A Husband’s Experience
By John Smith, CSW
From: Depression After Delivery Newsletter, Spring 1998
As we learn more about postpartum depression (PPD) and postpartum psychosis (PPP) we realize that it impacts not only the new mother, but her family as well. Many times it is the husband who is essential to stabilizing the home during the recovery of his wife. The pressures and demands placed on the husband are bound to take their toll.
As the postpartum woman struggles with the symptoms of PPD, the husband is faced with a confusing and frightening reality: his wife may be temporarily rendered dysfunctional as a mother and unavailable as a partner and friend. Even the most concerned of men can find it difficult to accept the reality of the symptoms his wife is experiencing. Since he may be unable to understand what is happening to his wife he may deny her complaints. He may demand that she “pull herself together.” He may cling to the hope that all of this is within his wife’s control.
An uninformed medical opinion could endorse husband’s unrealistic expectations and inability to accept his wife’s reports of feeling frightened and overwhelmed. At this point both husband and wife suffer not only from the impact of PPD but also the harmful effects of misinformation.
While the husband wants to be helpful, he may also feel alone and unsupported. These feelings are valid. A husband cannot expect himself to be the sole provider for all of his wife’s needs and he may need to secure outside assistance. He may find it necessary to ask for help from the extended family, friends and or community resource professionals. This may present a challenge to the man who has little experience in asking for help from others. A husband can best help himself and his family by utilizing whatever resources are available to them. Indeed he must be willing to consider all available options, regardless of any preconceptions about mental health services.
The woman’s recovery from PPD may be a long and taxing process. The husband may periodically feel overwhelmed during the process. He must, therefore, take special care to develop ways to have his own needs met so that he can remain fit and available to his family.