“I wish my husband understood that I’m not just trying to get out of Motherhood.”
“How can I admit to struggling when he seems so happy? I’d hate to rain on his parade.”
“He doesn’t believe in mental illness. Neither does his family. So I fake it.”
“I can’t take medication. He won’t let me.”
“My wife won’t admit she is struggling. What can I do?”
“Everything I do is wrong. I’m scared I’ll lose my wife and my child.”
“She’s awesome with the baby. Me? I suck. I’m failing at fatherhood.”
“I’m the Dad. I have to be the rock. I can’t be depressed.”
“I drink/do drugs to hide/numb just how bad I’m feeling from her.”
Every single one of these statements are real things parents who have reached out to me have expressed. These statements are extremely telling. What do they tell, you ask? They tell just how much communication has broken down within the relationship. The breakdown may have occurred before baby. Or it may be a new thing. Until now, everything within their relationship may have been picture perfect. They were the perfect couple. Never had to work hard at their relationship. They may have been “THAT” couple. But now that everything is dashed to hell, smashed to pieces by an innocent new life, their relationship struggles to stay afloat. Everything they thought they knew about each other is also up in the air. They wait with bated breath for it all to crash back down, hopefully back into the right place.
We did just that six years ago.
Things are still falling back into place.
We met at work. Yes, we were like Pam & Jim. We met the weekend after Thanksgiving in 2000 after our Supervisors relocated us to adjoining cubicles. Our first date? A flirtatious invite to a non-existent steak dinner as I bragged to him about my evening. I dashed like a mad woman to the grocery store to turn this imaginary meal into a reality. We’ve been inseparable ever since. In 2002, we got married.
In 2003, we got pregnant.
In 2004, we officially became parents and I went off the deep end.
Suddenly he couldn’t do anything right. I knew everything, he knew nothing. I snapped at him because, well, I could. He got frustrated. We stopped talking. If he did talk or get upset about something, it was automatically my fault. My self-esteem took a nose-dive. I did not think I was verbally abusive, irritable, angry, or crazy. Turns out I was. This continued well into my second pregnancy.
Then our second daughter was born. She spent time in the NICU. I was hospitalized 56 days postpartum after a near-psychotic break. Think we weren’t communicating before? Now we really weren’t on the same page. He had been medicating with marijuana along with the same anti-depressant I ended up on after my hospitalization. We yelled. We screamed, we fought, I cried, I begged him to tell me he wasn’t okay about all of this – that he was hurting too. He lied and said he was fine because that’s what he thought he was supposed to do – he was the man. The rock. He was supposed to be okay.
Turns out he wasn’t okay after all.
After the birth of our third child, I was involved in a car accident at just 3 months postpartum. I went to jail. Why? Because my husband had been spending money on marijuana instead of on important things like vehicle registration and car insurance. Again, failure to communicate.
He’ll be 3 years into recovery this coming March. So will I. Wait – did you say – I did. I’m no longer a co-dependent. I’m no longer enabling his habit. Believe me, you didn’t want to be in this house the day after my accident. It was not pretty.
Our fallout from PMAD’s and Paternal Postnatal Depression took nearly four years to explode. It’s taken close to seven years to claw our way back to where we are now – a place very closely resembling normal and healthy. Even here though we have our issues. I suspect we always will. To assume perfection is to ignore the flaws in front of you. Flaws are not always a bad thing. Sometimes they are just what we need to learn and move forward.
We have mistakes in our past. We have learned from them. Moved on. Trusting in God and His enduring support as we grow to trust in Him for everything. Our journey has been full of hell. But it’s also been obviously filled with grace and tenacity. On our part and on God’s part.
There are times within the past almost seven years at which I could have walked away and no one would have faulted me. I chose to stay and fight. Certainly not the easiest path but definitely the right path – especially as I sit here in the glow of a Christmas tree, a fireplace, and my husband beside me.
For us, our brush with Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders ripped the band-aids off situations we may not have otherwise faced head-on. We were thrust headlong into trauma, grief, mental illness, and forced to decide how to move forward. I am thankful we clung to each other and made the decision to move forward together. I know many other couples who are not as fortunate for whatever reason. Each situation, each person, each Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder is different. Therefore, the results will be assuredly different as well.
What challenges have you faced as part of your PMAD? Has your husband axed certain avenues of treatment? Has that affected your recovery? Your marriage? Did your PMAD ultimately lead to divorce? Or is your marriage stronger as a result of coming through the fiery storm that is a PMAD?
Let’s get to just talking about Husbands, Wives, and Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. Oh My.
Oh how it royally bites to be sick on a holiday. Especially when you’re the one cooking THE MEAL and it’s your first time at the helm for such a big event. I somehow managed to hold it all together and pulled off an awesome Christmas Lunch of (get this) Roast Beef Tenderloin with Beef Mushroom Sauce, Carrot Souffle, Green Bean Bundles, Creamed Corn, and Yorkshire Pudding. I baked a Scripture Cake the night before in honor of the man of the day, Jesus.
Yet once I stopped moving frantically about in the kitchen and sat down, my body realized the rush was over and apparently gave itself permission to implode.
My left hip? Out of alignment for the better part of the afternoon and evening. Only heat and a whopping dose of Tylenol and Ibuprofen cleared that up. And thank goodness it did because I was unable to bear weight on my left side without almost collapsing and crying outloud.
My head and chest? Obscenely Congested. Tylenol Cold did nothing for me. Ended up making a Walgreens run at 10p last night for myself and for Cameron. I got Severe Cold Meds and Nasal Spray. He got a little Flowing Vapors desk thingy by Triaminic. (Have I mentioned Charlotte’s sick too?)
All of this started last Friday when Alli was coughing slightly. The cough got worse and by Sunday evening I was at the ER with her. First thing I did when we got ushered back to a room? Turned on the NY Giants game! (Thank GOD they won!) She had to get a strep swab, flu swab (which is a nasal swab and not an easy thing to watch), take some ibuprofen and tylenol, get some chest x-rays, get said x-rays done again, and finally ended up with a diagnosis of Possible Pneumonia. She was given antibiotics there and we were sent home with a prescription. Half an hour after she took the antibiotics she threw up. Repeated this again in the morning when we tried to give Motrin. Off to the ped’s office with a feverish uncooperative toddler in tow.
Much of this past week has been spent in a headlock with Alli to get her to take her meds and trying to conserve the tissue use because her nose has been running a freakishly long marathon. We’re all coughing (except for Chris) and today has found me in bed for the better part of it – I’ve been awake a couple of times but not very long. I’m due to take some more medicine here shortly (I think – how bad is that!) and am ready to crawl back into bed and rest. I just can’t take being awake anymore. My head is pouding, my voice has apparently bought the last ticket to Clarksville, and this cough and congestion is driving me insane.
And for the record, Chris has been absolutely awesome today. He’s really taken the reigns and let me pass out. I can’t even begin to express how much that has meant to me!
So forgive me if I haven’t posted much the past week or don’t post much for the next few days. I’m taking my own advice and doing some much needed self-care.
Ok, ok, so in the interest of full disclosure, I am co-partner in this project. Go check it out already!
New Support Site for Postpartum Dads Launches just in time for the Holidays
The Postpartum Dads Project plans to focus on collecting stories from Dads who have experienced depression themselves or have been with a partner who has experienced a Mood disorder after the birth of a child.
December 5, 2008 – With the goal of getting new Dads to open up about the havoc Postpartum Depression can wreak, the Postpartum Dads Project launches today. The project will also focus on developing a close knit community which would provide Dads a safe haven in which to connect with other fathers with similar experiences.
The project is an outcome of a partnership between Lauren Hale and David Klinker, both Coordinators with Postpartum Support International. Ms. Hale serves as the Co-Coordinator for the state of Georgia while Mr. Klinker serves as the Father’s Coordinator. In June, Ms. Hale featured interviews with Dads and their experiences with Postpartum Depression. Mr. Klinker was one of the Dads featured and this led to further discussion regarding the lack of resources available for Dads.
The Postpartum Dads Project will also be placing emphasis on Paternal Postnatal Depression. This can occur in up to 10% of all new dads. In fact, if a father’s partner is depressed, the father has a fifty percent chance of developing depression himself.
One of the primary goals of the Postpartum Dads Project will be to create a published volume that will include submissions collected through the website. These submissions will be categorized and designed to be read in between calming a fussy baby and watching the game. The development of the website will continue and many of the stories will be found there as well as insights from professionals, tips and hints from other dads who have been in the trenches, as well as the eventual addition of a Dads only forum.
A key addition to the website in the future will be a professionals only area in which professionals will have their own forum and other tools with which to discuss this relatively new area of support.
The Postpartum Project will begin by publishing interviews with Dads and professionals in the know such as Country Music Artist Wade Bowen, Michael Lurie, David Klinker, Dr. William Courtenay and has been granted permission to reprint the interview with Dr. Shoshanna Bennett’s husband, Henry. The Project will also be featured in an upcoming segment at The FatherLife.com.
For additional information on the Postpartum Dads Project, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at www.postpartumdadsproject.org.
About the Postpartum Dads Project
Lauren Hale and David Klinker are both volunteers with Postpartum Support International. Lauren is very active in Postpartum Peer Support and moderates the iVillage Postpartum Depression Board, runs a local peer support group, writes Unexpected Blessing, a blog dedicated to pregnancy after PPD, and is a stay at home mom of three children. David is the Father’s Coordinator for Postpartum Support International and also runs www.postpartumdads.org. He is strongly dedicated to supporting Fathers throughout the Postpartum Period.
Lauren Hale, Co-Founder
The Postpartum Dads Project
I first saw Michael Lurie on a Fox Morning program and immediately thought how wonderful it was for him to be sharing his story as it is very rare indeed to get a glimpse into the postpartum experience from a father’s perspective. In his book, My Journey to Her World: How I Coped with My Wife’s Postnatal Depression, Michael is transparently open and honest with the events as they unfolded. Familiar with his wife’s previous depressive episodes, her postnatal experience and his subsequent depression went well beyond anything either of them could have ever fathomed. I am honored to share his words with you here and sincerely hope that you will share them with the men in your lives. Michael has been extremely gracious and kind (we’ve had technical difficulties in pulling this together – our emails weren’t the greatest of playmates!) in completing this and I thank him for his patience. I also thank him for his bravery in forging such a valuable addition to resources available for fathers with partners suffering from postpartum depression.
Click here to purchase your own copy of My Journey to Her World
How hard was it for you to witness your wife’s struggle with Postpartum Depression? What were some of the emotions you went through?
Very difficult to heartbreaking. Some emotions I went through were:
Helplessness- not being able to make things better quickly
Disbelief- I couldn’t believe things hag gotten so bad
Anger- Angry with G-d for Kate’s illness. Anger at family and friends who I felt did not fully understand the severity of the situation
Fear- that Kate may harm herself and the baby
At what point did you decide to write your book, My Journey to Her World?
Following several months of watching Kate deteriorate, I started brainstorming my thoughts on a piece of paper t try and get some cathartic release. A I wrote down my thoughts, I realized that this was a story that needed to be told to others in order to help others and avoid the frustration I felt at not having a resource spec ifically aimed for men.
Has becoming a Father changed you?
It has given me a sense of unconditional responsibility and love to my children which will last the rest of my life.
What aspect of being a Father is the most challenging? The Least?
Most challenging- the constant feeling of responsibility for another human being who is totally dependent on you.
Least challenging- the ability to unconditionally love your child.
How difficult was it to accept your own experience with depression during this time? Do you feel it brought you closer to your wife and allowed you to better understand her?
It was very difficult to accept my position and I need it confirmed by a third party (doctor) before acknowledging it. It did bring me closer to my wife as I got a small ‘taste’ of what a sufferer of depression goes through.
What are some things you did to actively support your wife during her episode of Postpartum Depression?
I ensured that she was functional even at her worst point and asked her to do even the smallest of chores- e.g. help m e fold the laundry.
I acknowledged her feelings and let her release emotions without questioning whether they were rational or not.
I ensured that on a practical level, there was nothing to worry about
I respected her need at times to be alone
I made her feel 100% comfortable to tell me how she was feeling at any time of day or night
Just as women with PPD learn that taking care of themselves is important, this is a lesson that Fathers should heed as well. What do you do on a regular basis to feed your soul and ensure that you stay in a good place?
Nurture and develop your hobbies and interests. Remember that you are first and foremost an individual who needs to look after them self in order to look after others.
Did PPD strengthen or weaken your marriage? Do you feel that you both are in a better place now than prior to PPD?
It strengthened it as it made us more committed to one another.
It made me appreciate my wife more for overcoming it and being such a fantastic mother
I would not say we are in a better place now as we were in a good place beforehand. I would say we are in a different place now as we have the realization and experience of PPD and its devastating effects.
What do you find to be the best part of being a Father?
The privilege of providing love and care for a child and seeing them develop into fulfilled and content people
If there was one piece of advice you could give to an expectant father (new or experienced), what would it be and why would this be important for him to hear?
Talk to people and if there is a problem – seek help. Don’t suffer alone.