Our Stories

Dedicated in Loving Memory

Claire Mowbray Fung

June 23rd, 1983 ~ February 3rd, 2017

Claire Mowbray Fung

Claire with her beautiful twin sons, Grant and Crosby

Claire Mowbray Fung, born June 23, 1983, as if she was shot out of a cannon – somehow managed to sustain that thunderous pace through to the end. She had a laugh so boisterous, a woot so piercing, it was etched in your eardrums (especially when the Badgers were playing). And she was funny as hell. I can recall her belting one of her signature battle cries as I woefully approached the tower of dirty dishes in the sink – “You gotta PMA to KSA!” (positive mental attitude to kick some ass). Belly full of fire, it was hard not to love this girl.

We married in the summer of 2014. Madly in love, we were filled with wonder and optimism, dreaming of the day we would be blessed with a child to raise together. Oh, but a storm was brewing. Claire would later cite our good fortune for landing the buy one get one free sale. However truth told, the moment we learned of the twins, we held each other with tremulous arms, laugh-crying in terror.

When the boys arrived in March of 2016, our hands were undoubtedly full, but we embraced the challenge and privilege of parenting twins and actually thrived off the adrenaline in the early months. Double the diapers, double the feeding, double the crying – we operated in lockstep, proudly strutting about in our matching baby carriers. For a time, it felt like nothing could derail us.

Later that Fall, our son Grant was evaluated for diffuse tan spots that had appeared on his skin. This was suspected and later diagnosed to be a genetic condition called Neurofibromatosis (NF), a condition with a wide spectrum of prognoses. This encounter proved to be a turning point in Claire’s mental health. She began to project worst-case outcomes for our son and often would spend late nights researching the complications stemming from NF. Her anxiety grew to encompass other insecurities surrounding the twins’ development including their perceived lack of babbling and eye contact, and slowed physical growth. It was easy to chalk it up to “normal” first-time parenting worries initially.

In January, her anxiety abruptly intensified. Despite multiple reassurances from our pediatrician, she began describing deficits in the boys’ alertness and cognition consistent with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which she attributed to her occasional wine consumption between nursing sessions. Her guilt began to manifest physically as she would develop shortness of breath and chest pain during acute panic attacks culminating on the night of January 26th.

I awoke to find her standing with knife in hand in our bedroom, and following a gruesome tussle, narrowly averted her demise. She was admitted to a psychiatric hospital and started on medication and psychotherapy. During her stay, she pled remorse for her actions and promised to adhere to daily outpatient treatment so she could be with her family again. After 5 days, she was discharged home. In what was initially a somber transition back, she began to show signs of light again – giggling at the baby gibberish that had longed for her ears during her absence.

On the morning of February 3rd, I kissed her goodbye as I left for work, but would never kiss her again. I searched desperately for a letter, hoping somehow it would offer a deeper explanation and a bit of solace. All I could recover was an e-mail draft, never sent…

I love you and Grant and Crosby more than life itself. I’m so sorry I fucked everything up. I do irresponsible, irreversible things and think that I am invincible and above the rules. This is the most selfish, careless thing I could do as a mother. I don’t know how I let this happen. None of you or our families deserve this.

I’m so sorry. I love you.

As I recount the events leading up to Claire’s passing, I often grimace analyzing all the red flags I missed. But fighting through this guilt, there is a greater purpose I wish to accomplish by sharing our story  – to raise awareness and encourage families to seek help when they detect signs of postpartum depression and more broadly, Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMAD). This can really happen to anyone. Claire was the most jovial, vibrant spirit I have ever met. She had no history of mental illness and yet this disease ultimately took her life. In dedication to Claire, our family pledges to advocate for maternal mental health and help support the many families affected by this pervasive affliction through Supporting Mamas.

Published with kind thanks to Andrew Fung