Home > Parenting > Postpartum Depression – A Guide for Dad’s

Postpartum Depression – A Guide for Dad’s

Aunt Becky wrote an affecting post yesterday: I Am The Face of PTSD. If that doesn’t move you, you’re probably a sentient robot, so let me be the first to welcome our new robot overlords who will never cry at a chick flick or become emotional at the end of Glory. Not only was the post inspiring, but it also alerted me to the fact that May is National Mental Health Month.

So in light of that, I’d like to talk to you about something that quite honestly came as a shock to me when I became a dad: postpartum depression. Prior to the birth of our first child, my wife and I rarely heard anything about the topic except through the news, so we thought postpartum depression was limited to those crazy moms who drove their kids into the river or something heinous like that. We rarely ever thought about the mental effects of becoming parents and instead we were far more concerned about the color of the nursery, educational toys, and all the SIDS prevention things we could get our hands on. When we considered the emotional effects of becoming a parent, everything we considered was usually warm, soft and fuzzy.

So needless to say, I was a bit surprised when my wife didn’t quite seem herself a few days after D1 was born. I attributed this to the fact that she wasn’t getting any sleep and D1 had a hard time latching on for breastfeeding. A few days later, she seemed genuinely sad and then a day later, she seemed sullen.”Uh oh,” I thought, “Is she going to harm our kid?” My mind began to race, frantically trying to figure out what to do and all I had in my arsenal were Baby Einstein toys and some Halo SleepSacks.

Before I go on, if you’re a dad, let me just say that the following is general advice. You know your wife better than I do (or you really should anyway), and since every birth, newborn, home environment, support network, etc… is different, please pick and choose what you think would be helpful to you. There’s also a difference between Baby Blues and postpartum depression. And did you know that men, particularly new fathers experience postpartum depression as well? So anywho, here’s some advice from one dad to another.

Dadvice #1:  understand that postpartum depression is ok. Particularly in Asian communities, any sort of mental illness carries a stigma, so they’re rarely discussed and you certainly wouldn’t want anyone to know. So when it became clear my wife was suffering from it, I began to panic and tried to find a solution. Which leads me to my second bit of dadvice:

Dadvice #2: don’t rush to find a solution. The first thing I did was respond like most men would: try to figure out what’s wrong and fix it. How could she be so sad? Our daughter is so cute and she’s such a joy! Is it me? Am I being unsupportive or too overbearing? The best bits of advice I learned about women were from Homer Simpson:

Son, when a woman says nothing’s wrong, it means everything’s wrong. When a woman says everything’s wrong, it means everything’s wrong. And when a woman says that something isn’t funny, you’d better not laugh your ass off!

and White Men Can’t Jump.

See. if I’m thirsty. I don’t want a glass of water, I want you to sympathize. I want you to say, “Gloria, I too know what it feels like to be thirsty. I too have had a dry mouth.” I want you to connect with me through sharing and understanding the concept of dry mouthedness.

The quote from Gloria definitely applies here. I’m no psychologist, but I did suffer through several bouts of depression, and I know that there was no specific way to fix my depression. People tried to offer solutions, often telling me how great I had it, counting my blessings and all that, but nothing really worked. I just needed people to be with me. So just be with your wife. Be there for her. Listen. And don’t be afraid of counseling.

Dadvice #3: It’s ok to feel powerless. From the beginning of labor through much of the first year of D1′s life, I felt worthless. Worthless because I couldn’t do anything. Worthless because I had to sit idly by as my wife labored for hours on end. Worthless because I didn’t have the solution to help my wife out of the baby blues. Worthless because I thought I should’ve been able to prevent her from suffering from postpartum depression. But fact of the matter is, yes, I was powerless to do much of anything concerning labor and the emotions my wife was going through, but that’s very different from being worthless. When it comes to supporting your wife through postpartum depression, your value isn’t in what you can do but who you are.

Dadvice #4: Screw stigmas. In the 3 years of being a father, I often found that I made decisions based on what others would think of my parenting rather than what I thought was best for my child. Screw what other parents and their often judgmental eyes think of you. As I wrote on Nat’s blog: you’re the perfect parent for your child. In the same vein, you’re the perfect partner for your wife. Forget what everyone else thinks – do what’s best for you and your family.

So what about you? Any advice for dads from you moms out there?

  1. May 19, 2011 at 9:50 am

    This is awesome advice, and men with wives/girlfriends expecting should read it! I’m stumbling this!

    • Pop
      May 19, 2011 at 1:09 pm

      Thanks, Nat! I’ve missed chatting with you & reading your blog. Hope to make my way over soon.

  2. May 19, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    Great advice, Pop.

    The biggest thing – don’t try to fix it. Be there, listen. Don’t try to fix. That quote fits perfectly.

    • Pop
      May 19, 2011 at 1:10 pm

      Thanks, John. It’s worked for me many many times in our marriage. Maybe I should listen to my own advice :-P

  3. May 19, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    I have often wondered what the men in these situations feel like; were they afraid for their wives, for their kids.

    This was such an honest, kind, supportive look into a terribly difficult situation.

    So glad you got through it.

    And your family is very lucky to have you.

    • Pop
      May 20, 2011 at 10:49 am

      I’m glad too. And the best part is, my wife and I have been a resource for other new parents as well. Mental illnesses, particularly the stigmas associated with them, suck and the more we let parents know it’s ok, the better.

  4. Kim
    May 19, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Have I ever told you that I adore you? No? Well, I do. And this post just sealed the deal. I’m sharing this with my husband who supported me through 3 bouts of ppd and 2 + years of hard core depression. I’m sharing this with my brother and his wife who are expecting in October. I’m posting it on my FB wall and linking it in my next post. Because every woman I know who has gone through ppd has said the same thing: My husband didn’t know what to do, he didn’t know who to talk to and he couldn’t fix it so he thought it was his fault.
    This was WONDERFUL. It’s so important to hear this from a husbands point of view. Thank you.

    • Pop
      May 20, 2011 at 10:54 am

      I always tell myself, “If I knew then what I know now, things would’ve been different…” Thankfully, other couples have benefited from us being open about it. And hopefully, having this up as a blog post will encourage other couples as well.

  5. ivyshihleung
    May 20, 2011 at 8:40 am

    Thank you for posting this. I love it! Hope to hear more about your experiences. Hope your wife kicks PPD’s butt real soon! For local resources, if you don’t know already, stop by the PSI website http://www.postpartum.net.

    Take care,
    Ivy (Ivy’s PPD Blog)

    • Pop
      May 20, 2011 at 10:54 am

      Thanks Ivy. And thanks for the link!

  6. May 20, 2011 at 9:28 am

    I love you so hard right now…not in a creepy way…but in a Thank you for speaking about this. I had my husband read this as he doesn’t know how to fix me. Instead he is remodeling my house because he can fix that.
    Thank you so much Pop. I’m crying because you are so brave for opening up about this. You are going to help so many women and their husbands. I hope that you write more about this. We need that male voice in this battle to.
    Xoxo…again not in a creepy way.
    I tweeted this.

    • Pop
      May 20, 2011 at 10:57 am

      Thanks, Kimberly. I really hope it does help other couples, especially dads out there.

  7. liz
    May 20, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Well, coming from the perspective of one who battled PPD, Craig was the one to make the call to my OB to get me meds and to my parents to get them down to help out.

    • Pop
      May 20, 2011 at 10:58 am

      Craig is a pretty awesome guy. But that goes without saying.

  8. TK
    May 20, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Seek help. Don’t even dream that you will somehow you will be able to manage on your own. I felt like I was admitting I was weak if I told anyone that I was depressed. I thought my pride was more important than getting the help I needed. Wrongo Buster!

    BTW- Sorry I’m such a lame commenter lately. I’ll do better.

    • Pop
      May 20, 2011 at 11:45 am

      Good advice.

      And you’re no lamer than I am. I’ve been plenty lame lately.

  9. May 24, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    Yay Twin!!! It’s important for this to be discussed, but in my opinion, it means even more when it comes from a male perspective. Your post was understanding and validating for what far too many women experience. Oh, and I loved your Homer Simpson and White Men quotes! xoxo

  10. May 25, 2011 at 1:12 am

    It’s ironic that this is the post you last wrote on the day that I came back to blogging after trying to stumble my way back to the “real world” from postpartum depression.

  11. July 20, 2011 at 11:33 am

    Have not seen you around the blogosphere so thought I would pop in and say Hello. Hope all is well and you are just enjoying the Summer.
    Much love
    Nicole

  12. David Genna
    January 7, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    Love what you wrote. This message is needed. I would love to see your words reach other fathers.

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