February 27, 2007

Male Post-Partum Depression

Gather around, everyone, because today we have a question to answer. The writer and I agreed she would be anonymous for this, but other than a couple of identifying details, I'm leaving her question as she wrote it, because I think she wrote it so perfect:

I have a motherhood-related question for you. Did your husband get the baby blues or even postpartum depression? I had the blues for the first two weeks or so, but my husband was great. He just stepped in there like a champ and took care of both of us. He talked me down from ledges and held me while I cried. He fed, diapered and held the baby whenever she needed it.

Once I hit the three week mark, I finally came to terms with my new life and made new routines and found peace and even happiness in being a mother. At the same time, my husband seemed to take two steps back. He got depressed and antsy. He started getting short with the baby when she cries and only takes care of her when asked. And often, it's with sighs and eye rolling. It's like he wants nothing to do with us anymore.

I tried talking to him about it, but he just insists that he's tired. Well, I find that odd since I now feed the baby at 100% of her feedings so that he can get a full night's sleep for work. He denies that he's depressed, but I know there's a problem. I want to scream at him to get some help so that he can help me. I want another parent in this house. Being on duty 24/7 is getting really old really fast.

All right, I have been thinking and thinking about the concept of a sort of male postpartum depression. What an interesting topic. I tried to remember if Paul had had any sort of "down" time after the births of any of our babies, and I don't remember anything in particular. I finally asked him, and he said he doesn't think he did, but that he doesn't find the idea of it surprising. Although women have hormonal and physical reasons for postpartum depression, some of postpartum stuff is adjusting to the new way life is, and also adjusting to the lessened sleep, and also adjusting to all the new stresses and heavy emotional love responses to the new baby. Plus a guy might struggle with the no-sex-for-6-weeks and maybe even jealousy of the wife's interest in the baby. If a guy were to be negatively affected by all that, I wouldn't be surprised.

BUT--if he seems like he's copping out on the parenting thing, that sounds like a job for a trusty iron skillet. Failing that (it would leave him unconscious, and then he'd be no help at all), I don't know what I'd do. I guess I'd keep bringing it up. I mean, he does have to change this, and I have no ideas beyond (1) iron skillet and (2) nagging. Paul can be a little dense, and I'm surprised at how often I have to lay things out for him in surprisingly "for dummies" terms. A guy might need it explained to him that (1) he is not doing his share, and (2) he has to, without you telling him to do it, and (3) otherwise, you will indeed employ the skillet.

But clearly we need more opinions and stories here. Anyone have a similar experience, or know someone who did? Anyone have any advice? Remember, the comment area has plenty of room, and you should feel free to use up as much of it as you need.

Also remember that this is a dearly beloved husband, not some jerk with a history of being a problem. I don't think we'd want to overdo the mercy, such as in a mommy-and-baby class I took with my firstborn, where another mother was weeping about how her husband didn't help with any housework at all or do any nice thoughtful things for her, and the instructor told her that men might have trouble adjusting to a new baby, and that the way to deal with this was to not expect him to do any housework, and to do more nice thoughtful things for him. But nor do we want to overdo the "Kick that pinehole to the curb!!"


nonsoccermom said...

This is an interesting question. You know, I don't necessarily remember my husband showing signs of depression after our son was born, but I do know that we fought a lot. A. LOT. He just always seemed angry. And stressed out (but that was probably due to our cash-flow problem at the time). So maybe he was having some trouble adjusting as well, it does seem perfectly reasonable. Having a baby is a HUGE adjustment, after all...I'll be interested to read the other responses.

Shelly said...

My alma mater did research on the subject and it came out just after my daughter was born. We didn't have that experience here, but obviously others have.


I think your reader needs to find a way to get her husband help before she has to stuff his body in a wood chipper.

Swistle said...

Shelly-- Great link! Also, the wood chipper is an excellent idea. It seems like you wouldn't even have to USE it, if you just went out to the back yard periodically and turned the motor on, maybe let it run for a few minutes.

el-e-e said...

That note could have been me, 2 years ago. Exactly the same: Hubby helped me through MY really (REALLY) rough time in the beginning, and then around the 4-6 week mark he seemed distant and annoyed with the (colicky) baby. He'd walk him around the house, which was all that would help the crying, but Daddy was definitely STOMPING on some of those walks!

I know that period of time is some kind of "growth milestone" for the baby -- read: baby is extra fussy those weeks! -- but yes, maybe daddy's post-partum time just falls later than the mommy's. I think you're right on, naming jealousy over Mom's interest in baby, and coincidental timing with the "6-week-sex" deadline. Which -- I wasn't ready, were you??

Very interesting. I'm going to read that article.

desperate housewife said...

All of the reasons you noted for a possible male postpartum depression seemed very reasonable to me. And if it's the first baby, well, it is a HUGE adjustment any way you look at it, no matter how happy you are about the fact of being a parent. And the hubby just might not have been ready for the 24/7 reality of an infant in the house.
I guess for advise I could only say, keep talking about it, not necessarily in a nagging way, but don't just act like it isn't happening. Just every couple days, in a moment when the baby is asleep, I would bring it up again: "I notice you still seem kind of distant and stressed out." Something like that. Remind him that just as he helped you through a rough time with the baby, that maybe you can help him with his, if he'll be open about it.

Tessie said...

Hehe. Pinehole.

Seriously, I truly believe this is real in many, many cases. I also had the experience of a wonderfully helpful husband for the first few hard weeks. Then, it was almost like he thought, "OK, she's got it now" and he kind of stepped back a little and I took over more than my fair share.

I agree with Swistle that it would probably help to sit down and talk over who is doing what. I know for me, when my husband heard me say, "I am doing x, and y, and z, and you are only doing x" it really hit home. Be specific and list some of your daily tasks that he might not even know about. In my experience, men need specifics and need it laid out in black and white.

I also think, in regards to PPD in men in general, that, for some men, this is the first time that they feel truly inferior and clueless with no definite "action plan" to remedy. We all know that men are "fixers", and in my husband's case, it was hard for him that you just can't problem-solve or "fix" a lot of things with newborns. He wanted everything to be cause and effect, and have a pattern, and kids are just not that way.

I sincerely hope that you know that this is just SO common and you are certainly not alone.

I LOVE the wood chipper idea. I kept hearing the chainsaw revving up in my head too. RRRRHHHNNNNNnnnn!

Olivia said...

I don't have kids, but a friend once complained of similar problems after their first was born. I asked her if she had specifically asked him for help. She said, "No, but I shouldn't have to." I agree that she shouldn't have to, but since her husband is not a jerk, and yet isn't helping he must need to be asked.

A few days later she said she asked for help and he hopped to it. She had been doing so well as "supermom" he didn't realize she was stressed out.

So I guess the lesson is: when you need or want help, ask for it.

Erica said...

I have found that my husband responds best to direct requests... as in "would you please feed/diaper/pick up the baby?" If left to his own devices, he assumes I am more than willing to do EVERYTHING. And I assumed that since he knows how to take care of her that he would just do what needs to be done. This was not the case. He considers me to be In Charge of All Things Baby and waits for direction before doing anything.

This was very unexpected and caused quite a bit of grief before we got into a fight and sorted it all out.