Randy Gibbs, Executive Director, Jenny’s Light
Randy Gibbs: Thank you. I didn’t, I haven’t done this that many times, especially in front of this many people, it’s still, this story is so fresh, it just happened a couple – two-and-a-half years ago – and I just want to thank everyone that was involved in getting me out here and having this happen and giving us a chance to help spread our word.
We’re all on the same team and, it’s just, we’re all trying to get the same thing accomplished, I think, and that is getting awareness out there, one, and two, just decreasing the stigma attached to all mental health issues, especially these, these mental health issues that seem to be always taking a backseat to all the other, every other health issue out there.
My story is, I was, I’m four years older than my sisters, I had twin sisters, Becky and Jenny, and we grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and had a normal upbringing, normal life really, went to school right in Minneapolis. Myself and my sisters, both really active in sports, and doing all kinds of community activities, teams, just had a lot of friends and did what most families do, went on trips, and everything was really normal.
Jenny was just such a nice person. She always had tons of friends and was trying to organize everything with all her buddies, and doing things with Becky and making sure to spend time with me, and she was just like the best sister you could ever hope for. When we got a little older, and I guess it was, in high school, she was, she became, she was a straight-A student, state champion swimmer. Her and Becky were, they were state champions in synchronized swimming and really extremely close, obviously, being twins. Once they got through college or once they got to college, they went down to LSU, they got full rides to go to school at LSU, they went down there for swimming. And Jenny was still again top of her class, and she wasn’t fast enough to be on the varsity team like Becky was, but she was so psyched that Becky was still racing and her biggest fan that she became the team manager and worked with, got to see Becky all the time, taking times at practices and just being there all the time for Becky. And they were obviously roommates in college, and they lived together, they shared a room for basically 24 years, and here they are here (shows picture).
At college, during when she was a manager of the swim team, she met a guy named Chip who was on the men’s swim team there. And when she brought Chip up to Minneapolis, we could tell that it was, that she was really happy and he was a really nice guy and we were like, this is so great that she met somebody like this. And they ended up dating through when she finished college and then he went on to med school so they moved to Tulane and she obviously went with him and they lived there and went down to visit them a few times, and he was doing med school and she was working at an ad agency there and she was the executive or the CEO of a really big ad agency down there.
She was in charge of, these were her quotes on this slide, what she would do, she’d send out a quote every morning, everyone on her email list, like 2,000 people, would get these quotes and there’d be a different quote every single day and this went on for three or four years. And it would just be a nice little thing to think about each day, you’d get it in your inbox and just look at it, it was just one quote.
And that’s one of the things I miss the most about this is, there aren’t those quotes anymore. But, quotes was a big thing, these favorite quotes. She’d do it every day, everyone knew – Jenny’s quotes, where are they? They’d expect to get them and she made sure to do it every single day.
While they were in New Orleans at Tulane, Chip then got accepted to the University of Minnesota and also University of Alabama, Birmingham, for his residency and they were debating about what to do. Chip’s family is all from the South and Jenny’s was all from Minneapolis. And so Jenny really wanted to go up to Minneapolis; Chip wanted to go to, he actually wanted to go to LSU again, back to Baton Rouge, where his whole family is from, so they made a compromise to go to Birmingham. So they moved, and this was in 2004, I guess this would be, and she got a job at Southern Living magazine as a, just starting off as an assistant and ended up being a department head and being in charge of their custom homes division, doing all the interior designing and she had like 20 employees, I guess, by 2007 that she was directly responsible for and she also had a couple of pitches for new magazine ideas for Southern Living that she was in charge of putting together and spent a lot of time on.
She didn’t have a lot of, they didn’t, when they moved to Birmingham, they didn’t know anybody. So over that time she met a few friends and, but she was really busy with work and Chip was obviously extremely busy with his residency. He was gone, he was gone a lot because he had to be.
In February of 2007, Jenny became pregnant and she called and said, we’re pregnant and we’re gonna have, so I’ll be due in November. And then the following spring, in 2008, they were, Chip would have, Chip finished school and they were going to move to North Carolina and they already had a house kind of picked out and an area and there was already a clinic that wanted to hire Chip. And everything looked really great, it seemed like. I was so excited for her and everyone was.
During her pregnancy, by the second trimester, she developed Bell’s palsy, which makes half of your face numb and not work. The muscles go just numb in there. That was pretty hard for her, going to work every day and just not feeling like herself. She also was extremely nauseous for a lot of the time and sometimes she’d have to just go home in the morning, wouldn’t even make it to lunch, she’d be heading home already from work. By the time it got to be her third trimester, by September of 2007, she just had to quit or just go on a leave of absence, so she could stay home and rest and kind of get ready to be a mom and, at the time, we thought that’s a great idea, you should do that and didn’t really think about how much of a change that really is for someone – to go from being a boss somewhere, not only just working somewhere, but being a boss, being a leader and going from, doing that every day and traveling all over the place and working hard, doing all that to going to sitting in our house by yourself in a town where you really don’t know that many people and you don’t have a huge, you don’t have a group of people that you meet with even and your husband’s hardly there. Looking back, that was a huge change and I know a lot of women go through that type of change all the time. I’m sure there’s a lot of people, today’s their last day at work and they’re going to now be a mom and they’re going to be at home and change their entire life. It’s just amazing that these women can do that, make that big of a change, not only becoming a mom but changing their entire career.
So when it got to be, on November 1st, Graham was born – November 1st, 2007. When Graham was born, she was extremely excited. She was, I mean, she had so many different outfits for him that there was no way he could ever wear them all, because by the time he did he would be four years old. Like every onesie you could possibly think of, little hats, she was knitting all these hats. And Becky was knitting all these things for her. And everyone was really excited. We all went down there. My dad, myself, Becky, went down there in November like a week or so after Graham was born, 10 days maybe. And I stayed down there for three or four days and she was having some problems with breastfeeding and sleep and, to me, it seemd like, oh, that’s probably a normal thing for women to have happen. I don’t really know for sure. I was busy doing, thinking about skiing and thinking about what concert I was going to go to next and when’s Metallica playing again, and all these kinds of things. I had a different set of problems. So I thought, this is not, this doesn’t seem weird and my mom thought, OK, I’m going to stay down here for a few weeks and she did, helped Jenny out, get things, just get things under control and what seemed like really natural and everything seemed to be going fine for Jenny. I’d still talk to her on the phone every few days or at least every week through November. Becky stayed down there a week, my dad was down there for a few days. I came back and Becky came back and then my mom came back. And we were still corresponding with Jenny. She would always be emailing about what to get Christmas gifts and what do I want for Christmas, and I’d be asking her what she wants and what does Graham need and what does Chip want. And she was always into organizing all that and trying to make sure everyone had what they wanted.
So, let’s see, there’s Jenny and Graham (shows photo).
So, on December 19th, 2007, none of us were down there anymore and I was busy working in Minneapolis, actually I was on a ski trip, coming home. I got home that day and I was working that night and on the 11th, I got a call from Chip on my cell phone that said, Randy you gotta give me a call as soon as you get this. And he was in a voice, normally he’s talking to me like he’s my brother and everything’s fine. But I knew when I got that message that something wasn’t, something, this was not a normal, it didn’t even sound like Chip on the phone. And, I tried to call him back and just kept getting his voicemail and I thought, all right, well, must not be that important, I’ll talk to him tomorrow.
Now it was like 11 p.m. and my brother-in-law, Becky’s husband, Brian, called me up and told me, he said, Jenny and Graham had been murdered. And I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, and I was like, well that’s not, that can’t be my sister Jenny, that can’t be Jenny. And it took me a few minutes just to, I just couldn’t believe they were gone. And so I obviously just started driving automatically to my parent’s house because he didn’t want to call them and tell them on the phone so I was like 10 minutes from there. I got there and my grandma and a couple of my uncles were already there because Becky had already called them and we have a lot of family in Minneapolis so that was just the worst, just seeing my mom and dad, just … yeah. Here’s the article that was in the paper the next day.
Well, what happened that day was, Jenny went to a gun shop in Birmingham with Graham in the carrier, went to the counter, put Graham on the counter, told the clerk that she’s looking for a, something for home protection. And she wanted to get, she said she needed , wanted to get a big gun, really make sure, you know, in case someone breaks in, that she could protect the house and everything. And she wanted to get like a .45 magnum or something really big. And the guy talked her into a 9-mm, which is not a small gun and it’s really powerful. And she told him she’d never shot a gun before and he kind of showed her how it worked and everything like that and how it all goes and how the clip goes in and all this. This is after she had been investigated, we were able to ask the guy there what exactly went on and he described what happened. Everything was perfectly legal, that happened. In Alabama, it’s a swipe of your driver’s license and in five minutes you can have a handgun and ammo. And that’s a whole ‘nother issue, that’s a whole ‘nother issue there.
So anyway, she got the gun. The clerk loaded two bullets into the gun for her. She had no idea how to do that. Apparently, they do that all the time but there’s a baby on the counter and there’s my sister trying to buy a gun telling him she’s never shot a gun. And he loaded up two bullets in there and she left. That was like noon on the 19th and she went home and her cell phone quit responding at like 1:30 that afternoon so she threw it in the river or did something with it, no one ever found it.
She talked to my mom at about 5 o’clock that day and sounded perfectly normal, just went on about what she was planning on making when Chip’s relatives came over for Christmas and some of the things she got for Becky that she just sent off and some of the things she got for me and what Dad wanted and, perfectly normal conversation. My mom remembers every single word that was said during it, it was like 15 minutes long and everything seemed fine. So that was good and that was around like 5, 5:30.
Chip always got home right at like 7:05 because the hospital was five minutes from their house and he always got off at 7 p.m. on that particular day, that was a Wednesday, and so she knew he’d be home shortly after 7. At, I guess the estimated, I guess it’s, it’s like 6:55, right before 7, Jenny went out to the backyard with a blanket and Graham, with the gun and laid out a blanket right in the middle of the yard where you’d walk. She put a bag of garbage by the front door where Chip would find it, and whenever there was garbage out there, then Chip would bring it around to the garbage in the alley and he’d have to walk right by behind the house. And she shot Graham in the chest and then herself in the chest and the, I guess, the neighbors that I’ve talked to and that people have talked to said the shots were like a second apart or two seconds apart, really close, it was just bang, bang. And it was dark because it was that time of the year and it was mid-December so it was pitch dark and the neighbors called 911.
Chip got home probably within three or four minutes of when this happened and got the garbage, walked around the back and there’s his wife and baby with blood everywhere and he’s trying to, you know he just, the neighbors could hear him scream, you know, obviously. And he tried to revive them. Graham was gone and Jenny still had a pulse, he was trying to revive her, in the dark. There’s like some light from the, alley light, and then some of the glow from the home, you know, in the backyard. It was just, he could see the gun, you know it was like, you know, you can’t even describe how he must have felt at the time.
So then the EMS showed up a couple minutes after that, an ambulance, and some guys ran in the backyard and they were trying to help revive Jenny. Two minutes after that the police came and they tackled Chip down to the ground and wrestled him down to the ground and arrested him basically. When there’s a family and the husband or the spouse is there and a gun and that’s the suspect so they arrested him, put him in the squad car and drove him to the police station. And that was at like 7:15 and he called me from the police station and he obviously couldn’t answer his phone after that. And he was down there for over two hours of questioning of these guys, thinking that he’d murdered his wife and his kid. And obviously that wasn’t the case.
So, we’ll fast forward to where I was before and I got the call. That night, I think it was like 11 p.m. by the time I found out about this and I went over to my parent’s house and they were both bawling on the floor and couldn’t barely move or talk and we were just trying to figure out what happened.
We thought for sure that someone broke into the house and murdered them. You know, the thought of Jenny doing anything like this was so far from my mind, from anyone’s mind, that there’s no way that she did this. And it wasn’t even a thought, it was just like, someone was trying to steal Christmas gifts or something, someone came to the door and there was a snafu, something. We didn’t even know the details about the yard and everything obviously at that time.
So by 4 or 5 in the morning, we talked to a couple other, a couple investigators from down there, and they said, this looks like it’s a suicide, a murder-suicide type thing and it’s not, there’s not signs of any, there’s no break-in, there’s no prints, there’s no anything anywhere.
And then, it’s like, how could this be? And we started thinking. We started looking on the computer , we started trying to figure out what … postpartum depression. You know, I think one of the investigators said that, said this sometimes happens. And then I thought, right away I thought, Andrea Yates.
And I thought, I remember when I heard about that and how terrible of a woman I thought she was. And how I thought she should be going to the electric chair. She killed five of her babies. And you know, I didn’t know any better. And I know there’s a lot of people out there right now that don’t know any better, especially men.
So the next morning, they, we got word of, there was suicide notes and everything. And she had dinner set that night, and she was, she was obviously in a psychotic state. Her brain was going in between what she thought was real and what wasn’t real and what’s a fantasy and what is going on and what she needs to do and what she should do as a mom and what she did, she thought she was doing what she needed to do. She didn’t think that this was a terrible thing. She thought that this was what she had to do, she had to do this. Just like anything else, she thought she had to do it. She got, she obviously was in a psychotic state.
We, the next couple of days, we were able to go through her computer and look at kind of what she was up to the last few weeks and saw on her searches that she had searched for postpartum depression, postpartum depression illness, postpartum depression myths, symptoms, and all kinds of things. She was on all these various websites, postpartum depression websites and suicide websites. And there were some days where she would be searching, buying stuff at the gap.com and then the next thing that she’d go to right from that is handguns, handgun reviews and home security guns. Then she’d be at the Pottery Barn shopping again on her computer and five minutes later she’d be at a suffocation website and a suicide website. An hour later, she’d be at anthropologie buying candles and buying Christmas presents and next thing she’d be at crash test results for the exact make and model of her car, trying to figure out the best way to crash her car.
And then we really started, that moment we were like, she was trying to get help. She was trying to figure out what was going on and we need to try to, we need to, if we can, we need to try to help this from happening to other people and other families.
So then it was time to start researching perinatal mood disorders and learning what that word even means, and postpartum depression and try to come up with a way to help. And so we thought of Jenny’s Light and we thought that would be a good start. Let’s start an organization and let’s try to get to where, if someone’s where Jenny is, where Jenny was, if they find our website they can read about what happened and what she did and they can read her story, maybe we can have other stories from other women that didn’t go as far as Jenny and it didn’t get as bad but still have a story to tell and still had a terrible time. And if these women see that, perhaps they will talk and they’ll speak and they’ll ask for help and they’ll not keep it all inside, all inside like Jenny did.
So she was buried in Minneapolis the last couple days of December in 2007 and I work for the U.S. ski team and so I’m on the road a lot. And I had to leave, I had to go back to ski racing in early January, like January 3rd I had to drive up to Michigan and from there to Germany and then I was gone and I just remember just realizing how unimportant having fast skis really is when you think about it. And I’d been spending my whole winter, that’s all I do, I try to make sure we have faster skis than the Swedes and the Norwegians and the Finns and all these other countries and every split second is so important and after this, I realized that that’s my job and it’s not a big deal, it’s a job.
So we have, we put together, my uncle Pat put together a short memorial video that we can put on right now just to show you some more images of Jenny and Graham and the family and then I’d like to talk a little more about Jenny’s Light after that. It’s just a three-minute video.
Video is shown offscreen.
So that music was Wade Bowen and he’s a, he played at the last Postpartum Support International conference in Los Angeles and that’s where I met him. I was on a panel with him last August and he’s a country musician and he put together that song for his wife who suffered from postpartum depression. And she was at the event last August as well and he … So I met him and I asked him, I said can we use this on our video, we’re making a shorter version, I have like a 10-minute version and that wouldn’t be appropriate for here because it’s too hard to watch even three minutes of, but he was more than happy to do that. He’s got some other music that we’re gonna do some other things with and he was part of us, he and I combined to, or Jenny’s Light and Wade Bowen combined to fund a PSI, kind of an educational video that’s for clinicians and OBs and nurses and pediatricians and anyone that wants to learn about and also for just birthing classes for new moms and families to watch and I’ll show that at the end here. But he’s a great guy and a great musician so that was really nice to be able to use a song that’s actually about what Jenny went through.
And one other part of this story, before I get into Jenny’s Light is, this happened on December 19th and on December 10th or 11th, she went into her OB’s office and said, I think I have postpartum depression. And she told Chip the same thing and they obviously didn’t tell my mom or my dad or me or Becky even. And that was really strange that Jenny wouldn’t tell Becky that, she’d told Becky every single thing every day of their life, what they were both up to.
And no one knew that she, until after we found out about this, but no one knew that she actually went to her OB’s office and said, Look, I feel , I don’t feel like Jenny, I think I have postpartum depression. And that was like right after the couple days that she was searching for it on the Internet. And her OB prescribed her Wellbutrin and didn’t really do any research on Wellbutrin and what the side effects can be especially if the patient has any history of seizures, which Jenny did. She used to have seizures up until she was 7 or 8 years old. And so I was at the PSI conference in Houston two summers ago and there was a guy there talking about, there was a doctor there talking, for two-and-a-half hours about every kind of medication, basically that you would ever prescribe to a woman that’s pregnant or just gave birth and that may or may not be breastfeeding, why and what the list is kind of of priorities. And Wellbutrin was about 18th or 19th on the list. And he said, it’s not even legal to prescribe in Great Britain or New Zealand or Australia because of the potential psychotic side effects. It’s a very volatile drug and it’s really dangerous to prescribe.
So you know, then I asked why, I asked Chip, why do you …, and I called the OB and I said, why would you prescribe Jenny Wellbutrin? And she really didn’t answer the question and to this day I really can’t get a straight answer from her, she won’t even return my phone calls. She came to the memorial that was down in Birmingham and said she was really sorry obviously and probably feels terrible every day about it. But the kind of weird thing about it is that she, she didn’t actually write the prescription, she had Chip write the prescription. She told Chip, if you want to get her this medication soon, prescribe Wellbutrin, it’ll be, it’ll work well for her. So Chip didn’t know, Chip’s an orthopedic surgeon, they don’t deal with those drugs so Chip wrote the prescription on the 12th and filled it on the 12th and there were seven pills missing from her bottle on the 19th, out of 30 pills, there were 23 still there. And the toxicology reports showed normal levels and showed that she’d been taking one a day. And that’s just another crack that she fell through, like a perfect thing of one miss after another, after another, after another, after another, after another, and then being a person who’s susceptible to getting into a psychotic state, which not everyone can even do, not everyone can even get there, not everyone can get postpartum depression.
And she fell through all the cracks and that’s what we don’t want people to ever do again. And the MOTHERS Act is a huge step forward and we did what we could to just help get people aware of it and send around emails to try to get people to sign petitions and that’s so great that that got passed through. And I’m sure that there’s a lot more that can be done that needs to be done obviously.
And Jenny’s Light, we’re not trying to say that we’re all of a sudden experts in this by any means. What Jenny’s Light is, here’s our mission. It’s to improve and save lives by increasing awareness of all perinatal mood disorders, including postpartum depression. And we had it written like that because I think that 95 percent, maybe 99 percent of people know the word postpartum depression because of Brooke Shields and because of just hearing that word. That’s kind of the buzz word for all of these perinatal mood disorders. So we want people that are searching like Jenny was or anyone that wants to find information if they happen to find our website to get linked to a resource that can actually help them, that can give them real, as much in-depth, the foremost experts in the field, in the country, that people can talk to. And there are so many good ones all over the place and we’re doing what we can in Minneapolis and St. Paul and a little bit in Birmingham, there’s some people that do weekly talks in birth classes. And Becky has a group in San Jose that she’s been organizing and she has like 10 or 12 volunteers and they, they’re doing a lot out there. And there’s a woman named Pec Inman who lives out there and has been, Becky’s pregnant right now and she’s due in June, she’s due in two weeks. And so she’s been talking with Pec a lot and obviously everyone’s … Becky’s like, I can’t even go in another room for a second without someone following me. They couldn’t be more hyper-sensitive to what’s going on so she can hardly wait to have the baby and be able to share the baby. And obviously she’s going to be extremely careful, beyond careful, and everyone else is going to be as well.
We started this in the spring of 2008. Since then, we’ve raised a little over $300,000 and we’ve done our, we’ve gotten out there through the website and we have a monthly newsletter that we send out there that just kind of says what we’re up to and what’s going on. Becky put on a 5K running race in San Jose. Becky’s a pro triathlete, she’s Top 10 in the world in triathlon, she’s a world class athlete. She’s never had a job where you actually go to work and punch a clock or have a swipe card to get into some door or anything like that. Her only job ever since college has been riding her bike and running and swimming and racing and that’s it.
And she’s been extremely successful. She lives out in San Jose because that’s where her husband was from, is from, Brian, and he’s a pro triathlete as well. She put on a 5K running race this spring and got 650 people to show up and raised $15,000 in one day. And it was, like, all these people, she thought that there’d be like 50 or 100 people, they just had a little park thing, and all of a sudden, all these people showed up. It was a rainy day and everyone showed up and all those people want to come and it’s probably going to be 2,000 people next year. They’re going to move to a bigger venue and make it into a lot bigger deal than it was this year.
And also, another way that we’re going to get out there is, IMG, who is the world’s largest sports marketing company, has contacted us because they know Becky. Becky’s won Escape from Alcatraz and a bunch of other huge races that they put on. And they want to partner with us to put on a women’s triathlon series and have it called the Jenny’s Light Triathlon Series presented by some companies. They have three national companies that are gonna be the title sponsors and it’s going to start next year, next summer, in Seattle and Minneapolis, and then, by 2016, in 15 cities all around the country. And these events will be extremely well researched out, the markets, each market, how many births there are there, how many women triathletes there are there. And there will be a kids’ fun run, a men’s race and then a women’s triathlon. And through that, and there going to end, each of them are going to be on Saturdays, and they’re going to end at dusk, close to dusk, and there are going to be luminaries on the running course. And it’s going to be a sprint distance, it’ll be a shorter distance race and we’re hopeful that we can fill up, get two or three thousand women and men to come to these events. And there’s going to be a festival, kids’ festival expo area at all these events with all kinds of interactive things for children and fathers and moms and people and just use this as a vehicle to get perinatal mood disorders more visible in all of these citiies and work with other organizations and help each other help everyone that’s involved with new moms and families. So it’s gonna be really great and we’re really excited about that.
This is a screenshot of our website. It’s pretty basic, just has a little section where it talks about – my dad wrote kind of a story just about his view of who Jenny was and what happened and a lot of people comment, a lot of people send emails after reading that and just say, I had no idea this could happen, that this was even a possibility. Those people, I’ve gotten maybe 50 emails from people, from women, that said they didn’t know what was going on until they happened across our website and read that story. And when they did, they got help. And some of them didn’t get help. Some of them, whom I went back and forth with a couple of times and I’d refer them to Pec Inman and other professionals who have dealt with women for 20 or 30 years on these issues and know how to talk to women in a non-threatening way, and make them feel comfortable and not like a weirdo and not like a terrible person because they feel like harming their baby or dropping them and they can’t stop thinking about doing all these terrible things that, I mean, I just can’t believe some of the things that just come up into these women’s heads and me being a man, I have no idea how this is possible but I know it is possible and I know that it’s a mental issue and I know that it’s a chemical issue and I know that with treatment and/or therapy, it can be 100 percent treated.
And so it’s a huge, so the first time we got one of those emails, it made every thing that we’ve ever done and will do worth the time and effort, just saving that first mom. And, you know, maybe she wasn’t going to kill herself or her baby but maybe she was gonna live for a couple of years in terror every day and every night, trying to sleep and trying to do everything just to not think about horrible things about her baby and herself and thinking she’s a terrible mom.
So here’s a shot of our newsletters that we send out, monthly or sometimes every other month, basically just what we’re up to or where we need volunteers and what people can do to help and kind of an update on where we’re at, if we’re in any magazines. Becky is the second one in there with one of our T-shirts on. We’ve sold over 1,000 of those T-shirts and raised $25,000 at least I guess on just the shirts alone. But she was on, Glamour magazine had a full-page, or a two-page story about Jenny’s Light with her in it and that was a huge thing for us. We got tons of exposure from that. And there she is on the cover of Triathlete magazine, there’s a big article about Jenny’s Light and about Becky and she has the Jenny’s Light logo on her jersey and there’s like seven other pro triathletes that also all wear the Jenny’s Light logo, including her roommate. One of Becky and Jenny’s roommates from college is from Great Britain and she’s also a pro triathlete and she’s a four-time Xterra world champion and she wears the Jenny’s Light stuff everywhere. So sometimes at those events, we’ll have a booth and we’ll have some volunteers at the booth and just hand out free shirts and water bottles and that’s our best way, obviously through Becky, to get out there and get into that area because there’s women there and there’s people having babies there and it’s just another avenue to reach and it’s the easiest one for us.
So that works out, it works out really well. And we have a Causes page on Facebook. And at first I was like, well Facebook, that’s not, that won’t really make a big difference. But I didn’t know. We went on there and got this Causes page set up and we now have over 7,000 followers on our Causes page on Facebook and they can put messages up on there and they can chat on there. Through that, we’ve raised over $25,000. Sometimes people just donate $5, sometimes, one day an anonymous person just donated, it was $4,500 on the Facebook Causes page and we have no idea who it was or why they did it, but … we know why they did it but we don’t know who they are and it’s just, maybe they wouldn’t have seen it if it wasn’t on Facebook. We have someone now that’s running our Twitter feed and any updates or any kind of thing we have going on or anywhere else about perinatal mood disorders, we just send out a quick tweet about it and there’s a few hundred followers on there. And we’re just kind of developing, just going through those avenues as well.
This is a card that, I put some, I think they’re on the table out in the hallway. There’s a two-sided, 8 ½ x 5 ½ postcard. One side has just symptoms and myths and letting people know they’re not alone and one in seven women can get, do get to an area beyond just the baby blues and beyond just a few days of crying and a little bit of feeling down and they get to a scary area and our main message on this is that silence is deadly. We know it is and you need to talk and even if it’s talking to your mom or your sister or your brother or your best friend and not only do you need to talk but we need to educate more people so when they can, if they can detect any of the warning signs, red flags, that they can help get this mother the help she needs without making her feel like a terrible mom and making it worse. And I think that’s the hard thing about this, just the stigma of mental illness.
We also have several partnerships and there’s more than these but these are some of the bigger ones. Go Home Gorgeous is a postpartum wellness firm in Minneapolis, based in Minneapolis, right now. We’re on all their information, they get into all the hospitals in the Twin Cities area and through that we get to 63,000, through the different times that these brochures get into these moms’ and families’ hands, it goes to 63,000 potential reads a year in Minneapolis and St. Paul. And that’s a huge thing for us because it’s so hard to get our material into these hospitals because they have so many rules about, if it’s legit, because otherwise they’d have every counter would be just stacked full of tons of stuff.
Through Go Home Gorgeous, they’re a vendor at these hospitals. They give a portion of their profits to us and we work hand-in-hand, helping. We help promote them because they’re all about wellness, they’re all about taking care of the mom after the delivery, and all of the things from just reminding to stay hydrated and get sleep and take time to get out in the sunlight and exercise regularly and all the simple things that it’s easy to not do or not think they’re important when you have a new baby in the house and the husband has to go back to work and it’s the mom there with the baby and there’s not, it’s not that easy to do these things. And that’s a huge thing to me, I think, is just knowing that we’re helping get these moms some hints and ideas about what they can do and remind them that they still need to be a mom and if they can’t be a mom then the baby won’t have, won’t be the baby … one, it’s not fair to the baby if the mom isn’t healthy, so that’s a great organization.
Postpartum Support International, I’m sure that everyone here, at least most people, have heard of them and they do a ton, they have warm line and they have coordinators in all of the states and they run a conference that’s a really good conference, that I go to every year. And I’ve met a lot of people at these conferences. George Parnham is one of the people I met. He was Andrea Yates’ lawyer and he’s working on a case right now down in Texas about another woman who killed her baby and they want to put her on death row. And that’s happening, there’s a few in California, where this is going on. There’s a woman in Minnesota – Shakopee prison in Minnesota – who on Fourth of July in 2003, she threw her baby, she jumped off a bridge with both her babies and she and one of the babies survived and one of them didn’t. And she’s scheduled to be in jail for the rest of her life right now so …
Some of these other companies – Blooma is a birth yoga studio, we work with them. They hand out our information and mention Jenny’s Light at all their classes; Amma Maternity does the birth classes for a big hospital system in Minneapolis and, through them, we get our information out and we’re also gonna start having a support group meet there once a week starting in July. And trying to not name it a support group, we’re trying to figure out a clever way to make it non-threatening again and just somewhere where women can talk. We have four women on our board that suffered from postpartum depression and two of them are nurses and one of them is training to be a postpartum doula right now. And so there gonna go to all the meetings so they can kind of keep tabs, if there are red flags, if someone comes in there and seems despondent or not, not really, doesn’t seem like they’re doing well, we can try to help them.
But we want to basically just get people to come and just talk if they want to talk or just listen if they want to listen and be there with other people that have been there and can tell their stories and say, I thought I was, I had no idea what was happening to me and now I got help and you’re gonna be OK. I think that’s going to be a big thing and we’re excited for that to start.
And then last fall we started doing out grants and we gave out $26,000 last fall to organizations all over the country and basically these are the areas, this is what we want, and we have an application process on our website that people can download. We gave out another $25,000 this spring and we’re gonna do another $25,000 this fall. And then next year, we’re gonna start giving away $50,000 twice a year and in two years, we want to be giving away $100,000 twice a year to organizations, programs and just people that have plans on what they can do to help us further our mission. That’s all we really care about is getting our mission out there and we don’t, we’re not trying to collect money to have a big bank account. We want to keep collecting money and, I think through the triathlon series, once that gets rolling, I think we’re going to be able to make a lot of money from that and spread a lot of awareness and, in turn, give away a lot of money and hopefully more than $100,000 a year and really try to help make big things happen. And I know it can and I know it takes money to do it so we’re really excited for that.
Here’s some of the fundraising things – there’s a Jenny’s Light Kids Triathlon series right now out in California and it’s all these little kids doing a little swim in a pool and then they run around the school and it’s just really cool to see and they have these little Jenny’s Light, the logo on the right with the little candles on them, and it’s really cool. There’s that article again with Becky and there’s the water bottles we sell on our website for $10 each. We’ve sold over 3,000 of those.
And we do talks – we have, like I said, we have people in Birmingham and San Jose that do regular weekly talks and then I’ve done some speaking, not too much before this, but hope to keep being able to spread the word all over the place.
Here is, I wanted to put this email in here – it’s long but this is only a portion of it. This one I got a week ago from a woman and I talked to her, she sent this and she said, just, please call me with her phone number. So obviously I called her and she started crying on the phone and I said, everything’s, you’re going to be fine. What you need to do, you’re doing what you need to do, you’re telling someone and your story, I really want to put that on our website and I’d love to get a picture of you and I want you to talk to a friend of ours and a friend of mine. I’m going to have her call you if it’s OK and I had, Pec Inman gave her a call and it seems, this is, she’s telling a story on this email about how she came on Jenny’s Light website and this was about a month ago that she got to the site and since then she’s gotten help and she’s on Zoloft now and she’s feeling like herself again and she’s smiling and happy and she can’t believe how good she feels. She feels like the old, who she was before she had a baby. So that’s really good.
I guess right now would be a good time to show the video that we partnered with PSI and Wade Bowen to put together. And this gets shown at a lot of, they sell it on their website and I’m trying to figure out a way to produce another version of this video that we can start giving away or figuring out a way to make it more accessible through YouTube and other venues because I think having it be a hard thing to get and to have to pay a bunch of money to buy it doesn’t make a lot of sense but I’d like you to see it and then I can answer a couple of questions.
Naomi Savitz, Gateway Maternal and Child Health Consortium: I have to say that I had prepared remarks and they just aren’t sufficient at this point. Obviously, the panel and we had worked on a committee to bring the speakers today and we were knowledgeable of this story and there are no words for me to thank you and your family and for making yourself vulnerable and for bringing this amazing information forward. I hope that you feel the sincerity of the thank you and how difficult it was to hear but how important it is that this is our message and, as I said earlier, this is what Ruth and I and so many of you do on a day-to-day basis, is to bring that message forward and it’s so difficult to hear but we have to talk about it. And so with that I’d like to thank Randy from the bottom of my heart.
We have, I know that you say that you don’t do speaking engagement, well you do do them and you do it amazingly well. At this point, we’re running close on time but I feel it’s imperative that we take a few questions. So there are people positioned around the room that are hear to work to get a microphone to you. If there’s someone that has something that they’d like to ask, please this is really your opportunity for that.
Audience member: Hi, not to cause more pain to an already painful story, I was wondering how is your brother-in-law?
Randy Gibbs: He’s doing as good as could be. He moved back to Baton Rouge and he’s practicing at a clinic there doing orthopedic surgery. I talk to him every couple weeks. He talks to my parents every week or every few days and he has his whole family there. There’s also a golf event in Birmingham, this will be the third annual Jenny’s Light golf tournament this year and I play in a foursome with Chip and another friend of mine is coming this year and another one of his friends so that’s a good time to see him. And then he’ll come, he still comes to Minnesota every year to visit for like a week and hang out so …
Audience member: You mention that they put your sister on Wellbutrin and I was wondering if there was a resource for us as to what would be the appropriate medications that patients should or should not be on for these disorders.
Randy Gibbs: There is a pretty good list on PSI’s website, and we’re in the process of adding that section to ours, just that’s an area where we want to be really sure we know what we’re talking about and making sure that it’s factual information so we haven’t gotten into that area. But we want to at least have the best links that we know about from our site so I would check postpartum.net, the PSI site to start with on that.
Audience member: First of all, I’d just like to say that I’m very sorry for your loss as I’m sure everyone is and thanks for sharing that with us. But I’d also like to know where we could get a copy of the DVD that you just showed because that’s fabulous and being a maternal nurse sometimes we have an idea of what patients really could use seeing that plus we also have support groups. Can you, I know it showed it but it showed us briefly, the PO Box.
Randy Gibbs: Yes, thank you. There’s a link on our site to where to get the DVD and you can also go to postpartum.net, PSI, their website also has a link right on the front page to order it. But you can get it on our front page as well, it links to their order form.
vAudience member: Hi, I was just wondering, New Jersey was the first state to institute evaluation for postpartum mothers before they get home and also at the physician’s office. Do you know if there are any other states that have now instituted this evaluation of moms and, if not, what actions are being taken to get more states involved in the evaluation of mothers in the hospital and the six weeks postpartum?
Randy Gibbs: Yeah, Illinois has a really good system in place, there are a few, not all the hospital systems there have a mandatory screening process but there are a few that do and that’s, there are a few other pockets of hospitals around the country but there’s not, New Jersey’s ahead of everybody else. Canada’s ahead of everybody else as well. Canada has three screenings, three months, being pregnant three months, at the end of the first trimester, and then two weeks and six weeks postpartum. They screen everybody there and that’s something that obviously needs to be improved not only just to detect something but just so the women that are pregnant and just became moms can see that there’s actually a screening process for something, it must be something, even though they can easily fill it out to have it show whatever they want, I think just having it in place to give them another maybe think a little bit more about telling somebody about how they’re feeling.
Audience member: I just want to thank you for sharing your story about your sister. I know you had said that there were emails that you and your brother-in-law and everybody had gone back and that Jenny had done. In hindsight, did your brother-in-law say that there were any other subtle signs that he had noticed?
Randy Gibbs: Not really, no, he didn’t, I mean, he’s really, he feels, obviously, horrible about … and they didn’t plan to get pregnant, they wanted to wait until they were moved into the, into North Carolina with him working instead of being gone 16 to 18 hours every day. And he didn’t, he wasn’t really in a position, I remember going down there to visit them and he’d get home and be home for like 45 minutes and go to bed and leave at like 4 a.m. again. I barely saw him for 15 minutes the whole time. But one other thing about that and the emails, I also get emails frem people, there are people, there’s a lot of people out there, people that will email me or try to get a hold of me, usually they email, but they’re saying my sister’s a murderer, she’s a whore, Graham, she’s gonna burn, your whole family’s gonna burn in the bowels of hell and that happens … the first time that happened, I was like, this is, who is this? And now it’s happened enough that, these people, they haveno idea what they’re talking about and those people are out there, so … it’s pretty crazy.
We had an article come out on an AOL blog one time and it got, just an outrageous amount of negative comments, 100-plus comments and then people were fighting on there and I had to call them and just tell them to take the whole thing down. And we don’t have comments on our website because of the same thing, right away people want to, most of them seem to be Scientology-based people, Tom Cruise types that just are … whatever.
Audience member: Randy, as a NICU nurse, I think that we’re kind of in a unique position and I don’t know how many other NICU nurses are here, but we have the opportunity sometimes where moms and dads are with us for an extended period of time, six months, eight months, nine months, visiting their baby with all of that stress. Have you had any NICUs contact you about getting some sort of word out in the NICU setting because the stress levels are there?
Randy Gibbs: We have, all we’ve really done with that is have our information there and the people that work at the hospital get our information, but we’re trying to develop a system in Minneapolis at least so we can move it to other areas, just to get the most current information to the people that are in contact with moms and families just so they can know that in case it’s not the perfect time, something might go wrong, they know what to do, what the steps are, what the signs are, what the myths are, just to get it out there so that’s an important next step for sure.
Audience member: As the others have said, thank you so much for talking about this. I went through a similar experience 13 years ago with the birth of my daughter and luckily things came together so that this kind of thing didn’t happen. I was a psychologist at the time and so were many people in my family and it wasn’t identified until it got really bad so I really identify with what you’re saying.
I’ve been treating women since then and one of the areas that I feel is lacking are the pediatricians. They really don’t seem to ask about the mom a whole lot or even know what the signs are. You know, they’re focused on the baby and a lot of women are able to hold it together and to go to the appointments for their children. But I just feel like what I’ve been wanting to do is to try and put something together for pediatricians so that they can start asking the questions and the obstetricians aren’t seeing the women. And I didn’t know if that was anything you had been thinking about or anyone else was talking about.
Randy Gibbs: Yeah, I think it’s a big, that’s a com – it seems like that’s a pretty complicated area to get into with the pediatricians but that’s something that we definitely want to try to make happen and figure out a way to, so that can become part of their program, maybe in the future, as far as, to be a pediatrician you have to know these certain things and you have to be aware of this because to have them being in that close contact with a baby and also with a mom and not, not a lot of times have any knowledge or really limited knowledge about these disorders doesn’t seem right to me. So that’s a, and if anyone has any ideas, anyone can email me any time. If anyone wants to apply for a grant, I just wanted to let anyone know that we want to work with anyone that has any good, any ideas to try to make something happen.
So thanks again, I wanted to thank everyone again for having me here and listening to this and good luck with everything you’re doing. Is there another question?
Audience member: … your story. I wanted to find out if the money that you make available. Thank you Randy for sharing your story. I wanted to know if the money that you make available, can it be extended to women who are suffering from postpartum depression and may lack the resources that they need, is that possible?
Randy Gibbs: That’s not right now. We haven’t figured out. I think because of tax laws and things like that, we need to go through certain channels and we only give money to other non-profits right now and not to for-profits and not to individual people. But it’s something that I could see would be a good idea, it’s just that it would be really difficult to screen for that and also decide how much and all that. But that is a really good idea and if you have some kind of process in mind, I’d love to hear more about that.
Interviewer: Is there one question, is there some thing that anybody who knows any new moms should ask?
Randy Gibbs: That is a good question. I guess the main question, I think, is do you feel like yourself? When no one’s around and you’re by yourself, do you feel like you did before you were pregnant? Do you still have the same basic feelings and are the same things still interesting to you? And do you still smile and laugh? Do the same things give you joy? Can you think about having fun like you did then?
And if you can’t, I think then that’s a, that basic thing, I think, if you can’t relate to how you felt before you were pregnant, then there’s, that’s a red flag to at least get checked out and pursue that further.
Interviewer: That’s a great way to ask because it’s not scary. It’s not – are you thinking about hurting yourself or the baby?
Randy Gibbs: Are you like you were? Do you feel like, when no one’s around, can you truthfully say you feel like you did.
Interviewer: That could definitely lead to a conversation that might get to, if there is something that’s going on.
Randy Gibbs: Yeah, without being, like an intrusive question or something that’s gonna scare them.
Interviewer: Has starting Jenny’s Light and creating the organization and doing the organization’s work, has that provided some healing for you and your family?
Randy Gibbs: Yeah, I think a ton of healing, because we were like, what are we gonna do here? We can’t just sit here and wait until we hear about the next one in the newspaper without trying to get information.
I think what really put it over the top was when we looked through Jenny’s computer and saw that she had been looking for postpartum depression information and all kinds of things about pospartum depression and perinatal mood disorders. And when we saw that she was looking for that and she may or may not have found what she was looking for but if there was just one more, if we could make something that maybe has some other information that’s out there right now, if she would’ve seen that maybe she would have told somebody. Maybe she would’ve read some of those stories and gotten help.
Interviewer: I think that was, you know, honestly, I think that was one of the most powerful parts of your presentation. I actually wrote it down, in quotes, you know, “She was trying to get help.” She was looking for it and, yeah, who knows?
Randy Gibbs: She was just so ashamed to tell anybody how she felt. And I’m sure she had intrusive thoughts, 24 hours a day and women don’t, you know, moms, don’t want to tell people they’re thinking of harming their baby or they have those thoughts. They don’t want to get their baby taken away, they don’t want to be told that they’re not a good mom.
Interviewer: And we set people up for it, we say – oh, you must be so happy. Your baby is so beautiful. This must be the happiest time of your life. And for somebody to say, no it’s not. You know, we don’t give them an opening. They feel like they’re just supposed to nod and go along.
Randy Gibbs: Yeah and we don’t want to, we don’t want to scare people from having babies. I do a couple talks with men’s support groups, men’s groups, partners and husbands of pregnant moms and first-time moms. I just tell them, I’m not here to scare you, I just want you to pay attention. If there’s something going on, just communicate and talk. It’s going to be one out of seven of you, your wives or partners are going to have postpartum depression so you need to pay attention for it.
Interviewer: Can you, I know you mentioned this in your presentation, but can you tell me about someone or more than one someone who was helped by Jenny’s Light or who gave the family feedback?
Randy Gibbs: Yeah, we’ve gotten a few, we’ve gotten a bunch, we’ve gotten a whole bunch, like probably over 30 or 40 now of people that were, women at home with their baby, on their computer during the day or at night, middle of the night, and just looking for an answer, looking for why, has anyone else felt like they’ve felt? And they came across our website and sometimes they’ll just email a short kind of description and say, I’m looking for help, can you reach me and showl me where to go for this help and I’ll wait for your email or phone call. And sometimes the emails are like 10 pages long and it’s like huge description of every day basically since the day they gave birth until a few months later and what they go through at night and the word hurt and hurt the baby, those things keep getting repeated throughout the emails, that’s one thing they have in common, thoughts and bad thoughts and bad mom and hurt the baby, those kind of words keep coming up over and over in these emails. But then at the end, they say they found the stories on Jenny’s Light and they were either able to, I helped them get to a resource or they found it on the website and they were able to get help. And it’s just, like I said in my presentation, the first time that happened was like a month after we started the website and that really kind of solidified and made everything all worthwhile and everything we do from then on, forever, it’s worth it just for that one time when we maybe saved someone’s life or maybe saved a baby or, at a minimum, made a mom’s experience a lot better than it could have been.
Interviewer: It must be incredibly satisfying but also an incredible burden to have all these women that you know then worry about and you get behind on a couple days worth of emails …
Randy Gibbs: Yeah, I don’t want to be behind so I’m trying to figure that out right now actually, trying to figure out a way, because I know these women, some of them that I’ve talked to find it beneficial to be able to talk to me or Becky just because we’re, we’ve lived that, and we know and we can feel and wel have compassion for them or we will understand them. We’re not going to judge them if they say, want to put my baby in the microwave, which I’ve heard a few times. And we’re not going to think they’re bad and weird. We know that their normal people and they can be a good mom, they just need to get help. So I think that they feel – the barrier’s down and they can talk to us and say exactly what they think.
Interviewer: … responses and some of the nasty emails that you’ve received.
Randy Gibbs: Yeah, we’re not going to say anything like that.
Interviewer: Have you connected with any families, any survivors who may have, either the woman actually harmed the child or herself?
Randy Gibbs: Yeah, I’ve tried a few times and I haven’t really … a lot of these other, you know, there’s a family in Iowa, I sent them flowers. It happened a year ago, or two years ago now in May. She, the mom, drowned her four- or five-month-old upstairs and then hung herself in the basement. It happened outside of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in May of ’08. And I sent them flowers and figured out who the dad was and the parents and I haven’t heard much, anything back so. There’s been a few others that I’ve tried to reach out to but haven’t … and maybe I’m just not getting the right emails and they don’t , they don’t answer their phones. It’s tough, I think, a lot of people just go into a shell and they don’t want to … so I’m hoping, when they’re ready … and that’s what I’ve said, don’t worry about it. Just when you’re ready, call me, I’d love to, we can help each other deal with this because I’ll understand what you’re going through.
Interviewer: And they’re probably getting some of those nasty calls or media calls that they’re not …
Randy Gibbs: Yeah, right. And if this would’ve happened in Minneapolis, it would probably have been a lot worse for my parents because it would have been in the news. It was in the news in Birmingham, but no one in Minneapolis really, it didn’t go on like national news or anything. I guess I didn’t really want it to at the time but I wish it would havenow, just to get it out there but I think if it would have happened in Minneapolis then the media would have been all over the place and my parents, it would have been really hard for them to, especially my mom, just to field those questions and deal with all that so it was, how it happened, is how Jenny wanted it to happen.
Interviewer: Now obviously all of the work you’re doing spreading Jenny’s story is because of how her and Graham’s life ended, but it’s not how you’d want them to be remembered. Is there some sort of story about Jenny or about Jenny and Graham that you would feel comfortable sharing that you would prefer to be sort of how people think of Jenny?
Randy Gibbs: I was only down there for three days when they were both, when I was with both of them. A couple times a day she’d put him in the stroller and we’d go for a walk, walk around the park and go around the zoo and back around. And it was just so great to be able to see her appear so happy, to have this little baby and stop, and stop at the bench and sit down, the fountain. And it just seemed like she was so happy just to be able to have that little baby and he was healthy. And those two walks that I went on with her were really nice. It’s the only memory I really have of all three of us alone together so it means a lot to me.
Interviewer: It’s good to know that she had happy moments.
Randy Gibbs: And I don’t know if she was happy. You know, she probably wasn’t but she was able to trick everybody, including her husband who was there, you know, every day, was there for at least part of the time. He had no idea and I don’t blame him for not having any idea, most men don’t have any idea about postpartum depression and that’s one of the big issues and big problems, I think, that there’s not enough education for men and fathers, just about, just signs and myths and how to break the silence and how to just get some conversation going back and forth without being judgmental or attacking, and be, just make it as comfortable as possible but let your wife and partner know that you’re therefor them and you’ll do anything you can to help them through this because it can be extremely challenging, not physically. You can’t see it, that’s the hard part. It’s a mental issue.
Interviewer: Well that’s all the questions I have, if there’s anything that you feel like I didn’t cover or anything that you’d like to say.
Randy Gibbs: Nothing I can think of
Interviewer: And we typically, I know your organization is designed to raise awareness but we typically, Fred does our videos, we often use them for b-roll for TV stations that are covering this so if it’s OK to provide your contact information through the organization …
Randy Gibbs: That’d be great. Yeah, anytime it’s out there if you can let me know.
Interviewer: Oh, absolutely. Well thank you very much.
Randy Gibbs: Yeah
Interviewer: I feel like, poor husbands, I mean, yeah, they definitely need to be education but even in just normal new motherhood, I remember, I was lucky enough not to have any issues but I remember my husband saying, you’re so cranky. And I’d say, I’m not getting a good night’s sleep, of course I’m cranky. But when does it take the step that’s beyond you know cranky or beyond tired into something that’s more serious, it’s tough to … that’s why everybody should be aware, not just husbands but mothers and sisters and …
Randy Gibbs: Everybody, all the people that are in contact with and the other thing, I don’t see much literature out there about promoting postpartum wellness, just being proactive with hydration and sleep and making sure that it’s dark at night wherever they are and light during the day so they can get used to trying to make it easier to get sleep and rest and having that time and not being, having everything … Everything’s already mixed up enough, to add no sleep to it and not being hydrated and not getting any exercise and not getting any sunlight, those, that’s just a prescription for a big downhill thing and I think a lot of women have a lot of, three or four of those things happening at the same time as everything else so it’s like change on top of change and it makes it really hard, so …