My wife suffered with post-natal depression when our daughter was born at 32 weeks. The pregnancy was perfectly fine up until the 32 week point until my wife suddenly went into labour. This was a very hard time for my wife as she felt like she had failed as a mother as she could not carry to full term or that she had done something wrong during pregnancy which caused this. Our daughter was born in July-17 being 8 weeks premature, this was a huge shock for both of us as we were not expecting it at all.
When our daughter was born she was put in an incubator so we were not allowed to hold her for a few days. This was not how either of us wanted our first experience to be, we wanted to have the new born cuddles and have a positive memory but all we can remember is the fear of if she was going to be OK and when can we leave the hospital with our child. No matter how much I reassured my wife it did not change how she felt as we could only stare at her through the plastic box.
Our daughter had to stay in the NICU in Lincoln for about 4 weeks which was very hard for us as I had to travel home every evening and leave my wife and daughter in the hospital. This was heart breaking every time I had to get in the car and drive away. I wanted to stay but we had animals at home that needed looking after. When I was at home all I wanted to do is go back and spend time with my wife and our daughter. Luckily my work was very understanding and allowed me to have 4 weeks off work with compassionate absence while our daughter was in the hospital so I could spend most of the day with them before having to come back home.
While we were in the hospital my wife was getting very stressed and anxious about friends and family coming to see our daughter as she felt like she had to host everyone instead of enjoying time with our baby. My wife is very good at hiding her true feelings so during this time I thought she was doing fine and the friends and family visiting was a good thing to show her that she was loved by everyone and that she should be happy with our beautiful daughter but this was not the case.
When we finally got home I thought life would start getting better because we were home as a family but my wife’s anxiety just got worse, she would continuously think that something was going to happen to our daughter and she hated passing her around in case she caught an illness from someone or someone might drop her. She started to shut herself off from friends and family as the anxiety was too much for her to cope with. This made my wife lonely as she had to stay at home with the child while I was at work.
I attempted to encourage her to go out and socialize so that she can talk about how she is feeling with other new mums who might be going through the same situation. All I could do it try and support my wife as I felt useless most of the time.
I would get home from work and want to spend time with our baby. It was difficult for my wife to give up control to me for when I was dealing with our daughter. As soon as our daughter would cry my wife would try and take her back straight away and this made me feel upset as I wanted to deal with her. I understood that my wife was suffering with mental health issues so I didn’t want to make an issue of it.
I could tell that my wife was getting worse with her anxiety and depression so I was doing everything I could to cheer her up and help out with our daughter as much as I could. I kept asking if she was OK and trying to get her to talk to me about how she was feeling which was starting to annoy her more.
My wife got to the stage where she did not want to talk to anyone and when I would come home from work I would try and talk to her but all I got was 1 word answers or nodding. It got so bad that she even told me that she did not love me anymore. This really knocked me back as I thought that I was helping as much as I could and to reassure her that she was doing a fantastic job but my wife didn’t want to hear it. I knew that she was suffering with post-natal depression and falling out of love could be a symptom of it but I did not think that this would have happened to us.
I did not know what to do with myself as I did not want to intrude and push my luck with a wife that did not love me anymore. I tried to act normal but I think my wife could tell that she had hurt my feelings so we just co-existed together until she was in a better mind set.
My wife went to the doctors because our daughter was ill and the doctor asked if my wife was OK at the end of the appointment, this made my wife talk about her feelings and she realised that she wasn’t OK. She was then referred the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy team. This was good because it made my wife talk about why she was feeling anxious and stressed all the time and how to improve her state of mind. After the 12 week program my wife felt much better about sharing her feelings to prevent the stress and anxiety building up again. My wife is a fantastic mother and I knew that she would do anything for our child. I am glad that she got the help when she did as the situation could have spiraled out of control and it could have ended in a different way.
She still suffers with anxiety and depression which will probably never go away but she can now identify what the symptoms are so hopefully we can get help sooner if the symptoms get worse. We are going to start trying for a 2nd baby in the next few months and we are both paranoid about another premature baby. If we have another premature baby then I am sure that my wife will suffer with post-natal depression again so during the pregnancy we will be contacting a doctor to try and prevent the stress and anxiety building up again.
My advice to other partners of mums who are suffering with post-natal depression is to try and not take what is said to heart, the new mum is suffering with a mental health illness and the only way to recover from it is to identify the issue and get help. I tried my hardest to try and help my wife but whatever I did seemed to be wrong. I have never suffered with mental health myself so all I could do was empathise with her as I did not truly know how she felt.
If I had taken everything to heart and argued back with my wife then it would have made the situation much worse, I had to let go of my pride and do whatever my wife needed me to do so that she could look after our daughter and deal with her post-natal depression as best as she could. I would recommend partners to seek advice from a trained professional who would be able to help the mum as they have probably helped several mums in the same situation. They need to tell the mum that it is “OK not to be OK” and that they should not try and hide their feelings as it only makes the situation worse..