It was a very long four months for both my husband and I. Which four months? The last month of my pregnancy and the first three of my sons life.
The last month of pregnancy was long because I was huge, cranky and not sleeping. The first three months of our baby’s life were harder because on top of the exhaustion and pain of recovering from a c-section, I, the expert, got blind-sided by a serious dose of postpatrum depression.
I share this to emphasize that prepartum and postpartum depression can sneak up on anyone. Physical discomfort, lack of sleep, and all those hormones certainly are contributing factors. So too are less tangible experiences of feeling out of control–out of control of your body, of your baby’s schedule (or lack thereof!), or of your ability to get your feet back under you in general.
What do supportive spouses do when Mom has a serious case of the blues? Here are a few simple tips that helped me go from wanting to give our baby away to the first gypsies I could find, back to feeling happy, healthy and madly in love with both the baby and my husband.
1. Get real sleep.
Mom needs an undisturbed seven hours of sleep at least once or twice a week. Do whatever you two need to to make this happen – bottles, favors from friends, ear plugs . . . Lack of sleep is a major contributor to depression in general, not just postpartum depression.
2. Dad, time to hone your listening skills.
In all the crazy stuff Mom is saying (and boy, did I say a lot of mean and cuckoo stuff), refrain from correct or debating. Just hear what under the surface does make sense. Calmly reiterating how much those pieces are true will help.
3. Take a walk in the light.
Force yourself to take ten minutes a day where you put the dark glasses down and make yourself see some sort of real and metaphorical sunshine. This wasn’t easy to do for me. And, at the same time, there’s no question that forcing myself to find some way to surface from the depths of misery, for even just ten minutes a day, is what pulled me through postpartum depression. At least, being somewhere I could recognize a more rational, positive, stable me. Seeing a quick glimpse of that me kept just enough hope alive that, once I had a bit of sleep, a little less pain, and a baby I could soothe, the clouds lifted.