After the birth of our second son, my husband went from a jolly easy-going guy to a sullen, extremely anxious person. He was worried about everything and nothing and didn't feel like himself. Here we had a perfect, healthy, happy new baby and while he loved him very much, I worried that he wasn't enjoying this fleeting and special time. Having suffered from postpartum anxiety with my first child, I should have recognized the symptoms. However, it wasn't until I read an article that I realized men could have similar experiences.
For all parents, having a baby can amplify issues we've struggled with in the past, as well as introduce new ones, from financial stress to worries about the baby's health. Add to this extreme sleep deprivation and it's no wonder that dads might be struggling.
In addition to the lack of sleep, there are possible hormonal shifts or, at the very least, untapped instincts that can make fathers feel out of control and unlike themselves. For my husband, he felt anxious and helpless at the same time. This feeling was exacerbated by the fact that our second son was a huge fan of nursing, which left his dad on the sidelines.
I propose that instead of getting in a competition about who hasrealPPD, we should broaden the term so that dads feel like they can get help if they need it.
I would like to be clear: I do not think that the experience of fathers is the same as mothers. Mothers are dealing with huge hormonal shifts, trying to breastfeed and healing from childbirth, on top of the sleep deprivation and constant care of a newborn that the father might share. It makes total sense that mothers are the focus of postpartum attention.
And it also explains why, if men are struggling at this time, they are prone to hide it. The bottom line is that no one should suffer in silence. I propose that instead of getting in a competition about who has real PPD, we should broaden the term so that dads feel like they can get help if they need it.
I'm not sure if it was opening up to me, finally getting more sleep, or simply the healing power of time, but my husband did return to his old self. I think the whole process would have been easier for him to handle if he knew that other dads had been through the same thing. Only good can come from talking and learning more about how the postpartum period affects both parents. I hope with more awareness and research everyone can enjoy the bliss of welcoming a baby into the world.