PMADs (perinatal mood and anxiety disorders) are a struggle. Nothing but experience can quite prepare someone for what dealing with a postpartum disorder is going to be like - or dealing with a partner's PMAD. This is a small glimpse into a partner’s experience with PMAD.
01. They love you and the baby so much it hurts. In fact, some days they will feel so incredibly guilty for feeling depressed that it will physically hurt them to think about their “failures” due to symptoms of PPD in relation to how it could be affecting their family. Your partner is aware of how you are trying to help and the extra burden you are carrying. In fact, a big fear for your partner may be that you will get tired and abandon them.
Language to avoid: Blaming partner for PPD or guilting them for not being their normal self.
Language to use: Be present and supportive in the sense that you understand their struggle is temporary.
“I love you… I appreciate the small things you do in the house….Your hair looks nice today… You are so worthy and we love you for working hard to overcome this… I will always work at being supportive for you.”
02. They do not regret becoming a parent, but some days the lies depression tells them are so strong that they believe they are not fit to be a parent and the baby deserves so much more.
Reassure them, and offer them specific instances of what you love when you see them interacting with the baby. They will not want to believe general compliments, so naming something specific is so important.
Language to avoid: Why are you feeling this way? How can you regret becoming a parent? This is what we have wanted for so long, how can you feel this way now?
Language to use: “I loved hearing you sing the baby a lullaby to get her to sleep earlier. You are so gentle and nurturing with them”. “ I am so glad you are the mother of our child” “I will stick by your side to grow our family, even in the hard times.”
03. They are not sad specifically because of something you did/didn’t do. Of course, our partner’s actions and words can certainly impact the way we feel at times so tread gently, but PPD makes them feel guilty, unloved, not good enough, etc. and all of that can lead to feeling extreme amounts of sadness.
Language to avoid: "Why can’t you be happy? I’m working really hard to help you feel better, and it doesn’t even seem to matter."
Language to use: “I’m really sorry that your depression is making it so hard for you to feel joy and to have fun spending time with your family. I will always be here for you and want to help you feel better. What will help most?”
04. They may seem incredibly angry at times and seem to “fly off the handle” with little inconveniences. This may seem scary and you may wonder what happened, but rage is a very common side effect of PPD.
Language to avoid: “What is wrong with you?” “How could you get frustrated with a baby?”
Language to use: Reassure them that their anger is valid and can be a normal part of PPD. Reassure them even more so that Postpartum
05. Psychiatric illness treatment has come a long way. There is a reputation that if someone is struggling with mental health, they will never return to being their old self, and will be in treatment for the rest of your lives. Do not worry, this is not the case.
With new knowledge of how the brain works, with newer medications, and a huge advancement in talk therapy, your partner will start to feel better soon after seeking treatment. Your partner will get back to their old selves.
PPD affects a person’s emotions, behaviors, sleep, and eating patterns.
Here are some of the specific examples of how you may notice PPD show up in your partner:
Feeling sad and worthless
Lose of sexual desire
Frequent physical complaints
Criticizing you frequently
Failing to notice your efforts
Struggling to respond to reassurance
Withdrawal from you and/or friends
Small ways that a working partner can help:
Pick up dinner on the way home
Do 1 load of laundry at night
Call a relative to see if they can help your partner during the day, or watch your child so your partner can go grocery shop on their own, or take a haircut
Ask your partner to meet you for lunch
Go for a walk with your partner when you get home