Husband Perspective Post 1
One thing I’ve found lacking in literature on postpartum depression is information for husbands/fathers. Now I’ll be the first to admit that mothers need TONS of support, but, as husbands/fathers are *usually* part of said support, they need to know to look for this too. For the most part, this would be for those experiencing the nightmare that is postpartum depression for the first time. Once you experience, you do not forget. So in that train of thought, and at my husband’s suggestion, he’ll be making occassional, but regular, posts from his perspective. I hope you find support and hope in them.
This is the first Husband post for my wife’s blog, which basically means she’s giving me homework. To be fair, I suggested this idea, so I brought this on myself.
Seeing the Signs
This is one of the most important parts about being the husband to a wife who is suffering from PPD. A new mother might be too pre-occupied with the new baby and she might also be trying to hide her symptoms out of shame. So, it could easily come down to the husband picking up on things that gets her the help she needs. This is exceptionally hard for a husband who works, but it is possible.
First, I’m going to say a cliché that is very true. COMMUNICATION IS KEY! I cannot stress this enough for both parents. Unless you can read your spouse’s mind, you won’t know exactly what is going on. A crying fit can be one of joy at the baby smiling for the first time or one of disgust about having the thought of smothering the baby in its sleep. Without talking, nobody is going to have a clue as to what is going on and things will get worse before they get better. So, even if you talk while preparing for bed or while the baby has both of you awake at 2am, it’s going to be helpful in discerning and minimizing PPD.
When home, watch how your wife interacts with the baby. If she’s a little standoffish or seems more stressed than one would expect then talk to her. Again, this really is the most important part because, most likely, you’re as clueless about PPD as she is. Try to take some of the pressure off her at night and on weekends by doing what you can with the baby. Handle diaper changes, bottle feedings if you go that route, and simply holding the baby while your wife rests. Stress can make PPD worse, so if you think your wife is suffering then try to minimize it while getting her help.
I was the stay-at-home parent due to our job situations, so I had a slight advantage over a working husband. I was around my son and wife more often and could see that something was going wrong. She became anxious about small things and she spoke about being stressed. I tried to handle everything that I could, so she only had to worry about feeding our son and playing with him. My hope was that this would pass when she went off to work, but it didn’t. She came home demanding a shower before going near our son, which worried me. I let it play out and she started seeing help until the bizarre combination of events that caused her breakdown. That’s her story and I’ll weigh in on that when she tells me.
Another important factor for a husband to consider is the stress before and during the birth. Your wife could be showing early signs that give you a heads up. They might become nothing after the baby is born, but they can always become the living nightmare that is PPD. Using my wife and me as an example, she had two bouts of stress during the pregnancy that caused her to shake. These were both caused by an outside force, which I should have kept a closer eye on after the pregnancy. This showed that she was having emotional control issues and, knowing what I know now, these had a good chance of continuing. There was also a panic attack when she was hooked up to the pain meds. I forgot that she could get these because they happen so rarely. They involve her fingers curling into frozen ‘talons’ and she gets a marble-mouth thing. Basically, it resembles a stroke and the anesthesiologist acted like it was. Again, this is something to remember and consider for future behavior reference.
A final thing to look out for is signs directly after the birth. Does your wife hold the baby lovingly or does she avoid holding the baby? Does she start crying at the slightest thing that goes wrong with the baby? For example, my wife lovingly held our son and that was a good sign. Then, she tried to breastfeed for the first time and things took a horrible turn. My son wouldn’t latch, my wife got stressed, there were some outside influences making her upset, and it simply didn’t work. My son had to be bottle-fed after my wife pumped her milk. For my wife and many other new mothers, this is seen as a shameful disgrace and makes them feel like they’re defective. Sadly, there are people out there who make this feeling stronger when they run into someone like my wife. As a supportive husband, you have to drive home the fact that there is nothing wrong with your wife. A lot of new mothers have to pump and go to the bottle for any number of reasons. Research these reasons, find stories of women who do this, and do whatever it takes to assure your wife that this isn’t something to be ashamed of. If you happen to run into someone who takes it upon themselves to shame your wife for this, step in to stop the conversation immediately. This is already a difficult situation and the last thing anybody needs is an outside making it worse.
That’s really all I can think about on this topic. Every woman will show different signs, so you have to be vigilant and alert because PPD is a very real threat.