A couple of weeks ago, we shared the journey with Amber Koter-Puline. Today we’ll get her husband’s point of view. It’s important to include dad in the postpartum experience because his support is invaluable to recovery. I want to thank Michael from the depths of my heart for sharing his story so openly and for supporting Amber so wonderfully during such a difficult experience. I hope this provides invaluable insight for new or expecting fathers who may either find themselves in a similar situation or know someone who is already there.
What makes you tick? Tell us a little bit about who you are!
I enjoy business – specifically the retail real estate business. I enjoy all aspects of my business. I spend a good portion of my time dedicated to being successful in my work so that I can provide for my family. I also enjoy spending time training Gracie jiu jitsu; its something that I have always wanted to get into before but didn’t have the opportunity. When we moved to Atlanta and I found a place to train and I immediately began. I am a morning person! I like to get up very early before others to accomplish things. I am generally waiting for the gym to open at 4:45am when I arrive. Sometimes they let us in early. On nights that I am not at jiu jitsu, I play the guitar and enjoy spending time with my family.
You’ve walked the dark path of Postpartum Depression with your wife. Share with us what it was like to watch the woman you loved seemingly slip away into a dark shell.
It was awful. I saw a highly motivated and capable person become so helpless and undergo such a radical change. It is almost as if you no longer know the person. They are someone else. It was very difficult for me because I didn’t really believe it was happening. I thought that it would go away on its own. But, when Amber came to me and recognized that she was in need of professional help I knew that it was serious. It was very difficult to deal with. I had to change my work schedule and Amber had to even come with me to work some days. It was almost as if she had regressed mentally to a 4 year old. She had to be at my side almost 24-7. You can’t believe it until you experience it.
How did your faith support you through Amber’s recovery?
It helped in many ways. One of the biggest was seeing the outpouring of help from our church community. Even people who we did not expect to come through for us came and truly tried to make a difference in our lives and help us with this difficult situation. As a result of having gone through this, my faith has grown stronger and I can now see why God chose this to happen to my wife.
What has it been like to see your wife take something so painful and turn it into such a point of strength and grace?
It has been really nice. I know she enjoys it. Anytime you go through a challenge and are able to transform it into a positive aspect of others lives I believe it is the ultimate blessing you can receive. Amber has done this. She has put her heart and soul into a blog, website, communicating with others, and constantly trying to reach out and help others. It is very commendable. I love her for it. It feels really good to know that she wants to help others. She took the situation, transformed it, and is giving it back to God by helping others. It’s the only way to live.
Did PPD affect your marriage? If so, how?
Yes, in many ways. It has changed our plans for future children (we had previously wanted a larger family.) We had to change our schedules and had to change the dynamics of our child-rearing than we had previously planned. You see, Amber and I had initially thought about having several children, however when she went through such a severe PPMD it really changed her desire and made her feel as if she could never handle more than one child, as she could barely physically and emotionally handle this one. As she had continued to get better, I believe her opinion continues to change slightly. For the first 3 or 4 months I had to do the lion’s share of the night-time wakings, because she needed to rest. At first I think I resented her for it, but now I think it helped me to build an irreplaceable bond with my son. While it was difficult at the time, I am very much thankful for the opportunity to do that because the benefits clearly outweigh the sacrifice I made. Hey, whats a few hours sleep for a guy who gets up at 4:30am anyways? I think as a result we take specific time in our day to better ourselves- praying together, reading and discussing books together, etc. We truly want each other to grow and develop everyday as individuals and parents. We are much more committed to each other. Not just to having our marriage be ok or something we endure, but to flourish. It also changed how we now interact. We have a different relationship. It’s much stronger.
Fathers need to remember not to lose themselves in the process of parenting. What is it that you do to just hang out and be a “guy”?
Jiu Jitsu. I train. For me, jiu jitsu offers me the opportunity to escape. Going to the gym is similar, but jiu jitsu provides me the one on one competition that drives me to do better every day. I think one of the reasons I like it so much is that I wrestled as a child. I always enjoyed wrestling and jiu jitsu is similar, but you wear a gi instead and the object is to submit an opponent vs. pin them. Outside of that, I really like to watch football. College, NFL, it doesn’t matter! My wife will watch “our teams,” but can’t understand at all why I would watch other games. For me, this is how I relax…sitting on the couch or in my chair, with a cold beer Sweetwater 420 (shameless local beer plug!) in my hand. That’s my release.
3 things that made me laugh…
Telling others a story about how a rock hit my windshield.
My son saying “mango” as one of his first words.
Remembering when my wife saw a coyote walking down the middle of our street when she had PPD. I asked her if it was real. She replied, “I am crazy, but not THAT crazy!” The next day we got a notice about a neighborhood coyote spotting.
What do you find the most and least challenging about fatherhood?
Having patience with my son has been challenging. I sell things…I am a salesman. I have absolutely NO patience for anything and I don’t care to. For me, patience was not important at all. But now, with my son, I start to realize that there are times where it is needed. I think that because my love for him is so strong I am able to be more patient and give him the attention that he needs.
I think just having fun with my son comes easily and naturally to me. Ball, guitar, piano, wrestling, etc. If there is one thing that I know how to do, it’s how to have fun! I have spent my whole life enjoying every moment. Get the fullest out of life. I want to look back and say I wouldn’t have done anything differently. It’s the only way to live.
Amber’s PPD Support means…
Alot to me because it means a lot to her. I think it is important to her. It helps her grow as a person and move past this terrible part of her life that occurred.
This is REAL. It can happen to anyone. Don’t feel badly. Don’t try to hide it. Don’t ignore it. Seek professional help right away. Be more proactive in finding out how your spouse is feeling postpartum. Ask her- Are you feeling overwhelmed? Are you feeling depressed? Can we go for a walk and talk? Observe her. Is she getting enough rest? She is human, too. She needs more than 2 hours of sleep a day. Is she getting it? You are much better off taking the necessary time off in the beginning to try to avoid a PPMD getting worse than to let it evolve untreated. It will get worse before better. In closing you’ll note that in the beginning it may be harder to detect, but easier to cure. While left untreated, it will become VERY apparent and much more difficult to cure. My suggestion is to be proactive. It really can happen to your family.