I am by no means intending to scare you.
However, I want to address a very important topic with you.
I’m finding more and more evidence of a common theme, among new mothers who separate or divorce their husband. Yet I don’t understand why nobody is talking about it.
Perhaps if more of us women spoke about it, we could prevent new fathers from becoming a statistic of divorce. Perhaps if more of us women offered support to one another we could save more “good” marriages. Perhaps if doctors reached out more to both new parents, in checkups we would see less destroyed families. Perhaps if fathers were supported they would not feel so alienated.
I have seen couples who were madly in love, who were the best of friends, who were loyal, and supportive, have a baby, and suddenly things change for the worse.
Postpartum depression can be one of the most significant factors involved in marital friction and divorce. Despite the prevalence of the condition, women are reluctant to talk about the effect it has on their marriage.
Keep in mind not every new mother experiences or suffers from PPD or postpartum anxiety. It’s also not well known that men can suffer and experience post-natal depression.
Let’s hope you are both one of the lucky ones. But in the event you are affected by PPD there are few important things you must know if you want any chance of surviving your marriage and saving your family.
I want to be clear that I do not condone anyone abusing their partner. I have heard of women suffering from severe PPD and emotionally,verbally and even physically, abusing their husbands. There is no excuse for mistreating someone you love and are suppose to care about. Someone suffering from PPD needs to seek help immediately.
I have been told by friends who suffered from PPD that they didn’t seek help because they were in denial, or that their partner was unaware of the signs of PPD.
My closest friends have described to me how PPD affected them and their marriage.
It’s as if the chemical change, takes over as it slowly hijacks her brain.Your wife— your love falls deeper and deeper, far away into the unreachable abyss. It’s as if something foreign convinces her that she all of a sudden has a terrible unloving husband. It’s as if someone has stolen her soul, and joy, and brainwashed her into believing she has marital problems when they never had any problems at all.
I’ve seen beautiful, strong, successful and intelligent women who adore their husbands, and one day feel nothing but hate towards their husband. I had one friend who married her best friend two years ago, and suddenly cut off all communication with her husband once the baby was born. The person I knew would never hurt her husband like this. She would never intentionally inflict pain on the man of her dreams. I remember visiting her once and it was extremely awkward. They were like two strangers under the same roof. I had one girlfriend take her baby, and just up and leave the home out of the blue. I have watched mothers completely sever their relationship with their husband and sadly prevent the father from seeing his child.
I have seen decent good women, who have become mothers commit horrible acts all because of an undiagnosed illness. I’ve witnessed caring women, amazing wives, and great friends, destroy their marriage unknowingly due to this illness we never talk about, PPD.
I’ve witnessed normal, healthy, loving and supportive, sane women, unintentionally hurt the man they love because they didn’t get the help they needed for PPD.
I have had to talk some dear girlfriends of mine off that ledge more than once. I have urged my closest friends to get help, talk to their doctors, and to not leave their husbands at a time when they are mentally ill.
PPD is truly an ugly illness that we all need to address. It’s so misunderstood, and often the fathers are left with no support, losing their wife, and the dream of being a father is stolen from them. I’ve seen the effects of PPD and how it destroys families.
I believe that postpartum depression is responsible for a majority of divorces after the birth of a new baby. Not every woman experiences PPD or anxiety. But it is more common than we are all aware of.
I want to discuss the impact of the condition on the mother’s primary relationship: the one she shares with the father of her child.
The most confused and hurt person of all is customarily the husband/father. If postpartum depression occurs after the birth of the first child, it is doubly difficult for both parents to negotiate the hazards of married life after birth, as there is no “normal” template to follow from previous births.
Support from the father is important for a happy mother/baby relationship but is critical when the mother is found to be suffering from postpartum depression.
Father’s need support too. Fathers often feel helpless, fearful and at a complete loss. Father’s experience an enormous amount of stress as a result of their wife’s PPD. Mothers and fathers both need support. PPD affects the entire family.
Unfortunately, new moms often don’t recognize they are suffering from depression, or recognize that the depression causes problems to appear in the marriage. However, where marital stress is solely a result of the depression, and recovery from depression slowly proceeds, so does the quality of the marriage. Many women have commented that, at the time, they thought their marriage was over. Once the postpartum depression is addressed, the true cause of these feelings becomes apparent.
It is the illness talking.
Society doesn’t understand or want to acknowledge how serious PPD is. New mothers often go undiagnosed and it can become progressively worse and become postpartum psychosis which is the most severe of the three postnatal conditions.
Very few talk about how PPD affects the father.
The depression itself, causes problems to appear in the marriage.
What was once a loving full of passion marriage, has turned into a big dark black hole.
A father is left confused, frustrated, equally exhausted and fearful of losing his wife and baby, to the illness of PPD. I have spoken to so many loving, capable, willing, supportive fathers who had no choice but to file in court, fighting for shared custody of their young baby. I believe many women who suffer from PPD make horrible, irrational custody decisions. When a couple finds themselves in court it’s typically because the father is seeking shared custody. When you have two loving, safe and secure parents, shared parenting 50/50 should be the norm.
Many women suffering from PPD who leave what was once a great marriage, make regrettable decisions. They are still experiencing the emotions of PPD feeling a range of anger, and unstable thoughts of sadness and anxiety. The illness itself clouds their better judgement, causing them to not consider what is truly best for the children, or their marriage.
It can be extremely frustrating to live with someone’s who’s depressed, especially when you have a new baby and it seems like the house is crowded with things that need to get done right now. What you think might help, might not. Or, could even make things worse. Remember, as the father and she husband, you cannot fix this. You cannot make this go away. No matter how hard you try or how much you love your wife, recovery takes longer than you want it to.
Easier said than done, but you must be willing to wait this out with her.
Research has shown us that a woman’s depression will improve markedly with the consistent support of a significant other.
The longer you pretend that the depression will go away by itself and deny it is really happening, the longer her recovery will take.
The more you expect of her, the greater your demands, the more difficult her recovery will be. The harder you are on yourself, the less resources you will have to carry you through each day.
You must take this very seriously. It’s no joke.
You have much more power to affect the outcome of how you both feel than you might think you do.Your wife will get better. Things will settle at home—in time. You will have your wife and your life—back.
Her moods and emotional vulnerability will get in the way of good communication for now.
So here is what you’re up against:
• If you tell her you love her … she won’t believe you.
• If you tell her she’s a good mother … she’ll think you’re just saying that to make her feel better.
• If you tell her she’s beautiful … she’ll assume you’re lying.
• If you tell her not to worry about anything … she’ll think you have no idea how bad she feels.
• If you tell her you’ll come home early to help her … she’ll feel guilty.
• If you tell her you have to work late … she’ll think you don’t care.
But you can:
• Tell her you know she feels terrible.
• Tell her she will get better.
• Tell her she is doing all the right things to get better (therapy, medication, etc..)
• Tell her she can still be a good mother and feel terrible.
• Tell her it’s okay to make mistakes; she doesn’t have to do everything perfectly.
• Tell her you know how hard she’s working at this right now.
• Tell her to let you know what she needs you to do to help.
• Tell her you know she’s doing the best she can.
• Tell her you love her anyway.
• Tell her your baby will be fine.
Practical things you can do:
• Help around the house.
• Set limits with friends and family.
• Answer the phone. Take a message.
• Throw in a load of laundry. Order take-out for dinner.
• Accompany her to doctor’s appointments.
• Educate yourself about PPD, read the books about PPD.
Go for postnatal checkups with your wife. Prepare for the appointments. Write down the concerns and questions you have, and bring it with you to her doctor or therapist. If at all possible, make a list, together, of the things that may provide an outlet for her so you can both refer to it when she needs a break.
The single most important thing for you to do to help is to just be with her. Sit with her. No TV, no kids, no dog, no bills, no newspaper. Just you and her. Let her know you’re there. This isn’t easy to do, especially with someone who seems so sad or so distant. Five minutes a day is a good place to start.
It’s so important to also take care of yourself. You both are liking not getting much sleep after the birth of a newborn. Sleep deprivation effects both parents. Other things you can do is, call her from work to check in. Call her again if she’s having a bad day. Ask her if there is anything you can do to help. Look her in the eyes when she talks to you. Encourage her to get as much rest as possible.
Intervene so she can get some uninterrupted sleep. Try to find some “you and me” time with no other distractions. Call a trusted friend and solicit support. Listen to her. Be patient. Be gentle with her and with yourself. You are doing the best you can. Sometimes fathers end up taking on all the house chores, cooking, cleaning, and caring for the newborn all hours of the night because your wife’s PPD has made her feel withdrawn completely from her baby and unable to manage coping with her depression.
If her PPD is too much for you both, try to eliminate any added stress. Postpone any important decision until after she is feeling better. Decisions that cannot wait should be made together, whenever possible. Decisions about childcare, work, breastfeeding, etc. will feel enormous to her now. Help her sort this out by discussing the pros and cons of each decision. Some of the things you think she should do right now to feel better, may not work.
Some of the things that previously made her feel good, may feel like too much effort at this time.
Find a men’s support group for husbands dealing with wives who have PPD. Get counseling for yourself as well. It’s a lot to handle being a new parent, let alone trying to understand and cope with your wife suffering from PPD.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying you should tolerate being mistreated!
Many women have commented that, at the time, they thought their marriage was over. Once the postpartum depression was addressed, the true cause of these feelings becomes apparent. It is the illness talking.
Certainly, important decisions about separation and divorce should not be made during the postpartum period. Genuine problems within the marriage should be addressed at a later time when the mother has fully recovered from her ordeal and is able to clearly interpret the status of the relationship without being impeded by the cloud of postpartum depression.
If she files for divorce and you still love her and don’t want a divorce—contest it. You might piss your wife off by not granting her a divorce, but it’s really the only shot you have in buying yourself some time—in hopes that she gets better. Tell the judge you believe she is suffering from PPD and that you are requesting more time in hopes that she will get better and that you’re willing to wait it out with her, or for her. Plead with the judge to help you keep your family together. Provide the judge with evidence/symptoms of PPD and how it’s unusual behavior from your wife. Give examples.
Most women who have recovered from postpartum depression find that their relationships with all family members, including their partner, have strengthened as a result of the experience they endured.
Postpartum hurts everyone. Let’s talk about it!