A Husband's Perspective on Postpartum Depression

My husband Frank surprised me with this yesterday, which he wrote from his heart and asked me to share with you. It is about our experience with postpartum depression from his perspective, and what he'd like husbands, fathers and partners to know:

I am writing this because my wife has made it her life's mission to illuminate the pain, anguish and recovery that surround postpartum mood disorders. I have felt compelled for some time to reach out directly to men because postpartum mood disorders are devastating for the entire family. It requires a family effort to recover, and husbands/fathers are critical to that recovery.

First of all I need to share a little of the story. Katherine and I waited to have children until we were older, feeling we'd be more prepared. While she was pregnant, I sang "Don't Worry, Be Happy" to our baby and felt that all was right. We had our son Jackson in what ended up being a horrible delivery. Nothing seemed to go right. He was jaundiced, had to stay at the hospital, wouldn't breastfeed and Katherine was wrecked physically. We were as exhausted as any new parent is, but I expected the joy to set in naturally. When I noticed things like my wife not taking care of herself, obsessively writing everything down, being exhausted all the time and scared to death about everything to do with Jack, I attributed it to being a new mother. When she couldn't seem to handle the baby, I did what all guys do — I worked to fix the issue mechanically. I took care of all the baths and other childcare when I came home. I came to see her at lunch. I dove into my job.

After days stretched into 8 weeks and beyond, I noticed we were talking and spending more time on how bad she felt. It didn't go away. She cried frequently and was hypervigilant about Jackson. She would not bathe him. [Katherine's note: That's because I was afraid I'd drown him, not because I'm against bathing!] She and I talked and talked, but I was overwhelmed. I wondered what had happened to the competent woman I married and wanted to have a baby with. Eventually one night I told my wife I could not help her and that she needed to get professional help. She did. She got real help and recovered and is a light to other women, but it was a struggle.

In retrospect it all seems so clear to me that she was suffering postpartum depression, but I didn't understand it at the time. I would like to give the other fathers and husbands out there the following important advice:

1) Be there for your wife. Many guys dive back into work because having a baby can be scary and really get us out of our comfort zone. But you need to pull your weight and more. Whatever your best is, give it now.

2) If you sense something is wrong, talk about it with her. Shame is a prevalent part of PPD. My wife was ashamed that she wasn't feeling joyous and happy. You need to talk to her about how she's feeling and let her know she is safe to share her thoughts with you, whatever they are.

3) Watch what she does, not what she says. OK, so I told you to talk to her, but talking is not enough, because she might not tell you the whole story. Pay attention if after a week or two she doesn't seem to go back to the things she normally does. My wife is a Southern belle, who takes care to do her makeup and her hair, and it should have set off alarm bells for me when she stayed in her robe for more than a month.

4) If you are worried, take action. God gives us gut instinct for a reason. Trust it. Reach out to a doctor for professional help — not just your friends or mom or sister. Sometimes family members will be so scared that they will tell you not to worry, it's just baby blues, because they don't want to see the truth themselves. Talk to a doctor. You will never find a man who has lost a wife or a marriage who will tell you he wish he'd done less — he'll wish he'd done more.

5) Get in the boat with her. Realize that recovery from PPD is a family project. Go to the therapist if need be. Talk to the doctor. Participate with her. As guys we don't like talking about our feelings, but it will be the most manly thing you'll ever do.

I'm thankful that great therapy, medication, love and selfless giving have allowed my wife, once so heartbroken, to fulfill her life's purpose. I wish I had known the five tips I just shared with you so I could have been more fully there for her. I hope this will help you and your family to suffer as little as possible.

P.S. If you are a woman and are having a hard time talking to your husband about PPD, just print this out and give it to him.

For more resources for guys, visit Postpartum Dads at http://www.postpartumdads.org/.

About Katherine Stone

is the founder of Postpartum Progress. She has been named a WebMD Health Hero, one of the fiercest women in America by More magazine, and one of the top 20 Social Media Moms by Working Mother magazine. She is a survivor of postpartum OCD.

Tell Us What You Think

Comments

  1. yep yep and yep.
    More husbands need to feel empowered enough to help. Mine was very scared….

  2. what an amazing and powerful post. thank you for sharing it.
    –steph

  3. Ilyene Barsky, LCSW says:

    Thank you, Katherine and Frank, for sharing your experience and insight. This is a beautifully written, straight-from-the-heart letter, with so much good information it has to be shared with as many husbands and partners as possible. I will make copies, have them available in my office, and hope other clinicians will do the same.

  4. Wow, this is really impressive. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Frank Callis says:

    This is Frank, Thanks for the comments. One thing that everyone should know. This post comes from 6 years of perspective and knowledge gleaned as my wonderful wife and I sat quietly and talked about the horrors that befall woman and men from PP mood disorders. I certainly was not equipped to handle it as I describe it above. I simply did the best I could. I just hope the above helps 1 man be able to do better. If I can help some one you know they can contact me on my cell at 404 510 1381 or my email callisfrank@yahoo.com

  6. Sarah Pond says:

    What a terrific piece about the dad's experience.
    I totally relate to Katherine's behaviours that you mention – I was the same way. And I relate to your reactions, too, because my wonderful hubby reacted the same way.
    Thanks to you both for being a beacon in the darkness on this important issue. You are very brave.

  7. Wow! Amazing post! So very true on so many levels! Thank you for sharing this! I think i'm going to have my husband read it as well.

  8. Wow, Katherine, you are incredibly lucky to have such an articulate and in-tune with you husband….there are many of us who are not so lucky! Thank-you, Frank, for showing men can be understanding and caring.

  9. Dokemion says:

    Happy father's day to all Dads in the world! I'm soon to be one of you guys I am so excited.
    Kind Regards,
    Dom
    http://www.extremehealthusa.com/

  10. My wife went through PPD for over a year until seeking professional health, she is on Zoloft or something of the sort. I have to admit that the medicine helped a little but the OCD portion has remained leaving her with almost no faith in me to take care of our son in any setting. Which I think is ludicrous and exhausting because of the way she truly knows me as a great husband, mentally supportive, bend over backwards mentality etc.. We are on our 3rd year together and I’m severely lost, I cannot think about her in another light after what her PPD did to her and me. The attraction is gone, the yearn to see her, be mentally there for her constantly. I am drained and fearful of losing everything due to my unhappiness. I think of every situation as if I were a single dad and know in my heart that it would be a less tideous and wrenching process. I don’t know what to do, every time I reference her PPD in a good light (meaning growing from struggle) nothing negatively or throwing it back in her face, she shuts me down and doesn’t want too be reminded of the issue. I’m at my wits end and I need a good word from someone to keep me sane. Much love –

    • Bobby, I’m really, really sorry. Your post makes me very sad. Dads go through so much. We know they do. It sounds like while your wife has gotten help for the PPD, she still has a lot of recovery to do. Have you two talked about counseling? In many cases it’s an essential part of recovery along with medications. You are doing the right things. Keep staying strong.

  11. Thank you thank you THANK YOU!!!!!! I’ve been searching and searching to find a way to get my hubby to understand what I’m feeling…and this is like reading into my life right now! Ha more than anything I wish I could speak to your wife! That would be so calming right now as I feel this will NEVER EVER GO AWAY!!!!

Trackbacks

  1. […] -Again, bookmark PostpartumProgress.com. There is some awesome info especially for Dads! […]

  2. […] Also, for another piece on dads helping with postpartum depression, here’s one my husband wrote abou…. […]