Article by Andrea Paterson
Father’s Day, year after year, the organizations that support those with difficult postpartum adjustments send a shout-out to the partners, fathers, and parents who, for whatever reason, don’t quite fit the category of “Mother.” We mention that postpartum depression is not specific to birthing mothers. We urge people to speak up and speak out about their postpartum struggles. We lament the lack of funding that prevents us from providing much needed support to the non-birthing parents who might be suffering, or to the birthing parents with queer or transgender identification who do not find a safe place for themselves within existing support structures. On Father’s Day, organizations like Pacific Post Partum Support Society try to raise awareness in the hope that something will change in the support structures available to parents. And then another Father’s Day comes and it seems that not much has changed at all. Stigma still exists for women suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety, and that stigma is far greater for anyone suffering who cannot claim the hormonal effects of birthing.
But the fact is that absolutely anyone who has a new baby featuring prominently in their life might struggle with mental health. And while birthing mothers make up a larger proportion of those suffering, the remaining cohort is not insignificant. The problem is that with stigma and judgement so firmly entrenched in our culture of parenting, it is difficult for people to speak up and insist that their experience is important and worthy of support. It’s exceedingly difficult to reach out for help if you don’t feel that the support structures validate or witness your unique situation.
While I don’t have answers to these ongoing support issues, what I can promise is that PPPSS is continuously devoted to expanding support programs with the hope that one day everyone who needs help will have equal access. In the meantime, while our support groups are still restricted to mothers, our phone lines are open to absolutely anyone who needs support. It’s a good place to start, because if no one but birth mothers call in we don’t have the ability to prove that other services are needed. This Father’s Day I call out for a diversity of voices. We need to hear your stories so that programs can be developed that meet your needs. Tell us what support would look like for you. Tell us what a safe and inclusive parenting support structure would look like for you. Tell us what resources would help as a father, or transgender mother, or adoptive parent, or grandparent who is acting as a primary caregiver. We must all have the courage to give voice to our struggles. The more apparent the need is, the more likely it will be that support structures can be built.
PPPSS is working hard to extend services beyond mothers. PPPSS offers telephone support for dads, non-birthing parents, family members and anyone dealing with stress after the birth or adoption of a baby. PPPSS is committed to creating more support for fathers and partner sessions are available periodically, please call 604-255-7999 for more information.
I wish I had more resources to offer, but as we all work towards greater inclusiveness in postpartum care here are a few places for dads to start:
This article by Kelley Allen on Men and Postpartum Depression
This article by a trans dad, celebrating fatherhood. It’s not specifically about postpartum issues, but it touches on the mental health and social struggles that transgendered parents can struggle with.
If you have questions, if you are seeking community resources, if you need someone to talk to no matter how you are positioned in your role as a parent or caregiver to a small child, please don’t hesitate to call the PPPSS support line 604-255-7999 in the Vancouver area or toll free: 855-255-7999. We provide telephone support to anyone who needs it and may be able to direct you to resources more specific to your situation. The more stories we hear the more able we are to fine tune our support. Adding your voice to the conversation is a great gift for all the parents yet to set out on their journey.