With Father’s day coming up, I want to point out to the subject of fathers and postnatal depression as I feel it is despite its significance often overlooked or even ignored.
Postpartum depression has typically been perceived as a problem limited to women with newborn babies and has not included men.
However, we cannot forget that fathers also experience significant changes with the arrival of their child. Fathers also have to adjust to an array of new and demanding roles and tasks during the early stages of parenthood.
I often talk about postnatal depression, but I have realised I have never written about what postnatal depression actually is.
Personally, I am familiar with everything that relates to postnatal depression, but I am aware that this is not the case for everyone. There are plenty of people who still have no clue what it actually is, or even perceive it as some kind of a whim on the part of the sufferer.
I had an entry into the 2006 London marathon but unfortunately suffered an injury so had to defer. I then realised that if I moved quickly there was a chance I could become pregnant with my second child and still be able to run in the 2007 marathon and not lose my deferred place.
I was incredibly fortunate that with both pregnancies I didn’t suffer with morning sickness or any pains. I managed to keep running through both pregnancies. With the second one, I managed a gentle 5 mile run in some light snow in the morning and then went into labour that evening.
Unfortunately, my daughter (like my son) has to be extracted immediately due to the monitors showing they were in distress so I had to have emergency sections for both.
Do you feel overwhelmed by your thoughts and/or feelings?
I believe it won’t be anything new for you when I advise you to talk about it. Especially when these thoughts/feelings can significantly impact your mental health. Especially when you are a new mum dealing with feelings of sadness, failure, overwhelm, loneliness, isolation… Talking is undoubtedly the best thing you can do.
The reason is simple. Talking can literally save you.
I know you feel overwhelmed with everything that is going on now. You could not wait to have your babies and now that they are here, you are not sure that it is what you wanted. I know you are astonished by your own feelings and emotions. I know you don’t feel the love you expected to be feeling. I know you doubt your decision about having children. I know you desperately want your life back. I know you feel stuck. And I know that you feel incredibly guilty for feeling this way.
The term ‘postnatal depression’ can be confusing. New mums go through a variety of feelings and often are in that emotional tangle not sure whether they suffer from depression or not. The Internet is full of professional definitions, but many times these would not help identify when it really is depression.
Perhaps every mother who has been through depression at least for a certain period of time has a feeling that they have had to hide it from others. I was not an exception. I often ask myself why and still come to the conclusion that it was simply a subconscious reflex of my mind. I had the impression that something was wrong with me and that people would judge me for my feelings.
Somewhere deep inside I even feared that they could take my children away from me. Which, by the way, is an interesting paradox. On the one hand, I was depressed by the existence of my children, but the idea of taking them from me made me feel even worse … Maternal instinct is (fortunately) an extremely powerful and perhaps affects us more than we can imagine.
I’ll never forget the moment when I was looking at my few days old children and tears were falling down my face. However, it wasn’t the tears of joy, it was the tears of regret. Regret that we’d wanted to have them and regret about my future.
It was a couple of days after Yaw and I had moved into the hospital. Nurses recommended this step as I’d wanted to breastfeed. During one week all four of us lived in a hospital room the size of a shoe box. I am always grateful that we had this option but it wasn’t easy to live like that. In a real-time it wasn’t a long period of time, but for me, it was the longest week of my life. And one of the hardest ones.