Don’t Forget to Check on Dad

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Did you know something like 1 in 10 dads suffer from Post Partum Depression? The correct term for it is paternal postpartum depression, and yes, it is a real thing. I know because my own husband suffered from it after the birth of our first daughter. As women, we always hear about PPD and in fact, it is one of the first questions we get asked at our 6-week check-up. “How are you feeling?” I remember getting asked that repeatedly, and I remember my doctor insisting that if I felt sad or overwhelmed in any way, shape, or form, to call her and let her know that I was struggling. Nobody asked my husband though; not even me. After all, I was the one who had just given birth and was, quite frankly, the main person dealing with the direct stresses and emotional roller coaster of bringing home a new baby. It honestly didn’t even cross my mind to ask him.

dad with daughter

The causes of PPND are attributed to a variety of changes that happen during a man’s transition into fatherhood. These can range from hormonal changes, lack of sleep, or financial stability to the possibility of having a baby that suffers from medical issues. A man’s entrance to fatherhood can be just as rocky for them as it can be for mothers, and it should be talked about more often. Many men suffer in silence; either because they feel shame for admitting that they feel depressed or that they won’t be taken seriously. Like all depression cases, it should be taken seriously, because untreated depression can lead to a whole mountain of other issues later. Take my word for it.

My husband had zero contact with babies up until my daughter was born; he didn’t know how to be a dad. Now that I look back, it was obvious the whole experience was very overwhelming for him. It probably didn’t help that I practically helped raised all 5 of my significantly younger siblings and considered myself to be somewhat of an expert in baby rearing. I can admit now that I nagged him and corrected him more often than necessary. Our daughter also had a very bad case of colic and just DIDN’T STOP CRYING between the hours of 6pm and 9pm, without fail, every single evening. Guess what else happens at 6pm? My husband walked through the door after a 12-hour shift at work.

Needless to say, he thought our daughter hated him. I don’t say this jokingly; he genuinely believed our daughter did not love him or want him around. This was the beginning of it all, and what ultimately led him down a road of depression.

depressed dad

I quit my job permanently to stay home with our daughter. Although it was a mutual decision, I do believe it was something we both ended up resenting each other for. He felt like he was overworked and under-appreciated, while I felt like he got to escape for 12 hours a day and have adult conversations and interactions that I was aching for at that time. I didn’t realize the financial burden of taking on all our expenses alone stressed him out as much as it did. I didn’t realize a lot about how he was feeling as a dad at that time. However, it soon became apparent that he was feeling overworked and alone. He would come home, hold our daughter for a whole three and a half minutes while she wailed, hand her back to me, and go to the bedroom where he would stay until dinnertime- if he would even eat that night. His anxiety skyrocketed and I found him getting irritated at every little thing. Months passed and it only got worse.

Had I realized that paternal postpartum depression was actually a thing, I would have taken my husband’s symptoms more seriously. He might have actually gone to see a doctor had he understood his own feelings as well, but because nobody checked in to see how this new dad was handling everything, it led to a much more difficult situation than it might have had he just gotten help from the get-go. My husband’s untreated PPND led us down a very dark rabbit hole that we are just getting past and our daughter in now two years old. PPND is something much easier treated early on than ignored and dealt with later.

Please take the time to check on dads. They are struggling, too.