Fitness Guru Tony Little Weeps Over Wife's Postpartum Depression
For the blond ponytailed Little, 54, life was as perfect as it gets. The man who calls himself "America's personal trainer" had a successful TV career as an exercise motivator. He'd met his beautiful fitness model wife Melissa Hall during one of his gigs at the Home Shopping Network and married her in a fairy tale beach wedding. And he was expecting twin babies during what began as a healthy, normal pregnancy.
That all changed when tiny Chase and Cody were born three months early, with no warning, at under 2 pounds each. Suddenly, Little and Hall found themselves walking the shaky line between life and death with their own children.
The baby boys were born in November 2009 and instantly had to fight to survive. Most of their major organs were severely underdeveloped and in jeopardy of failing. At just a month old, Chase had to undergo heart surgery. Cody experienced bleeding in the brain.
Perhaps the toughest thing of all for the new parents was the fact that they couldn't even hold their fragile little boys, who had to be kept in incubators because their immune systems were so weak.
"It was hard because you couldn't touch them," Little told the 'Today' show. Watch the segment:
Even worse was what seemed to Hall like a cruel joke: Dozens of women around her were giving birth to healthy babies and starting their lives together as a family.
"I had to walk the long hallway every day, and I would just see the proud dad and mom in the wheelchair, and they're holding their baby, and they had the balloon, and it was almost like a torture," she said, her voice cracking. "When is my baby going to be able to come home?"
It would be three long months before she would see that day. Cody left the hospital first, and then a week later, Chase followed. But the newborns needed constant medical care. The most challenging, said Little, was keeping Chase's feeding tube in place.
"He was being fed through the nose, and he would rip it out," he told 'Today.' "She'd hold him down, and I would have to try to weave the tube back down through his nose and into his stomach."
In the midst of it all, the black cloud of postpartum depression overtook the normally glowing, upbeat Hall. The stress and anguish she felt sent her plunging into the depths of sadness and apathy.
"It was a totally different person," Little said, his eyes reddening. "It was very difficult for everyone here."
And it's still an ongoing struggle, even now that the twins have turned a year old.
"I felt like it would go away, feeling that disconnect with the children," Hall told the show. "Then I just said, 'You know, Melissa, you wanted to be a mom, you wanted this responsibility to love your child. You need to be there for them.'"
Little said he thought he'd already been through the toughest time of his life before his baby boys were born. He realizes now that he was wrong: This has been his greatest hurdle.
"Not having the kids, then losing my wife," he said through tears. "I always believe. There is a lot higher percentage of winning when you believe."
Though the boys are now healthy and doing well, it isn't completely clear yet what health problems they may face in the future, if any. But for the time being, the joy they bring their parents keeps them going.
"They always make you smile," said Little. "It is an amazing thing."
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