New dads can experience post partum depression too
by Bre Woligroski
Dear Ate Anna,
When our first child was born two months ago I was so happy and thankful. But for the last month I have changed. Sometimes I feel angry or sad for no reason. I get upset with my wife over small things, or sometimes I feel like I just can’t do enough and that I will never be a good father. What is happening with me? I am normally a happy person.
Thank you for writing to me. A new baby is a very exciting addition! Your family is growing and changing, and with your first newborn these changes can come very fast. It is normal to have confusing feelings when there is so much happening in your life.
When our lives change in large ways, we often experience a time of transition when we need to get used to our new circumstances. This time of transition usually holds many different challenges and stresses for you and your family. For example, since your baby came into your life, you probably have changed your sleeping habits and your daily routines. Sometimes babies are sick and cry loudly and no matter what you try, they just won’t be comforted.
Newborns can also be difficult for our romantic relationships. Often we assume that having babies will bring partners closer together, which makes it feel even harder if they begin to disagree with each other. Everybody here, including the baby, is feeling something new. And these new feelings can be challenging and stressful.
Emotions like joy, love, sadness, irritability and crankiness can all be normal responses to a big change like this. It may sound confusing that a parent can feel both joy and sadness at the same time, but it is very common. What you have described to me sounds like it may be a normal response to a stressful situation.
There are things that you can do to help you and your wife through the tough times of this transition. First, be patient with yourselves and each other, as this is a challenging time of change. Allow yourself to make mistakes, and be extra patient when you see your wife struggling.
Though your schedule may feel tight, try to take some time in the day for yourself. If you and your wife plan together, maybe you can each have about an hour each day to use just for yourself in whatever way you want to use it. Maybe you can take that hour to take a nap, play some music, or see a friend. If you can’t squeeze an hour, try a half hour or even 15 minutes if that is all you can do. Sometimes a friend or relative may be able to watch the baby for a few hours while you two get some important time together away from your child to reconnect and recharge. Other stress reduction techniques you can do alone or together are meditation, eating healthy, or even taking a walk outside. These can be quite helpful for your body and your mind.
If your symptoms last a long time, or if they get a lot worse, then it may be time to reach out for resources to help you through this time. Post-partum depression – a term used when someone feels really sad and stressed after the birth of a baby – can be experienced by parents of all genders. If you experience post-partum depression, you may not feel in control of your own emotions or your actions, and that is a sign that it is time to reach out for help.
If you suspect that you may have post-partum depression, it is a good idea to talk to your health care provider about what you are feeling. They may be able to help you with options. Try to talk to your wife and other people in your life that you trust; talking often helps you process your feelings and also lets the people you know best understand what you are experiencing. Resources like saddaddy.com may also help you, and let you know that you are not alone.
Post-baby stress and post-partum depression is a common experience and though it may feel bad, there is hope. There are people and resources that can help you. I encourage you to reach out to these resources, and to take care of yourself as you take care of your baby and your family!
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