I wrote a piece a couple of days ago focusing on the three things men should know and do about postpartum depression to help their wives or partners. Out of necessity, your primary objective will be to help your wife recover, recognizing what to do and how to get help. One thing that I felt was lacking in my story, though, was any real discussion about the emotions involved for dads as they live through their wives’ postpartum depression.
Now if you’re not into talking about guys’ emotions, that’s cool. Respect. Go have a bourbon and soda; it’s all good.
But one thing I’ve never written about was just how scary that stuff was. For me. I’ve never shared how close it came to destroying our marriage. About how I gained 20 pounds from the nonstop stress of it all. It became the driving, all-consuming force in my life for a while. Not my new baby, not my wife, but that terrible disease. The support of my wife and getting through her postpartum OCD became everything my life was about, whether I was facing it or actively ignoring it.
The most scared that I’ve ever been — and I’ve fallen off of a building — was talking to my wife on the phone and realizing that I could do nothing, not one thing to reach her. I told her, “It will get better, honey” and she said, “How do you know?” and truthfully I didn’t know the answer at the time.
So you know, logically, to love and support her, protect her, and help her get professional help and peer support. But what about you, the dad? Don’t forget yourself and your own emotions. Going through this stuff is pretty traumatic, and you might be able to use a little support as well.
Based on my own experience, I strongly recommend talking with your own doctor or a counselor on your own because you will have to deal with the same emotions she will, including fear, anger and sadness. There’s no way around the fact that PPD will affect your experience with your new baby as well. You’ll need the decompression of talking to someone to be able to be at your best for your family. Also, you might try journaling because it can help you process things and even help you see your wife’s progress.
And when it’s over — and it will be over — I recommend some form of counseling together as a couple, just to reset and talk everything out.
And now that I got that out of my system, let’s talk about March Madness and scratch ourselves …
~ Frank Callis