John McManamy: A Letter to New Moms

What's a male voice doing in this conversation? Let me explain:

Two months ago my daughter phone me from New Zealand. The year before, almost to the day, I had been there to attend her wedding. She had news for me:

"You're going to be a grandfather …"

Calmly, coolly, with great poise, I picked myself off the floor and planted myself back in my chair.

My daughter! My little girl!

We yakked excitedly for at least 30 minutes, then it was time to acknowledge the elephant in the room: I live with bipolar disorder. My daughter does not, and we definitely don't want her to start.

Bipolar disorder puts women at much higher risk for postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis, not to mention relapse into bipolar. In addition, a good percentage of women experience bipolar disorder for the first time following childbirth.

I do not profess to be familiar with the fine points of psychiatric genetics. All I know is that if there are any dormant bipolar genes lurking in my daughter's genome, we don't want to wake them up. But come October, all hell is going to break loose.

No sleep, stress, hormone crash. Zillions of adjustments.

The odds are strongly in her favor of a healthy delivery, I assured her. But she needs to be aware of the risks. That way she can lower the risks. And, heaven help, should something happen, she won't be caught off-guard.

My daughter has a loving and supportive husband who is a physician. She has the best mother in the world. She has a great network of friends, and she lives in a country that provides excellent prenatal, natal and postnatal care.

In other words, my daughter is going to be fine. But you know how fathers worry.

A few days ago, I ordered online something very special. Today the package arrived. Tomorrow, I will repost it to New Zealand. Boston Red Sox baby gear. Yes!

John McManamy is an award-winning mental health journalist and author of "Living Well With Depression and Bipolar Disorder." He also blogs at Knowledge Is Necessity.

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.

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Comments

  1. JOHN!! Thank you for posting this.
    OMG! PPD, which eventually turned into Postpartum Psychosis thanks to a great med combo, is what led me to discover I had bipolar disorder. Now I'm great, happy, healthy. Before we had our 2nd (and last) kid we met with a gajillion OBs and genetic specialists and shrinks to discuss a possible re-occurrence of PPD and the risk factors of passing on the gene. In the end, our situation seemed pretty stable, due in large part to understanding my illness and having a fantastic support team. So far my kids seem pretty normal and although I didn't have full-blown PPD with the second (I took seroquel throughout the pregnancy and started lithium at 34 weeks), I did have about a week of CRASH! and then it was over.
    You are absolutely right, bipolar disorder often manifests itself for the first time along with PPD. Thank you so much for putting this info out there. I wish you, your baby girl, and her little one the best of health and much happiness.

  2. Thank you so much, Sophie. My daughter needs to hear this from you, and this really helps. I'm so glad you are doing well now. All the best –

  3. Teresa Twomey says:

    Hi John:
    I understand your concern for you daughter and it is great that you are an aware and involved parent! I recently published a book, Understanding Postpartum Psychosis: A Temporary Madness, (Praeger/Greenwood)so I have been hearing similar concerns from other parents. I wrote this book because I had PPP and was frustrated over the scarcity of information. (I am not a medical professional either, but Dr. Shoshana Bennett wrote the medical chapters for me.)
    I visited your website – and liked it very much. I am a Postpartum Support International Co-coordinator in CT (formerly of VA and before that lived in NJ)so I do peer support for women with postpartum mood disorders in CT and have taken calls on PPP from all over the US (and England, France and Canada). I hope all turns out well for your daughter, but as you likely know, even if she DID show signs of PPP, there are effective treatments for this and every postpartum mood disorder.
    Best Wishes to you and yours,
    Teresa M. Twomey

  4. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    A brave man to hang out with all these women today! Thank you so much John! Your daughter will benefit mightily from how much you care about her and her health. And thank you for caring so much and taking time to support women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and all women who have a difficult transition into motherhood! We need more men like you!

  5. Lauren Hale says:

    Thanks John, for adding your voice to this group. It is so important to remember the male perspective in all of this – from partner to husband to father. PMD's truly are a whole family issue and I think your daughter is fortunate to have such a caring and wonderful father in her court as she goes through this.
    Warmest,
    lauren

  6. Many thanks, Teresa. Wow! That's great knowing that a resource like yours exists. I'm taking no chances – I'm checking it out.

  7. Hey, Katherine. Me in the company of 23 great women? This is McManamy heaven. 🙂

  8. Thanks so much, Lauren. Mental illness is definitely a family illness, and it's amazing how many physicians and therapists are stupid to this. And what can be more family than the health of the mom? Many thanks for your encouragement. I can't wait to be a grand dad.