I love television. At any given time I probably have about 10-15 different shows I stay current on from week to week. I am also not afraid to admit that a few of them are reality shows. TLC in particular is a channel I have long followed.
I was recently watching one of the newer shows on the channel, “Outdaughtered,” which follows Adam and Danielle Busby and their six daughters, Blayke age six and two-year-old quintuplets Parker, Riley, Ava, Olivia and Hazel. The Busbys live in Texas and the show follows them on their journey of balancing being the parents of six girls, and also finding time for work and each other. It’s a fabulous show!
On a recent episode, Adam admitted to having felt somewhat down since the quints had been born. He was in a sort of depression that he couldn’t pinpoint. After he consulted with a pastor/male friend he was informed that he may be suffering from “Male Post Partum Depression.”
It’s a real thing! WebMD estimates that “slightly more than 10% of new dads also become depressed before or after their baby’s birth.” PPD in women is not talked about all that much in this day and age, so it’s no surprise that most people have never heard of the male version.
Watching Adam Busby go through it on TV reminded me of my own husband after the births of both of our kids. He was easily frustrated, distant, and very pessimistic. My husband has never been like upbeat Ned Flanders (“The Simpsons”), he’s more of a cross between snarky, yet supportive Dan Connor from “Roseanne” and sturdy and strong Ned Stark from “Game of Thrones” in his overall persona and parenting style. So, for him to be withdrawn and dispirited was very unlike him.
Looking back, I can now say that my husband was most likely suffering from his own version of postpartum depression. Since I had postpartum depression with both of our kids myself, I didn’t really see it at the time. I knew he was “sad” during those times too, but I guess I didn’t quite think about it much more than that. However, when you are so deep in the darkness yourself it is hard to see much beyond yourself and your new baby. It’s not hard to imagine this happening quite frequently in other marriages around the world—moms being treated for postpartum after the arrival of a new baby, but what about dads that are suffering too?
Yes, women carry, birth and are often the early nurturers of our newborns, especially if breastfeeding. However, more dads are helping out with their children than ever before. Parenting has become a team effort in many households and a great deal of dads are right “in the thick of it” with their spouses from the minute the baby is born.
One article I read said that dads were more likely to get PPD if their spouses had it as well. This was the case for us. I know I was not a fun person to be around in the months following the births of both of my sons. The same article even said that the severity of the depression was linked between the couples. This would again make sense since a large majority of couples are two parts of a whole that makes up the union. My husband and I have always complimented one another in this way. We were very much “cut from the same cloth” as my mom would say. So, when I was in a hard season of life after our boys were born, it’s no surprise that he was too.
Let’s not forget that babies are hard! I’ve always strongly disagreed with anyone that says babies are easy. Even babies with easy temperaments are tough! Babies constantly need attention, to be fed, changed, bathed, carried, burped, and usually don’t sleep in the beginning! Therefore, parents are sleep-deprived, we lack personal time, and are often unshowered. It is so difficult on a person! It wears on you. It is easy to conclude that all of these factors could contribute to all forms of postpartum, in men and women.
Regardless of the cause of male postpartum depression, we need to bring more awareness to the topic. As female postpartum depression continues to inch out of the darkness of topics less talked about, with it, we need to talk about how dads can carry the same burden.
Men should not feel ashamed to reach out for help or support from their partners, friends, family or physicians. They should not feel like they are inadequate fathers, less than stellar husbands, or weak men for feeling this way.
Our culture has long set men in the role of provider and cast them as the symbol of stability and order within their family. Even in this day and age men are often looked down upon for crying or showing signs of fragility. This has to stop – especially in cases of male postpartum depression.
New dads, like new moms, need support from those around them. They don’t need to be made to feel ashamed for admitting they are having a hard time. Because, let’s remember that babies are hard! And it takes a village! Dads (and moms) are the heart of the village that raise each child so we all need to do our part to hold them up in times of hardship. We need to destigmatize PPD, at all levels and let our husbands, brothers, dads, and friends know that it is alright to feel this way after the arrival of a new baby, and that it is very important for them to get the help they need and know that they have a team of loved ones behind them all of the way.
I wish I had seen it in my own husband after the births of our children so I could have done more of this myself. I hope other men aren’t out there experiencing this in silence or not telling their spouses how they truly feel. If you are, or if you think your loved one is, please talk about it because male postpartum depression is very real and worth the discussion.