Your wife just had a baby and something is really off with her. It’s called postpartum depression.
If you are a subscriber to my email newsletters, then you knew that this post was coming. For those that don’t know, my husband will gradually be co-writing for my blog, and I am so excited for this to become a team effort! Today, my sweet husband is here to share his thoughts on postpartum depression and how husbands can help their wives through such a difficult season.
*written by Evan, my husband and the Marine behind the blog*
You’ve just had a child – a little bundle of joy – and you couldn’t possibly be any happier!
Or wait, could you?
I mean, a couple of days ago, you were both so happy and ready to get the baby home and into all those awesome outfits that you picked out together (or you “watched” get picked).
All was going well! The baby was doing what babies do best: sleep, eat, poop, and sleep some more. Still, through all the poop, it was amazing to lay there and watch this little angel sleep, all wrapped up in blankets, either in a crib or on your chest.
It’s surreal holding a sleeping baby. It is so calming.
(Dads, here’s a trick . . . if you’re ever tired of being around certain people or just plain tired, GRAB THE BABY and find a chair. Snuggle your baby to sleep and you can take a nap right along with your little munchkin. Short of the house burning down, no one is going to disturb you as long as you are holding the baby. They will look at you as a great father, taking the baby from mom so she can enjoy herself, and all the while, you are getting much needed shut eye. Boom!)
Anyway, everything was going so well. That is, until about a week after you brought baby home.
It’s about 3 am and baby has awoken for their early morning snack. If you’re like most husbands, you don’t hear the baby and sleep right on through until your wife eventually goes and takes care of the starving little one. But, tonight is different.
Baby keeps crying and your wife hasn’t moved. You ever so carefully peek one eye open to see if she is awake and there she is, sitting up in bed with her head in her hands, sobbing. Not just crying; sobbing. Snotty nose, can hardly catch her breath, gut wrenching sobbing. You sit up and ask her what’s wrong, and she responds between sobs, “I don’t know! I just can’t do this anymore!”
At this point, you’re absolutely confused. So, in order to be the awesome husband that you are, you quickly assure your bride that you will take care of it and you rush off to grab the baby and make a bottle. After satisfying the little one, you return to bed expecting to find your very grateful wife waiting to shower you with praise and thanks. I mean, you did just practically save the world, right?
But, instead of thanks, you receive the cold shoulder as you climb into bed. You again ask if everything is okay, but this time her response is a quick and cold, “I’m fine.” Well, someone sure is in a grand mood tonight! That’s the thanks I get for taking care of our baby? And so, you fall back to sleep, thinking that she will be fine in the morning and it was all a fluke.
You wake up early to get ready for work. You kiss your sleeping wife goodbye and slip out the door, coffee in hand, ready for the day.
It’s about 9:30 when you get the call. Your wife is calling, so you answer, and this is what you hear: *blubbering wife trying to talk* “Babe, you have to come home, RIGHT NOW!!” *end call* . . . .
Now, as a man, husband and father, we are hardwired to protect our families. So, when your wife calls and says something like that, it’s go time. You immediately drop what you are doing, shout something about a family emergency to your coworker, and dash out the door. On the drive home, which has gone from its normal 55 mph-20 minute trip to a 95 mph-5 minute trip, your mind is going NUTS!
What if there’s an intruder in my house?
What if the house is on fire and the baby is trapped inside?
What if there’s a velociraptor in my living room about to make a snack out of my wife and baby??
No matter, you’re ready for anything. ANYTHING!
You do your best impression of a cop sliding up to a crime scene and jump out of the car, sprinting to the front door. Your senses are on high alert; you see everything and you are ready for anything. You burst through the front door and there, in front of you, is something you could never have been prepared for. . . .
There is your beautiful wife, sitting on the floor, hair all a mess, still in her pajamas, holding what appears to be a severely burnt attempt at breakfast.
She is crying . . . again . . . and so is the baby.
At this point, you are once again totally confused.
“I thought you said there was an emergency?”
She replies with, “I can’t do it, I can’t raise a baby. I’m the most horrible mommy ever!”
That’s it?! I just left work and sped all the way home because she’s having a bad day?! Anger and frustration start to build up.
WHAT IS WRONG WITH MY WIFE?!
Indeed, what IS wrong with her? Clearly, something is off. Well, there actually just might be.
It’s called Postpartum Depression and, according to postpartumprogress.org, it affects nearly 20% of women who have either given birth to a baby at term or lost a baby due to miscarriage or stillbirth. That’s 1.3 million women annually, and that’s only what gets reported. That’s not to say that your wife will deal with postpartum depression. But, it is a real possibility, and being prepared for the possibility can help you prepare for dealing with it in a Godly, loving way.
Most postpartum emotional problems only last about 2 weeks; but, in some rare, severe cases, they can last for multiple months or even a full year (or more).
So, how do you handle helping your wife through postpartum depression?
Do all that you can to help her.
Change diapers, bathe baby, make dinner (or order take out), clean the house, anything. Don’t ask her what she wants you to do; find something that needs done and just do it! This is not a time to escape the house and go out with your buddies or sit on the couch and watch the game. If she sees you “escaping” the house, she will feel alone and abandoned and this will only make things worse for her and, consequently, you. Your wife needs you and helping her will show her that you are in this with her and that will help her more than you can imagine.
Do NOT try to “fix” things.
Husbands, we love to fix things. We love to solve the problem, give solutions and make the issues go away. This is not what she wants! I know; you understand the problem, and all she needs to do is_____________. When you say that to her, she will feel like you are trivializing her problems and that is B-A-D. To her, it may seem like her whole world is caving in and here you are, telling her that all she needs to do is x, y and z and things will be all honky-dory again! She doesn’t want a solution; she wants you to listen to her.
Listen to her and be there for her. Let her vent to you. She may be angry and she may not know why, which can cause more anger. Just be there; reassure her that you are there for her and you always will be, even if she is being a little not-so-fun to be around. She needs to hear this because she is probably afraid that her actions are making her unlovable to you. Trust me, I know. So, if she is dealing with a lot of postpartum emotional problems, listen to her, comfort her in any way you can and reassure her that you are there for her.
She may cry. She may cry a lot. Let her.
Guys, I know how we feel about crying.
“Crying is weakness and must be stomped out!” *chest thump*
Well guys, if you ever want to end up in the dog house or on the couch or at a friend’s house for the night (or week), just go ahead and tell your wife to “stop crying!” To your wife, nothing could possibly be more insensitive.
How dare he tell me not to cry! Doesn’t he know what I’m going through? He doesn’t understand. . . . or he doesn’t love me anymore! Great, my life is falling apart; first i get all depressed and can’t take care of my baby and now my husband is about to divorce me and leave me all alone!
Whoa. That escalated quickly. . . .
Sound a bit exaggerated? Ask my wife and she will tell you it’s true.
A woman’s mind can go from 0 to 100 in a heartbeat and she will always seem to assume the worst.
And then there’s you, the confused husband who is like, What in the world is going on?
Take my advice; just let her cry and, again, do not try to escape the house. She will feel like you are abandoning her or that you don’t love her anymore. Stick it out and stay with her. Hold her and let her cry. She won’t cry forever and when she is finished crying, she will be extremely grateful that you were there for her in her time of duress
You still get to be the knight in shining armor; just not in the same “dragon-slaying” way that you hoped.
Pray for her.
When you are going through a difficult season, as a Christian man, you probably turn to God at some point and ask for help. Well, in the same way, we should be lifting up our wives in prayer, especially when they are going through a hard time. She may feel so depressed that she feels unable to even pray for help.
That’s where you come in.
She may be too weak to pray, but you aren’t. Lift her up before God and take that burden off of her shoulders.
Don’t be afraid to tell her that you are praying for her. I know that this can be difficult or awkward, but she needs to hear it, especially from you. A spouse that is willing to take up the mantle of prayer for you and carry you before God when you are too exhausted is a true blessing and a huge encouragement.
Be the man she needs you to be. Sure, it may be difficult at first, but you need to be the spiritual leader of your house and as the leader, your house will follow you wherever you go. If you try to handle all of your problems on your own, your family will too and then you’ll be in a world of hurt.
Be strong and humble enough to lift up your wife before God, and she will see you as the spiritual leader that you should be and she will feel the comfort that comes from having a godly man at the head of her household.
Lastly, be patient.
Next to praying for your wife, this is the most important. This season will not last forever, even if it seems like it will. Your beautiful wife will be back to a sense of normalcy before too long, but what she doesn’t need is her husband losing his patience with her.
There will be times when you just want to run away and escape all the crying and the sadness and the anger, but it is in those times that your bride needs you the most. If you feel yourself starting to lose control of your emotions, try stepping outside for a minute or maybe run an errand out in town for a bit.
Whatever you do, do not leave the house angry. This will make things so much worse. If you need to leave for a bit, tell your wife that you are going to grab something from the store and that you will be right back and ask her if she would like you to grab something for her. This way, she can see that you are going to come back and you are thinking of her too.
It’s understandable that you may need a break. Just don’t storm out of the house, peel out of the drive way and stay gone for 6 hours. She may begin to panic if you don’t return shortly. Always keep your phone handy so she can get a hold of you if she needs to. She needs to feel reassured that you are there for her and with her through it all.
Show her your unequivocal love for her by being patient with her through the hard times and by being there for her. Let’s face it; your time for causing your wife lots of grief is probably not too far off and you’ll want her to be patient with you too.
So, let’s recap:
1. Do all that you can to help her.
2. Don’t try to “fix” things.
3. She may cry. She may cry a lot. Let her.
4. Pray for her.
5. Be patient.
You married your beautiful bride and promised her that you would be there for her, for better or for worse, through sickness and in health. For some couples, postpartum depression may be the first real sickness that they have to deal with together and it can be very scary.
Stay calm and stick with it. Let God guide you through this season and take some advice from a husband who has been there and dealt with this. My wife went through severe postpartum depression that lasted for over a year and although i would like to say that i handled it like a champion, I definitely could have done better.
But, to my credit (thanks fully to God), I am still with my wife and we are so much stronger for it. I can’t imagine living life without her and, even though that season was extremely trying for both of us, I thank God for taking us through it. I am now able to help other men help their wives through the same kinds of situations, and i hope this post helps someone either right now or in the future.
In order to help you spot the signs of postpartum depression, I am including a *list of symptoms to watch out for. They include, but are not limited to:
-difficulty bonding with baby
-withdrawing from family/friends
-fear that you are not a good mother
-feelings of worthlessness or shame
-thoughts of harming yourself or the baby
When should you see a doctor? If symptoms:
-don’t fade after two weeks
-make it hard to care for baby
-make it hard to complete everyday tasks
-include thoughts of harming yourself or baby
Husbands, did your wife have postpartum depression? What helped both of you get through it?
Wives, what was or is most helpful when dealing with postpartum depression or depression overall, for that matter?
If you are currently going through postpartum depression and would like someone to talk to, please feel free to contact us!
*This post was written by my husband, Evan.*