[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post is a really great piece for both moms and their partners. Jennifer Schwartz took the time to interview her husband about what the experience of her postpartum depression felt like for him. It’s a unique view of PPD. Thank you Jennifer—and husband. -Jenna]
I try not to feel guilty about having postpartum depression, but sometimes I can’t help but feel guilty about putting my husband through it. I can’t begin to imagine what it was like for him. Husbands, the fathers of our children, are often left out of the postpartum depression conversation. Our partners can be just as clueless about PPD as we are before it runs us over like a Mack truck. They must feel just as lost and helpless as the women they love and now share a child with feel. Most want to help but have no idea where to even begin.
I’ve been asked the same question by so many moms I know. They want to know how my husband was able to “get it.” Some of these moms who also suffered from PPD had husbands who didn’t immediately understand what they were going through—how could they not fall in love or bond with their baby right away—why a trip to the gym or nail salon couldn’t alleviate their tears and anxiety.
I remember a few things about my husband during that time. First, he agreed to come to a therapy session with me. This proved to be extremely helpful because he could listen to a trained professional specializing in what I was going through. Second, my husband is a “researcher,” so I’m pretty sure he educated himself about PPD on the Internet. Third, I made him read some information and he followed it. Lastly, he just tried to be supportive without ever forcing motherhood on me or judging the fact that I wasn’t capable of embracing it immediately.
For these reasons, I thought it would be helpful to write about my struggle with PPD from my husband’s point of view, so I interviewed him. Here are his responses. He promised me he wouldn’t hold back and wouldn’t sugar-coat. He assured me he would give real, honest, detailed responses. Breathe, Jen. You will get through reading and reliving this.
When did you know something was “off?” What were the signs and what did you do about them?
You started spending more time in bed—about two or three days after we got home from the hospital. Some of the family had gone home and it was almost like you were putting on a show for them because as soon as they left I noticed something was “off.” I didn’t really know what to do about it. I just felt like I needed to focus on Mason, and once I got him settled, I could then come be with you. Luckily we still had family (staying for the bris) here, so I was able to spend time with both you.
How did you feel during those months of my postpartum depression struggle? What was it like for you? What is something that sticks out for you or something that you will always remember about that time?
You in bed—that is the most recurring memory I have of the PPD. It’s not the memory I like to focus on though. My memory of that time mostly revolves around the support we had from friends and family. It wasn’t easy for me. It was hard to watch you go through this. Going to work didn’t feel right, which is why I would stay home every so often to be with you.
When did you see a change in me—that I was getting better and back to myself? How did you feel once you could recognize the old Jen you loved and married?
When you started advocating for yourself. It has always been one of your best traits—that you won’t take crap from anyone and in this case you wouldn’t take crap from yourself. I knew that I didn’t need to push you to seek outside help because when you were ready you would do that on your own. That being said, I am glad it happened sooner rather than later.
I know how I coped. How did you cope? Did you talk to anyone as an outlet?
I spoke with my dad, mom, brother, and sister. I also spoke with your sister, mom and dad. They were all calling to check on Mason and make sure I was doing alright. You were very good about expressing your feelings to them so I didn’t have to explain what you were going through to them.
Did you ever feel resentment for having to take on so many parenting responsibilities alone?
Absolutely not. This was not what I expected the first months to be like but it’s not like you were doing it on purpose.
Did you have any issues with me going on antidepressants?
No issues. I have never had a problem with people using them. I have been able to see a genuine change in the way people carry themselves when they are on them, off them or on the wrong one. Knowing that what you were going through was all chemical and hormonal, it was only rational that you would need them.
What do you wish you could say to me that you never did during that time?
I never held back. I think I told you how proud I was of you more than once. You started contributing when you were ready and when you hit your limit, it was back to bed which was fine. There were times when I was probably ready to react in the wrong way but all of those feelings were gone within a few moments. The best part of the day was once Mason was down I got to lay down with you.
I have talked to other moms who suffered from postpartum depression who express that they wish their husbands would “get it” and be more supportive. How were you able to “get it?”
Everything was happening so quickly. I like to think that I wasn’t doing anything more than I would normally. Seeing as this was our first one, maybe I didn’t know any different? Once we really put a name to what you were going through, I did do some basic research but I took most of my cues from you. There were days when you were more active than others. I took those opportunities to just be ourselves, sit on the couch and eat dinner, open a bottle of wine, and our other pre-Mason routines. I essentially treated it as if you were down with an extended flu.
What advice would you give to other dads whose wives are suffering from postpartum depression?
First, acknowledge what PPD is. It’s an illness that requires treatment. It is not as simple as just getting back to the gym or spending more time with the baby. Don’t get frustrated, understand that she doesn’t want to feel this way, and no woman goes into this thinking this will happen. There will be days when you will want to scream, take a break, and even lash out at her for not sharing responsibility or pulling her weight. It’s alright to have those feelings. A lot of men tend to keep their feelings and emotions bottled up. In this case, that will only have a negative effect on your relationship, your child, and mom’s mental health. If you are someone who needs to talk this out, find someone to do that with—it can be a friend, relative or professional. Most importantly, there should be no feelings of shame or guilt that this is something you caused or brought on your family.
I would like to close this post with one last memory of my supportive husband from this time. As I slowly began to get better, I received a beautiful flower delivery on a random afternoon. I always describe my husband as a man of few words, so reading the words written on the card accompanying his flowers showed me just how much he was rooting for me, even if he didn’t express it verbally everyday. I share those words with you above (I obviously saved the card as a reminder) next to a photo of our first real date night and selfie from a Bruno Mars Concert—a milestone back then when I would start to see myself and find my joy again.
If you are a dad struggling or if your partner is having trouble understanding your diagnosis of postpartum depression, read through our Help for Fathers. We’re here to support your whole family.