Today’s Postpartum Voice of the Week post was written by my husband, Chris. He’s been through hell right along with me. We have both learned so very much from this long bumpy road. My husband has not only survived my own bouts with Postpartum Depression, he’s also survived his own depression and overcome addiction to Marijuana. He has been sober for two years and counting. I have watched him grow as a father, a friend, a person, and as a husband. Amazing does not even begin to describe his transformation. We have a long way to go and our marriage has been dashed against the rocks more times than we care to admit. But through it all, we have managed to cling to each other and God. Smooth sailing may happen once in awhile but we both rest confidently knowing God will carry us through anything else that comes our way. Recently, he has become more active in supporting fathers as they journey through their own Depression after the birth of a child or through their partner’s depression. Believe you me, he’s got some experience under that belt of his. He just started a blog to share his insight. You can visit him at Daddy’s Down. Swing on by and show him some love! And now, I give you my husband’s words of advice.
Someone I know just had a new baby. These are the questions that I heard asked on Facebook. They are good questions. They are appropriate questions. The only thing I didn’t hear among the accolades and congratulations is “Dad, how are you doing?”. I understand everyone is concerned about this precious new life, so delicate and innocent. That baby needs the love and support. Mom, well she just sweated and toiled through 10 hours of labor, not to mention the nine months of swollen feet, cravings, morning sickness and whatever else that baby growing inside her threw her way. That Mom needs the love and support as well. But Dad often gets forgotten. He is an important part of the equation too. After all, who do you think is going to be there to provide the love and support that baby and Mommy need after all the well-wishers are gone?
Daddy is under a lot of stress to perform. He was probably raised to be a man and not share his emotions. If Mommy and baby are well, there is still stress and adjustment. But if Mommy is not well, and is suffering from a postpartum mood disorder, the stress and adjustment can be magnified. Dad may be handling it all fine, or he could just be faking it. Making him feel like he matters is an important part of the support that he needs during this time. And if Daddy isn’t well because he is suffering from depression himself, as one in ten new fathers do, he is not able to be there for his family to give them the support that they need.
So, here are 5 things that you can do for Daddy to help him get through this time and to help him be there for his family.
- Give him a gift. It may sound small or inconsequential, but Mommy and baby have received all kinds of goodies; flowers, gift baskets, stuffed animals. It doesn’t have to be big, but something to help him know that he hasn’t been forgotten.
- Offer to babysit so that he can have some time alone with Mommy. Chances are since baby has been born that Mommy and Daddy haven’t had a moment to themselves. Daddy needs some time with his partner, if for no other reason but to have a brief moment of the way things were before his whole world changed.
- Take Daddy out for dinner or coffee. Daddy needs to know that his friends and family haven’t abandoned him. Usually family and friends don’t want to bother Daddy when he has a new baby at home. Trust me, Daddy needs to know that even though his whole world has changed at home, he hasn’t lost his friends too.
- Encourage him. Daddies need to know that they are doing a good job too. Hey, Daddy may be new to this baby thing, and it is really easy for him to feel like he doesn’t know what he is doing.
- Just ask him how he is doing. He very well may not be honest, but he will at least know that you care. Even if no one does any of the other four things, this is one thing that you can do that will go the furthest in making Daddy feel like he is important.
I remember when my first two kids were born. I remember the joy I felt knowing they were a part of me and that I was their father. I also remember feeling neglected and unappreciated by everyone else around me. While suffering from depression after the birth of my second child, this feeling only helped to feed the depression. I felt as if my entire world had been turned upside down, my friends had left me, my family had abandoned me and that I had lost my wife forever. I wish that someone had asked me how I was doing or had given me some time away with my wife or with a friend. It would have gone a long way to make me feel important and wanted.
Daddy has to be taken care of too. Part of taking care of his new family is making sure that he is taken care of. If Daddy is depressed or is struggling to maintain his sanity, then it can make it impossible for him to be there for his family. “Being there” doesn’t just mean physically, but mentally as well.
Let’s just make sure that Daddy doesn’t get forgotten in all of the excitement. His role is important too, and it is most often appreciated by everyone, but if that appreciation is not expressed it can leave Daddy feeling like he is not important. Let’s face it, we all need to feel important.