For me, trying to cope with postpartum depression (PPD) was pretty unbearable. I honestly have no idea how I survived. At a time when I was supposed to be happy about my new baby, I felt like I wanted to die. For me, one of the hardest things was saying the words "I think I have PPD," especially to my partner. It was as if admitting I wasn't OK meant that I wasn't a good mom and, in turn, not saying the words out loud could make it all magically go away. Unfortunately, depression just doesn't work that way, and the longer I kept my mouth shut, the harder it was to say something.
To make matters worse, when I finally told my now ex-husband how I felt, he was not supportive at all. When your partner says, "I'm depressed," or, "Something's not right," there are things you should absolutely say in response. He didn't say any of them. Instead, he said things like, "Why can't you get over it?" and, "You wanted a baby, didn't you? Why the hell aren't you happy now that she is here?" You might think he was a total jerk for saying these things, but honestly, it wasn't anything I hadn't already said to myself. Those first days were full of challenges: difficulty breastfeeding, newborn jaundice, and sleep deprivation, but the worst was being left alone to recover from childbirth and care for a new baby. I was sad and anxious all of the time, and was convinced that I was a bad mom.
This time around was totally different. Not only was my current husband totally on board with me getting help for my postpartum depression, he actually came along to make sure I felt supported throughout the entire process. It made a huge difference. In little ways, and with few important words, he let me I wasn't alone. So, what should a grown-ass man (or person of any gender, really) say if their partner says, "I think I have PPD?" Here are few good places to start:
"Can I Help?"
Three simple words, "Can I help?" can make such a huge impact. I can't tell you that your partner will always say "yes" automatically, but it's always nice to offer.
"What Do You Need?"
For me, the answer to this question was almost always sleep and, unfortunately, I needed some medical intervention to get some. You see, even when the baby was sleeping or my husband was taking a shift, I couldn't sleep. Sleep deprivation is real, you guys, and it can be horrible. If you find yourself lying awake at times when someone else has the baby, you might need some additional help.
"Let's Call Your Doctor"
I hate talking on the phone, so the idea of calling my doctor about my postpartum depression was pretty unbearable. Luckily, I had my husband to hold my hand while I called to make an appointment. It helped me not chicken out.
"I'll Go With You"
OMFG this made a huge difference. Not only just having someone with me when I had to have a hard conversation, but also, having another person to listen to my doctor's advice and be able to talk with me about it later. Amazing.
"Get Some Rest"
"How Are You Feeling?"
Yep, even if the answer was "meh" for a solid couple of weeks, I appreciated that my husband continued asking. It made me feel important to him. Plus, one day I answered, "OK," and realized that I really was OK.
"You Are A Good Mom"
I need to hear this 100 times a day. I am so not joking. The voice in my head repeats "bad mom" over and over again. I need someone on the outside to counter that lying b*tch.
"I'm Here No Matter What"
I needed to hear this, too. Even if I knew it deep inside my bones, I needed to consistently hear that my husband was going to stick with me, no matter how depressed I got. I felt so terrible about myself that I honestly couldn't blame him if he wanted to leave, so this made all the difference to hear.
"You Are Not Alone"
I spent so much time by myself after my first two children were born. When you have depression and anxiety, and you find yourself alone with your thoughts and a tiny baby you are supposed to keep alive, it can be so overwhelming. It helped so much to hear that I wasn't alone, that my husband would be there for me always, and that we would conquer challenges (and my inner demons) together.