When a new mom struggles with Postpartum Mood Disorders, her absolute first line of defense and support is her partner/spouse. If she has no support from the person to whom she is closest, the chasm into which she finds herself opens deeper, wider, and threatens to swallow her forever. A new mom turns to those closest out of sheer instinct. It’s a bit like falling off a cliff and reaching out for anything you can grab a hold of as you fall. If there’s nothing there or it breaks under the weight, you continue to fall with an unrooted twig in clasped in your hands and dirt under your fingernails.
Oftentimes, loved ones are the first to notice something is not quite right with Mom. They notice the lack of sleep or the increased sleep. They notice the irritability. They notice she does not want to hold the baby or spend time with them. They notice the housework piling up and Mom curling up in the corner. But they do not know how to tell Mom. They do not know where to turn for help. They do not know what to do. Instead they stand there. Watching. Helpless. Sliding toward hopelessness.
This is why education about Postpartum Mood Disorders is so absolutely important.
Husbands/Partners are especially vulnerable because they are left picking up the slack if Mom does not improve or seek treatment. Often this may create resentment between a couple and harm the marriage, sometimes irreparably. A harsh environment of anger, irritability, resentment, and discord seeps into the home as a result. This very environment has nearly destroyed my own marriage. Even six years later it still persisted, it’s ghost inserting itself into every interaction and conflict. We are FINALLY dealing with this negativity head-on now.
How do you prevent something like this from happening? I wish there was an easy answer. But alas, there is not.
A Postpartum Mood Disorder sneaks into life much like a thief in the night. It steals things like happiness, sanity, serenity, and harmony. Evil little bastard, really. Thing is, just as with any other life event, you can prepare for its arrival even if it may or may not happen. It’s a bit like installing a security system with alarms to go off to keep you safe. Even if this is your first pregnancy, it is absolutely imperative to educate yourself about the signs and symptoms of Postpartum Mood Disorders including how to recognize depression in your husband/partner.
Up to 50% of dads with a depressed partner will experience a form of depression called Paternal Postnatal Depression. It’s real, it happens, and two depressed parents make for a very tense household. There’s yelling, shouting, uncomfortable silence, judgment, and misunderstandings which lead to very ugly places. Trust me, I’ve been there. I would not wish the past six years of my life on anyone. Not even the devil himself. It’s been worse than hell.
As you struggle to fight your way back, please remember that your husband has been right there with you. Hopefully he jumped into the trench with you instead of staying on the sidelines watching you battle your way down field as you kick PPD toward the goal of Good Riddance. But if he stayed on the sideline, don’t count him out. He might be scared. He might be depressed himself. Or he might be self-medicating with alcohol and drugs. And just as you have expected space in which to heal, he too deserves the same space in which to heal himself. The both of you deserve permission to not be okay if that indeed is what’s going on with you.
If your husband is not responding to any of your attempts to get him involved, it may be time to take him to a doctor /therapist appointment. He may have questions he needs answered. Or he may be unsure of anything he can do to help. Or he may be struggling himself. Regardless, many men find solace in hearing facts straight from a professional. It’s not personal, ladies. It’s just the way some men operate. The degree/training matters.
But what if your husband/partner disagrees with your choice of treatment? If your treatment option is working for you and has been discussed with a medical professional, quite frankly, it doesn’t matter what anyone else things, even your husband or partner. YOU are the one who has to live with you. YOU know what works and what does not. Do not let anyone bully you into switching to a form of treatment you are not comfortable with or does not work. It is okay to shop around for a good doctor or therapist but do not use “I did not click with Therapist X” as a reason to stay away from help, as @postpartumprogr pointed out in yesterday’s #PPDChat.
There were quite a few ladies at yesterday’s #PPDChat discussing this very topic. But I wanted to open it up to those of you who read the blog but don’t/can’t make it to our Twitter Chats on Monday.
A few of the questions asked at Chat were:
Did your husband notice there was something wrong before you did? Did he tell you? How did he tell you? How did you react to this news?
What advice do you have for other dads/partners who might be struggling to figure out how to tell their loved one she/he needs mental health help? What approach worked for you?
What are some simple things Dads can do around the house to help Mom out after the birth of a baby? What were some little things your own husbands did for you that made a big impact?
Dads? What advice do you have for Moms? Anything we can do to try and help you out in the midst of all of this? Realize we are not capable of a lot when we are incapacitated by a Postpartum Depression but a little knowledge and insight goes a looooong way.
Please share any resources you have found invaluable not only for Postpartum Mood Disorders but for marriage as well.
Let’s get to Just Talkin’ on this Tuesday!
(P.S. If you choose to answer this on your own blog, grab the above button and link it back to this post with your response! Thanks!)
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Joan, I am so sorry that you are going through this. My best piece of advice is to have him go to your appointments with you so the doctor can explain it to him. He may need counselling through this time too. Having a baby will definitly change things but when you throw PPD in the mix it is even more difficult to say the least.
Does he have an outlet?
I think that Lauren has a bunch of links for Dad’s on here that you can have your partner check out.
But like you said, take it one day at a time. Talk to each other often. I know that I tend to push my husband away when I’m feeling really bad….but the best thing is to try to remain open with him. Keep him involved.
thinking of you
Kimberly, Thank you for your kind words! Your blog is another that I lurk. I look to you as an inspiration, so thank you for taking the time out to respond. I SO hope one day to be like you and Lauren, and Katherine, and Ivy and so many others who can say that they are whipping this. Slowly, slowly, I make baby steps.
He does not have an outlet and was told during my hospitilization by a psych that , if I would only stop worrying so much, I would be fine. We are finally getting to a place where he realizes that that is NOT the case and that I would do anything to make all of this stop. My new psych offered to do a one hour educational session with him – he agreed, so I’m hoping that at least may bring a bit more understanding to the situation.
We are trying and in the mean time I just keep praying that we will weather this storm and I will have my best friend back. T
Although, I am not technically married, we may as well be. This topic hits home as my family is crumbling before my very eyes. My son’s father does not understand why he can’t just “fix” this for me and make it all go away. If only it were that easy, I would have done so months ago. It’s painful, because I feel like I am losing my best friend during one of the times that I need him the most. Yet, I understand his argument that he is suffering too. This has not been easy on him either, even though he doesn’t technically walk in the PPD shoes, it’s like he has the flip-flop version instead. It doesn’t fully engulf him (or his feet), but it’s there and he walks the walk just in a different kind of “shoe”. I hope that makes any sense. I’m looking for suggestions as to how people survive this – it’s horrible and the last thing that I want is for our family to split when I already feel emotionally ripped apart at the seams. I wish I had good advice – but we are just trying to make it day by day.