While waiting for our babies to come, my husband and I dreamed of a beautiful life. We imagined a happy home full of smiles and giggles, with occasional gorgeous photoshoots that featured cute bunnies and bows as props. However, the reality turned out to be nothing like this. Our home was full of two crying babies and their diapers, formula, and burp cloths, with no room left for sleep and sanity.
While fellow parents had prepared me for the forthcoming chaos, I didn’t prepare myself for the postpartum depression (PPD )and anxiety that also came along.
PPD affects not only the new mom but also everyone around her. If your wife/partner is going through it, check out our guide to understanding PPD and dealing with it.
Postpartum depression symptoms
While a majority of mothers feel sadness, fatigue, and lethargy in the first 2-3 weeks post-delivery, for others, these symptoms don’t fade away with time. About 1 in every 7 new mothers has PPD.
The symptoms of PPD can include:
- Feeling of detachment from the baby
- Feeling of failure as a mother
- Harmful or suicidal thoughts
What PPD looks like to the partner
It can be heart-breaking for anyone to watch their partner going through PPD. Everything may look normal on the outside while she battles with her emotions internally. However, the silent struggle may at times give way to sudden anger outbursts or sobbing episodes. Such ups and downs can leave the partner confused and frustrated.
Some of the ways in which these emotions come out are:
- Sudden anger
- Uncontrollable crying
- Extreme mood swings
- Change in the eating pattern (eating too much or too little)
- Withdrawal from family, baby, spouse, or life
How to help a wife with PPD
After my twins were born, I was nowhere close to the person I used to be. From a habitually chirpy and active girl, I turned into a confused, sad, and fog-brained person who flew into unpredictable fits of rage. Yet, I continued to ignore the symptoms. I didn’t want to accept that I was going through PPD, which didn’t leave me alone for more than two years after my children were born.
It’s often hard for a new mom to acknowledge the signs of PPD given the stigma attached to it, not to mention the added burden of dealing with the judgment and unsolicited advice from family members. Still, there are ways you can help her in opening up and overcoming PPD.
- Recognize and acknowledge: The first step in solving any problem is accepting it exists in the first place. I could never do it with my PPD, but that didn’t stop my husband from understanding, acknowledging, and acting on it.
- Listen: Motherhood is hard; getting used to it is even more challenging, especially when your hormones and moods are on a non-stop rollercoaster. Your wife is experiencing a lot of emotions in the span of seconds all through the day. Lend her an ear and let her vent. This will give her some relief.
- Win back her trust: One of the biggest problems my PPD caused was making me doubt myself as a mother. Such self-doubt can leave anyone feeling weak and vulnerable, making it harder to open up about their insecurity. Make your partner feel confident about herself by praising every small decision she makes for the baby. This will not only boost her confidence but also restore her faith in you, encouraging her to talk about her emotional distress.
- Support and help her: Be there for her and the baby. Get involved in all baby-related tasks, big and small alike—for example, you can take turns feeding (if you use formula), bathing, reading books, and taking the baby to playdates. This will make her feel less stressed and give her time to consider her issues and work on resolving them.
Dos and don’ts of dealing with PPD
While helping your partner deal with PPD, keep the following things in mind to make the road less bumpy for both of you.
- Avoid saying “Don’t worry” or “Don’t think negatively.” She can’t help or control her thoughts.
- Refrain from suggestions like “Snap out of it” or “Stop being so dramatic”-she can’t!
- Don’t generalize her behavior by saying “You always overreact” or “You never understand the situation.”
- Instead, validate her feelings.
- Avoid making comments on her appearance post-delivery if she is conscious about her mom-body.
- Small tasks can feel overwhelming in PPD, so show her your love, not just with words but with actions. Instead of asking what you can do to make her feel better, ask her what tasks she has on her to-do list for the day and take care of whatever you can.
- Call from work to check in on her. Invite her to share small details of her day and listen attentively.
- Most importantly, don’t ignore PPD or wait for it to heal on its own.
- Seek professional help and a support system she can connect with.
Try as you may to make it better for her, nothing seems to work on some days. Remember, you cannot fix it for her, but you can make it a little less challenging. There is no one-size-fits-all approach with PPD. Be patient, shower her with love, and, most importantly, help her open up and talk about her depression.
What is the biggest challenge for you in dealing with your partner’s PPD? Share with us in the comments below.