Author: Gary Taylor, MSW, URMND Contributor
My daughter was born October 13, 2016 a day after my wife was born. Three weeks after her birth, we took our newborn on a trip to visit my wife’s grandfather who became seriously ill. I stayed in the car with my baby girl, while my wife went into the hospital with her family to say her final goodbyes.
He passed away a couple days after and I could not help but think about new life and how at times it brings along death. As I checked in with my wife to make sure she was doing ok, I watched and analyzed. I did my best to nurture her, care for her needs and make sure her mental health was well. My wife was on maternity leave and stressed about her job as her pay was cut. We prayed, we toughed it out, our family was being extremely helpful and supportive and we made it.
Fast forward 3 to 4 months, I noticed a change. My wife was more tearful, depressed and was not herself. She became more stressed after returning to her job as a middle school teacher. She was still in graduate school finishing her Master’s Degree in Teaching, and studying to take her exam for her license. My wife is a warrior and some days I am not sure how she does it all.
All that said, I noticed a change. Negative thoughts and feelings flooded her mind. Her thoughts about if she was a fit mother, a good wife clouded her daily. I knew what it was outside of the multiple stressors she was going through and putting up with me, but some specific thoughts I knew was postpartum. Her checkup with her doctor around the 3-month post-birth period she scored high on the postpartum scaling.
We talked about it and looked at options and never pursued therapy, as she was only offered medications. I was comfortable with the decision, but also made it very clear if things escalate, we will seek therapy or hospitalization if necessary.
My wife obliged. As a result, we maintained an open line of communication, check-ins daily of how each other felt and thoughts of the day. It was great and things seemed to turn around for the better. My wife graduated, received her license and she seemed to be getting back to her old self. Our daughter was healthy, growing, and making superior strides from a newborn to toddler.
Around 9 months later, I noticed another change. This time another intense stressor piled on top of symptoms of Postpartum Depression (PPD). Mood swings, tearfulness, crying episodes, self-doubt, and depression. For the next 3 months, I saw these symptoms on and off. As a therapist, I have to be careful how I approach my wife, to not psychoanalyze her and make her feel like a patient.
I came up with an idea to utilize positive affirmations on her bathroom mirror in the morning (couples, separate bathrooms will help you so much in marriage). I wrote out small affirmations on sticky notes and placed them all over her mirror. It was a way that every morning she wakes she could see and think on positive aspect about herself, as she gets ready for the day and throughout the day.
I supported her. I also got on her nerves and learned how to communicate more effectively. We worked through it by attempting to make sure our lines of communication were clear. As a result, she also wrote out positive affirmations on my mirror too! There are times we have periods of sadness, and in the midst of all we have went through in the past year, it seems fitting. Nonetheless, I say all of this to say this. Our black women continue fight daily battles on multiple fronts, it’s important as their spouses, boyfriends or baby father’s support and be emotionally available to new mothers of our children. I cannot imagine how life would be for my wife without me being able to help and support. I can only imagine the mental health of single mothers of newborns.
These symptoms can show up so many months after the birth of the child, and if a woman does not have a strong solid support system and can be scary. Symptoms of PPD can come in as depression, suicidal thoughts, psychosis, and even thoughts about harming the child. I want women to know the signs but I also charging men to step up to the plate as well!! That random crying episode isn’t just her being emotional.
That moodiness is not her just being a female. That irritability is not just her being a bitch, no it is a reason for all of this. Any woman will tell you hormonally after birth, it takes time for her hormones to get back in line, which leads to these symptoms. There are multiple things you can do to make the mother of your child comfortable. The 12 months after birth are super critical to her re-acclimating back to her normal life. As her partner, you are a major catalyst in it.