What It’s Like To Live With: A Partner With Postpartum Depression
What It’s Like to Live With explores the stories of the loved ones living with and/or caring for people who see and experience every day a little differently.
Two weeks after delivering our son, my wife was irritable, anxious, had difficulties sleeping. Although one anticipates these after having a baby, the extent to which she showed her mood swings — I realized it had to be more than just a new baby.
Our doctor confirmed it was postpartum depression. And he told me that I couldn’t fix it or make it go away. He asked me to remember that recovery could take longer than I wanted it to. But I was willing to wait it out with her.
It wasn’t easy or pleasant. Which illness ever is? She was feeling depressive, and sometimes these feelings were so intense that they interfered with her ability to take care of herself and the baby. So, I knew I had to step in. I had to push myself because everything was new for me, too, and I also had work to take care of. I didn’t know what to do when we were supposed to be having the happiest moments but she was irritable and anxious most of the time.
Her condition made the most mundane tasks seem difficult, but there was no way I could’ve expressed these feelings in front of her. I had to support her emotionally and physically while keeping the household running. It sounds like a lot — it really was a lot. I did have to spend time taking care of myself, ensuring I got enough rest and had my friends to talk to about how I was feeling. It wasn’t pulling me down in any way; I just needed to speak to someone about my feelings because I didn’t want to bottle them up and have a day when I vented it out on someone at the wrong time. It did get exhausting for the family, but with everyone’s help at this difficult time, it got better. And I noticed a big difference in her recovery.
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Initially, I was making the mistake of saying things like ‘I love you’ to her, that she’s a good mother, she’s beautiful. But I realized that she wasn’t believing it and assumed that I was lying. That irritated her more. I understood she needed someone to validate her pain, and that’s what I needed to do. So, I had to start by saying that I know she felt terrible; that she will get better; and that we’re in it and doing the right things to get better. I noticed that she felt better when I told her that she can be a good mother and feel terrible. It was okay to be both.
My favourite exercise was to just sit with her without the television, phone or anything else, like newspapers or magazines, to distract us. This made her feel that I was there. It wasn’t easy for me because I constantly kept feeling that nothing was making her happy, and she made me feel that we’re so distant after an event that should’ve brought us closer.
I did realize she knew that she was acting completely different than her normal self, but my friends advised not to let her think even for a second that I was questioning her sanity, or reminding her that she was being different. What got difficult was the fact that she found reasons to be angry or upset with me, but I had to constantly keep reminding myself that everything will stop, and it really had nothing to do with me.
So, to everyone else who is on the other side of a woman going through postpartum depression, all I have to say is that sooner or later it will get better. But in the moment, it will seem impossible to overcome. Just hang in there; she and you will both be happy again, soon.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. As told to Anubhuti Matta.