Health
10:56 am
Wed August 15, 2012

Grand Rapids duo begins postpartum depression awareness swim across Lake Michigan

11:04 a.m.

Jeff and Sara Tow had to cut their swim across Lake Michigan short. The couple was publicizing the swim to raise awareness about postpartum depression. Strong currents in the lake and exhaustion were to blame.

From the Associated Press:

Family spokesman Ryan Reed says in an e-mail to the Associated Press that Sara and Jeff Tow were declared medically unable to continue the swim Wednesday. He says they were brought by boat to Ludington and taken to a hospital for evaluation.

The Grand Rapids-area couple got under way Tuesday morning from Two Rivers, Wis. They had planned to swim to the Big Point Sable Lighthouse at west Michigan's Ludington State Park.

Reed says strong currents slowed their progress.

Wednesday, August 15, 10:56 a.m.

The Associated Press has an update on the swimmers this morning:

A Michigan couple attempting to swim 50 miles across Lake Michigan to raise awareness about postpartum depression is making progress.

An update Wednesday morning on a Facebook page for the swim says Sara and Jeff Tow had reached the 33-mile mark. A message seeking information on their progress was left with a family spokesman.

The Grand Rapids-area couple got under way Tuesday from Two Rivers, Wis. They plan to swim to the Big Point Sable Lighthouse at West Michigan's Ludington State Park.

The hope was to complete the swim in 30 to 36 hours. That would put them in Ludington on Wednesday afternoon or night.

Both were members of Ohio University swim teams and say they suffered from postpartum depression following the births of their children, now 11 and 9.

Tuesday, August 14, 3:51 p.m.

A Michigan couple planning to swim 50 miles across Lake Michigan to raise awareness about postpartum depression hit the water this morning.

Last March, Michigan Radio's interviewed Jeff and Sara Tow as part of our Seeking Change series. Here's an excerpt from the interview:

CS: How did postpartum depression affect you?

Sara Tow: Probably the biggest thing for me was that I had extremely high anxiety after my daughter was born.  I also had a touch of OCD, which, at the time, I didn't know really what was going on. I just had things that I had to keep repeating and doing. I had to check the lights, and I'd have to check on her, repeatedly. And then I also had intrusive thoughts, which was probably the most scary part of having postpartum depression, because it was the part that I was afraid to tell anyone, even Jeff. So I kept it to myself, and didn't tell anyone else what I was thinking, because I was so afraid of what people would think of me.

CS:Were those thoughts of hurting yourself, or hurting somebody?

ST: I was picturing myself hurting my daughter. In my head, I knew I would never hurt her, but was having those images. And that's the difference between some of those things that we hear about, postpartum psychosis for example, when we hear of women who are hurting themselves or their children, and actually go through with it. This was more of, I was thinking about it, but I knew in my heart of hearts I was not actually going to go through with hurting her at all. But the images in my head were very terrifying.

Her husband, Jeff, also experienced symptoms of postpartum which he says included withdrawing from his family and experiencing a "fight-or-flight" response. 

In 2008, Sarah created a new organization called MomsBloom, which offers in-home support to families after they've had a child. Jeff also formed the partner organization DadsGrow.

ST: Part of my passion, of course, ifs helping families identify if they have postpartum depression going on, and how they can get help. And just get people to start talking about it. Because we're normal, regular people who experienced something very scary, and we want people to recognize that this is okay, and there is help. You can get that help out there. We just have to recognize it, talk about it, and let's not just push it under the rug.

Family spokesman Ryan Reed tells The Associated Press that the possibility of electrical storms yesterday prompted Sara and Jeff Tow to begin their swim this morning, which keeps them on track for their goal of a mid-August departure.

They plan to set out from Two Rivers, Wis., and swim to the Big Point Sable Lighthouse at Ludington State Park in West Michigan.

The Grand Rapids-area couple had been looking for a window of 48 hours of decent conditions.

Training has included swims of five, 10 and more than 20 miles. They expect the swim to last 30 to 35 hours.

Their children are now 9 and 11-years-old.

Click here to listen to their full interview.

-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom