[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post comes from Carrie London of Growing Humans. Addressing fathers’ mental health is important in the discussion of postpartum depression. Additionally, November is Men’s Health Month and this year the Movember movement includes mental health as an issue. -Jenna]
I want to talk about postpartum depression. I want to talk about how isolating it can feel.
I want to talk about how painful it can be. I want to talk about how terrifying it is.
I remember the moment I realized my husband was struggling. I was sitting on the stairs, just outside my screaming newborn’s nursery, sobbing. He stood there next to me, stone-faced. I looked up at him, helpless, and told him I wanted to leave, to die, to fade away. I was deep into the postpartum woods, you see. I was under the water. I was reaching up my hand to him, my rock, my safe place.
He looked down at me, no light behind his eyes, and said, “Me too.”
I recoiled, immediately. How dare he threaten to leave me here? He was a man. He was THE man. The father of my child. He was supposed to hold me together, like he always has.
We both fell apart; the floor beneath us became a net and well fell through the holes. Together.
At my OBGYN visits following the birth, I was monitored. I had existing depression and was treated with a light hand; I was given medication, offered counseling. Resources were constantly available to me as I throttled through the most difficult period of my life. My husband was never mentioned. My husband was never a factor.
My husband suffered silently.
He endured sleepless nights, watching his wife unravel between his fingers, bringing a life into the world. He went back to work two days after our daughter was born. He would leave me in pieces each morning and arrive home to the same, after working eight hours; after unraveling himself.
Men are more likely to experience postpartum depression if their partner does.
Most never say a damn thing about it.
Most deal with it, poorly, and are labeled as bad fathers. Marriages suffer. Babies aren’t bonded with. Families are injured.
There are a handful of online support groups where men can discuss being “sad dads”…anonymously.
The stigma over the heads of men for mental health is so heavy that they only feel safe admitting to needing help anonymously.
There is a universe of support for me and this disease. I didn’t even need to ask for help. I am a woman. But postpartum depression does not just happen to women.
I wish a doctor had asked me how my husband was handling it. I would have told them that he was distant, that something didn’t feel right, that he wouldn’t hold our baby, that he seemed afraid—all of the same symptoms I had when diagnosed with postpartum depression.
My husband should have been on medication with me. He should have been offered therapy. He should not have felt afraid and ashamed, like he still does to this day. These are not just “sad dads,” and I did not just have “the baby blues.”
We were sick. We were not treated equally, and that should probably be changed, don’t you think?
For more posts about fathers, check out our Help for Fathers category.