By Colleen Lindstrom
I have written before about the birth of a mommy (click here). It is a process, and one that comes gradually and with definite hiccups. The birth of a Daddy is a process as well, and one that gets even less attention than the birth of the Mommy. I think very often about the shock that my husband got when we brought our first baby home from the hospital. I had been the one carrying that moving child in my belly. I had been the one to feel every kick, tug, and flip. I had been the one who was tossing and turning through the night for the better part of nine months. In some ways nature does a wonderful job of preparing the mother for the birth of a baby. By the time I was ready for that baby to be born, I was accustomed to sharing space and losing sleep. My husband… not so much.
Mr. Lindstrom was completely involved in each of my pregnancies. He had been present at each ultrasound, and dutifully read to our gestating baby through the wall of my ever-swelling uterus each and every evening as requested (by me). I giggle now when I think of how he would sort of hunch down and hover over my round firm belly and read Dr. Seuss with feeling, each night like it was the first time. Then Mr. Lindstrom would roll over, close his eyes, and sleep soundly all night in peace and quiet. Until that baby made the final exit from my body, and the grand entrance into this world, and that was the end of the restful sleep and weekends of relaxation.
Having a child changes your life. Not just in the grand scheme, in the moment to moment, and while women can plead their case by noting the hormonal storm taking place behind the curtain, men can equally claim the physical change of the day to day labor of having a child to care for. Please understand, what I am saying is that maternal postpartum depression is a real thing, and paternal postpartum depression (while slightly different) is a real thing, too.
I watched my husband in the early days after the birth of my children, losing sleep, tackling endless piles of laundry, handling the crying noise that infiltrated our normally quiet surroundings, caring for me as I recovered from the process of bringing children into the world AND caring for our beautiful children who were so anticipated and wanted, and I frankly marveled at the fact that he never unraveled. He stayed so together, and cared for me, and my unraveling. I wonder how I may have reacted had he been as affected by our new role as I was.
I would not have blamed him, nor would I have been surprised if he had cracked under the pressure. I feel fortunate that he did not, because I did, and do still regularly. I want to believe that had he fallen into a depression like I did, that I would have noticed, and that he would have been supported. After all, knowing all he was holding together, it would have been understandable. Unfortunately I am not sure we would have sought help because, as a culture, we don’t talk as openly about the father’s experience of becoming a daddy. This is why I am passionate that women, men, mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, and friends keep as keen an eye on the fathers as they experience the transition into their new role, as we do to mothers. Moms have the support of their OBGYN while they transition, fathers are out there, blowing in the breeze and it’s to us to figure out how to tend to and support them, too.
Share your experience: Have you known a father who experienced paternal postpartum depression? How was it handled?