Postpartum Depression in Dads
I was very surprised to read about postpartum depression for Dads on this Web site, and I using the piece as an opportunity to talk about my own response – as a normally depressive man – to the birth of my daughters, 3 decades or more ago. (I’m also about to become a grandfather for the first time, and I’m interested to see if there are any parallels.)
1968, that’s when my first daughter was born. I was not sure, beforehand, that I actually wanted to be a father. Well, I didn’t mind the idea of having a child; it was that I was so self-centered and worried about money that I wasn’t sure we should have a child. I cite self-centered and money both because I think both were important in my trepidation. I know now that what I feared was that the new baby would take up my wife’s attention and that we wouldn’t be able to afford to give her all the things she (or he) needed.
Pregnancy went well, but I did have to take on more chores as it went along. And I still had a 9-6 (or 7) job. And my wife had to stop working eventually. All of which gave added impetus to my worries. Would I be able to take care of the new child? Would I receive less attention? All of this resonates with the article posted on this site.
So, what happened?
When our daughter was born (two weeks early), the fathers were not yet permitted in the delivery room, so I went home at about midnight, while they waited for my wife to advance in labor. At about three or four in the morning, the phone rang and a distant, non-recognizable, male voice said, “It’s a girl.”
I had no idea who he was or what the call was about. I said, “Thank you,” hung up and was about to go back to sleep, when I suddenly realized that I was the father of a baby girl. I dressed, took a cab to the hospital, and it’s been all wonderful since then.
Now, the question is, since my wife was clearly absorbed with the baby; since many of the other factors talked about in the postpartum article pertained to us; and since I was already a chronic dysthymic man, why didn’t I suffer an increase in depression?
I doubt if there’s any simple answer. My wife wasn’t depressed. Our relationship was solid. The child was absolutely delightful. I loved her giggles and wiggles. I think I was just taken with how easy it was to love her and to raise her. And, perhaps, the fact that I, too, considered it part of my responsibility and joy to care for her may have contributed to my sense of not being “locked out” of the new relationships – a factor that tends to push men towards drinking or TV watching or staying out at night.
In fact, when the baby cried in the night, I got up and brought her to my wife for feeding, or changed her diaper, or comforted her. And that role continued for the next couple of decades. We were partners in raising her and her sister, and no matter how depressed I might be about other matters in my life, having children was a joy!
In my next essay, I’m going to start writing about what did cause me to sink into deeper depression over the years, and how I tried to deal with it.
Published On: January 12, 2007