Breaking the Stigma of Male Post Natal Depression

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  1. Robert

    I never expected to have PND, and was never formally diagnosed, but like so many parents it crept up on me in the months after my second child was born. I’d had a really close relationship with my son, and had expected the bond to form with my daughter almost immediately, but the relationship never really developed.
    I’d hurt my back about 2 month before she was born, and hadn’t fully recovered, so when she arrived it made sense for me to avoid lifting (and therefore cuddles) as mush as possible. Coupled with the fact that my wife was breastfeeding and we had an older child to look after, it made sense for my wife to stay with her, and me to look after our son.
    After a few weeks my wife was diagnosed with PND and referred for counselling. Our health visitor was brilliant, visiting every week, and really supporting my wife to build her network of friends. Fortunately for us, the PND was mild, and by the time her referral came through 5 months later, my wife was all but better and was quickly discharged. However, throughout this time the strain of supporting my wife and hiding my feelings from her had become entrenched.
    We carried on for 3 more months, with the relationship between my daughter and me becoming more and more strained. I can’t begin to describe the feelings of anger and hatred I had towards my daughter, and the guilt this made me feel. I’d ended up in a spiral of negativity, rejection by my daughter causing me to reject her and vice-verse. Her crying had become like background noise to me, and I outwardly completely ignored them, while steadily getting angrier at her.
    My daughter was also not weaning, and still isn’t, particularly effectively. She spent 5 months on purées, and only moved on to 7 month lumpy food at 10 months. She still won’t take bottle feeds, meaning her tie to mum is still pretty strong. My daughter is a happy little girl, but by god she’ll let you know if she’s hungry.
    At 9 months I started taking both kids out myself, a big step for me. This was to give mum a break and also prepare me for when mum was back at work. I dreaded these times, but ‘manned-up’ and kept it to myself. My PND peaked on one of these trips.
    I’d taken them to a local playgroup. Mum had assured me that our daughter wouldn’t be hungry, and if she was then she’d take some milk from her sippy cup to tide her over. I spent an hour and a half bravely battling through this playgroup, with my daughter crying almost constantly and a rage steadily filling me. Suddenly a burning desire to stop the crying filled me, by any means necessary including hurting her. I quickly grabbed all our things, bundled the kids into the car and headed home. I practically threw my daughter at my wife, put my son to bed and burst into tears. About 20 minutes later my wife came in having settled our daughter to sleep and I finally opened up about how I’d been feeling, the anger and the guilt.
    I never sought any help, but the conversation I had with my wife after helped enormously. I realised I wasn’t alone and didn’t have to bottle things up. I’ve become quite active in the dad’s scene locally, creating a facebook group and bring dads together whenever I can. The support of these guys has really helped me to become more comfortable as a dad, and imparting wisdom to them from my limited experience.
    Thankfully my daughter and I have been getting on better every day since. Finally a bond between us is forming and we’re starting to have the relationship I’d always hoped for. Weaning is making steady progress, and she’s 1 next week. I’m feeling more positive about life, and thankfully haven’t any episodes since, although I worry sometimes that I’ll go back to those dark days.

    • Ryan Howe

      Thank you for sharing your story, don’t worry about bad days they come and go. You aren’t weak , you aren’t a bad parent you are someone trying their best

      • Mark Williams

        Ryan, im writting a book with Dr Jane Hanley. I would really like to have your story in our book for awareness… mark williams

        • Ryan Howe

          Hi Mark,
          Whilst I would be happy for you to include it in your book, and also to speak with you if you require any more information, all rights are with the owner of the site. Let me speak to him and I will come back to you.

        • Rosina

          Mark… You are already familiar with Al Ferguson. I introduced you last year prior to Dads Fest. :-) Al is still waiting for you to get in touch…

  2. marge

    Thank you for sharing such an honest account of your feelings about the birth of your son Casey. I believe, like you, that male postnatal depression is a very hidden condition and it will only become more accepted and understood if men are brave enough to share their experiences to each other and empower them to seek help and support.

    • Ryan Howe

      Thank you very much for your comment, my hope for this article is that a dad who is going through the same thing sees this and knows that they aren’t weak and they certainly aren’t alone

  3. Kayla

    As a mom I have felt your pain, there is no gender boundary. To be honest, it gives me hope to know a man as felt the same way I have after giving birth. The guilt or expectations of others is often worst than the condition itself. Kudos to you for speaking up!

    • Ryan Howe

      Thank you, like you say there is no gender boundary but unfortunately there’s is more of a taboo when it comes to the male side of PND

  4. Jose

    It is a great story and very honest. I can identify with dads suffering from PND. My condition is mild anxiety/depression. Was diagnosed a year and a half after our twins were born. What contributed to it apart from not having any family or friends to really share things with was a house purchase. I felt I could not take it any longer. Sometimes I still do.

    Luckily I found a support group. Am also on medication. Sharing fatherhood issues at work just goes to a superficial level where we all understand this but get on with things. Taking my twins out to dad Saturdays or any other outing is still a challenge. But am learning to value the little achievements and also to feel ok with my own decisions. Out there there is a lot of silence and misunderstanding about what fathers do.

    • Ryan Howe

      Thank you for sharing your experience Jose, something I have noticed is that depression and anxiety seem to go hand in hand. Since PND and the depression it’s left I’ve become very anxious and introverted in large groups, even when I know people. It’s good to hear that you have found a support network and that you’re seeing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. If you aren’t already please come and join in the conversation on The Dad Networks private Facebook group.

  5. jaime kendler-arnold

    This is such an important topic.

    I experienced post natal depression after my son was born and it took me about 3/4 months to find my way out of the fog. I keep intending on writing about my experience, but even though I wish more men would speak about this, I keep avoid putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys!).

  6. S

    My son was born 5 weeks premature and my wife, being a paediatrician, was treated with great respect and support by the staff at the hospital, given a family room for herself and my son, and carefully monitored for the weeks he then spent in there until he reached time to leave. Each night I remember, having spent as much time with them as I could, coming home to the balloons and banners and feeling completely alone. It had been a bit of a rocky time for my wife and I getting to the birth anyway (she had been quite anxious about the location of our home so we were planning a relocation) and the birth itself was tricky, so I could feel those feelings of separation and loneliness even more when at home alone. I knew my wife was struggling and while I knew my son was in the best possible place, I had no idea of how he actually was once I left. That sense of uselessness and lack of knowledge was awful and pervaded my wife and my relationship even once they got home. When they did get home it was awesome but that initial excitement soon wore off as my wife’s anxiety about our home’s location wore off and as I got more and more depressed by my lack of ability to ‘fix’ our problems. We decided to move house, but I think by then we both were so entrenched in our negative feelings/PND that we couldn’t truly agree with, or communicate our feelings to each other. Shortly after the decision to move house my wife left, taking my son with her. Both of us suffered from post natal depression, perhaps even pre-natal (although I suppose that is hindsight talking), and it took our relationship and our chance to parent our son together. My son is now 2, I see him 3 times a week, for a total of 13 hrs, and while I feel much better mentally, I urge anyone who has or suspects themselves or their partners to have PND to seek professional help. Don’t let it take the things you love.

    • Ryan Howe

      Oh my, thank you for sharing your story S. I am glad that you’re feeling better mentally and I’m sorry such bad things happened along your journey. Such reverence is given to the mum that the dad is often forgotten and when both parents are going through it at the same time it’s even harder for a dad to feel worthwhile.

  7. I

    Men don’t have the same level of hormonal upheaval, don’t have to learn how to breastfeed or need to recover from the physical and emotional trauma of growing a new human and then giving birth to them. I fully support that Dads can get PND but please don’t think it’s the same, women are dealing with all that as well as the PND. Oh let’s not forget all the social pressure on mums to look ‘back in shape’ within weeks!

    • Nad Snowman

      Bit patronising that. “I fully support that Dads can get PND but please don’t think it’s the same”.

      No one says it is…. we can appreicate “women are dealing with all that as well as the PND. Oh let’s not forget all the social pressure on mums to look ‘back in shape’ within weeks!”

      It’s not worse or same.. it’s different and it exists. You can never really know how anyone else feels so stop trying to equate it.

      And – Oh, lets’ not forget that men need to be strong and not show pain social pressure…. sheesh.

    • Ryan Howe

      Sorry this is the first time I’ve been back to this in a while.

      Whilst I appreciate that there’s not the same level of upheaval for a male as a female due to the process of developing and giving birth I would also counter and say that during the pregnancy stage we were constantly advised of the signs and support available to women who develop PND whilst there was no mention of the male aspect. And as for the “pressure of getting back into shape” it comes as much from the female section of society to look good straight after birth as males. I never put any pressure on wife to look good as long as she’s comfortable I am happy.

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