I’m forever talking about my own experience of PND but in the spirit of Fathers Day I wanted to switch it up and talk about how it is for dad’s. When you hear about PND the word Dad is rarely mentioned.
It’s thought that around 1 in 10 dads will suffer paternal depression, and many more will worry about their mental health especially if they are trying to support a partner currently suffering.
I know all too well the strain dad’s can go through which is why I have asked my own husband, Mr D, to guest post on his experience of PND to show that Dad’s mental health matters too…
Before we had our princess I had never experienced or been around babies. I had no young nephews or nieces, no small cousins, none of my close friends even had young kids.
Throughout my 26 years, I’d had a knack of leaving things until the last minute and winging it successfully. I thought I could do this with becoming a dad as well, oh how I was wrong.
I held my first ever baby in the November before our princess was born, a friends daughter at 3 weeks old. I sat like a statue while she was put in my arms and didn’t move for the 10 minutes I held her, finally she was taken away from me after the shakes and sweat had been noticed.
My first babies birth was a roller coaster of emotion, something that not even being forced to watch one born every minute for 9 months or marched around the maternity ward had got me ready for. This was the start of a running theme for me as I felt I wasn’t ready.
I wasn’t ready for the non stop screaming – not knowing what was wrong or how to fix it, the sleep deprivation, the shattering of the affectionate, loving relationship I had experienced for the past 5 years with the love of my life.
This is were the fight or flight mentality comes in, the most basic of human reactions.
Over the past 26 years of my life I had never taken a backwards step. I was always a very confrontational, in your face person, with a “can do” attitude, thriving on pressure and stressful situations.
But with becoming a Dad, at the time I needed to be the man I was expected to be, I failed, my instinct to run took over. To this day I still blame myself for the extent of my wife’s post natal depression.
If I hadn’t used my job as an excuse to work long hours away from home, my rugby to run away two nights a week and all day on a Saturday, if I had helped more, fought and been the pillar of strength that she needed, giving her time alone to rest and recuperate that she needed so much, I don’t think that PND would have affected half as badly as it did. Unfortunately I chose to bottle up all my feelings of anxiety, ineptness and failure that running became the only option I could see.
It took me a good few months to eventually settle into dad life and once the anxiety started to subside I began to be the dad and partner I needed to be. We both started to recover though not really understanding what we had just been through.
Through my lack of frontline fathering in the first year of my little girls life, it was no wonder why my wife was so scared, nervous and anxious about the birth of our little man.
However the second time around I was ready, I was going to be the dad and husband I needed to be.
Our little man arrived, instantly I felt no fear, no anxiety, it was as they say, like riding a bike.
Even though I was in a more senior, stressful position at work, was in the process of buying and fully refurbishing a house, I thought this will be easy, however this wasn’t how my wife felt.
The first month of our sons life was a blare of emotion. Within a week of being born he was back in hospital, hooked up to all sorts of machines with a serious infection and chance of septicaemia.
I saw my wife whittle away from a strong, confident woman, to a blubbering mess who saw the worst in everything, over thinking and seeing the negative in everything, blaming herself for the slightest thing and comparing our lives to “the perfect parenting, perfect baby, perfect new sister”, what I like to describe as the social media highlight reel of fakeness.
There was no amount of positive reassurance, night feed’s, days out etc I or anyone else could do, none of it mattered, we could not effect the battle that was going on inside of her.
This whirlwind first month culminated in me losing my world and everything I loved most in life; my beautiful wife, my little girl whom I had become inseparable from and my amazing son. PND had snatched it all away, when my wife and kids had to return to Belfast for my her care.
If it weren’t for a handful of amazing friends (made all the more amazing by the fact only one had children and three others the emotional maturity to have relationships), I hate to think what could have happened to me, where I would have ended up and what I could have lost – for that Braddy, Chardo, Rogers, Perrott, Razor, JJ, Flower and Adam, I owe you my life and everything in it. Being there for me, listening to me, reassuring me and most importantly, taking the piss out of me kept me grounded and focused on what mattered in my life.
Just like our sons first month, the first year of his life has flown by.
With the support of her wonderful family, friends and of our health visitor, my amazing wife has turned the odds against her PND and begun to take control of her thoughts and feelings, meaning our lives can finally begin to move on and grow.
Perhaps it would have all been different and easier had I taken more responsibility on after our daughters birth; however we will never know and I have to live with that on a daily basis, eating away at the back of my mind.
For any soon to be dads, I would advise you to read the books (though take the advice lightly), meet couples with kids, hold a baby (even if you do sit like a statue) and talk to your friends. There is nothing weak in admitting you are afraid or scared of failure and don’t use the excuse I did, “I’m not ready”, nobody ever is!
Parenting is about making the best out of every shit situation, as when you begin to hide away your feelings they snowball and manifests into serious problems for you and your partner.
Remember – no man is an island, open up to those who care about you and talk about your problems, you will be surprised and if still in doubt, if I can do it semi successfully, anyone can!
And if it is all getting on top of you with sleep deprivation, feelings of hopelessness, issues at work and a house that constantly resembles a crack den / student party house – keep the words of the legendary Rocky Balboa in mind “life isn’t about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward” and that’s what being a dad, husband and adult is about – taking the shit life throws at you and moving past it, and if it beats you to your knees not letting it keep you there.
Talking to people you trust and getting their support will definitely help you with that.