As I sit here having just read this interview, I am blown away by how far we have truly come since the birth of our first child. We have overcome so much and I know it is because neither one of us is afraid of staring adversity in the eye. Chris and I met November 2000 while we worked at the same company. We’ve been inseparable ever since, no matter what the storm brought to our world. Relying on each other’s strengths and shoring up each other’s weaknesses, we’ve managed to build an extremely strong marriage that has been tested time and again in the short six years of wedded partnership. And you know what? We’ve come out of each storm stronger and closer than before. There’s a quote by Louisa Alcott: “I am not afraid of the storm for I am learning to sail my ship.” Together we are not afraid of the storm and have slowly begun to master sailing our ship through whatever mighty waves come our way. I hope you enjoy this honest and compassionate look into my PPD experience from my husband’s perspective.
Would you share your experience of watching the woman you love suffer from Postpartum Depression? What were some of the emotions you went through as you watched me spiral downward and what was the hardest part for you?
Wow, thats tough. I guess it is hard because I have blocked that out of my mind. I think the best way to answer that question is to just explain what PPD looks like from the outside from the perspective of someone who is uneducated in the signs, because that is where I was when it all began. Honestly I really didn’t know what to think. All I knew is that the woman that I married and loved was gone. You were reclusive and moody most of the time. All I really wanted to do is just tell you to snap out of it, and I think that I did a couple of times. I thought you had become lazy and selfish. I knew something was wrong, but I thought it was more of a problem with lack of motivation and lack of discipline. It made me angry. After our second daughter was born, I had educated myself. I found that even though I got frustrated with you, I understood. I probably didn’t show it all the time, because I had my own stresses going on with sixty hour work weeks and the hospitalization of our daughter. The hardest part of it all though was watching you hurt. I just wanted so bad for you to be happy and it just didn’t seem to happen.
Looking back, would you agree that the lack of diagnosis/treatment of my first episode compounded my second episode?
Definitely. I actually believe that it just carried over into the second pregnancy. You never really recovered from the first episode. It wasn’t until nearly a year after the birth of Charlotte that I even began to recognize you as the same woman that I married.
You recognized my PP OCD the second time around well before I was able to admit there was a problem. In fact, you even made the call to my OB’s office for initial treatment. What were some of the warning signs that alerted you to the beginnings of this episode?
You had become anti-social. You were sad most of the time. You did a lot of cleaning, and please don’t take this the wrong way because you really are a great housewife, but neither one of us is Mary Poppins when it comes to keeping the house clean. What really tipped me off though was that you just didn’t seem well. You wanted to sleep a lot and you also seemed to snap very easily at the smallest things.
My hospitalization absolutely frightened me but ultimately became the turning point in my recovery. Would you share your memories and feelings surrounding my hospitalization?
Honestly, I was scared to death as well. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was working sixty hour work weeks with a two year old and newborn at home and I didn’t know how I was going to take care of them. And how would I juggle having to make the hour drive back and forth to the hospital that you were in to bring you the things that you would need and to get milk for Charlotte? I didn’t know how long you would be there. I was really scared. I was also concerned for you. I love you and didn’t want to see you hurting. I was also thankful for the fact that you were getting the help you needed. When you called me at work and told me that you were having intrusive thoughts, I couldn’t get home fast enough. Who knows what the outcome would have been had you not gone to the hospital that day? That thought still crosses my mind today. I am so grateful that you understood the severity of your problem and took the help that was given to you. I think it all goes back to education.
We worked very hard together to prevent PPD after Cameron’s birth. What were some of the differences in how we approached the postpartum period this time around?
Well, I know that you took antidepressants during your pregnancy, but we also had a set of written guidelines as to what to look for and for how we would respond if certain events took place. We tried to educate (there’s that word again) our families about the signs to look for and also what were the right and wrong things to say and do in the event that PPD reared it’s head again. During your second bout with PPD I really think that we were better educated, but our families were not. This caused a lot of tension and strife. With the whole family knowing what to look for, it helped make everyone sympathetic to the situation. Boy do I wish we had that in place when in the throes of your second episode.
What is the biggest lesson you feel you’ve learned from my PP OCD episodes?
I always viewed mental illness as something that happened to other people. I viewed people with mental illness as weird or abnormal. The biggest thing I learned is that mental illness can strike anyone, at any time. I suffer from ADHD, depression and anxiety and would have never sought help with my issues had I not educated myself about yours.
What has it been like to watch me grow from mother suffering from PPD to the PPD Advocate I am today?
First I would like to say how proud I am of you. You have turned adversity into triumph. I have been amazed at the transformation. Most people just take their hard knocks and then move on, but you have taken up a cause and have made a difference in other peoples lives. I am inspired and in awe. I love you and encourage to keep up the great work that you are doing.
Share with us what you find to be most challenging about fatherhood. The Least challenging.
I have always been a rather impatient person. Fatherhood is teaching me patience. That is a challenge since I tend to want instant results. Maybe that is just the ADHD in me. Kids sort of move at their own pace, and I have learned that they are learning all along the way. To rush them along is not only detrimental to their growth and development, but it is also unfair to steal those learning experiences away from them. The least challenging is loving those precious kids. I just can’t seem to get enough of them and can’t give enough hugs and kisses. That is not a challenge at all.
How important do you feel it is to hold onto a sense of self once you become a parent? What are some ways a father can provide some much needed alone time?
You must know who you are before you can help someone else, namely your children, discover who they are. The best way to do that is to have some “me time”. It is very difficult to get when you are a parent between diaper changes and cleaning mud (or other mud like substances) off the walls, but is essential. Sometimes I will stay up late to get some alone time or will go to the store. Don’t forget though that you and your spouse need some time together too. Also, it is ok to ask your wife to take the kids for a few hours while you go get some coffee. Just remember though that you need to provide her with that same luxury as well. Ask the Grandparents to take the kids too. Even if it is just for an hour or two, you and your spouse can have a nice dinner or just go home and work on some of those household projects that you have on your “honey do” list.
And last but not least, if you had one piece of advice to give an expectant father (new or experienced), what would it be?
Educate, educate and when it’s all through educate some more. You can never fully prepare yourself for everything that fatherhood throws at you, but knowing some of what to expect takes a lot of the anxiety away and relieves a lot of the stress on you and your spouses relationship