by Jonathan Fuller
As cliche as it may sound, my wife is my rock. The anchor that keeps me grounded; emotionally, mentally, morally and spiritually. Our family is the reason I wake up every morning and without her our family would not exist. As such she is THE most important person in my life.
So, when the intense emotions and manifested physical pain associated with PPA wound us up in the ER multiple times, I wanted nothing more than to be able to “fix” the hurt it was causing her. A word to the wise for fellow husbands; nothing you do, no treatment you recommend, no action you take will “fix” this situation. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t want to help or strive to be the best partner in this life experience. It just means that a good first step for husbands is to check the “Mr. Fix” hat at the door. It means recognizing that your wife has to expend more energy and ultimately endure more pain when you try to fix this. Your wife wants to get better and if it was something you could fix then she could too and your continued insistence to help in that way only creates undo pressure and additional anxiety for her. Remember, she’s already potentially anxious or depressed or both. She needs you to be there for her as support not as a solution.
It’s easy as a husband to feel neglected on many levels when a new baby is on the way or recently born regardless of PPA/PPD. When you inject those conditions though it can intensify the feeling of neglect. This is one of those areas that I’ll be honest I struggled (and still do struggle) with because of how much I love my wife. One of the greatest lessons that I am still learning to hone is to remember that I am a part of this experience and that my actions, feelings and consequently how I react to them have an amplified impact on my wife while she is going through this experience. I’ve had to learn that instead of validating myself as a husband by how much my wife desires me or builds me up emotionally is actually dwarfed by how much she endures in order to better love, support, and grow our family.
I need to remember that this experience my wife went through was in many ways an expression of love for me and our family.
She could stay in bed each morning and refuse to be a part of our family but she doesn’t. She wakes up each day and takes amazing care of our family. I’ve come to recognize how much of a sacrifice of love that is for her each day. It doesn’t mean I don’t slip up, act like an idiot man child and pout about not getting enough of my wife’s attention. However, it does mean that I consciously work every single day to see her expression of love for me in everything she says and does.
Another really important thing I learned through this experience is that my wife needs some time to herself. This isn’t without difficulty and depending on your situation, it may seem nearly impossible. Nevertheless, it provided almost immediate benefits for my wife (and sometimes our kids).
Add on to this that sleep is almost like currency for my wife, and one that she is always severely lacking. I found a long time ago that helping her achieve as close to her optimal amount of sleep (8 hours) almost always has a positive effect on her well being. When in the thick of anxiety and depression, it may be difficult for your wife to sleep. I know my wife has always had insomnia and we found that my rubbing her back, reading to her, and even just being present, helps her. Especially during severe episodes having you there (listening, quiet, and attentive) can be a life raft helping your wife feel safe enough to fall asleep.
The thing I always try to remember, though, is that this is an expression of love that I can provide my wife. It’s not something she “needs” and trying to force my presence or touch doesn’t help anything. When she makes it clear she needs me to give her some time to herself or that she’s “touched out” I’ve found the best solution is to let her know I’m there for her and then give her that space.
With all honesty, and experience, I can attest to how much additional hurt and pain I, as a husband, can be for my wife experiencing PPA. However, I make it my goal every day to see how much love and devotion I can provide to her and do my best to eliminate the words, actions and engagements that cause hurt and pain.
Every day is a new opportunity to try and show her more how incredible she in the face of this experience.
I’m sure our story isn’t everyone’s and what I have learned is not necessarily the right way. However, I have watched my wife grow stronger and more confident through this experience. I, too, have grown more confident as a husband, father, and person. My greatest hope is that our story helps others to afford at least some portion of the same result.
About the Author: Jonathan is a father to four sweet children and he’s also the love of my life. Sure, we drive each other crazy sometimes but what good is life without a little crazy? He is a busy hands on dad and awesome sales person specializing in IT. He is the man behind the camera and behind our website at Mommy in Flats. He tirelessly works to smooth my wrinkles and save me from getting more by always helping with our little monsters. If we had time, he would love to be slaying dragons and battling orcs in Orgrimar, alas we must settle for sitting side by side, writing blog posts and editing photos. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Think you or someone you know may be struggling with postpartum depression, anxiety, or another mental health disorder? Please contact your health provider including your OBGYN or family doctor. Need more information? Visit Postpartum Support International for great information on maternal mental health and more. If you fear you or someone you love may be contemplating suicide or facing a mental health emergency, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline and get to your nearest emergency room. Please consider buying a PPD Awareness t-shirt, all proceeds go to help mothers in need. Have questions or need support please join the discussion on Facebook.