Having postnatal depression sucks. I was quite fortunate and didn’t suffer from it, but my husband did. Although I did go through it with him every step of the way. And that’s actually why I’m here. I’m just trying to impart some of what I learned and give out a few ways to help your partner who’s suffering from postnatal depression.
Before I start, I will say that this post is more aimed at other women who find themselves in a place like I was and it’s the dad who has postnatal depression. But maybe some of this advice can work both ways.
Ways to Help a Partner Suffering With Postnatal Depression
Don’t Judge the Feelings
People suffer with postnatal depression differently. For Ross, a lot of it was to do with the lack of bond, and the fact that he didn’t feel like he like our daughter. Others might be going through something similar.
Believe it or not, they actually can’t help how they feel. However frustrating it is for you, however angry it makes you feel that they don’t even appear to like their baby, let alone love them, it’s probably a lot worse for them. This is going to be very hard not to judge their feelings, but it’s important that you try. If you have a go at them for how they feel it’s only going to make them worse. They could then start feeling guilt as well as the depression and this will take them much longer to recover.
Even after Ross considered himself recovered he’s had his ups and downs with forming a bond. But I know it’s there, it’s just growing slowly.
Don’t Forget About Your Partner
It’s easy to forget about your partner when you have a newborn. You’re trying to recover and your mind is trying to process everything that’s going on. You don’t really know what the hell you are doing, and you’re very much sleep deprived. But your partner is there too. And they’re used to having all your time and devotion spent on them. Now all of a sudden they’re pushed out and left at the wayside. Even if it is because you have a baby to look after.
I’m not saying you should ignore the baby and focus on your partner, that’s not going to work. But try to find time to spend together. When the baby sleeps, spend that time together. You can still tuck yourselves up on the sofa and watch a film, take walks together somewhere and even go away to a hotel. It’s a great way for the three of you to bond away from all the distractions of the house.
Try Not to Push Them Into Anything
It’s incredibly hard to find the balance between involving your partner with the baby and making them feel like they’re being demanded. Rather than pushing them into something that they’re not ready to do, take your time with them. Instead of saying “you can change her nappy,” say “do you want to change them?” Let them come to it.
Don’t get me wrong, this will likely make things more difficult for you. I’m not going to lie, it is incredibly frustrating, but pushing your partner into things will only make them resent the baby more, and push them further into a bad cycle.
Take Your Time
This might not be something that will be quickly fixed. There’s no timetable for this. It might be over in a few months, as it was with us, or it might go on for years. You might even think it’s over and then something changes, like you return to work, and they struggle again.
The important thing to do is to just stick at it. If you keep at it, and be there for them during this time, then it’s likely it will be over sooner rather than later. This one goes for anyone who suffer with postnatal depression. If you’re a mum or a dad reading this then take your time with your partner. Just be there for them as much as you can.
Seek Help For Them
If this is your partners first experience with depression then they may not think they need help. They may not even want to admit that they are depressed. So you might have to gently push them in the right direction. If you feel that they are suffering with postnatal depression, make the doctors appointment for them. It’s what I had to do a few years ago for Ross for his depression, and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. Yes, they have to be willing to help themselves, there’s only so much you can do, but seeking the help for them might be just what they need.
Just Show Your Support
It doesn’t matter who you are in this. If you know someone who is struggling then be there for them. Don’t just ask a simple “how are you feeling?” as that will likely get shut down. Actions speak louder than words sometimes, and being present and there for them is often more important than what you say. If they want to talk they will. But you need to be there for that to happen. And if you don’t want to say anything, you can always do something else. Funky Pigeon literally have a range of gifts for people suffering with mental illnesses. Maybe something like that might be worth a try.
Look After Yourself Too
Don’t get me wrong, it was extremely hard on me too. Sometimes I felt like I had to tip-toe around on egg shells, worried I’d say something to make him worse. At times, it felt like I had two babies to look after, and I know that sounds bad. But it was extremely hard being a first time mum, not knowing what I was doing whilst also looking after and attending to my husband. He’ll even admit that at times he was incredibly needy.
Well That’s It
Hopefully some of these things can help you find a way to make your partner feel better if they’re suffering with postnatal depression.
There certainly are little things I wish I had done. Maybe if I had looked into male postnatal depression before hand. I mean with a history of depression, it shouldn’t have really been a shock that Ross had postnatal depression. But still, I never gave it a second thought. Secondly I wish we spent more time by ourselves in the very early days and said no to people. But you learn from all experiences, good and bad.
Feel free to leave a comment below if you can think of anything that can help someone with postnatal depression. I know Ross also has a postnatal depression toolkit on the website, so you can check that out for more ideas. He’s always thinking of things to add to that.