Healthy Mommy 5K: Honoring a Sister Lost to Postpartum Depression

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Last year, I met Kym Gowin while on the Tales from Another Mother Runner book tour, and her energy and smile lit up my memories to this day. So when one of her pals, Brandi Lee, emailed to tell us about the Healthy Mother 5K and asking if we could connect her with #BAMR tattoo designs, I wanted to know more.

Kym lost her only sister, Kristy Elmore Langdon, to postpartum depression in May of 2014. "We fought like crazy but no one could come between us," she says, "We went to college together for the first year, were in each others wedding and then we got pregnant with our first children in the same month!  We got to go through pregnancy together, shop for maternity clothes and baby things, and after Avery (Kym's daughter) and Spencer (Kristy's son) were born we discussed the up and downs of motherhood."

We are sharing Kristy's story, via Kym, because running is just one piece of health, and mental health often gets swept under the rug out of fear, ignorance, or embarrassment.

Did Kristy struggle with PPD after having all her sons, or just her youngest?
Kristy struggled with PPD with all her sons.  The first and third were the most severe. The first was totally unexpected.  My sister was the most together, stable, responsible person you could imagine; she was a CPA which totally fit her personality! She had no history of mental illness. She met none of the key risk factors for PPD. She was happily married, had a strong support system, a good job, and was very financially stable. She and her husband waited to have children until they had paid off their home so Kristy could stay at home with them. She also had no history of or current drug or alcohol use, which is what many first think after a suicide.

Kristy sharing a smile.

How aware of the PPD were you? Did she ask for help, or was her suffering too great to be able to do that?

I was very unaware of PPD. Being a nurse, I have heard of the baby blues and thought it was really no big deal, something you just got over as your baby got older. I had no idea what PPD truly looked like.

That said, Kristy and the family knew something wasn't right after the birth of her first son, Spencer. She had classic depression signs and symptoms and wanted help. She went to her OB and they worked on it together. She continued to breastfeed; with the support of family and friends, her depression lifted about 2 months after starting treatment. The most beautiful this Kristy said about this period was that she was outside walking with Spencer one morning and the fog just lifted. The sky got bluer and she knew she was better. It was amazing to me how clear this was to her.

With her second son, Sawyer, the postpartum period went smoothly. Kristy and her OB discussed her previous PPD, had a solid plan from the start and it worked well.

Kristy's sweet boys.

With Simon (the third) everything was different. Kristy's depression started in the second trimester. Her OB that had been with her through her previous pregnancies had to have emergency surgery. The OB that took over Kristy's care did not seem as aware of the issues she had faced with PPD. He was not quick to treat her depression during pregnancy and by the time Simon was born, she was in a dark place.

This time she did not think she needed help; her brain was too sick. She did not want to go to the doctor. She was not bonding with Simon and was making frightening statements. Finally, we got her to go to the doctor about 2-3 weeks postpartum and when she told the doctor how she was feeling, she reported that he told her she needed to, "Go home and bond with her baby." Wow.

Things spiraled out of control from there. Kristy's OB came back from her medical leave about 6 weeks after Simon was born, took one look at Kristy and said, "You are beyond what I can handle. We need to get you help." Kristy had at least four suicide attempts that we know of, three admissions to different psychiatric hospitals, and she saw four outpatient psychiatric providers.  Her PPD had progressed to postpartum psychosis and healthcare providers didn't see it or would or could not not addressing it aggressively enough.

I truly believe Kristy was hearing voices that scared her and were threatening to her boys. In the end I think she felt she was a danger to the boys and made the ultimate sacrifice to keep her babies safe.

Was Kristy a runner?
Yes! She liked to do local 5Ks and loved to walk and run with her boys. They were outside all the time!

Kym (in colored top) and her #BAMRS that helped make Healthy Mommy 5K a reality. (If I lived in KT, I would've helped too!)
Kym (in colored top) and her #BAMRS that helped make Healthy Mommy 5K a reality. (If I lived in KT, I would've helped too!)

Is that why you started the Healthy Mommy 5K?
After Kristy's death, her husband and I immediately discussed starting a local foundation to raise awareness of maternal mental health issues. His (and now our) ultimate goal is to build a center in Leitchfield, Kentucky for maternal mental health, which requires quite a bit of financing.

I wanted a special way for everyone who loved Kristy to remember her on the first anniversary of her death on May 30, 2015. I had been thinking about a 5K but had no idea where to start so I threw the idea out to my running tribe one morning and The Healthy Mommy 5K was born. I can take little credit for making the race happen. These ladies are amazing!

Brandi and the #BAMR tattoo that started everything.
Brandi and the #BAMR tattoo that started this post.

What was your race like this year, the second year?
Amazing!  We work hard to ensure the HM5K is a family event, so it's stroller-, kid- and pet-friendly. We had about 175 runners this year.

Her oldest son, Spencer, is old enough to run the whole race! The two younger boys did the 5K as well. Brad (Kristy's husband) organizes the water stations. Kristy's girlfriends do the post-run snack area. My mom did registration and ran the race. My dad hung out with the little boys. Our church donates their space for pre-registration and race prep and many members volunteer.  It is just amazing to see how many people love Kristy and Brad and the boys!

All proceeds will go to Maternal Mental Health Foundation, Inc; we just finished the by-laws and have started setting up at local health fairs!

Kym and her parents, honoring their daughter and sister Kristy.
Kym and her parents, honoring their daughter and sister Kristy.

Are you going to continue holding the Healthy Mommy 5K annually?
Yes! The HM5K will always be the last Saturday in May, and next year we plan to add a 10K—something that, to my knowledge, has never been done in this town.

Is there anything you want family members of women who are suffering from PPD to know?
IT IS REAL! AND VERY DANGEROUS! It happens to women who have their act together. You cannot just get over this. Health care providers don't always see the problem because those suffering are embarrassed; this is not what motherhood is 'supposed' to be like. Get treatment and don't stop until you feel someone is listening.

16 responses to “Healthy Mommy 5K: Honoring a Sister Lost to Postpartum Depression

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your sister’s story. It’s so empowering/ reassuring to moms who hear of other stories of moms with postpartum mood disorders. I too had severe postpartum anxiety/ depression, which actually lead into postpartum OCD. Not sure if you’ve heard of that before but where you are convinced you will harm your baby/ kill them. No psychotic features, like voices/ hallucinations. But it was extremely real and terrifying. Thank God I got the help I needed, because suicidal thoughts were a result from this hell. I am so sorry your sister battled this, truly heart breaking. I will be keeping you and your family in my prayers <3

  2. I attended the Tales From Anither Mother Runner event that Is referenced in the post. I remember Kym from that event. She was a ball of energy and fun, and made everyone laugh when she offered to help Dimnity with the giveaways. I remember thinking that she and her running besties seemed like a awesome crew. My heart goes out to Kym, as I cannot imagine the pain from such a loss. I will definitely need to make plans to drive up to KY next year and participate in this 5k.

  3. Let me first say, that I almost never comment on things. Thank you for sharing your sister’s story, Kym. I am a Mom to 3, (1 in heaven), 2 on Earth. After my daughter was born (my 3rd), I knew something wasn’t right. I was on medication for months and my PPD worsened until it became full-fledged depression. I was in such a dark place, the only thought that consumed me at the time was that my husband and kids were better off without me. I was no good to them in the state I was in. My husband, helped me get the help I needed. 2 years after my PPD/depression, I began to run. Coming back home after that first, waddle, I was winded, and I also had something that I hadn’t seen in a long time- a small glimpse of happiness. It was a light at the end of a very dark, and very scary tunnel. I love the way you have chosen to honor your sister, and to spread awareness on PPD. It is very real, and can be very scary. Thank you for sharing.

  4. I live in Leitchfield, Kym’s mom was my son’s teacher (she is an amazing woman as well!) and I saw the signs for the 5k, but didn’t know the story behind it or realize it was connected to this family. Thank you for sharing your story. It brought tears to my eyes. Both as an expectant mother and a sister this touched me deeply. I am not a runner, but next year I will be there to sign up and support this family and their cause!

  5. Thank you so much for sharing! Mental Illness runs in my brother died of suicide, so with each of my pregnancies, i was so fearful of PPD. Fortunately, I did not experience it. And I can only imagine the darkness that must accompany it I am so glad Kym has the courage to speak up about her sister’s experience and I cannot even find words to express the wonderful way in which she is honoring her sister. Her story brings tears to my eyes, both sad and happy. Thank you!

  6. Thank you for sharing this. Such a sad story. An interview with Kym would make a great podcast too.

  7. Wow, what a tragic story. Thank you for sharing it though. Post partum is such a real thing that can be so dark and awful and I’m so very sorry for the loss of kyms sister and for the boys and husband left behind. It’s so wonderful to be shining a light on this and letting more people know especially when the woman struggling “had it all together” and didnt have any of the typical triggers.

  8. As a mom who had pretty severe PPD with my first child my heart just breaks for her family but I’m so happy her sister has chosen to honor her by sharing her story. It’s such a dark fog and I honestly wouldn’t have understood had I not experienced it. Thankfully for me it lifted after about 5 months with increased excericise, doctor & family support. With my second child I did not have it as severely and I think my awareness made a difference. Sad but important story thank you for sharing.

  9. Thank you for sharing this sad but important story. I know it will help a lot of women. My heart goes out to her family and her sweet, sweet boys.

  10. I recently went to a screening of a documentary entitled Dark Side of the Moon, and following the film there was a panel of health care professionals that had a Q&A session. I wish that that film could be mandatory for everyone in pregnancy and childbirth classes. And for OB’s and midwives and mental healthcare professionals. As a sufferer of PPD and anxiety myself, I wish I had known about some of the resources that are now emerging and available–even just two years ago it could have helped my family. It is so tragic that the world only really knows about postpartum psychosis, which is only .3 percent of cases of PPD. There is a nationwide hike called Climb Out of the Darkness THIS Saturday the 18th–I’m participating in my local hike. I encourage everyone to find one close to them and do it before or after your long run!! Postpartum Progress is also a great website to visit. One out of seven mothers will suffer PPD, so it’s not as uncommon as everyone might think. Let’s save our sisters and daughters and fellow mother runners!!

  11. Thank you so much for sharing your sisters story. It makes me so sad that your sister couldn’t get the help that she needed. You are an amazing, inspirational family. Thank you for sharing your families story and shedding light on PPD. Hugs.

  12. thank you for sharing!! I am so sad to hear those 3 boys don’t have their mother. but maybe the legacy you are creating in her memory will help them know that she did love them.

  13. Kym, I’m so so sorry about your sister’s pain – and the deep loss your whole family has suffered. Peace to all of you – and know that by sharing your story, you are probably saving someone’s life.

  14. Thank you so much for sharing, Kym. I’m incredibly sorry for your family’s loss, but you are doing such wonderful work so that Kristy’s legacy lives on. From one mom who has seen some incredibly dark places during PPD, thank you, thank you, thank you for what you are doing.
    (And as always, thank you to Dimity and AMR for shedding light on these issues.)

  15. Kym, my heart goes out to you and your family, and especially those precious boys. I did not suffer from PPD, and as far as I know, neither did any of my sisters or friends But that is just it. How many moms suffer in silence? Thank you for highlighting this important issue.

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