Fathers need support, especially in the early years with children. They are often neglected and forgotten about in our rushed world.
The years having our four babies were some of the most stressful for my husband and me. In those early years, we lived in three different states, my husband started and finished grad school, I started a business, we lived with family, we were both unemployed, and we had health issues. Couple that with little sleep the entire time we were raising young babies and you have a recipe for an exhaustive disaster.
In the midst of our own chaos we saw a lot of families fall apart under the pressures of young children and all the other things that go along with them. We individually, and unknowingly to the other person, questioned whether we would crumble just like them.
I work as a childbirth educator, and I find myself constantly reminding myself how lucky I am. Every day I meet couples who are preparing for a baby. They are invested into starting a new chapter in their lives. By simply being there and taking the time to become educate for the beginning of parenthood they are working hard, and together, to achieve their goal of setting themselves up for the very beginning stages of parenthood. During these 10-week classes I have the unique privilege of meeting some really remarkable people.
These men and women remind me constantly how important and incredible good parents and good fathers are.
During pregnancy, childbirth, and the early days of postpartum many people keep their focus on the mother and the baby- they focus on mom’s struggles and needs, and then when the baby comes the focus turns to the new little being. It is during these times that society as a whole fails mothers- the early postpartum days. She needs support and is often neglected in our culture. Mom however, is not the only person who has challenges and needs support. Fathers need support too, especially in the early years with children. They too are often neglected and forgotten about in our rushed world. In fact, paternal postpartum depression is a real thing, and it affects up to 10% of men from the first trimester of their partner’s pregnancy through the first 6 months after a child is born.
Paternal postpartum depression is marked much like postpartum depression in women. In fact, there is a 68% increase in the rate of depression in men after a mom has given birth, which are close to the statistics of postpartum depression in women. Even the causes of postpartum depression in men have been linked to similar causes of postpartum depression in women: changes in hormonal levels like a drop in testosterone and an increase in estrogen, financial problems, a colicky baby, a premature baby, or health issues for the mother or the baby. Additionally, the lack of sleep for the first 6 months of a child’s life increases the rate of depression in men.
For men, however, postpartum depression is never mentioned. Many couples are completely unaware that paternal postpartum depression even exists, much less the idea that their partner might succumb to it. It is imperative that families learn about the possibility of paternal postpartum depression and its signs so that they can help create a healthy environment for both themselves and their growing family.
Some signs and risk factors of paternal postpartum depression are:
- Irritable or easily agitated
- Anger or rage
- Panic attacks
- Abuse of alcohol or drugs
- Consuming themselves with work
- Lack of interest in things they usually enjoy
- History of depression in themselves or their immediate family
- Feelings of worthlessness or suicidal thoughts
- A partner with postpartum depression
If you suspect your partner might have paternal postpartum depression, encourage them to visit with their doctor or mention it to your child’s doctor at your next health and wellness check-up to learn of any resources in your area. If your partner feels as those paternal postpartum depression isn’t a real diagnosis, point him to some of the resources listed below for confirmation that other men do experience postpartum depression, too:
There are some ways you might be able to help a new father reconnect, help prevent paternal postpartum depression, or help with the recovery of paternal postpartum depression (in addition to medication and/or therapy if needed). I have some ideas on this subject, but they are just that – ideas. If there is something that speaks to you, use it. If not, move on.
Our years with very young children were incredibly intense. Schedules, especially for my husband, were hectic. In grad school he regularly got about four hours of sleep.
There wasn’t a lot of time for anything fun in those years -but survival and sanity require you take some down time.
My husband loves lifting weights. I complained about it once to a friend of his who reminded me, “He NEEDS to do that.”
Remembering fun doesn’t mean you need to party all the time or take a yearly cruise. Most of us can’t afford that anyway. It means keeping those important pieces of you that help you feel whole.
The partner can facilitate this by carving out a little bit of time for the other person to relax- and do it without resentment.
For us, it meant having his weight lifting set in our second bedroom.
Fun for a young dad who was sacrificing so much?
Remember Each Other
It’s easy with a new baby to get so wrapped up in the baby that we forget that anyone else has ever existed. Babies can be so demanding and needy that by the end of the day, a loving mother may not feel like even touching anyone else.
Remembering your partner and the love you share can help dad feel supported and remembered during these early years.
The children grow older and they will, in turn, find strength from the love you share together, even if you had difficulty nurturing it when they were little.
Go on dates. Take breaks. Focus on each other. Be intimate. In the long run, this helps EVERYONE.
I won’t bore you with the details of every sleep deprived fight we have shared over the years or the times we forgot why we ever got together and started making babies, but the list would be long.
Remember to love each other and forgive each other.
Sometimes the realities of having young children can literally drive you out of your mind. It’s possible I’m the only one who went a little nutty during the sleep deprived, wacky hormone state that is mothering young children, but I doubt it.
Some days it was really hard to remember why I ever liked this guy. Some days it was really hard to forgive.
But don’t forget. Remember to love. Remember to forgive. Remember that these moments of raising babies are just that: moments. Remember that you are ALL learning. Babies and children are learning how to live outside of mama. Women are learning to mother and sacrifice. Fathers are learning the same and the pressures can be very great.
A good partner wants to help, wants to provide, wants to support–but it can be very hard and very draining. The sacrifices for both you and your partner are great and it can be hard to remember when we are lost in the fog of our own problems.
Remember each other and remember why you love each other.