After Ella was born in May of 2007 our house seemed too small, so Amy started scouting for a new house. It wasn’t too long until we found one we liked. We put our house on the market and received an offer almost immediately. We made an offer on the house we liked and it was accepted. In October 2007 we sold a house, bought a house, and moved.
When Amy started to complain about always being tired, I figured it was just the extra stress and work of selling the house along with the move that was catching up with her. It wasn’t until the day we moved that it began to dawn on me that something more was wrong.
Amy and I ended up back at the old house to finish cleaning up. She was tired, but it had been a long day so it seemed reasonable. We got some take-out Chinese food on the way to the house, so there we sat, in our empty house, eating Chinese food. Only Amy was so tired, she couldn’t eat. She couldn’t even talk.
I was concerned — it didn’t seem like her — but didn’t really know what to do. So I finished up while she rested, we picked up our last things, and then went back to the new house.
Looking back now, we should’ve known something more than tiredness was going on. But life was busy. It was easier to focus on what was coming up instead of what was actually happening.
Right about the time that life was hitting the bottom and we didn’t really know what to do, I did what in hindsight was probably about the worst thing I could’ve done: I left home for a week on a business trip.
When I returned, I realized that Amy was exhausted. Not simply tired, but exhausted.
In retrospect, much of this is a blur. But my clearest memory is one day when I called Amy to tell her I was coming home from work for the day. As I was walking in the parking garage to my car, talking with her on the phone, she suddenly slipped into quietness. She didn’t hang up, she just stopped talking mid-sentence. I was completely shaken. It was the longest drive home I ever had. When I got home, Ella was safely napping in the crib, and Amy was in a deep sleep on the couch.
Outside of the state of the love of my life, who spent every ounce of energy she had every day on just getting up and making sure Ella was fed and had clean diapers on, the worst thing for me was that I had no idea what to do. Like most guys, I’m a fix-it guy. That is, I’m a fix-it guy in the sense that when something is wrong, I just want to fix it and get on with life.
The crazy thing about being the husband of someone with postpartum depression: You can’t just fix it. There is no fix. There is only work.
When I say there’s work, I mean the best thing I could do was to dive into doing whatever I could around the house — cooking meals, cleaning, grocery shopping, and taking care of Ella — so that Amy could just “be.”
I realized relatively quickly that I couldn’t make Amy get better. And Amy didn’t have the energy to take the steps that she so wanted to take. I had to walk beside her along the way, encouraging her, helping her do what she could, when she could.
Counseling? Awesome. I’d go, but she had to find the counselor and make the appointments, not me. Psychiatrist for medication consultation? Great, but again, she had to do the legwork, and I’d make sure we got there. I woke Ella up in the morning and got her ready for the day. I came home from work at lunch to make sure everything was OK, and would put Ella down for her nap. I’d put Ella to bed in the evenings too. We worked together.
In hindsight, I can say that this was my way of “fixing” it: smooth over whatever bumps I could and get the obstacles out of her way. Amy had the tough work: She had to learn what “getting better” was and how to get there. Compared to that, the household chores and other things I tried to do to clear the way for her to get better was easy.