With counselling and medication, I got through it. My husband was relieved to have his wife back. Our daughter was 2.5 years old.
We didn't want her to be an only child. I got pregnant and gave birth to a gorgeous strong boy. The birth was hideous. The first two weeks were okay. My husband got up with me at night when I was feeding. I thought, "it's going to be okay".
The third week I started crying. Every time I breastfed and the milk came down, an intense and overpowering sense of despair would overcome me. A friend, who was a La Leche League volunteer at the time, recognized the signs of D-MER, or Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex, which is caused by a "sudden drop in the feel-good hormone dopamine, which pre-empts the release of breast milk. This leads to strong negative emotions and lasts for as long as milk let-down continues - usually between 30 to 90 seconds". It was aweful and with every single milk let-down, I wanted to die.
But I could also feel the claws of Post Natal Depression latching on to my head, my heart, my senses. My desire to do anything was disappearing, my sense of self-worth was withering, my interest in my kids was dismal to say the least.
As I went downhill, so did my husband.
He was angry. He yelled. He slammed doors. He didn't want to have anything to do with the kids. He was impatient. His jaw was constantly clenched. He accused me of being the one who wanted children. He said he didn't want children.
At the time, I was so disappointed in my husband. Disappointed that he wasn't living up to my expectations. That he wasn't ready to step-up and be the Dad I had imagined him to be. Couldn't he see that I couldn't do anything and that it was his job to fill in where I couldn't? Why was he letting my parents do everything? Why did he have to work such long hours when I so desperately needed him close to me?
The fifth week, I was having panic attacks and crying all day. I wanted to die. I didn't care how, but I just didn't want to exist for another second. So I asked my Mum to take me to the hospital. I left my Dad with my baby. I knew he had formula and bottles that we had bought a few days earlier as a back-up plan. But really, at that point, I didn't care.
I got help that day. The CATT (Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team) team took over. They put me on anti-anxiety medication and anti-depressants, both of which meant I had to stop breast-feeding. After my parents left, friends took over and were there for me.
But my husband suffered in silence.
He didn't talk.
He exploded occasionally.
He was angry.
He still clenched his jaw.
He hated the lack of excitement in our lives.
He felt helpless and hopeless.
He felt powerless.
I felt like he resented me, when in fact he resented my PND and its implications in our lives: he felt like he had lost the woman he married. He would yell and say "I've got bloody PND too, so give me a break!". And so, several times, I encouraged him to go see our doctor to talk about what he was going through.
But he never did.
For quite a long time, I was resentful of that. I mean, why should I get help and get treated for the benefit of our family, if he wasn't going to do the same? I looked for support groups online for men with PND, but couldn't find any (this was 3 years ago now).
So I gave up. I let him deal with it on his own. I was there for him when he wanted to talk. And always reminded him that doctors were there to help. But his fear of being put onto medication held him back. I strongly believe however, that had there been more of an awareness of PND in men, he would have reached out. He wouldn't have felt so alone.
The first two years of our son's life were pretty hideous, both of us navigating the roller-coaster of depression, all the while running a business and raising two gorgeous kids. I'm sure that our marriage survived because through it all we continued to:
- go out on a date most weeks, even if we just went for a walk or out for a drink or a movie. We didn't always talk much. We quite often argued. But we always respected our two golden rules: no talk of work and no talk of the kids;
- ask for forgiveness and forgive each other every night for what we had done and/or said to hurt the other;
- give each other child-free space every weekend;
- communicate, communicate, communicate.
|Remember these four tips!|
Three years after the birth of our son, things are a lot easier. I'm still taking meds, but am starting to consider coming off them. My husband is back to normal. And the kids drive us crazy with love and crazy with frustration, depending on the moments.
I hope this post has encouraged you in some way. It's hard for Mums with PND to talk about this stuff, and it's even harder for our men. The more we talk about PND in fathers though, the more they will feel able and confident to reach out for help.
If you know of support groups for men with PND, please share them with us.
See more on PND in Dads here.
Kia Kaha! Be Strong!