In 2008, Alicia Julius experienced a severe case of postpartum depression (PPD) that led to planned suicide. En route to end her life, Alicia unexpectedly ran into her mother-in-law, Vicki. Alicia was admitted to St. Mary’s Hospital. While there, Vicki stayed at the house continuing to care for Wyatt (seventeen months) and Wade (newborn) so Alicia’s husband, Phil, could work.
For eight days, Alicia stayed on the psych floor at St. Mary’s Hospital. She kept up with antidepressant, antianxiety, and sleep medications, and attended individual and group therapy daily.
Once released, she continued outpatient therapy for two weeks. “It was good for me, because I had to get up in the morning, take a shower, get ready – their rules. I was away from the boys all day and wanted to see them when I got home.”
Outpatient therapy ended in September of 2008 when Wade was two months old. By three months, Vicki stopped staying with Alicia during the day, and friends stopped taking meals to the family. “How it all phased out couldn’t have gone any better.”
For the next year, Alicia continued seeing a therapist, and she participated monthly with a PPD group in Springfield. Then, in August of 2009, one year after her stay at St. Mary’s, she relapsed.
“I didn’t understand why I was anxious and having insomnia again. The sounds of crickets in the fields, the sounds, smells, and sights of August triggered my brain indicating trauma. I felt like I was going to go under again. Because I was seeing a therapist, she was able to explain it to me.”
Alicia and Phil struggled with what to do about growing their family. Alicia was devastated; she hadn’t viewed Wade as her last child. She considered adoption, but Phil wasn’t interested. If they were to have a third child (much further down the road), Alicia couldn’t have a safe pregnancy while medicated.
After a lot of prompting from her closest friend, Brook, Alicia started CrossFit.
“It wore me out and helped me get tired of a night. I was able to get off my sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medicine within three months of starting CrossFit.” Yet still, Alicia’s mind kept returning to adoption.
While at New Life Pregnancy Center volunteering one day, Alicia mentioned adoption to her director. The advice given to Alicia was simple. “Shut up and pray. Don’t be nagging Phil when you get all the adoption feels. Shut up and pray.”
“So I did,” says Alicia.
A couple of years later, Phil surprised Alicia while at dinner. “He said that he’d been thinking about adoption, and that he’d be willing to if we could adopt a girl.”
Thanks to her experience at New Life, Alicia knew who to contact with specific adoption questions. She called the next day inquiring about the process, cost, and so on. Then, Phil and Alicia took their idea to the boys, ages six and seven at the time.
“We asked if they wanted a sibling,” Alicia recalls. “Wyatt told me he wanted a little sister not from my belly. Wade wanted a sister so he wouldn’t have to share his toys with her. They were very excited, and very much on board with adoption.”
In April of 2014, the Julius’ started the adoption process with Bethany Christian Services. They completed a homestudy for the agency, fingerprinting for the state, and paid the respective adoption fees.
By October 2014, Alicia and Phil were approved and became a waiting adoptive family. The Julius’ only specification was for a girl, aged two or younger.
Regardless of preferences, the agency sends all cases to waiting families; sometimes people feel led to a different scenario than originally planned. If the waiting family says yes, their profile is sent to the birth mom for review; the birth mother makes the final decision.
In total, the Julius’ reviewed around seventy adoption cases for boys and girls. For every yes they gave, they continually heard no in return. Each year the Julius’ didn’t match, they had to redo the homestudy and fingerprints, and pay the fees again.
The process became discouraging. And then, the Julius’ experienced a devastating blow.
In June 2016, Vicki died unexpectedly. The woman who saved Alicia’s life. The woman who, when Alicia and Phil would thank her for watching their boys, always responded, “Thanks for letting me.”
By December of 2016, the Julius’ had been waiting for a daughter for over two years. One evening, Alicia received a message from the agency. Three to-be moms, each expecting a girl, would be looking at family profiles. The Julius’ were open to all three.
“When we got the email with all the ‘nos’, I lost it. I was done.”
Alicia drafted an email saying she couldn’t handle the adoption process any longer. But Phil, who recognized Alicia acting out her emotions, talked her through it. “Phil was my rock, the voice of reason, as with everything in my life. I never did send it. I wanted to, but I didn’t.”
Just one month later, on January 13th, 2017, Alicia received an email from the adoption agency. A mom had given birth and then told the nurses she’d be giving the baby up for adoption. The Julius’ said yes to the baby and awaited a response.
By the following afternoon, Alicia got the response she’d been long awaiting. After years of praying about adoption, after nearly three more years as a waiting family, after being told no so many times, Alicia heard yes in return.
With one phone call, she and Phil became parents for the third time.
Much has changed for the Julius’ since August of 2008 when Alicia walked out the door to end her life. Fast forward to August of 2017, and Willow’s adoption was finalized. The Julius family officially became a party of five.
August has been rewritten for Alicia.
When Alicia looks back on her journey and thinks of those sleepless nights, she now understands why.
Through her involvement at New Life, she works with women facing difficult decisions and difficult times regularly. She offers firsthand understanding for those struggling with PPD. For expecting mothers considering adoption, she’s proof of the blessings it brings.
For women battling PPD, Alicia says, “Always ask for help. Be in constant communication with your doctor. Have someone in your life who you can tell hard things to. That’s why I give the women at New Life my phone number. A lot of them don’t have husbands or boyfriends to call. Find somebody.”
Fortunately, Alicia had many people who helped get her through her darkest time. She credits God’s perfect timing for intervening on the morning of her planned suicide.
“In all of those dark times, I’m able to say that God is good. That he’s a good God. That it’s not a punishment – it’s purpose. There’s purpose in the pain.
“If I could go back and change any of it, I wouldn’t. If I had to go through all that again for just one girl [with PPD], then I would do it. Just for that one.”
Alicia’s life is changed for the better, and not despite her battle with ppd, but because of it. “And now I have the privilege of watching my children grow.”
This is the second installment of a two-part series. Click to read Surviving Postpartum Depression: Alicia’s Story, Part One.