Postnatal Depression - A Dad's Perspective
(This post was written and shared with permission by a staff member's Husband)
When you spend a quiet moment with your wife, watching your newborn baby sleep soundly in her cot, how do you respond when she says "what if she hates me?" without a hint of irony?
At first, I was definitely taken aback. My first response was to simply disagree: 'Of course, there's no guarantee of that. At the rate you're going, she'll love you.' But to anyone suffering from depression of any kind, it's difficult to recover their optimism.
The subject of pre-natal and post-natal depression was something we were both warned about. But you never feel fully prepared, especially when your wife hits you with something that you're not expecting.
It turns out my wife didn't actually suffer from any of the natal depression types. But that's just it; even those without it can still suffer low points.
I've never held it against her or blamed her for her behaviour. She was never in her right mind during those times. But it would be untrue to say it wasn't difficult for me as well.
When it came to my wife's feelings of inadequacy, and even during her period of labour, I struggled. It's a crushing feeling when you watch someone you love suffer, knowing you can only do so much. I'm not ashamed to admit I cried while she went through labour, and I had to well and truly steel myself during the moments that her self-esteem plummeted.
It was hard most days to leave her while I went to work. I wanted to be there for her, but well, cost of living and all that. I had to remind her often to call for help if need be; there were, and still are plenty of people available to help us both. But again; sometimes your loved ones convince themselves that all the help at their disposal is pointless.
Re-convincing her that she would be fine was difficult. I had to take a few breaks myself every now and then, while she spent time with others. Because the way I saw it; I couldn't help her from a medical standpoint. I'm not a doctor; I couldn't prescribe her anything. But talking, convincing, reassuring, being by her side: those were all things I could do. And if I wasn't, I felt I was letting her down.
It seems like I'm painting a picture of a dreadful first few years of having a child. I must clarify and say that these moments of low morale were not constant. But some of those few moments can stick with you, and remind you of what those who give birth truly have to endure. There are other experiences my wife had, that I am not at liberty to divulge for her sake. But it all adds up. And even when you overcome it, those memories can still linger.
As far as I'm concerned, anyone who has the bravery to give birth is a hero. And it's how I feel about my wife.
My advice is simple, even if the job is truly difficult: always be there. Remind your partner of what they have, their happiness, their friends, family, everything. The future they have to look forward to.
But let's face it: if your partner was brave enough to give birth, you can be brave enough to give them the support and love they need. Your child will need it too.
If you are a new parent and you are struggling with your mental health, you can find support at:
(PANDA (Perinatal ANxiety and Depression Australia): panda.org.au/
PANDA (for Dads): panda.org.au/get-support/support-dads
Gidget Foundation: www.gidgetfoundation.org.au/get-support/