EASTON — From the living room of his childhood home, Tyler Sutton leaned forward with his hands clasped Thursday, looking down at a memorial prayer card resting on the coffee table.
On the card was a picture of his wife, Ariana, a bright smile across her face.
Ariana Sutton, 36, took her life on May 31, nine days after she gave birth to twins and fell into the darkness of postpartum depression. She was mourned at a memorial service earlier this week.
Amid unimaginable loss, Tyler Sutton is working to raise awareness about the importance of mental health care during and after pregnancy. He wants other couples to be prepared for the possibility of postpartum depression and know that asking for help is in no way a sign of weakness. By sharing the heartbreaking details of his wife’s struggles, he hopes to spare other families the loss he confronts every day.
“The alternative is risking our story becoming your story,” Sutton said in an interview Thursday. “I’m not trying to scare people. But if scaring them is enough to get them to be aware of it, then I guess I am.”
The twins, a boy and a girl, were born about three weeks early and remain in neo-natal care at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Sutton said. He lives at their home in Norton with their 4-year-old daughter, Melody.
About 1 in 8 women experience symptoms of postpartum depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The symptoms are similar to depression but can also involve feelings of guilt about not being a good mother or withdrawing from family and feeling disconnected from their child.
Tyler Sutton, a police officer in Easton, said he noticed small but distinct changes in Ariana’s personality after Melody was born. He said she began cleaning their house constantly and later expressed concerns about the quality of their tap water.
“It became a focal point of her attention, which never happened before [and] was odd,” he said. “But a lot of the time what may seem not as big of a deal to the husband or partner is a very big deal to someone going through postpartum depression. It’s bouncing around in their head at an alarming rate, and you just can’t see it.”
Tyler began working the overnight shift at the Police Department to make extra money and so he could be home during the day. One morning, he came home after his shift ended at 8 a.m. and heard Melody crying in her crib. He went to their bedroom and found Ariana lying in bed awake and staring at the wall.
“I think that was the earliest time [when I said,] ‘OK, now this is a problem. We need to get help,’ ” Tyler recalled.
Anxious to address the problem, they chose the first therapist they found, a doctor who specialized in post-traumatic stress disorder, and Ariana began taking medication. But her mental health continued to decline until one day she told Tyler to take her to Newton-Wellesley, the hospital where Melody was born.
After waiting for hours, they met with a doctor who recommended that Ariana be admitted so she could be monitored. Ariana quickly accepted and ended up staying for several weeks. During her stay, her health improved, but she told Tyler and her doctors she felt she had abandoned her daughter by being away from her.
“We were trying to tell her that she was doing the right thing ... [and] you’ll be home before you know it,” he said.
Ariana was released but returned after a few weeks because she felt the medication she was prescribed wasn’t working, Tyler said. She was admitted again but this would be the last time.
“After the second time, she finally came home and was back to her old self again,” Tyler said. “But the postpartum depression and what happened was still a lingering shadow behind her that she couldn’t ignore.”
Tyler said Ariana “flourished as a mother” in the years that followed as she continued taking medication and periodically seeing her therapist.
Tyler and Ariana wanted to have more children but chose to wait until the pandemic began to ease, Tyler said. Ariana became pregnant with twins and was due in mid-June, but the babies arrived May 22.
Almost immediately after the twins were born, Ariana fell into a deep depression, Tyler said.
“As soon as the babies were out and taken away, you could see that she started to blame herself for them being born early,” he said. “She thought she had done something wrong.”
They were prepared this time. Ariana and her doctors had worked out a plan to put her back on the medication that had been successful before and “nip it in the bud before it became a problem,” Tyler said.
“But none of us anticipated it hitting her this quickly, because the first time it happened gradually over weeks, and [this time] it’s as if it all hit her in the span of a couple of days,” he said. “It blindsided a lot of us.”
Ariana was released from the hospital May 26. The couple was told that their twins, Everly Irene and Rowan Stephen, were healthy but would need to stay in a special care unit for a few weeks.
Ariana struggled at home while the twins were in the hospital and tried to focus her attention on tending to Melody, Tyler said.
On May 31, Tyler said he left home to take Melody to a day camp and drop off some paperwork in Easton so the twins could be added to their health insurance. When he returned, Ariana was dead.
In the days since, neighbors and friends have rallied around the Suttons. An online fund-raiser to support the family had raised about $325,000 as of Thursday afternoon.
More than anything, Tyler Sutton wants his family’s story to make more families aware of the risk and terrible hold of postpartum depression, which he said is gravely minimized by the phrase “baby blues.”
“I think it’s a cop-out for people who don’t want to admit that it might be postpartum depression,” he said. “Maybe you’ll waste a therapist’s time, but you know what? It’s better than the alternative. It’s better than not reaching out and it getting worse and you end up having to lose time with your family.”
Are you or someone you know struggling with symptoms of depression? You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing or texting 988, or chatting 988 at 988lifeline.org. A call, chat, or text to that line will connect you with a local crisis center through the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline network. The American Foundation for suicide prevention has additional resources at https://afsp.org/get-help.
For postpartum care help, view a list of resources here.