So many people talk about the havoc newborn babies wreak on parents’ lives, it’s truly amazing to us when we hear of a new mom or dad sounding surprised about how hard those early weeks are. One mom just took to Reddit to describe her husband’s postpartum struggles, which he would like to use as an excuse to go on a “boys’ trip” when their newborn daughter is just 3 weeks old. She actually wonders if she was wrong to tell him to stay home.
“My husband has been acting weird lately,” throwra6001397 wrote in the AITA subreddit. “He’s been stressing out and worrying too much about doing something wrong when caring for our baby. He did a number of things that really got me concerned: He would walk out whenever our daughter starts to cry but that was in the first week, and thank God he doesn’t do it anymore; he wouldn’t hold her, fearing he’d drop her; he doesn’t help with changing diapers, saying he doesn’t know; he always calls his mom for ‘advice’ which she sees as an opportunity to step in and take my baby from me. He’d get worried and starts panicking whenever she coughs and mention the hospital.”
From the outside perspective, this sounds like either the dad is lazy and abdicating responsibility for taking care of a child, or he’s going through a more serious mental health challenge. Fathers and partners of birthing parents can experience partner/paternal postnatal depression — somewhere between 4 and 25 percent of non-birthing parents experience this, experts say — even though few ever talk about this problem.
Estimates of the prevalence of paternal postpartum depression range from 4 to 25 percent. Depression in fathers is often related (and may follow) depression in their partners after the birth of a baby. Couples need to support each other. Healthcare providers need to add dads to their screening protocols. Protecting dads’ mental health is essential for the family. . . #payattention #askthehardquestions #beinformed #takecareofeachother #speakthesecret❤️ #postpartumdepression #goodmomshavescarythoughts #gooddadshavescarythoughts . . Illustration from our book “GOOD MONS HAVE SCARY THOUGHTS” @brooklyn_rabbit . 📚 Book is availabIe from Amazon and the publisher @familiustalk @workmanpub 👉FOR ADDITIONAL SUPPORT and expert guidance.
A post shared by The Postpartum Stress Center (@postpartumstress) on Jun 19, 2020 at 3:49am PDT
After speaking to his friends, the Reddit mom’s husband told her that he’d decided to go on a five-day trip with them to “get away from all this stress.” You can just imagine how throwra6001397 responded to the idea of being left at home with the newborn on her own.
“He said no problem; he’ll just call his mom to come stay with me, or I go stay at her place for just five days,” she wrote. “He begged me saying this trip was necessary because he was on the verge of breaking down and complained about ‘how he didn’t expect it to be like this,’ meaning having a baby.”
To make matters worse, the mother-in-law is in the habit of taking the baby and not giving her back to her mom, she invites people over to the house to visit (in a pandemic!), and she tries to feed the baby formula because she believes the mom’s breastmilk isn’t enough. In the end, the dad is going without his wife’s consent.
He does not have many fans among the 1,400 people who have commented on this post.
“Compromise: He doesn’t go on the boy’s trip and instead gets a shrink,” Dirmanavich suggested. “Like, the man is clearly an anxious wreck. Which explains, but does not justify his planned course of action. Postpartum depression and anxiety do affect men. The way to approach this is to give him a different way to address his needs without screwing over the needs of the rest of his family.”
“This is not a reasonable request, and it’s DEFINITELY unreasonable for him to present this to you as a fait accompli,” Roswulf wrote of the trip. “However….it sounds like your husband is really struggling. It’s fairly common for new fathers to have surges of anxiety and depression following a birth — even without the swirl of post-birth hormones, having a newborn is a mental shock. I think it’s very likely your husband should talk to a professional, so he can deal with this in a way that doesn’t put unfair pressure on you.”
Others were less understanding of him.
“Oh, she’s dealing with a child all right, but I’m talking about the brat who doesn’t wear diapers,” Aerielchrissie wrote.
“Why does he need a break, the fuck has he done?” meanmagpie wrote. “His work just began. The mother’s work was creating and delivering life. The husband needs to pick up the slack after she gives birth so she can heal and take a break from being pregnant for so damn long. He doesn’t need a fucking break, his number has been called, and it’s time for him to step up while his wife heals and recovers.”
At least one dad dared to chime in too.
“I’m a relatively new father (6 months!), and I was a bit worried about not knowing how to change diapers as I’d never been around babies.” bardic-play said. “It’s the simplest task I’ve ever done and I felt stupid for worrying.”
We also think this temporary solution sounds workable, if not ideal:
“Honestly, him asking for a day would be maybe more reasonable,” glom4ever wrote. “In the immediate, do not accept the help from his mom because it sounds like it would be easier to be a single mom for the week than to put up with her. See if you can get another friend to visit, and honestly, try to think about whether your life is easier with or without your husband.”
Whatever she chooses, we hope things get easier for both parents, for the sake of that baby girl.
If you or someone else in your family is struggling after having a child, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish). Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
Once you can get your baby to sleep through the night, parenting gets a lot easier. Try these sleep products parents swear by.
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