So, after my last post on postpartum depression, I got some feedback from strong, lovely women in my life that literally made me pause. It continues to amaze me how many women fight with this, and often refuse to admit it is an issue, whether it be mild or severe. And it just now, surprisingly, hit me that many people in these women’s lives can’t identify PPD as the problem.
I felt compelled to write this because of how much misunderstanding surrounds the issue and those of us with it. This can help a parent, friend, sibling, in-law or confidant of the mama with PPD understand better, but it is actually written to our husbands. You mean so much to us, and at this point in our lives, we don’t tell you or mean it nearly enough. Please don’t give up on us. You are who we need most through this, though we usually don’t (can’t) make that clear either.
What It Is
Sadness – Think crying. All the time. Something minor, that probably never affected us before, is now something the world might end over. The days are sometimes full of tears and break downs, or other times we’re lucky to get away with several choked-up episodes. But the overall feeling of being around us is sadness and lack of energy. It’s easy to want to go to the gym, or stay late at work, or work on house projects late into the night, when faced with the prospect of spending the evening with us and the mood monster. And as much as that makes us want to cry, it also makes us angry.
Anger – Nothing is right. There is no tolerance or patience for anything. If it’s even the slightest bit of trouble, frustration comes out, and if it is even more trouble than that, it’s full blown I-need-to-blow-something-up anger. Dear hubby, you often get the brunt of it because you know us the deepest. Your mom doesn’t (usually) see it because we want her to feel like her son is in good hands. And we want to BE those good hands, we just can’t seem to right now. We have no idea how in the world to explain to you how we feel or why we feel like this at all, but this mean way of treating you is our inadvertent cry for help. Maybe instead of treating us the way we deserve, try some patience and compassion. I know it’s so hard on you, and often doesn’t come naturally, but I promise it’s worth it. Compassion can break down the anger barrier, and we’ll usually be apologetic, but be prepared to meet up with the sobbing/crying again. It is easier to hug a wet mess than a porcupine though, isn’t it?
Loneliness – You tell us we need to get out. Find some other moms in the area. Go to the story time at the library. We wouldn’t be so lonely and sad if we just got some socialization. You don’t seem to understand, we feel alone in a world full of other people. Even when they’re all talking to us. We don’t feel strong enough, or clean enough, or attractive enough, or energetic enough to socialize. And that’s not your fault. It is something we need constant encouragement about, maybe a little pushing (and subsequent help with chores/baby/etc) once in a while, but no shoving. Kicking us out the door to do something we have no desire to do will not get the result you want. We need understanding. And even if you can’t in the least, try. Our bodies went through something you don’t get used to, something that makes everything inside go a little bit crazy, and took us to the brink of everything we knew was possible. Maybe we had a horrible birth experience, but even a ‘normal’ one weighs on a mama if it is on replay in her mind. It was the scariest, hardest, most trying time in our lives. Just tell us how amazing we were and listen if we need to talk about it.
Despair – This is never going to end. I’m always going to feel this horrible inside. I’m always going to feel this bad about my body, my life, my mind. Things will always hurt, they will always feel like they take my breath, my energy, my life away. This isn’t about the baby. Our love for that baby is greater and deeper than we can ever describe. But it doesn’t take away or touch this other pain.
What It Isn’t
Hatred – I promise, we don’t hate you. YOU are the one who stole our hearts. YOU are the one we loved so much that we made a beautiful, sweet baby with you. We can’t imagine living life without you, and believe it or not, if you left we would probably break like you can’t even imagine. I know this time is hard. I promise if you stick with us, we will never forget it and love you even more for it.
Discontentment – We really don’t think your job sucks, or that you don’t provide well enough for us, or that you don’t make us happy. If that’s what we made/make you feel like, or even said in one of our mindless moments, know that it’s not true. Money and things aren’t going to make us better. And I’m so sorry that in our inadequacy and despair, we make you feel inadequate. We need love and support and understanding, and lots of attention and affection. What you do to keep us going physically and financially and functioning in reality, is something we don’t know how to show appreciation for right now, but know deep down, we sincerely do.
Indifference – Our cold shoulder is NOT correlated with how attractive you are to us. It’s not related to not wanting sex or to be touched or needing alone time. You are the handsomest, most wonderful man on earth and we love you and want you more than anyone else. Please don’t let our inability to feel enough to be affectionate push you away. Know we’re here, we’re still here underneath all this.
What You Can Do About It
#1 – don’t give up on us. You promised in sickness and in health. Count this as an ‘in sickness’.
Say how you feel – but gently. Right now we’re breakable. And we feel broken. And as much as you probably need to yell, it will only push us apart further. When YOU open up about things you’re feeling, in a non-confrontational, loving way, a lot of times it helps US to open up. Opening up, and not bottling up feelings, is the first step to healing. For both of us.
Love on us – Right now I know we’re the most unlovable, nasty, mean, snapping-turtle-like, unattractive beasts (emphasis added for your enjoyment 😉 ), but animals need love too. And we need a lot of that right now. Whatever our love language is, we need lots and lots of it.
Be with us – Make a concerted effort to be with us in a quality-sort of way. Suggest going on walks with us and the baby. Play around on the living room floor – with the TV off. Be goofy and make the baby smile and giggle and think the world of Mama. That always melts our hearts even just a tiny bit. Talk about the future and dream with us. Make plans. Do fun, getaway things within the budget that give us something to look forward to other than the mundane, day to day tasks. Call during lunch just to say I love you and think you’re amazing. Text a few word love message that reminds us you chose us and wouldn’t change that for the world, even through this rough patch. Smile when you come home and touch her face and kiss her on the lips and say something upbeat about how she looks or something she cooked or how nice it is that there’s two dishes and a spoon drying in the rack (ignore the pile in the sink) or heck, how alive the baby looks. 😉 Those are all little things that help put the pieces of us back together that somehow fell all apart after pregnancy.
Know this too shall pass – Sometimes it’s a long process. Pregnancy, labor and delivery is a long, arduous, draining process. Raising a child is the same. That doesn’t make it something to give up on or ignore. Your wife will heal best and quickest with you by her side working with her to find what she needs to be whole again.
Decide you will get help – No, I don’t mean Medical. The medical field, with how absolutely amazing it is for emergency care, can’t even begin to try healing a body. Rx antidepressants can make symptoms worse (even to the point of suicidal, as I shared in my health story) or, at absolute best, act as a band-aid for the real, underlying issue. Postpartum Depression can most definitely be caused by nutritional deficiencies and imbalances after everything her body went through to grow, birth and then feed that sweet baby. Find her a functional medicine doctor, clinical nutritionist who does muscle testing or NRT practitioner who will get her on a program of real food supplements and a diet that will support what her body is craving. Support her by going to appointments (or wanting to hear all about them), doing lots of research with her, finding awesome new recipes to try, and following the diet with her. YOU are her best tool for success. Encouragement, NOT guilt, is what is going to build her up now.
I’m sure you feel like all the above I could have summarized better in two words – Be Superman. And I probably could have, because that’s what she needs – you, her Superman. I know it’s hard. It’s a time you have to be unselfish and focus on your other half, but it’s worth it. Her getting to see you for what you are – a man who loves her so much he would do and try whatever he could to see her happy, is a huge step towards healing.
Please, dear hubby, don’t give up on us.
Mama – Please know: This is NOT an excuse for you. PPD doesn’t give you (or me) the right to be mean or angry all the time or the catalyst for a destroyed marriage. 2 Timothy 1:7 – For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. I know your mind can feel totally out of control and the darkness can be so great, but it is our responsibility to acknowledge it, and accept help for it. Reach out to a friend who you know will care and understand. Find a Bible believing church that will encourage and uplift you with Scripture. Talk to your husband. Explain you want things to be good again, and that you love him so very much, but you can’t seem to get there yet. Pray. Pray, pray, pray. Philippians 4:6-7. Supplication means to beg or ask for earnestly. Beg for peace and comfort and that sound mind He promised. He will hear you. And I hear you, Mama. Because I’ve been there. I’m even still there, on a certain level towards healing. Still struggling, but always heading towards healing. <3 Come with me. <3