Wednesday, May 19, 2010

WSJ: "New Dads, Too, Can Suffer Depression."

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18 Comments:

Blogger fred said...

oddly, another article on same subject, same day:

http://www.salon.com/life/fatherhood/index.html?story=/mwt/broadsheet/2010/05/18/postpartum_depression

7:53 AM, May 19, 2010  
Blogger Jose said...

You know I have often wondered if for en it might not also be hormonal. Or at least a response the the change in pheromones with the mother. My husband has had his own baby blues periods after our children are born. I have suffered not so much from PPD as much from being severely drained after giving birth. Fortunately I found a midwife who found the reasons for my issues and put me on the right vitamins to handle it. Hubby however is still having a little trouble..

I have to say though, that he is not abusive.. Just a little down.

8:19 AM, May 19, 2010  
Blogger Trust said...

Re: the part where the husband left for work early and stayed later than needed.

I remember watching Rabbi Shmuley counsel a couple on Shalom in the Home. The wife had an inappropriate friendship with another man. Nothing sexual, but the guy was clearly interested. The Rabbi told the husband that if he didn't make her feel beautiful and loved, she'd seek it out elsewhere. Women also seek intimacy through communication with their girlfriends.

What the Rabbi doesn't get (my impression from his articles), and what many don't understand, is that men need respect the way women need love. A husband that works his butt off for his family only to be disrespected, neglected, and/or downright insulted, will seek that respect out in the same manner the wife sought the support of her girlfriends and the affection of another man. Men will work overtime where they are treated with respect and their contributions valued. They will want to play poker or golf with their buddies where they feel like their companionship is wanted for a reason other than a workhorse.

Men and women are very different, but they are more alike in their differences than many realize.

8:46 AM, May 19, 2010  
Blogger Trust said...

I have 11 month old twins, and I will say I have a sadness to a degree. I love my little girls, but it definitely changed my relationship with my wife. She wants to spend time with me, almost always shopping it seems. But we have no intimacy. She's always too tired. Never too tired for Facebook until 1 am, or to read Twilight until 2 am, but too tired for me. Yes, it is depressing.

She can't blame it on hormones since our girls are adopted.

8:48 AM, May 19, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: All
RE: Heh

I don't recall being 'depressed' about the birth of either of my daughters.

I DO recall being VERY 'tired' for the first few months after each, as to the feeding cycles. Both were breast feed for the better part of a year.

Nor do any of the new fathers I know and work with at this time seem 'depressed'. Tired? Yes. Depressed? Hardly. More like a somnambulant sense of well-being about them.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Children, n., Messages we send to a future we shall not see.]]

9:18 AM, May 19, 2010  
Blogger TMink said...

Trust, congratulations on your twins! And God bless you with your wife.

Trey

9:37 AM, May 19, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

"I DO recall being VERY 'tired' for the first few months after each, as to the feeding cycles. Both were breast feed for the better part of a year."

----------

I'll bet your nipples got really sore.

9:52 AM, May 19, 2010  
Blogger William Gant said...

I went through it after my daughter was born. In fact, I'd say from about three months after she was born until she was 18 months old or so was hands down the worst period of my life, bar none. I think it might have been exacerbated by the 8 day stay in the hospital for both my wife and my daughter though, after which I had to immediately return to work.

It changes the relationship, drastically and does so (at least for a while) in a way that you would have never expected in a childless marriage. Every conversation is about the baby (or A baby, at least). You're tired, she's tired. Things that you need to feel secure and appreciated in the relationship don't happen much any more and it stays that way for a long time. The same is true for her and it doesn't take long to get a bit of a feedback loop going there.

Some of it is the way that other people react. "Oooh look at the cute little baby." Then they start oohing and aahing over the mother. You, on the other hand are a fixture, to be ignored at best, or mocked, at worst. Because, you know, the mother does it all and the father is just a complete dolt that would go out the door with his pants on backwards if it wasn't for his gorgeous, smart, funny wife who keeps him in line. It must be true, it's on TV all the time. People actually feel comfortable acting that way in real life.

10:45 AM, May 19, 2010  
Blogger William Gant said...

Then, it changes your work too. Let's say your job involves a lot of mental effort. You'll make mistakes if you are exhausted when you come in. In the workplace, new mothers are given far more leeway after they return from maternity leave than fathers are. It's not understood when you have to stay home with a sick child (especially when you have to do so a couple of days in a row). And maybe you weren't too happy with your job before - now you are stuck with it until you find something else, because your rainy day fund encountered the monsoon known as having a small child. No matter what they do to you, you can't just walk out (and there is a point where that is the appropriate response to certain kinds of garbage). And even leaving for a job elsewhere is far more complex than it used to be. Will I be able to drop her off at daycare and still get to work on time? Will I be close enough to pick her up if something happens?

You return home from work, at the end of the day, still exhausted from the lack of sleep the night(s) before. You open the door and before your foot reaches the floor just inside the threshold, you are told of another unexpected expense you need to pay, or handed a baby who has a dirty diaper.

All your activities in your home are now altered by the presence of the baby. Want to play a video game like you used to? Well, it's going to get interrupted a hundred times and you'll have to play without sound (so any game involving other people online is out). Want to watch a movie? Might as well forget it. Need to get actual work done because you were bogged down in stupid work bureaucracy during the day? Not happening. Just want to take a nap so that your head will stop hurting - forget it. You miss your alarm clock - you are awakened by the screams of an infant. That's how every day starts and it just gets worse from there.

10:45 AM, May 19, 2010  
Blogger William Gant said...

So, let's see. Your relationship with your wife turns into something you don't recognize and don't particularly like (at least for a while. It does eventually get better). You're exhausted and expected to keep working, for no appreciation (she could be a stay at home mom, but stay at home dads are referred to as bums). Your work suffers because of your fatigue and the fact that you have other obligations besides getting a stupid report put together before the quarterly meeting because they have changed the accounting codes around again without considering the extra work they are creating. You can't do most of the stuff you used to do in your own home, either because it will wake the baby or because the baby is there and will interrupt it to the point that it isn't worth it. And you and the wife can't just get out and just reconnect, because you have a small child who will either have to accompany you or will have to be pawned off on some other relatives.

What I don't get is why the percentage of fathers with depression is so low. It's probably under-diagnosed because of the social stigma. A mother with PPD is understood and helped. A father with it is just told to man up (the appropriate response to this, by the way, is "go to hell"). Having a child really, really sucks, at least until they are old enough to interact a bit socially. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise. When they are old enough to start calling you "daddy" and just talking, they are a whole lot more fun, but the first year or so pretty much sucks.

Now I enjoy hanging out with my daughter. We go people watching and she's able to walk around somewhat. It's a whole lot better than before. And the work and home situations have recovered. The depression is gone now, for the most part. I occasionally get some echoes of it, but nothing like it was before. I also got out of the corporate job about a month ago, and am self-employed, which really helps too.

10:45 AM, May 19, 2010  
Blogger William Gant said...

Might I just add this. A lot of fathers would recover from PPD more quickly, if other people would bother to be understanding and stop trying to treat you as if you were one of those caricatures of men that they see on TV all the time.

10:47 AM, May 19, 2010  
Blogger Topher said...

Trust and Gant puts words to my thoughts - I thought male PPD was because the man realized he was now the second person in his wife's life.

Of course a helpless infant requires primary attention, but I imagine it's worse today as the Cult of the Child has swept America. I'm all for paying attention to your kid, but it's important for a child to see his/her parents have a normal relationship where they prioritize each other. Today's child-centered families debase that.

11:17 AM, May 19, 2010  
Blogger Topher said...

Another point on Gant's anecdotes of going out with the baby...I consider it a non-negotiable point of a healthy relationship to never cut your partner down in public, and don't allow other people to do so either. Blows my mind to see people mock their spouse in the open - often with the spouse there, in many cases to guy-friends or girlfriends who the other person doesn't know from Adam or Eve.

In Gant's case, a wife should not allow her girlfriends or strangers to get the idea her husband is a doofus layabout. A friend of mine with a baby is doing it right, constantly saying how great her husband is as a new father.

Some people are hooked on the oohs and ahhs; don't get me started on people attention-whoring via their children, either.

11:27 AM, May 19, 2010  
Blogger Topher said...

Finally, my father's definition of PPD: "when a woman realizes she's just had a baby, and this baby is going to drive her nuts for the next 20 years of her life."

11:28 AM, May 19, 2010  
Blogger William Gant said...

Well, I will give the women the benefit of the doubt as far the PPD stuff goes - they have some pretty brutal hormonal swings both during pregnancy and after the baby is in the house. And even if there was no hormonal component, you still have a baby that has to be fed every two hours, diapers to change, etc.

Of course, it's entirely possible that being a father can trigger hormonal changes too. At least, I wouldn't be surprised if I saw some research that came to that conclusion, as it would most certainly be an evolutionary advantage for babies to be able to do that. The sleep deprivation alone can be enough to make a mess of things - no hormones are really needed. Apparently, being a mental wreck is more acceptable when it is hormonal versus environmental. I'm not sure why that's the case.

Also, to respond to Topher. My wife didn't let her friends get the idea that I was a doofus or anything like that (she's pretty quick about straightening people out in that regard - if I don't straighten them out myself). What irritated me was the number of people who had to be corrected.

I guess the point to take away from all of this is that having kids is pretty dang tough and isn't something to be undertaken without a lot of forethought and planning. On a couple of occasions, I've heard people say that they don't want to commit to a marriage, but they are fine with having a kid beforehand. I can't imagine the kind of thought that makes a statement like that sound like something you'd want to verbalize, much less believe.

2:47 PM, May 19, 2010  
Blogger julie said...

Thanks for linking this. My husband and I are about to become parents, and it's been foremost in my mind to make sure he doesn't end up feeling marginalized once the baby is here. I firmly believe that one of the best things parents can do for their kids is to have a strong and loving relationship, but I know that the first months with an infant can put a major strain on things.

This article is helpful in that we can discuss watching out for depression in each other (and what to do about it should it arise) in advance, instead of finding out the hard way that there was a problem for either of us that we waited too long to address.

3:31 PM, May 19, 2010  
Blogger Topher said...

"My wife didn't let her friends get the idea that I was a doofus or anything like that (she's pretty quick about straightening people out in that regard - if I don't straighten them out myself). What irritated me was the number of people who had to be corrected."

Gant, wasn't intending to impugn your wife at all, just showing how other people's behavior can hurt a relationship if the relators allow false impressions to propagate.

julie,

"My husband and I are about to become parents, and it's been foremost in my mind to make sure he doesn't end up feeling marginalized once the baby is here."

This is awesome! Thank you.

4:04 PM, May 19, 2010  
Blogger William Gant said...

Julie,
You've got the right approach. We were reasonably well-prepared for the baby. The NICU and hospital stay gave us a lot of strain before she went home, and then there was the post-partum stuff that we hadn't even considered. Being aware of the possibility of the problem will go a long way towards avoiding it altogether (or at least taking appropriate action before it gets too bad).

Topher,
I know you didn't mean to impugn her or anything. I was pretty fortunate that she was understanding and helpful in that regard. I imagine a lot of guys/gals aren't that lucky and we don't exactly have a culture in this country where men are able to get help when they have problems.

4:37 PM, May 19, 2010  

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