Postpartum Depression | A New Father’s Point of View
To understand this story you’re going to need to understand a bit about my family and particularly my wife and me. My wife and I are parents to a wonderful 13 month old who is happy, healthy and genuinely interested in everything about her world. Sage has brought us so much joy, it’s hard to measure.
Additionally, I am lucky to be married to a woman who is by anyone’s account a unique and incredible person. She is a wonderful and caring mother and wife, a small business owner and an activist.
We eat organic, practice yoga and try to spend as much time outdoors as possible–all things that are supposed to make us and our daughter healthy, well-adjusted individuals. We were not a family I thought would be affected by postpartum depression. My wife and I were ready and excited for Sage. So ready and excited that I think we missed some of the warning signs that should have helped us prepare.
Now, I only tell you this because I think it’s important to realize that we try to do things right. We try to take care of ourselves and each other, which I think can give people a false sense of security. Postpartum depression, like so many other diseases, isn’t selective in its choice of victims; being healthy, mindful people didn’t insulate us from its reality.
I said we missed some of the warning signs. Most women these days are given surveys to help determine the likelihood of postpartum depression. It was a topic that was fairly well covered with our provider. However, in my opinion what wasn’t emphasized was the possibility that depression can extend beyond just the mother and affect the family as a whole. In our case, I feel that it manifested more in our relationship than in the traditional individual despair that I think can be associated with depression.
After Sage was born, all of the typical new parent stereotypes were there. Not sleeping enough, worrying about everything, stress on our relationship. All parents deal with this during those first few months, it is all too easy to attribute any concerning behavior to those early stresses. Like the time my wife kicked a wall out of anger and frustration, or the door slamming I resorted to any time I needed it to be clear how dissatisfied I was about something.
Now realize, these were not normal behaviors for us. I personally feel that my wife and I have a pretty healthy conflict resolution history which usually involves talking things out, but now it was different. We were spiraling out of control and regressing back to childish behaviors that would embarrass most six year olds.
I wanted to tell our story because I was completely unprepared for the possibility that depression after a new baby could affect me (the husband), or that it would show itself in fits of rage rather than sobbing and despair. I’m sure it can manifest in those ways also, but for us it didn’t, and we let it go on too long.
Finally, after our behavior had regressed even further, we had a talk about what was going on and realized that we needed help. Could this be possible? Were we really the type of people that needed relationship counseling? I was very hesitant and feel that not being more open to seeking help was one of my biggest failures early in our lives as parents. Even strong couples with mutual love between them need help at times and for us this was it. Neither one of us was strong enough to pull us out of this on our own, so we contacted a counselor and spent nearly four months getting ourselves as new parents, and our relationship, straightened back out.
In the end, I feel like our story ends happily. We were able to work through our issues and get past the depression/ relationship things that had been plaguing us. There will always be work to do going forward, but we now have some additional tools to help us when those challenges arise.
What I hope people can take from this is story is that there are certain things in life that can put stress on a relationship and hiding from that fact doesn’t help. Counseling is a tool that as a society we need to stop judging. My own preconceived notions about the type of people who need counseling kept my family from getting the help we needed initially. We eventually made the leap, but sooner would have helped greatly in my opinion. We’re back to being happy and moving forward in life with our little girl, which is great, but I felt it was important to put our story out there to help tear down the walls of mysticism that seem to surround relationship counseling. It helped our relationship and our family, and I hope this story gives you the confidence that it can help you or somebody close to you if you need it.
Written by Jay, a new daddy