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Olivia on taking care of a baby while dealing with her husband’s postpartum depression

blurry image of a mom holding her baby - essay on husband's postpartum depression

Content warning: Discussion of postpartum depression, birth trauma, domestic abuse or other tough topics ahead. If you or someone you know is struggling with a postpartum mental health challenge, including postpartum depression or anxiety, call 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS (tel:18009435746)—The National Maternal Mental Health Hotline This free, confidential service provides access to trained counselors and resources 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in English, Spanish, and more than 60 other languages. They can offer support and information related to before, during, and after pregnancy.

I was always comforted by the certainty that my husband would be a great father. After years of depression compounded by hyperemesis gravidarum throughout pregnancy, it was a great comfort to know that my husband would be a rock upon which I could depend.

In the first few months of my little girl’s life, a mama bear I hadn’t knew existed came out, and there was nothing I wouldn’t do for my her. I nursed her, cared for her, fed and cleaned her as well as took care of the house—cooking, diapers, laundry, and everything else.

I had to do all of these things because shortly after the birth, my husband vanished. He didn’t leave the marriage or house by any means, but the rock I had been hoping for just wasn’t there.

Related: Spotting postpartum depression can be difficult. Here’s why you should enlist your partner’s help

It was like the shock of having a new baby was too much for him to handle, and he found the smallest thing too difficult to deal with. He also began pressuring me for more and more intimacy, no doubt to compensate for the feelings he was having.

Dealing with my husband’s sudden onset of postpartum depression felt unfair to me. After all, he didn’t do anything really with the baby. I got only a few minutes to myself a day to shower, and that, more often than not, consisted of him holding a screaming baby outside the shower door, both desperate for me to be finished.

My daughter’s colic compounded the issue, and dealing with her inconsolable screaming for three solid months was difficult.

Related: Colic 101: What it is & what you can do to make it better

The bow finally broke one day, when I went to sit down for just a couple of minutes. I was exhausted and overwrought, and I just needed a minute. Ironically, I didn’t get it, and I used those two minutes to peel potatoes for dinner. I went to check on my husband and daughter and walked into the room to see my husband shoving my daughter into the bed by her neck.

I need to interject some context here. Immediately after this happened, I picked up the baby and walked out of the house. We then saw a slew of doctors, psychiatrists, therapists and social workers, all of whom assured me, as tears streamed down my face, that my husband had not been in his right mind.

Postpartum depression is cruel and makes you do things you’d never do in a million years. This isn’t me talking, but all of those people I mentioned above. I was unwilling to risk my daughter’s safety, but I was besieged to give him another chance. All I had to do was assume 100 percent of the responsibility for my daughter and never let her out of my sight.

Related: When I tell you I have postpartum depression, here’s what I want you to know

My husband is a wonderful, wonderful man. I often say that I married the most wonderful man in the world, and I believe that wholeheartedly. He is kind to a fault, selfless, generous and loving. He genuinely would not hurt a fly. I’m not kidding. He’s the sort of person who lovingly carries insects he finds in our farm home outside to safety. This could not have been more out of character.

Everyone assured me that all he needed was help, and a break. He put up with and supported my illness for years, and now it was my turn to come to the table.

It felt so unfair. How horrible of me, right? I felt like I had nothing more to give. No time left in the day to sacrifice. No help to give him. I felt betrayed. I felt alone. I felt exhausted.

Related: To the weary and exhausted mama—you aren’t alone

It’s been two months, and we’ve healed in many ways. We’ve hired a nanny to help me, which has been amazing. My husband is taking medication for his PPD, and seeing a therapist regularly. I went to stay with my parents for six weeks so they could help and support me.

I wish I could say that everything is alright now, but it’s not. I think that everything coming together has finally caused an onset of my own PPD. I am tired. I feel empty. I love my daughter so much, but I now struggle to feel affection for anyone apart from her.

I feel like crying all the time. My head hurts. And I already take antidepressants! I had been seeing a therapist, but she badly broke confidentiality a couple weeks after the incident, and I’m too afraid to do therapy again. I truly don’t know what to do. 

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