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Supporting a Mother Who Suffers from Postpartum Depression

She looks so helpless lying over there. She is staring off in space and it is as if she cannot comprehend any part of her favorite television show that is quietly playing on the TV. Even though she was not sleeping, she spent most of her day lying in bed with the blankets pulled over her head so tight that only the smallest amount of air and light could reach her face. She refuses to eat and she reacts to the thought of food as if it was the least important thing in the world. It is as if her body is present and her mind is somewhere far, far away. Yet, I know her mind has to be somewhere close by because I see her tears. How long will this last? How long can this last? I badly miss my wife and her children miss her too.

Depression affects many people in this world and can cause great disruptions in people’s lives. Not only in the lives of the people who are suffering from depression, but also to those who love and care about the people suffering from depression. Many women suffer from postpartum depression and many of those women may not realize that their sadness, anxiety or negative feelings towards their new baby are symptoms of postpartum depression. Postpartum depression can appear in any woman who has recently had a baby. This includes mothers who may have never felt the effects of depression before and who may never feel the effects of depression again. It is important for a husband, father, or loved one to learn to recognize the signs of depression so that the mother can receive proper care and treatment, if necessary.

A mother who is suffering from postpartum depression may lose her interest in many of the little things that she would usually find enjoyable. Normal day to day tasks, which could include things as simple as making lunch for the kids, doing laundry, going to work, or even getting out of pajamas, can become overwhelming obstacles to her. Another common sign of depression is the loss of appetite and a desire to be isolated from the outside world. The mother may also experience suicidal thoughts or negative thoughts towards the baby. She may secretly or openly desire for something bad to happen to the baby.

My wife, who has suffered through many bouts of depression, also suffered through postpartum depression. The depression seemed to hit her almost immediately after Addie’s birth and was difficult for me to recognize. It is easy for the father to get caught up in the joy of having a new child and to overlook the struggles the mother is just beginning to have, or to mistakenly attribute those struggles to something other than postpartum depression.

During our second night at the hospital after Addie was born, my wife, while sobbing, woke me and asked me to climb into her hospital bed to help comfort her.  That moment should have raised a red flag in my mind, but I did not think it was anything serious. My wife seemed to be overwhelmed after Addie’s birth and I mistakenly attributed her struggles to the idea of her learning to become the mother and primary caretaker of Addie.  Over the next few months things became so difficult for my wife to manage that I had to send her to my family’s house hundreds of miles away so my family could watch her to make sure she was okay while I finished my week of work and school.

There are many things I could have done to better support my wife through her postpartum depression. I have learned that when she suffers from depression I need to step in and take the homemaker’s and caregiver’s roles in the home.This includes cleaning the house, cooking the meals, taking care of the kids, feeding the baby, including midnight feedings, and basically doing anything I can to assist my wife. I have also learned that there are certain tricks and techniques that can be used to help distract my wife to help keep the depression from getting too out of control. One of the most important things to remember is that you, as the father, remain objective about the situation and keep in mind that the mother’s lack of affection towards you and/or the baby is not something you should take personally.  The mother is not suffering from depression out of choice and the lack of affection is not something she is choosing to do. The father, on the other hand, needs to make sure that the mother is constantly aware that she is loved and that she will have support.

Finally, if the mother is suffering from postpartum depression and it does not appear to be subsiding, get help from a trained professional before she gets to the point of wanting to harm the baby. Postpartum depression is not something to be taken lightly, but can be managed so long as the mother’s support system is capable and willing to recognize the signs, support the mother, and find capable help if necessary.

Read more about my family on Moosh in Indy or follow me on Twitter!

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More on Dadding:

My Other Little Girl, Vivi

My Little Girl, Addie

Supporting a Wife Who has Milk Duds

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