There’s such a thing as too much or too little support.
Motherhood is such a rewarding experience; bringing your own flesh and blood out into the world is a beautiful event. While the occurrence has been fulfilling, it can also be physically and mentally demanding. The thing is, due to constant positive talks from mothers about the highs of giving birth, the minority of moms are apprehensive about talking about the lows.
Conversations regarding postpartum depression are now emerging from the stigma and are being given widespread attention and understanding. “Postpartum depression (PPD) is one of the most common complications of childbirth,” according to Samantha Meltzer-Brody, MD, MPH, director of the Perinatal Psychiatry Program at the UNC Center for Women’s Mood Disorders. Though it may not be as well-known and well-accepted as cancers or heart diseases, depression, in general, is a mental illness that needs adequate recognition for the adverse effects it brings to the bearer.
If you have a partner who is recently diagnosed with postpartum depression, your primary responsibility is to be accepting, understanding, and most of all, supportive. So, how can you ensure that your significant other will survive the rough patch?
Remind Her: Your Feelings Are Valid
This is a common feeling of a mom with PPD, according to Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.: “Not feeling what they think they are supposed to feel, they are embarrassed to admit to themselves and others that things aren’t going well. Just when they need help the most, many don’t reach out. Some start to resent their babies and begrudge them time and attention. They force themselves to do what needs to be done but don’t provide their newborns with the nurturing they need.”
It is not your position or anybody’s position to tell someone who is going through a rough time that what she’s feeling is not valid. Instead, always remind your partner that whatever it is that she’s experiencing is legitimate. Aside from validating her feelings, you should also let her understand that her ill feelings are by-products of chemical or hormonal changes inside her brain and if she sticks to her treatment plan, her condition can be defeated.
Communicate and Listen
The thing about mental illness is that it should be acknowledged not just by the person who’s suffering from it but also by the people surrounding her. If you want to understand what she’s going through, take time to communicate and listen without judgment or accusations. Have an open mind to absorb everything that your partner is sharing. Knowing that someone is ready to listen and understand can take the weight off her shoulders, thereby helping your partner cope with her mental illness by allowing her to vent.
Do The House Chores
If your partner is unwilling to do anything like to the household chores, it’s not because she’s lazy but because her depression is not only sucking the life out of her but also depleting her energy and eagerness to do things in general. So vacuum, do the dishes and the laundry, feed the dogs, change diapers, just do what needs to be accomplished inside the house. Refrain from asking your partner what should be done for it may make her feel guilty; just find something to do and just do it.
Helping around the house and tidying up without continually asking what’s next eases your partner of her burden and relive her of worries of not being able to fulfill household responsibilities. After all, it’s both your home, so it’s also both your responsibility to keep it spiffy clean.
Most importantly, just be present. By always being there at your partner’s side, you are assuring her that you’re in it for the long haul no matter how precarious or delicate the situation is for the both of you. You can make it work. Also, by being there, you can check up on her more often to know if she needs a hug or someone to talk to. Tell her what a fantastic person she is and she is strong enough to make it through.
Postpartum depression is an insidious mental disorder that takes the fun away from motherhood. Do not allow this condition to destroy the one you love and your family. By properly supporting your partner, you are telling her that whatever she’s experiencing, she has you to back her up.
“PPD is a serious illness that requires professional help. It’s highly treatable with psychotherapy and medication. The medication part worries some women, and they avoid seeking help. However, treatment is individual, so what works for one woman won’t work for another,” says Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. If the PPD is too severe, support your wife when she goes to therapy.