I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety after the birth of my third child. Every day, we hear about women who take their own lives because of the disease, leaving depression meds teens a grieving family with small children. My husband was scared — no, he was fucking terrified. He knew I was in therapy.
He knew I was beginning meds, but he felt impotent. He wanted to help, but he didn’t know what he could do. What can you do in the face of such an overwhelming monster? Actually, as we discovered together, a spouse can do a hell of a lot to support their partner through postpartum depression. It may not be easy, and it may not be pleasant. But a spouse can help their partner overcome — or at at least live with — postpartum depression and anxiety. She can’t control the thoughts that arise.
She can cope with them in a variety of ways her therapist will eventually teach her, but she can’t make the thoughts go away — especially in the early stages of her disease. Moreover, these thoughts feel brutally real. They tell her that she’s worthless, that she’s a bad mother, that she doesn’t deserve her child. I’m so sorry you feel that way.
It must hurt a lot to feel like that. She needs someone to validate that she’s in pain. This helps her feel supported and safe. Don’t question a decision to try or not try medication, to use cognitive behavioral therapy, or to do some combination of the two. If she’s on meds, help her figure out the breastfeeding thing. Some medications are compatible with breastfeeding.
Do your own research and help her make the decision to continue nursing or not. Whatever she decides — to nurse with medication or not — support her choice. I chose to nurse through several medications because breastfeeding was important to me, and I’m grateful that my husband never questioned my decision. Did you take your pills today? But when you ask her about it, it just feels minimizing and belittling. When my husband asked me this, it always felt like he was accusing me of irrational behavior and chalking it up to a lack of meds.
Some women may not mind a gentle reminder. But a pill container or phone alarm works much, much better — it doesn’t judge you. She’s spent all day either being a mom or working. She needs her rest to recharge and get better. Taking the baby plus any other kids you have is one of the best things you can do for her. She can get some restorative sleep and rest from a long day, which will help her feel better about life in general. Usually, cooking falls to the wife, and it can be an enormous stressor at the end of the day to realize you still have to feed several people.
It doesn’t have to be fancy, but the healthier the better. When you take over the cooking, you remove what can potentially be a big stressor, and give her more time to concentrate on feeling better. For older children, relax the screen time expectations. More Scooby-Doo won’t kill them, and it will give you and your partner a much-needed break.