"It's too late for Alexis, but my daughter, God willing, is going to have children one day, and I don't want her to face roadblocks we faced," the father says.
Trigger Warning: This story discusses depression and suicide that may be disturbing to readers.
Steven D'Achille knew his wife, who had just given birth, was suffering from post-partum depression and psychosis. He knew she was not herself, and they even tried to seek help to treat her depression. They went to seven different hospitals asking for help, but each time they were turned away.
"Alexis knew she was in trouble," Steven, 39, of Pittsburgh, PA, said. "She was abundantly clear with what she was scared would happen. But it was always, 'Go home. You're not crazy.'"
Alexis had a rather smooth pregnancy, but when she gave birth to Adriana, her umbilical cord had become wrapped multiple times around her neck, forcing it to be called a code blue delivery.
Despite the little one being born healthy, the traumatic birth triggered Alexis, which led to postpartum depression, including suicidal thoughts and hallucinations, and then postpartum psychosis, a rare and little-known mental illness that was likely related to Alexis's family history of bipolar disorder, according to PEOPLE.
"My wife believed that her first act of being a mother was damaging her daughter," says Steven, who works in his family's restaurant business. "She just unraveled. It was immediate," Steven adds, "and every day was worse than the previous."
Alexis was prescribed anti-depressants, but it did nothing to help her. "She started overthinking everything," he says. "She'd hear phantom baby cries, so she couldn't sleep. She wouldn't eat. She lost 50 lbs. in five and a half weeks."
On October 8, 2013, when he heard their daughter cry and saw that Alexis was not with the baby, he knew something was wrong. Moments later, he found her. She had attempted to end her own life. She was rushed to the hospital, but on October 10, she died in the ICU. Since that fateful day nearly a decade ago, Steven has been walking around with guilt, of not having done anything to save his wife.
However, he did find a way to turn grief into something that could be of help to women going through what his late wife did. Soon after his wife's death, Steven launched the Alexis Joy D'Achille Foundation to raise awareness and funds for people who were coping with perinatal anxiety and mood disorders.
More recently, in 2018, he opened the Alexis Joy D'Achille Center for Perinatal Mental Health at West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh, with some help from the Allegheny Health Network. The center offers therapy and childcare services, among other things, to pregnant women, new moms, and their families, and the program has already treated some 6,000 women.
"It's too late for Alexis, but my daughter, God willing, is going to have children one day, and I don't want her to face roadblocks we faced," Steven says. "We live in the greatest country in the world. How did a new mom not get the care that she needed?"
To honor Alexis and to keep her memory alive, Steven has now vowed to erase the stigma surrounding postpartum depression. "It's been my therapy," he says. "I don't want Alexis's death to be for nothing."
Cover Image Source: YouTube | Today (After Wife's Suicide, Dad Is On A Mission To Help Women With Postpartum Disorders | TODAY Originals)