The Bachelor alum Melissa Rycroft now has a reality TV show of her own. The CMT reality series, Melissa & Tye, chronicles Melissa’s family life with husband Tye Strickland and their 14-month-old daughter Ava.
The TV star opens up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about her “wholesome family reality show” and how she’s safeguarding her family-of-three from the ‘reality TV curse.’ In a candid discussion, Melissa shares her struggles with postpartum depression, admitting she was “in denial” for a long time and is “still a bit reluctant to talk about it.” She’s coming forward with her story to empower women and help shatter some of the shame surrounding PPD. “I think there’s a lot of shame because we don’t understand it,” she says.
CBS: Tell us all about your new CMT reality TV show, Melissa & Tye.
MR: “Tye and I wanted to make a wholesome family reality show. There’s the Housewives and the Kardashians – we just wanted something that was really relate-able. We wanted to show what so many families go through in terms of daily life and relationships. The show kind of documented the ultimate question: How do you balance family and career? At what point is it selfish to want a career and at what point are you driving yourself crazy by just staying home all the time? It’s a hard question for any mom out there – it’s a hard balance to find.
And we’ve moved out to L.A. which has been hard because we’ve lost our entire support system. Our family and all of our friends are in Dallas and we don’t know anybody in L.A. Tye is commuting back and forth between Dallas and L.A. for work, so a lot of times it’s just me out here by myself and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said to him, ‘I didn’t come out to L.A. to be a single parent.’ It’s really hard trying to make it all work.”
CBS: Are the cameras on Ava?
MR: “They are a little bit. Because of her age the laws state she is only allowed to be taped 4 hours consecutively every day. And there were a lot of times we didn’t even do that. We didn’t want to make her the primary focus. We don’t want her growing up with cameras around her all the time. We just wanted to document her when she needed to be documented.”
CBS: Are you worried about raising Ava in Tinseltown?
MR: “I am. I think Tye and I have come to the conclusion that we’re not. Once she’s in school at about 4 or 5 years old, we’re going to be back in Dallas. This is a temporary thing that we’re doing out here. We want her grounded and we want her in Dallas where we were raised. That’s our long-term plan — our short-term plan we have no idea [laughs].”
CBS: Are you worried about the reality TV curse hitting your family?
MR: “No, because I don’t really think it’s a curse. I think nowadays people are forgetting about the Tori and Deans and the Giuliana and Bills that are still together. I think the curse applies to the people that get engaged on TV, or walk down the aisle on TV, or document day-1 of their marriage on TV.
Tye and I have had six years of private time. We’ve had 2 1/2-years of marriage, so we’re not getting to know each other on camera – which I think is the curse. We’re just sharing this snippet of our life right now, so that’s why I’m not worried about it.”
CBS: Do you have a nanny to help out?
MR: “I have a babysitter that is on call if I need to go do a meeting. But the thing I’ve learned doing it out here by myself is that I kind of like doing it all. And I feel like I can do it all. I probably need more help and support, though. It’s probably all about succumbing to releasing some of the control. I’ve been reluctant to let go so far.”
CBS: Please share your struggles with postpartum depression (PPD).
MR: “It wasn’t fun! It took a couple months for me to come to terms with the fact that there was even something wrong. I kept blaming it on baby blues and adjusting to motherhood. It wasn’t until Tye suggested that I go and talk to my doctor and see if there is something he can do to help.
I was in such denial that it was postpartum depression because I, like many other people out there, associated postpartum depression with women that want to hurt their babies or hurt themselves. And I didn’t have any of that. I was just always unhappy with me and unhappy with everything around me and nothing made me smile and I felt empty.
I was just going through the motions and I just couldn’t figure out why if I had everything in the world to be happy and thankful for, I just couldn’t feel happy. The doctor actually said that was classic postpartum depression but we just don’t hear about it. What we hear about is the 0.1 percent of women that do hurt their children.
It took me a year to talk about it. There’s still a lot of shame and embarrassment about it because a lot of people don’t talk about this side of it. I am a very happy person normally. I am someone who has been in complete control of my emotions and for the longest time I wasn’t. And I’m still dealing with it. I wouldn’t say I’m 100 percent yet, but I’m working on it and I know I’m getting better.”
CBS: What made you decide to come public with your struggles with PPD?
MR: “I was talking about it with my doctor and I told my friends one at a time, and I felt this huge release just telling people. It was amazing what I felt like – I wasn’t hiding it anymore. I didn’t have to explain why I was having a bad day or why I was upset. People were understanding. And the more women I talked to, the more I heard, ‘You should talk about this publicly because I dealt with it, and I didn’t say anything because I don’t hear people talking about it.’
I was reluctant, and I still am a bit reluctant to talk about it, but I hope there are other women who are going through this think, ‘I’m not alone and I’m not crazy.’ It happens and it’s chemical. So much happens to your body when you’re pregnant and sometimes you just have to understand that you don’t have control over some of it.”
CBS: Why do you think there’s so much shame and embarrassment with PPD?
MR: “I think there’s a lot of shame because we don’t understand it. There’s a lot of people that don’t even believe in it! They think it’s an excuse and there’s not a chemical imbalance.
Then there’s another group of people, like I once thought, that’s it’s crazy women who want to hurt their babies or themselves. And we often don’t hear about this side of postpartum depression, so it has this negative connotation. And I think it’s such a shame because that’s why it took me so long to admit there was a problem!
I don’t want to be lumped in a category with Andrea Yates. And unfortunately having the postpartum depression label, that’s what I was afraid people would judge me on. It took some research and living it to go, ‘The name might be the same, but we are two very different cases.’ And my case is probably much more common amongst women, but we just don’t hear about it. That’s the unfortunate part about it.”
CBS: Was Tye a good support to you through the PPD?
MR: “Tye was awesome. And I know it was especially hard on him. If I were him, I would’ve been going, ‘Where’s my wife? Why has she not come back yet?’ But he was so patient. And every time that we talked about it he said, ‘We’ll get through this.’ Everything was a ‘we’ or an ‘us.’ It was never, ‘You need to get better,’ or ‘What are you going to do?’ That definitely helped the process.
He didn’t judge me, he didn’t blame me, and that’s all that you can ask for. This was new to him too, and he would ask all the time, ‘What can I do to help you?’ and I would look at him and go, ‘I don’t know.’ I literally didn’t know. I didn’t know what was wrong or how to get better. As the husband, that’s got to be frustrating because he couldn’t do anything to fix it.”
CBS: And we hear you were recently robbed!
MR: “Thankfully nobody was home! We were out celebrating Ava’s first birthday and came home and noticed a few things were missing. We determined it was probably one of those daytime incidents. Somebody knocked on the door to see if anybody was home, went around back and saw that nobody was home, and just came in and took what they could grab in one swoop.
They took a bunch of jewelry including a diamond cross pendant that Tye got for me at our wedding. And they took my computer that had every single picture on it from the past five years of my life documenting my engagement, wedding, pregnancy and the first year of Ava’s life. That was pretty devastating to lose all of that. It’s such an invasion. You just want to say to those people, ‘I’ll give you the cash if you’re in that dire need of money.’ I’ve never understood how people can invade your space like that and take your stuff and not think twice about it.”
CBS: How’s Ava doing?
MR: “Ava’s great! She’s 14-months-old now and just started walking a few weeks ago. And now she’s a walkin’ machine! They’re not kidding when they say it happens overnight! Tye and I woke up one morning, put her in her place station, and she got up and walked over to us! We were thinking, ‘Did you practice this in your crib?’ She did it so effortlessly like she had been doing it forever!
She’s a little mobile machine so we’re baby-proofing the entire house. She’s not the type of kid that gets into too much stuff. She’s curious, but she’s not pulling on wires or sticking her fingers into light sockets. She’s really just content with where you put her…at least for now!”
CBS: What is your favorite part of motherhood?
MR: “There are so many! There is no feeling that describes when that little girl looks at you and says, ‘Mama’ and goes to you. You feel that love and it makes you feel like you’re doing something right. Career aside, this is the most important job I’ll ever do in my entire life. All you can do is hope you’re doing it right because you only get one shot at it. Nothing beats her coming over to get a hug or a kiss or just wanting to sit and cuddle on your lap. It’s just that reassurance that, ‘I’m doing this OK.’ It just melts your heart!”
CBS: Have you ever met fellow Texas native, Jessica Simpson?
MR: “No I’ve never met her but I love her. You know what’s funny – I’ve heard this ever since back in college – a lot of people say that she and I have the same mannerisms. It could be a southern thing, who knows. Personally I’ll take it because I’m a huge fan. I’m so happy for her and her new baby girl.”
CBS: Any plans for baby No. 2?
MR: “Eventually. I want to get over all this postpartum depression stuff and I want to feel 100 percent myself and enjoy that before I start to think about baby No. 2. And I’m not done being selfish with Ava. I’m having so much fun with her and I don’t want to have to share any time yet. It’ll come, but not anytime soon.”
CBS: Are you worried the PPD might come back along with baby No. 2?
MR: “I am. That was the first question I asked the doctor and he said, ‘Most likely it will if you have suffered postpartum depression, you are most likely to suffer it again in your future pregnancies.’ I am aware of that and unfortunately there isn’t much I can do to help prevent it.
There’s not a magic pill to make it go away. All that you can do is be aware and know that it’s potentially coming, and maybe next time do something a little bit sooner. Start talking to somebody before it gets out of hand like it did. There’s no reason that it should’ve lasted a year. And because of my reluctance to admit that there was an issue, it lasted that long. I’ll be more prepared next time.”