Postpartum depression – a serious condition that is finally getting the attention it deserves from both doctors and sufferers. Because of newfound understanding in the medical field, countless mothers have been safeguarded – have been saved – from harming themselves or their children. Because of newfound understanding in the public eye, mothers need not be afraid of the stigmatism that formerly went along with such a diagnosis, if such a diagnosis was even given. While this understanding does not lessen the pain or still the symptoms, mothers no longer need feel so alone – bearing their cross, wondering what is wrong with them, feeling like failures.
A new study published Monday says in the first year of a baby’s life, as many as one-fifth of fathers can suffer from depression. I think these results could go a long way in helping both mothers and fathers understand the feelings rushing in on them as they struggle to stay afloat during the first few months of their child’s existence.
As adults, particularly as parents, we all seem to go just a little hard on ourselves. Responsibilities continually rush in, finances rise and drop, relationships between spouses, coworkers, and immediate family are close then strained then close again. Because all of these things are happening to us, we assume they’re happening because of us. We sometimes think we can change all of those variables using only our strong characters and stronger wills. When we can’t, well, we’ve added more to our pile of stressors. Now add a baby.
Financially, a baby is, at best, a burden. Everybody knows that. During these past few years, however, job stability has spiraled downward, leaving many parents unsure if they’ll be employed tomorrow – forcing many more out of the job market entirely.
A baby requires a lot of attention. Many parents think they’re ready for this kind of mind-numbing call-and-response, but even the most well-read, prepared adult can be thrown for a loop if their child has colic or is high-needs. Even easy babies like mine take all that I have each day – and have been doing so for two years now. Parents are setting themselves up for failure if they try to live up to the standards they set for themselves before the baby was born. It’s impossible.
The attention that a baby needs not only saps energy from every adult within cry-hearing distance, it also changes the dynamic between partners and between older children. While this sometimes leads to jealousy or hurt feelings in those to which a new parent is closest, more often it results in just one more thing for that new parent to feel bad about. They sometimes feel that they’re letting the new baby down, letting their other kids down, and letting their spouse down all in one fell swoop.
Change is always hard. It’s harder when you don’t take each facet of that change into consideration. Depression isn’t just hormones, it isn’t just genetics. Depression can hit anyone, and many times the triggers occur outside the body.
What I’m trying to say is it’s okay to have a bad day. It’s not your fault. And if you have several bad days, bad weeks, bad months, go to your doctor. There may be help out there for you. No one will look down on you, and you might end up feeling a lot better. New parents, you have a lot on your shoulders – it’s okay to get off your back.
**CNN article linked above: http://pagingdrgupta.blogs.cnn.com/2010/09/06/dads-get-baby-blues-too/
** For more information: