When I was pregnant with my daughter, I faced a lot of battles myself with pre-natal depression. Piling on weight, the hormones, the confusion about what was going on with my body all led me to become extra sad, extra emotional and extra frustrated.
The thing was, I was so focused on myself that I didn’t notice the changes in my husband at the same time. At around the time when I was finally starting to enjoy the pregnancy after realising I’d been depressed (at around 7 months gone), I also noticed how distant he’d become. He would spend all his time outside in his man-shed, and would only come inside to sleep and shower before heading off to work, returning back to his shed, and so on.
When our daughter came along, while he was at the birth, he wasn’t really “there”. He was out in the halls or sitting in a corner of a room sleeping. And on taking her home, rather than being one of those “perfect” fathers you read about, he was absent. Instead of being a father who was constantly there on hand with a clean nappy when the baby is dirty or who was getting me coffee in the middle of the night when I was up breastfeeding; he was asleep, or out with friends.
A Rollercoaster of Abuse
He abused drugs and alcohol, he was angry, and most noticeably, he wouldn’t go anywhere near our daughter (or me).
I talked to his family about it and they said he was just tired (from what?). They said he was stressed because I was stressed. It was then I realised they wouldn’t be much support so I stopped trying.
When our daughter was about a month old, I threatened to leave. We’d had fight after fight after fight and I was exhausted with a newborn – I didn’t want to look after him as well. He started to pay a little more attention, but by then I was used to doing things on my own anyway so I excluded him a lot which pushed him away again. Although I was married with a husband who was home all the time, I often felt like a single mum. And things were particularly tough when our daughter started suffering from colic and all I could do for hours every day while she screamed was to hold her, and cry myself. It was how we spend most of our afternoons, huddled together on the couch crying. While my husband stayed away.
Then, one day, he got angry. Really angry. He never harmed anyone, but he would throw things around the house and cause fights with his best friend and his boss at work.
I’d never seen him angry in the 3 years we were together prior to that… so I knew something was definitely not right.
The light at the end of the tunnel
It was around this time that I saw a documentary on TV about Post Natal Depression in men. I’d never known something like that existed. I got on Google and found the symptoms matched my husband 100%. I mentioned it to him, told him what I’d heard and read and rather than getting angry, it was as though something just clicked. The next day he went to work and confided in his workmates; then he called his Dad (a psychologist) who said we should go down and visit to have a proper talk about it.
My husband’s mother died when he was very young, and it was the realisation that all the anxiety he’d felt losing his own mum had come back to haunt him. Part of his anger had been because he didn’t understand what was going on in his own mind; and I felt he was just becoming a horrible person. Finally knowing there was a reason for how he was feeling, that there was actually a clinical diagnosis for it, suddenly made things seem a lot better for us both.
And from there, it was as though he began to improve overnight. He became more hands on, he went to the doctor and talked to the doctor about it, he stopped being so angry. Now, 4 years later, he’s an amazing dad and husband, who loves nothing more than spending quality time with his family.
Things you need to know about Male PND
Although many people balk at the mere mention of post natal depression in men (“men don’t give birth”, “don’t be silly” are two of the most common responses I’ve heard); it IS 100% real.
In the US alone, between 1,000 and 2,700 new fathers become depressed. That’s between 1 in 10 and 1 in 4 new dads who have post natal depression. (source: http://postpartummen.com/)
There are numerous reasons men might become depressed with a newborn. These include a strained relationship with the mother of the child; increases of financial pressure; lack of sleep; and changes to lifestyle.
Symptoms to watch out for are:
- Wanting to be isolated and feeling as though there is no hope in the world
- Being unable to cope with everyday life in general; and feeling guilty about that
- Crying, or wanting to cry
- Panic attacks
- Hostility and anger towards partner, baby and others
- Difficulty sleeping
- Not eating, or over eating
- Anxiety and difficulty concentrating
- Headaches could even be a symptom
- Thoughts about death or harming themselves or others
If you’re concerned about your partner, try talking to them. Help them to understand that they could have a psychological problem that CAN be fixed and encourage them to talk to their doctor.