Same Sex Parents Get Postpartum Depression Too

Today I’m very pleased to welcome Warrior Mom Elizabeth R., who is sharing her experience of postpartum depression even though her partner was the birth parent.

Did you know that research has shown that postpartum depression can happen to both parents, not just the one who had the baby? I know because I suffered with it.

After treatment for cancer, I was left unable to conceive. So, being in a same sex marriage, it was easy to decide who the birth mother would be. Luckily, on our first try at in-vitro, we were successful … I was going to be a mom! The months moved slowly, as we did everything needed to become new parents. But as the time passed, I felt unprepared; I dismissed this as fear of being a first-time parent. My wife was induced 17 days early on July 5th. Our son had different plans, though, and two days later on 7/7/07 we had a healthy and beautiful baby boy.

I still felt no more ready. Soon the nightmare began. I loved my son more than anything in the world — I know that now — but I didn’t want my son. The days at home, alone, caring for him grew immensely harder, the sleepless nights of guilt never-ending. I remember turning over in bed one night, and saying, “Seventeen years, eleven months, and two days, and we’ll be free again!“ Nothing seemed illogical with that statement to me. And then it got worse. Much worse. What could be so wrong with me to cause the thoughts and feelings so awful and unspeakable?

About six months later, I sought help from a doctor. Immediately, he matter-of-factly diagnosed me with postpartum depression. Really? But I didn’t give birth. How is that possible? No, I didn’t give birth, but my condition was without question. It was that “ah hah!” moment–full of hope–instantly. Postpartum depression is treatable! I’m not a monster!

And I don’t hate my son.

Thank goodness I had a doctor who recognized and believed that non-birth parents can, in fact, have postpartum depression. It took just over nine months for me to crave my son. Every ounce of me, every second of the day, every beat of my heart longed to be his mother. The one he deserved. I was on double-time: I wasn’t going to lose another moment.

It took lots of energy, emotion, therapy, and some medication to overcome and throw away the guilt I had over my feelings and lack of bonding with my son. I won’t lie to you, it took some time for him, also, to realize I was unequivocally and forever “Mama.” You’d never know that today, though.

It is so important to educate society that postpartum depression is very real and exists in non-birth parents. It is not just an illness suffered by a mother who’s delivered. Fathers can have it. Adoptive parents, and same-sex parents suffer PPD, too. Until the general public becomes knowledgeable, we will continue suffering in the dark. Afraid and ashamed. Scared and confused, without help.

I have, thankfully, forgiven myself for my thoughts and feelings that were never truly mine. When my baby was born, I was sure my life had ended. Little did I know it had, beautifully, just begun.

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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  1. I am so happy to hear your doctor diagnosed you quickly and you were able to get help, Elizabeth! That physician is well-trained and knew what the symptoms were and thankfully, did not rule them out merely because you didn’t deliver your baby. There are so many contributing factors to this complex disorder and the only thing that seems to be consistent is becoming a parent before, during or after the disease. I felt atrocious shame, and still do sometimes, at having this disease; I can’t imagine how you felt, knowing the misinformation exists that only “giving birth” counts as a contributing factor. You are so brave and your wife must be so encouraging for you to have sought and accepted treatment!! Your little son is truly in the best of hands in your loving family! Best of luck and thank you for sharing your courageous story.

  2. I am a clinical psychologist in New York City specializing in perinatal mood disorders. I am particularly interested in talking with same-sex, non-biological parents (like Elizabeth R.) who suffer from perinatal mood disorders. Would you please ask her to email me at or phone me at (646) 418-6095. Thank you!

  3. I am currently trying a very basic research project into the hypothesis ‘individuals would be less likely to suffer with postnatal depression if there was a significant increase in the number of antenatal classes’ by at least double the number that they are now. Depression is multifaceted and I believe that if women and their partners were more supported in the antenatal period, there would be fewer numbers of people suffering postnatal depression. Any thoughts would be welcome! Jo x

  4. Ann McDonnell says:

    Dear Elizabeth,
    Having just found your story online has given me such hope. I am a same-sex parent and my partner was the birth mother to our two beautiful little daughters aged 3yrs and 1yr. Our journey to become parents involved the typical stressful travels through the IVF world, and we were advised to have the children fairly close together due to my partner’s age. She was 37yrs with our first who is now 3yrs and I was 52yrs. I know we are blessed with two great kids. I know that I thought I had fully prepared myself to be the other mother in all aspects and my partner and I have shared the parenting roles equally in every way. However, I did not know what was happening to me…in my head, in my heart and in my body after our second child.. I was becoming so exhausted after our second child. I started having feelings of hopelessness, nothing to look forward to, ideas that my partner would leave me now, crying all of the time, being angry very frequently over minor issues, withdrawing from friends and family, waking in the early morning hours with feelings of panic, despair and simply feeling like the my partner and the girls may be better off without me in this world….I was in a very dark place.. I am an educated professional woman with a background in medical science, but not once did I think that I had postnatal depression because I was under the incorrect assumption that only the birth mother is prone to such a condition. It has taken me nearly 6-8 months to finally seek help for this form of clinical depression. I walked into my GP’s surgery tearful and distraught two weeks ago knowing that I needed help. Help that my partner or friends could not give me. Within an instant I was told I had postnatal depression and it was like a “lightbulb moment” for me. I finally understood and have found comfort in knowing that I was not going insane and that in time I will get better. Thank-you for your story. Thank-you for giving me my life back… Simply thank-you,

    • Wow. Ann, thank you so much for your comment. I’m so glad you found us and that Postpartum Progress was able to help you. I’m even more thrilled that you reached out to get the help you need. One other thing. You mention: “I am an educated professional woman with a background in medical science, but not once did I think that I had postnatal depression because I was under the incorrect assumption that only the birth mother is prone to such a condition.” I promise you I’ve heard that statement more times than you can even imagine. You’re not alone. ~ Katherine

      • Kat Brookes says:

        Hello Ms.stone,

        My name is Kat and I am so glad I came across this post. My wife and I just became parents on March 19th to a beautiful baby boy! It was the happiest but also the most difficult day of my life. Hours after he was born I became extremely sick thinking I was having food poisoning. I was sent to the ER for observation and sent on my way. Still sick at the hospital I pushed through it. We got discharged and not even 2 days into being home I became very sick again. Vomiting, nausea, diarrhea and panic/ anxiety attacks every single day on the clock. I didn’t have any answers and I waited it out! Finally on April 7 I went to see my PCP who told me he didn’t deal with my anxiety issues gave me Xanax 3x a day and told me see a therapist/ psych. At this point I felt like giving up. Everyone said I could be having PPD but no one seemed to be sure. I needed up seeing a therapist and psych doc! He said I had PTSD and the anxiety/ panic disorder. I mentioned I had been ill since my son was born and prior to this I was fine and didn’t feel this way just anxiety here and there that I dealt with all my life. Finally, therapist noticed I wasn’t stable for work and has put me on std. My psych doc tried med called buspar but nothing made me worse. Now I am waiting for a genetic testing to see what meds will be ok since I am hypersensitive. As I write all this I will tell u I have been to hospital 3x all blaming on gi issues and my PTSD. Giving me meds that have don’t nothing but make me sick. I was so bad I ended up admitting myself in a inpatient facility thinking it will help instead I was in a rehab smh. Once I realized I was at the wrong location they let me go home and gave me some recommendations regarding therapy. I have cried everyday for 6 weeks he has been born. I can’t wake up to help my wife. I become anxious. I cry when I hold him and it just doesn’t stop. I am at my whits end. I don’t know what to do!! šŸ˜­ Am I going to the correct people for help? I just need some clarity because I feel lost and hopeless! I miss being me! I need to get back to work! What to do šŸ˜ž

    • Elizabeth Rives says:

      Ann, out of the blue this morning (without having done so since my story was posted), I came back to re-read my story and comments. I see it was only a month ago you wrote. I am thankful beyond words that you have found help, and so grateful that you were able to find hope in my post. You are not alone. We are not alone. And, I suspect there are so many others living in darkness, unknowing…just as we were.

      My beautiful son will be seven soon. There are no words anywhere adequate to explain the blessing he is to me. Likewise–and this took YEARS–I know that I’m as much a blessing to him. I am Mama. And he needs me. Please stay strong–your beautiful family needs you, too. And they deserve you!!

      And Katherine, I see your work and progress is stronger than ever! Clearly, this is your calling, and your voice has lent hope to so very many! I pray that other non-birth parents can discover hope through your work, and that we are not forgotten in our suffering. Thank you, again for allowing me the chance to tell my story.

      Elizabeth R.


  1. […] women in same-sex couples who have children are also at risk of dealing with these problems.Ā Postpartum Progress, a really wonderful resource for information and support for PPMDs, today ran a story of one […]