You expect a lot of joy and a little stress when your baby arrives. You expect a learning curve and some moments of panic. And you’re certain that both of you will be so filled with love that it’ll be practically shooting out of your butts.
And that’s what makes the darkness of postpartum depression (PPD) that much more pernicious. In what’s meant to be one of the brightest moments of your life, someone you loved enough to make a baby with is falling into a bleak psychological hole.
The good news is that PPD will eventually pass with proper support and intervention. The bad news is that until then, you’ll need to dig deep and be the partner you signed up to be. Whether that was through a vow of sickness and health, or some spiritual oversoul bonding in the woods.
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Recognize The Symptoms
PPD can show up any time within the first year of your kids life. Luckily, the symptoms are not particularly understated. Look for:
- Severe mood swings and excessive crying
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Intense anger
- Overwhelming fatigue
- An inability to think clearly or make decisions
One of the biggest indicators of PPD is any suggestion that the family would be better without her. Consider that the giant used car lot red flag of PPD. It’s time to start seeking help.
5 Ways To Offer Support
Getting her to talk to someone is really the first step in recovering from PPD. But, you know, you can’t make her do anything she doesn’t want to do (which was painfully obvious the first time you gave her a Frederick’s of Hollywood catalog). So how you support her is independent of whether or not she is actively seeking help.
The fact is, success for her recovery is much higher if you’re down with being a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, and an extra set of hands to lighten the load. Here are some things you can do to help:
This is the number one rule of helping your partner out with this awful crap. So your job is to make the time to listen. Actually listen, not scroll-for-another-hi-larious-facebook-meme listen.
In fact, make it active listening. As she’s talking, look her in the face. Then, at the appropriate time, repeat it back: “What I hear you saying is that when the baby spits up, you feel like a failure,” (but, you know, only if she’s actually said that).
Here’s the kicker: once you’ve listened there is no need to offer any kind of solution. You’re just listening. You can bring up solutions later, if you have any.
Get In The Game
Severe depression is not just extreme sadness. In fact, there’s a very physical component to depression. It is literally draining. The fatigue is intense.
You can help out by doing a bit extra. You can do it without asking first. Hit the laundry before she gets to it. Tackle the dishes or the vacuuming. Try to soothe the kid before she has to haul herself off the couch and do it. Order in or cook a meal. Do these things happily.
If you can, try to carve out enough time for her to get some extra sleep. If you can, take a weekend afternoon and let her get out of the house on her own. In fact bring her the idea so she doesn’t have to ask and feel guilty.
Call In Reinforcements
One of the things that can make PPD worse is isolation. If she’s not reaching out to friends and family, make the call yourself and ask them to reach out. You can also ask these folks to lend a hand too. If they offer help, accept it. After all, you’re a super strong and capable guy but you’re not as strong as whatever the hell makes up a sister’s bond. That’s some kind of wacky family epoxy.
Spend Time Together
There’s a lot of ways you can do this one. You don’t even have to leave the house. Sometimes it might just be enough to sit beside her quietly with no distractions for a while, aside from your devastating good looks.
Make sure that there is still a physical connection. This isn’t about sex. It’s more about holding and being close (and if you’re feeling sexy maybe go take care of that first).
This is a time for affirmations. So let her know that she’ll get through this. Remind her that she’s not a bad mother and it is not her fault she’s feeling this way. Let her know that you’re proud of her ability to fight this thing. Let her know the baby is safe. Above all, let her know you love her and you’re there to help. Because you totally are.
What You Need For You
All of this will be great for your partner, but you need to make sure you’re not losing your shit too. So while you’re being an amazing support seek some of your own. You can start by connecting with other dudes in your situation on postpartumdads.org.
From there, make sure your body and soul are getting what they need. Eat well, talk to friends and get a walk in once in awhile. If you feel you need counseling too, do not hesitate to make that happen.
This will pass. It will. Hang in there.