I looked in the mirror and wanted to crawl under a rock. I hated the way my body looked, I hated how I felt, and I hated that I felt so empty and unhappy. The little sleep I was getting was probably part of it, but I was unaware that these feelings were really from Postpartum Depression. For six months, I struggled, refusing to take medication because I was nursing my daughter and the fear of hurting her with medicine was paralyzing. I was miserable and my husband couldn’t understand why I was unhappy. Finally, the fog started to clear and I didn’t feel so empty and sad anymore, but I wish I would have been wiser about what I could have done to make those first six months with my lovey baby better because most of it is still a blur.
Having a baby can be a crazy ride, and we were wiser with my son and started on medication before we left the hospital because I was already starting to feel the baby blues before he was born. However, I still was feeling how I felt the first time around and one night I had a meltdown. Right in the middle of our new kitchen, in our new house, with a new baby, I lost it. I started to cry as my husband tried to figure out what was wrong. I explained that I hated my body and I just wanted to hide under the soft covers until I felt better. Luckily we went into the doctor for my six week appointment a few days later and my husband and I explained how I felt to my OBGYN. She hugged me and said that she sees people all day that say the same thing and that I was not alone. I was prescribed a little higher dose and I started to feel better. This is not just something that can happen with your first child, it can show up, or not show up, with every pregnancy.
Nevertheless, those days of being in a fog of sadness and dismay, was not just difficult for me, but for my husband as well. As a husband, it is important to be there for your wife and to let her know how important she is. Here are some ways to help drive that home. You may have to tell her she is beautiful and that you love her a million times before you see a glimmer of it sinking in, but keep on keeping on. Remember that the adorable baby you brought home needs her every second and the puke, poop, and pee that she wears much of the day does not make her feel glamorous.
1. Remind her that there is no super mom
As women we tend to compare ourselves to EVERYONE else and the media and social media doesn’t help that feeling. There is always that mom who seems to take her kids to every event, have a great marriage, and look amazing all of the time. Remind your wife that it is easy to make life look a certain way on social media and that most people will not post the poop covered sheets the baby just managed to cover.
2. Tell her she is loved
We forget really easily. I remember when I first had our son and my husband was working late how I felt like he didn’t love me because he never seemed to have time for me now. Of course that wasn’t the case at all, he was just tired from working so many hours, but that is how I felt no matter how unreasonable it sounds now. Keep telling her all the time and take a few extra moments to show her affection that is not from a screaming infant or toddler crawling all over her.
3. Keep an eye on her emotions and how she is doing
Most women I have talked to are afraid to admit they are depressed. I was so afraid that people would think I was crazy for saying I was depressed because I really thought that being a mom was easy and that I could do it all. If your wife seems to be down all the time or mentions wanting to hurt herself or others talk to her about seeing her OBGYN. There is no shame in taking medication. Hormones are crazy, they have to get back into balance after you have a baby, and this can be hard sometimes. Talking to her OBGYN will give you both a good idea of the options and she may just need to talk to someone.
4. Make sure she has time to be alone
One of the things that I wish I would have been better at is finding time for myself. I always felt like the kids needed me, the house was dirty, etc, etc, etc. And I would get bitter when my husband had his time away at night to decompress from work. I was working too! Why didn’t I get a break! Well to be honest, I was never taking a break. I had to realize that the house would always need something done and that it was okay to let my husband take the reigns and figure out how to soothe a crying baby and toddler at the same time. Your wife may need you to help her see that though. Give her the keys to the car and tell her to go somewhere she enjoys. When we didn’t have a lot of money just going to the store to get groceries for the week alone was refreshing! Help her find an outlet like going to the gym, getting groceries, or taking a class at night once a week.
5. Take up a few more chores
If there is one thing on this list you should do it is this one. Please, for your wife, your kids, and your marriage, help your wife more around the house. We know you go to work, we know you are tired, we know the last thing you want to do is have more work when you come home, but she is going to need more help now that there is a baby around. Whether your wife works, stays at home, or works from home she is still working all day too. When we first got married my husband had two jobs take out the trash and clean the bathroom. Now that we have kids he helps in whatever ways he can. Baby has a dirty diaper? Change it and empty the diaper pail. The laundry is piling up? Start a load of laundry. The littlest things like emptying or filling the dishwasher can make a world of difference and it will make the weight of being a mom and being depressed a little lighter.
6. Make time for date nights
This one was really hard for us because we didn’t live close to family and a babysitter is expensive! Try to swap with a friend, you watch their kids and they can watch yours. It’s a win-win because two couples get a date night without the expense of a sitter. You can also put the kids to bed early. We did this with our first two because both times we had recently moved and knew no one to ask to babysit. Yes, this is not the most glamorous of dates, but you don’t have to worry about dressing up and you can have dessert first. ☺
7. Finally, write her notes
There is something about being able to read that someone loves you again and again, especially on the bad days. My husband wrote one that on the front says, “Who is Kabrina?” and on the back he wrote what makes me, me, like beautiful, good mom, great wife, etc. We also got a cute box from Michaels that we put love notes in to each other. Here is a similar one on Amazon as well as a set of three. I love that they look like books! Classy right?
This is a very joyous, but difficult time for a family. You are adjusting to a new person in your lives, whether it is the first or fourth, give yourself grace. You are doing great! Encourage your wife as she adjusts physically, emotionally, and mentally. Before you know it you will have your groove back and be looking back thankful that you were there for each other!
Let me know what you have found helpful and any other ideas that you have for helping your wife, or that helped you through depression.