(Today’s topic based on today’s post, “Just a Pothole” by Amber Koter-Puline at Beyond Postpartum. Thanks, Amber!)
Hey y’all! This will be a short yet important post. I’m in the car on my way to the circus in Atlanta with the family. I planned to blog last night but fell asleep on the couch after watching Grey’s. Woke up long enough to crawl into bed. So here I am. Blogging from my phone at 70mph. Don’t worry. I’m not driving.
Some of you may have older children in the home when Postpartum strikes. They already have a lot to deal with when a baby joins the family. Their role in the family may change from only child to oldest child from youngest to middle child and so on. Issues of jealousy may enter the picture as a result.
Then Postpartum strikes.
Older children may react in one of two primary ways:
- Self-blame for parental depression
- Projected blame onto their new sibling for the cause of parental depression
The most important thing kids need to hear is that a parent’s depression is NOT their fault.
I know that’s hard to do when you’re in the midst of hell. We did not talk with our oldest before my Postpartum experience with our second. I had Postpartum with our oldest as well.
We did talk to our daughters about what might happen with Mommy after she had their brother though. We drove home that it was not anyone’s fault…. not theirs, not their brother’s, not daddy’s, not mommy’s. Then, as a family, we brainstormed ways they could help Mommy if she got sad or angry after baby arrived. My oldest planned to tickle Postpartum Depression into oblivion.
Thankfully I did not have Postpartum after the birth of our son. But our daughters knew how to help mommy and would even ask how I was feeling. I think they were looking for an excuse to tickle me!!!
Bottom line: Talk to your kids. Use language appropriate for their age. Answer their questions in an age appropriate manner. Reinforce that Postpartum is not anyone’s fault. Reassure them that Mommy or Daddy will get well. Recruit family members to take older siblings out to do activities and keep their schedule as normal as possible.
Depression affects the entire family but with careful planning your family can come through with flying colors.
“When are you due?”
“You must be tired. Have a seat.”
“Eating for two now! Have some more!”
Pregnant moms even get their very own parking spots at most stores.
But we often forget about Dad.
It is easy to do given that Dad is not the one undergoing a huge physical transformation in just nine short months. But he is still undergoing a psychological change. He is father. There is a new person growing inside his partner for whom he is jointly responsible.
A two-syllable word yet so powerful.
Any man can create a baby. It takes a real man to hang around and be involved.
Once a woman gives birth, the attention shifts to baby. Then back to her. In fact, one of the first things we hear even when celeb moms give birth is that “Mom and baby” are doing just fine. What about Dad? How is he doing? Did he faint at the sight of the needles? How IS he doing emotionally? Oh oops..wait. It’s not okay to talk about a Dad’s emotions. He’s a man. Manly men are brawny. They grunt, growl, pound each other’s chests, howl, and all that caveman stuff. Right? Right?
Dads today are involved more than ever.
I can’t tell you how many Stay At Home Dads I know on Twitter. Or how many Dads who do work and are actively involved in their children’s lives.
In 1994, a National Fatherhood Initiative began work to decrease Fatherhood absence in the lives of young children.
President Obama has been very supportive of this Initiative since taking office.
You can also find Dad to Dad support at Twitter.com by simply utilizing the hashtag #DadsTalking. These Dads offer a large base of support, weekly chats, and a website. You can also follow them @DadsTalking.
There’s also a project called Strong Fathers over at Twitter.com. Their main goal is working with Dads and Kids in schools. Visit their website for more information.
Involved Dads deserve recognition. They deserve to be encouraged without being torn down, nagged, or attacked. Sure, he may not do things as perfectly as you think they should be done, or even the way you would do them at all, but at he is doing his best in his own way. Just as another mom does things in her house her own way, so does your husband/partner. Give him kudos when he helps out. Let him know how much you appreciate everything he does for you, for your children, for your family. It’s particularly important because according to the National Fatherhood Initiative, 24 million children are living without fathers.
It’s hard to provide recognition when struck down by a Postpartum Mood Disorder. Dads, know that if your wife is struggling with a Mood Disorder after a birth, she is grateful for any help you are providing. One day she will thank you for everything you did to help her recovery. She needs someone to listen, to help with daily household tasks, to let her know that she is not alone. She may need to sit in silence. She may need to rest. She may need you to watch the baby if she goes to therapy. Staying positive and listening with an open mind is one of the best things you can do for her.
Fathers of the world, thank you. Thank you for being man enough to hang around for the tough part. We, your partners and children, are eternally grateful.
#PPDChat tonight got me thinking about the toll of Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders.
A mom with a PMAD is Ground Zero. Her immediate family is in the blast zone, at highest risk for developing their own mood disorders, depression, or other accompanying issues. Extended family is just outsize the blast zone and quite often bowled down as they absorb the shock which reverberates as she flails for survival.
As Mom recovers, Dad may sink into his own dark pit, unaware of what is happening, unwilling to admit his own demons in the dark. Why? Because Dad is the rock, the hinge on which the moon is hung. His family needs him. Depression is a sign of weakness. It does not happen to real men.
Oh, but it does.
Just as Mom has cleared her last hurdle, Dad sinks even further away. He is angry. Frustrated. Hopeless. Lost.
Mom questions her own recovery as Dad lashes out. He is incapable of giving her space in which to grow. Incapable of recognizing her growth, her recovery.
Anger quickly eclipses any rejoicing.
Stress and angst fill the air of the home, adversely affecting their children, their lives, their relationships with friends, families, resulting in isolation.
Their marriage spirals downward. Their children act out.
Their lives fall apart.
Granted, the above does not happen to every PMAD family. But a PMAD affects so much more than just Mom. It truly affects the whole family. My PMAD’s damn near destroyed my own marriage. My husband self-medicated after our second daughter. That did not fall out until after the birth of our third child. What a spectacular fall out it was though. I nearly walked away. Instead, just as with my PMAD, I chose to turn and fight. Fortunately, so did my husband. We were supported by members of our church, our Pastor, and family members as we fought savagely to save our marriage. I wanted to give up several times. So did my husband. We have shared this with each other and in doing so, moved to a new level of communication and trust. It has been a long, bumpy road.
One worth traveling.
While I would not want to do it again, I would not change a thing about my past six years of hell. For they have hewn me into a strong woman, a strong Christian, a strong wife, and a strong Mother. I can finally say I am blessed. God saw me through my storm. I know there are more storms brewing out there. I’m okay with that. Bring it. I am ready to tell those storms just how big my God is these days.
However; if there was one thing I would like to toss out the window it would be the exposure to anger, arguing, and stress for the kids.
I did not choose to have a PMAD. But they certainly don’t deserve to suffer from the ripples set in motion from my experience. I think this is one of the biggest things I struggle with as a remnant of my PMADs. The anger, guilt, rage over their exposure at such young ages to such a harsh environment. Sure, it could have been worse. But they certainly didn’t do anything to deserve it. Neither did I, but they truly are the innocents in all of this. And for that, I am remorseful. Resentful even that my PMAD’s stole their infancy and my enjoyment of their infancies from me. If I could toss one thing in a toll booth bucket and be forever done with it, it would be my remorse and resent over what my PMAD’s did to my kids. I wonder every time they misbehave if it is because I was depressed. Do my daughters have ADHD because I was depressed? What about my son? Are my daughters resentful that he and I have a stronger bond because I didn’t have a PMAD with him? Will they be able to rightfully accuse me of having a favorite? How will I explain myself down the road?
It’s enough to make you blink back tears and choke back anger all at the same time. Nauseating, really.
SO. As I take a deep breath and choke back some of that anger and blink back tears, what remnant or part of your PMAD do you wish you could just toss away and be done with forever? Get it off your chest.
Let’s get to Just Talkin’ this Tuesday.
Back in August, there was an email to a Postpartum Mental Illness group of which I am a member. This email stood out. It was from a Dad. He sounded desperate. His daughter was struggling with Postpartum Depression. His words echoed with concern and worry.
Despite that I was at Wal-Mart, on my cell phone, and had screaming kids in the backseat, something told me to respond right then and there. My husband was with me and I asked him to drive so I could respond. By now, he was very used to this scenario.
In responding to this Dad, I identified myself as a Postpartum Support International Coordinator and offered to email off group with him. We began to email privately within 24 hours. He opened up completely to me and I referred him to Coordinators in TX but let him know I would remain available for any questions he had as the situation proceeded.We continued to email back and forth for a few months. At one point, I had not heard from him in a few weeks and he popped into my head so I emailed him to see how things were going. This is the way things went between us.
This father was James Stanley.
Turns out he’s on the Diversity Council for Luminant Technologies, a subsidiary of one of the largest Energy Companies in Texas.
So moved by my compassion, James approached Luminant Technologies about a fundraiser for PSI.
It’s in August.
I have been oh so humbled by all of this. I did nothing beyond what I do every day and what I wished someone had done for me. James told me this fundraiser is the least he could do. It’s SO much more though. So very much more.
Each day, I arise with thankfulness in my heart for having made it so far. I wake with a simple goal – to help just one mom or family understand or get help with a Postpartum Mood Disorder. Since I’ve started reaching out, I have never failed. This is a daily goal I never intend to lose.
I’ll be in Texas for the golf tournament.
The best part? I get to meet James and his wife. And THANK him for his very compassionate heart.
According to the post at Postpartum Progress, here’s how you can help sponsor this event:
Luminant’s Sandow/Three Oaks Diversity Advisory Council 2nd Annual Charity Golf Tournament will be held Saturday, August 7th at the Golf Club Star Ranch in Hutto, TX (near Austin). The entry fee is $75 per player and $300 per team if you register by July 27th. The entry fee includes lunch, golf cart, range balls and drink coupons. Mulligans can also be purchased. Prizes will be awarded to top finishers, and random drawings will be made for additional winners. To learn more or to register, click here. You can also contact Debi Mikulencak at 512-446-8992.
To help Luminant support PSI, your company can help sponsor this event. There is a wide variety of sponsorship options. To learn more, click here.
Also, we welcome assistance from PSI supporters who would like to donate a gift certificate or gift card from a national chain for use as auction items or prizes at the golf tournament.
James – Thank YOU, sir, for your dedication and compassionate heart. You have humbled me.
And thank you, God, for putting the two of us together. You have truly blessed this in every way possible.
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.
If you’re suffering from Paternal Postnatal Depression and are feeling all alone then I have some AMAZING news for you.
Dr. Will Courtenay has a forum at his website, www.postpartummen.com where you can post your concerns and get advice from other dads who have been where you are or still struggling. A great solace lies in finding others on the same journey.
(and guys – if you’re interested, Dr. Courtenay has just posted at the forum about the possibility of doing a FREE support conference call if there’s enough interest. If this is something you think you’d benefit from, let him know!)