It’s one feeling that always comes back to me when I think about the period when my wife was suffering from Postpartum Depression.
At the time, I had no clue that my wife was in the throes of PPD. Pretty much all that registered in my mind was that neither of us were sleeping, due to our otherwise angelic daughter waking up practically every hour at night. That, and the fact I had to get through another day of work.
I felt awful for feeling it at the time, but work became an escape from what was becoming a daily grind at home. Shouldn’t it be the other way around, after all? Despite drifting through my shifts at work, operating in a fog barely lifted by caffeine, my heart would sink a little when I boarded the bus home.
I’d watched my wife turn from a strong, confident, understanding woman into a browbeaten bundle of frayed nerves. A mother who loved her child more than anything else in the world but would scream at her in the middle of the night, following the eighth wakeup. Occasionally I would awaken in the spare room – to where I had been banished to grab a few hours of precious sleep before the alarm went off again – to hear my wife sobbing across the hallway. Sometimes I went through to check on them both. And sometimes I didn’t, realizing I could do little to help. Helplessness.
I felt like my wife was shutting herself off from me. She seemed to feel as if it was her duty alone to cure our sleep woes, her job as the mother. My attempts to help were often rejected with a “No, it’s fine. I can manage.” A lot of the time I was too exhausted myself to argue. I tried as often as I could to take our daughter out on my own to give my wife a break. One time I secretly booked a night in a bed & breakfast for my wife. I practically had to order her out of the house.
I tried to remain objective. I tried to remain understanding. I tried to let all the irrationalities of what I just believed was sleep deprivation wash off me. It was hard. Bottling your own feelings up is never a good thing.
Having an outlet helped. You find out who your real friends are when you can just unload on them. Still, you feel a little guilty burdening them with so much of your negativity. In reflection, a confidential helpline seems like a no-brainer. If only I’d known at the time.
My wife did occasionally thank me for my support, and that helped too. I told her as often as I could that she was doing a great job raising an amazing girl. Because she was. We both were. Our daughter was happy, healthy and cute beyond belief.
And things did improve, slowly. Our daughter began sleeping better. We moved house, closer to my work, closer to friends. We felt more connected again, to the outside world and to each other. The fog of helplessness was lifting and we could see the way forward.
Jan Zeschky is a journalist and father who lives in Burnaby.
*If you are a partner of someone suffering from Postpartum Depression or Anxiety, know that there is support for you and your family. Please contact us if you need assistance.
Thank you to all of the Dads who support our women in getting strong, and healthy. Happy Father’s Day.