Welcoming your child into the world is a mind-blowing, heart-exploding, existentially AWESOME experience. But then you come home. And all at once there’s a lot of not-so Hallmark kitsch stuff you realise you’ve signed up for; the adios to sleep, the loss of independence, the growing pile of dishes and the landfill of baby junk populating your once hip pad…
…and then there’s postpartum depression.
Of all the difficulties you may face as a parent, postpartum depression is one of the toughest. Even if you’re not suffering from the disorder yourself, but are partner to someone who is, it’s no party.
PPD can rear its ugly head any time within your baby’s first year. The signs are fairly straightforward:
- Severe mood swings and excessive tearfulness
- Withdrawing from family and social circles
- Disproportionate anger
- Overwhelming fatigue
- An inability to think clearly
One of the biggest red flags is any talk that involves the suggestion that the rest of the family would “be better” without her.
First and foremost, regardless of whether your partner seeks professional help (which is important, but ultimately her decision), your partner needs YOU – and all the resources you can muster.
Here’s how you can be an active source of support:
This is about being a sounding board, not an advice columnist. But you need to actually listen. This means tuning in to your partner and putting aside distractions. Repeat back to her what you’re hearing and only offer solutions if she asks.
The fatigue wrought by depression can be paralysing. Don’t ask what you can do to help out with the baby or household stuff – just do it. Try to carve out time for her to get some sleep, or out of the house to see friends. The rest and distance from her role as mum can help give perspective.
Call In Reinforcements
Those with PPD tend to isolate themselves from friends and family; draw her back into those supportive circles by contacting them yourself. Better yet – enlist their help with the practical stuff, too; you’d be surprised how happy loved ones are to be called upon.
Spend Time Together
Obviously, a romantic tête-à-tête is a slim possibility for new procreators, yet you don’t need to get too fancy; switch off your mobile for a couple hours, and sit together watching a favourite film, or even take a catnap together while baby sleeps. Not only are these healthy distractions, but recharging your relationship in these small ways will also remind your partner that this burden is not all on her; she has a safety net.
Positive affirmations are key; tell your partner you’re proud of her and let her know you will get through this together. Remind her that you love her and that she is not at fault – she’s doing great, and baby is too. And make sure she knows this is normal – although really, really hard, and that she’s not alone in her feelings.