Dads get PND Too - Part 1by Gemma Campbell
As an expectant mother, you are assigned a Midwife and you may well attend classes from Hypnobirthing to Antenatal, Pregnancy Yoga to Bumps and Babies. But what about Dads?
As you go into labour, there are midwives, nurses, doctors, consultants, surgeons, Gynaecologists etc all for you Mum. They focus entirely on your care and wellbeing during those hours of labour. And whether it’s vaginal or caesarean, the focus is on mum and baby. But what about Dads?
You arrive home; well-wishers galore. Cards and presents aplenty and the arrival of the Community Midwives and your Health Visitor. They check baby and they talk to mum. But what about Dads?
I hadn’t thought about Dad either…he was my sounding off point when I struggled in pregnancy. He was the main ‘mopper upper’ as I projectile vomited throughout labour. And he was the one left holding the baby, as almost 45 minutes passed whilst they worked on me after the emergency C Section. But I was so focused on me and then on the baby that I never really gave him a second thought. Don’t get me wrong, when he put the heavy milk carton on the bottom shelf of the fridge on week 3 after the C-Section and I had to go all morning without a coffee I thought about him plenty then. Or when he slept through the night as baby fed and cried and fed some more, oh I thought about him then too! But, in all honesty, I never once considered the trauma he had witnessed during the labour and subsequent emergency C-Section. The person he loved more than anything, potentially, could have been taken from him, all for some screaming baby he wasn’t entirely sure he definitely wanted in his life. And I wasn’t the only one who didn’t think about him. The Health Visitor TALKED AT him about things he could do to help my recovery. His mum NAGGED him about his new responsibilities. His Dad TALKED ABOUT what a great Grandad he was planning to be. And my parents opted for the ‘ignore him’ stance.
Three weeks into new motherhood and he began to come home later and later. By week 6 there would be days he didn’t come home at all. He was drinking heavily. There was no money as his self-employed work had ‘dried up’ (or he just wasn’t bothering). By week 8, I took up some temporary work as we needed the money thinking he could be a stay at home dad. After the first day, his mum took up the reigns of baby childcare! And rather than me talking to him and thinking that there was a problem, I was too busy trying to do it all. And screaming at him. This drove him further and further away.
When the baby was 5 months old, one of his friends told me he was ‘playing around’. I checked his phone. I was physically sick and that night I honestly don’t know how I got through. His mum took him back to Manchester and there I was, a single mum during the week. This went on for months and nothing changed between us. If anything it got progressively worse until he lived permanently in Manchester and our relationship was very much over.
3 years later I was dropping our daughter at his new girlfriend’s house and we actually started a conversation about what had occurred. He told me that no one had ever asked how he was. And the only person he could talk to was the ‘woman’. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t quite buy into the other woman bullshit, but for the first time ever, I actually listened and thought to myself, how right he was.
Due to the trauma of birth, everybody was so focused on me. And then they had this gorgeous baby, which for both families, was the first grandchild! He had become nothing more than the sperm donor or the fetch and carry man. He had been completely pushed out and worse still, the woman he loved was untouchable, in pain and a very different person due to the changes hormonally as well as a new focus with the baby. And he could hardly stand there, waving his arm saying “what about me?” because, well, it was a bit selfish.
But when a new Dad goes quiet. Or when he disappears in front of your eyes. Or starts working late, please start that conversation. Because Dads get PND too. They are often overwhelmed, unprepared and have no support network. Everything is about the mum and the baby. And as much as Dad wants to be involved, he loses his role a little and, if we are all quite honest, new mums are shouty, teary, tired hormonal bitches to our men. And they simply cannot cope.
Almost 7 years down the line, we have baby number 2. We put things in place and I’m not going to pretend there haven’t been wobbles and tantrums, but we work together as a team now. We talk and we support each other. We made a Doctors appointment when Baby was 2 months old so he could talk through some of the growing issues. And that Health Visitor for baby number 1, is out of retirement for our baby number 2 and that prior knowledge means Daddy is talked to and very much involved. And it is working!