At first it seems like all you need is each other and a lot of preparation. Yes, you’ve heard babies change everything. You know it’s a big responsibility, a major lifestyle change. But you’re up for it.
The two of you get ready, decorating a room, going to appointments, stocking up on more diapers than anyone could possibly need – you think – and counting down on the calendar. In the beginning, it seems like such a long time to wait.
It might seem like the day will never come. But once it does, things will never be the same again.
Everyone knows the first few months with a newborn are terrifying and difficult. There are lovely moments, too. But ultimately, there’s very little sleep, a lot of crying and a household in chaos.
If your partner does not take to parenthood right away, if she is listless and has trouble connecting with your baby, friends and family will probably say she’s just tired and things will change once the baby sleeps through the night.
If your partner cries constantly and feels like an awful parent, friends and family will say it is stress or hormones. It’ll pass.
And maybe it will. Maybe it’s a bad couple of days.
But if it doesn’t pass, your partner may be fighting through the onset of postpartum depression.
She really is fighting. She doesn’t want to feel this way. In this moment, she is battling her own mind and it is taking a terrible toll on her.
Being the partner of someone with postpartum depression can be really frightening. It can be hard to get your partner to open up, to talk about how she’s feeling and what she’s thinking. Her thoughts and feelings scare her too much, and that scares you.
And on top of that, of course, is a bright, beautiful, loud new child who needs a great deal of attention and care.
They both need your help. So what can you do?
• Get reinforcements – You need a support system. A really good support system. Family, friends, paid caregivers, whatever it takes. Your baby needs to be protected and cared for, and your partner needs time to deal with what’s going on in her mind. She needs time to get better.
• Widen your world – it is difficult for your partner to believe there is anything beyond depression right now, but try to remind her. When possible, suggest activities that your partner enjoys. If nothing is palatable right now, getting out for a daily walk, a visit to the park, or just sitting outside and breathing fresh air can help with symptoms.
• Talk – tell your partner what a valuable and wonderful person she is, no matter how she’s feeling. And listen. Listen when she tells you the scary thoughts invading her mind. Sometimes you’ll hear something that will purely be the depression talking. Remember that isn’t your partner, it’s an invasive thought. Respond accordingly. And try to listen when she doesn’t speak. Is she withdrawing more and more? When she does speak, does she make sense? Try to get a sense of what’s going on, what is unsaid.
• Help yourself – we all know the old adage; to help others you must first help yourself. Make sure you’re eating and sleeping (as much as possible with a baby). Find someone to talk to about this – it can be a friend or a counsellor. But you will need to practise self-care so that you can also make it through this rough patch.
• Help them – this may seem obvious, but your partner needs support to get through postpartum depression. There is help through the Pacific Post Partum Support Society, and many people have found it invaluable. The society offers a place for parents to talk, to be openly flawed, and to heal. Doctors can also be helpful in providing resources or options for dealing with postpartum depression. And there are therapists as well.
Whatever options you choose, know that postpartum depression can take time to pass. There is no instant fix for your partner. It’ll take time, but hopefully, with all this love and support, she will begin to heal and recover, and so will your family.
Click here for more information on the services and support provided by Pacific Post Partum Support Society.