the month

7:00 P.M. – 8:30 P.M.

For grieving moms who are currently pregnant, trying, or thinking of trying, to become pregnant after a loss.

St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church

1101 Forest Avenue, Richmond VA 23229

Facilitator Amy Mercurioamy.mercurio@missfoundation.org

–Support after early miscarriage

Every 1st Wednesday of the month

6:30 P.M. – 8:00 P.M.

For women seeking support after the loss of a baby in early pregnancy. This includes all losses in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Healing Circle Counseling Offices

8401 C Mayland Drive, Richmond, VA 23294

Facilitator Linda ZafframLinda.Zaffram@missfoundation.org

–Pregnancy and infant loss support group. FREE

For those grieving the death of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death or medical termination.

1st Thursday of the month

6:45pm – 7:45pm

HCA VA – Henrico Doctors Hospital

Forest medical center

7611 Forest Avenue, Suite #320, Henrico, VA 23229

Facilitator Anna Regan, MSW


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