I remember the first night I brought Annaleah home from the hospital almost 10 months ago. It was the most terrifying experience and I was afraid of all that could possibly happen to her. I was in the bathroom next to our bedroom crying, panicking and being completely frantic while my mom was there trying to calm me down. I was afraid that I wasn’t enough, that my new 2-day old baby deserved more than me.
I remember saying to my mom, “I feel like a bad parent the moment my eyes are off her. She deserves to have a hundred angels watching her and I am just not enough, no one could be enough for her.” It was illogical and silly but that’s what I felt in that moment. By the age of 3 months, I calmed down and didn’t feel nauseous every time we went anywhere or did anything in fear of what could happen to her. Apart from that, being a new mom was wonderful. My husband, on the other hand, had a completely different experience of our daughter as a newborn.
When we go through photos now of when she was little, my husband would say, “there I thought I was going to die, my heart was racing like crazy,” and it reminds him of the struggles within himself. He describes the first few days of fatherhood like being in a trance and nothing was like he expected. There were expectations set up by other people of how fatherhood would be and movies and social media painted this picture of a happy kind of sleeplessness called, “newborn bliss.” It wasn’t like that at all, I was distant and consumed by my baby and my husband was on the sidelines looking in feeling as though he was missing out. Late at night he would lie awake worrying about me, Annaleah and our relationship and he worried about what fatherhood meant for him. His restlessness that never settled turned into panic which took over his body resulting in numerous panic attacks throughout the day.
What about the men?
So many times we see articles posted about moms and what they go through postpartum. There are many support groups, meet-ups, group chats, you name it. What about the men?
From first-hand experience I know that becoming a father isn’t this easy-breezy thing but yet we don’t talk about it, and the men surely don’t. In society, men are now expected to keep it together and be the supportive rock for women who have just brought their babies into the world. If they aren’t that, if they falter, then it’s them that aren’t the husbands and fathers they should be. Is that fair that we have so much opportunity for support and they don’t? I don’t think so.
My husband started getting slight anxiety during my late pregnancy that manifested mostly as hypochondria. When I eventually gave birth to Annaleah, his anxiety spiraled out of control. He would wake up at 2am letting me know he was having a panic attack and he wasn’t sure he was going to make it, all the while I was feeding our 1-week old baby.
He became completely incapacitated where he struggled to leave the house in fear he would have a panic attack in public. He still went to the shops and tried to be there for me all while falling apart within himself. It became a difficult time for me and it was an impossible time for him. I couldn’t be there for him the way I wanted to because I had to care for me and our young baby while also wishing he could be there for me but knowing he couldn’t.
You can imagine the strain that put on our relationship and we both knew that we had to get out of it and that this had to stop. People had said to me, “you just had a baby, he needs to pull himself together and be there for you and Annaleah,” but no one truly understood what he was going through and how much he resented himself for the feelings he couldn’t control. One night when Annaleah was asleep, I remember him crying and apologizing and telling me he wished he could be the man I needed. That was the point we knew he needed help. He went to see a therapist, he got medication for his panic attacks and a few months later, he was himself again.
This what he went through makes me beg the question, where is the support for men? I know this isn’t just me and my husband. After speaking to so many women, I know a lot of men experience this. The anxiety of a new baby not only hits us women but it can hit our partners just as hard. Maybe it’s because society has put so much pressure on both mothers and fathers. We tend to focus on moms because we carry the babies and have the babies and for the most part, care for our babies to such an extent that we have banded together and help each other. The support we get as women should be the same support men can have access to.
A few things I found helpful during this time:
It is so difficult when you have a new baby to worry about your partner and their well-being while dealing with recovering from birth. You have to be empathetic to how your partner may be feeling and listen. Reach out and just be an ear and remind them that no matter what, you are there for them.
2. Reach out to family or friends:
We are lucky to have very supportive family who was able to be there for both me and my husband. It was great to have people help out with food and Annaleah so we could focus on overcoming these difficulties. Anxiety and depression is more common than most people think and when you reach out to your support systems, you should never feel ashamed to accept the help and when people lend an ear, speak up. People need people.
3. Get your partner involved with baby as much as possible:
I found that when my husband held Annaleah or wore her in our UB carrier, he immediately felt better, she was able to be the calm in his storm of anxiety. There is a lot of comfort in caring for a squishy and cuddly new baby that is very therapeutic. As a mom, I can say that all my anxiety was worth it just for the little baby body I held every day.
4. Get help:
Depression and anxiety is a serious condition, it is not meant to be swept under the rug and it effects everyone. Especially when there is a new baby thrown into the equation, I recommend to all those experiencing anything similar to seek help because it can be helped and it can be fixed. There are a lot of resources and medical experts out there that can provide a lot of relief to your situation.
For all the men that may be reading this that have felt anxiety, depression or even just helpless after their baby was born, you are not alone. It doesn’t make you less of a man, father or husband to be going through this. Lean on those around you and hold your babies close for as long as you can.
If you can relate to my experience, please feel free to leave a reply in the comments section below, I’m so interested to hear stories from other parents who have gone through something similar.