My Experience with Male Postpartum Depression
Nick grew up in southern California and now lives in Springfield, Oregon. He works as a wine merchandiser for Southern Wine and Spirits and plays bass guitar in the local band Wanibra. He and his girlfriend had their first child in May 2010. After researching their options, they chose to have a home birth with a licensed direct-entry midwife. Their son, Vryce, was born at home nearly four weeks early without complications.
We often hear women sharing their birth stories, but men’s voices aren’t heard as often. Tell us about what birth was like for you.
Terrifying. My girlfriend and I went to childbirth classes, but they didn’t really help. She was in obvious discomfort. I wanted to help, but I couldn’t tell if what I was doing was actually helpful. I didn’t know whether everything was going to be okay or not. There was just a lot of anxious energy.
How did you feel the first few weeks after your son was born?
I was relieved that the birth turned out fine. But I was really exhausted and hyper vigilant. We had a close call with our son choking on birth goo just a few hours after he was born. I spent a lot of time watching my son and girlfriend to make sure that they were okay. I did a lot of cleaning up around the house and made all of the food since my girlfriend didn’t leave the bedroom for the first two weeks except to go to the bathroom.
My son also had difficulty regaining his birth weight, and the situation got pretty scary. My girlfriend would pump and we would feed him breast milk through a tubing system attached to our finger. We did that around the clock every hour. Everything was run by the alarm. I didn’t get a lot of sleep. No matter what was happening, when that alarm went off, everything stopped to try and wake him up and feed him.
Men typically experience difficult emotions when the baby is three to six months old. What was that period like for you?
I definitely had postpartum stuff, depression. I don’t really know when it started. I was just super anxious about what to do and when to do it. I had an idea of what I wanted to do, but I didn’t know whether I was being helpful or just in the way. The uncertainty and anxiety just really got to me.
How did you handle those difficult feelings?
My girlfriend and I just argued a lot. And I drank a lot during that time as a form of self-medication.
Men often report that their romantic relationship with their partner changes after having a baby. Did you find that to be the case?
Totally. I didn’t think our relationship should change, but it did. My girlfriend was a mom all the time, and it was hard for us to be intimate. I was pretty sure she didn’t want to have sex, but it was still really important to me. After so much rejection, whether it was real or imagined, I kind of gave up.
Looking back, I easily forgot about that stuff. I don’t have negative feelings anymore toward her about the lack of intimacy after the birth of our son, which is good. It means I’ve come to terms about it, rather than having hard feelings.
The more we talk about things in a constructive way, the better our relationship gets. I mean really talking – a compassionate talk instead of “you did this” or “you did that.” Talk without criticism. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.
Are there other things you wish men knew about life after baby?
If the sanctity of your home or the thought of being home with your family is important at all to you, you need to give yourself and your partner some space. The phrase “choose your battles” is ridiculous, because that implies that everything is a battle, but it is important to realize that there are bigger things going on.
You have to talk compassionately with your partner. If you let enough things that are not important go, they become important. Sometimes when you feel down, it’s time to step up for yourself and talk about what you expect. You still have to follow the rules of communication, even if you feel like you’ve been backed into a corner and those rules no longer apply.
Also, try to spend as much time with the baby as you can. Don’t be afraid of changing diapers or rocking or cuddling or singing to your child – even if it makes you uncomfortable at first. Don’t accept “Oh, I’ll handle it” as an answer from your partner. You will be put in situations where you are the only one who is going to provide for that kid, and it’s really important that you have those skills early on.
Oh! And babies make weird noises. It’s okay. You don’t need to take your kid to the doctor for making pterodactyl sounds.