A daddy’s view on postpartum mental illness…

Hello everyone! I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog recently as my gorgeous husband is back from Afghanistan for a very short 12 days.

But… making the most of him being back in the UK (currently in partially cloudy Clacton), I’ve roped him into doing an interview in what I hope will be the first of many in the Daddykind Corner segment of our blog!
So we’ll consider this a trial run on a topic for our usual #MentalHealthMonday posts…
 

What do you remember about your two girls being born?

 
Apart from them being 6 years apart? With Kiera I was being asked every two minutes if I was going to cry. I’d just got back from Afghanistan and that was when 3 guys from my regiment had just been killed. Kiera’s nan was annoying me, asking if I was going to cry, and made a comment about me reading the newspaper story about my friends who had died in Afghanistan. She was very overbearing.
With Olivia, I remember playing Cotton Eye Joe at 6am while Sarah was in labour, cancelling the cinema trip to see Alice in Wonderland with Kiera. We had an Irish midwife saying it didn’t hurt Sarah that much as she wasn’t that far along, so I started thinking how is she going to cope when it starts to really hurt? Then we moved upstairs to a room where Sarah wouldn’t allow anyone to turn on the air con, so I was really sweating out. I had bad B O thanks to that, so didn’t get skin to skin with Olivia.
How did you feel once the babies were out into the big wide world?
 
When Kiera was born I laughed nervously – it was real then. It was quite daunting because I was a dad for the first time. I had Kiera on my lap, slumped over, and I didn’t know if I could move her or if I would break her neck – she looked so delicate. She looked around and I gave her a bottle while her mum had her c-section stitched up.
I didn’t feel daunted by Olivia being born. I knew I was a good dad.
 
Was there any difference to you between baby number 1 and baby number 2?
 
Because of having Kiera when I was younger, I felt more confident having Olivia when I was older. I thought that, if Olivia was like Kiera, this was going to be easy. I was worried before having Olivia that I wouldn’t be able to love a second child as much as I loved Kiera.
 
What did you know about postnatal depression?
 
Not a lot. In hindsight, I think Kiera’s mum had it after she gave birth but she didn’t get it treated, unless she did after I went back to Afghanistan. I thought maybe she did when I spoke to my friend about his wife having PND. The stuff he was saying was very similar to what she was doing at the time.
I had more of an understanding when it came to Sarah but I wouldn’t say I knew what was going on.
How did antenatal classes prepare you for what was coming?
 
They didn’t, really. How can they?
What postnatal mental illnesses have you heard of?
 
Only PND.
Did you know how to support your partner through PND or other mental illnesses?
 
No, but I’m a positive person. I tried to infect Sarah with bits of my positivity (unsuccessfully). I still didn’t understand what she was going through but I don’t think I ever will unless I suffer with a mental illness myself.
What do you think could help men and boys to understand mental illnesses and to create more awareness?
 
I think mental health is getting a lot of publicity and awareness now anyway. The mentality of telling someone to “man up” is rife in society. I don’t think we can change that now – it’s a generational thing. If we started with getting depression talked about at a young age it will hopefully, as children grow up, start to remove that stigma.
If you liked this you may enjoy reading…

Mental Health Monday: why the stigma?

You may be familiar with the hashtag #endthestigma on social media, used in conjunction with posts about our mental health. Opening up discussions about mental health can reduce the stigma and lead to better understandings of what the issues may be, but why is there such a stigma in the first place?

3 things we can do to help future generations 

#endthestigma

https://player.vimeo.com/video/301598462 #EndTheStigma from Mummy Kind on Vimeo.

1. Remember, your mental health is a disability with the power of invisibility

Imagine instead of depression or anxiety or bulimia, you have a broken leg. Everyone can see your broken leg. Everyone can imagine and envisage how painful it must be, so then you get empathy.
With mental heath conditions, your illness is under an invisibility cloak. Nobody can see it, and very few people can then imagine the pain that you’re in. There’s a lack of empathy, and an attitude of “just get out of bed”, or “you don’t look depressed”.
One way we can stop these ridiculously unhelpful comments is by being open and honest. Not with the world but with ourselves and those close to us. Don’t hide away because you have an illness! This will also enable our children to grow up knowing the issues and with a better awareness and understanding, so that the stigma will be even closer to disappearing completely when their generation are all grown up.
2. Treating mental illness the same as a physical illness

Off the back of the first point, physical and mental illnesses can both relapse! So why on earth are we more afraid of admitting that depression has reared its ugly head again than we are of a chest infection coming back?

I recently went back to my GP to have a chat about my mental health, and he very helpfully explained to me that I must not see medication as a failure, having tried to manage for so long without it. I wouldn’t try to treat a kidney infection without medication so I shouldn’t have to try and treat my depression or anxiety without medication either!

The sooner people understand that physical and mental illnesses are the same, and should be treated in the same way, the better!

3. Don’t let society tell us who to be

Society generally often has an opinion of who we should be or when we should be happy… Well, for starters, you can be both depressed and happy – it is possible! But that aside, societal attitudes have a lot to do with why there is a stigma in the first place.

Emphasising certain attributes on young boys that they have to be tough and cannot show emotion is one thing which contributes to men’s suicide rates being so high! For us females, telling women that they should be happy following the birth of a baby is yet another aspect of the huge circle of guilt that plays into postpartum mental illness!

Teaching our children that they can be what they want to be and that they can share emotions from a young age can really help to alleviate the stresses they will face as adults in the same way that we are under those stresses now.

This post was written as part of our Raising Healthy Minds Campaign

So that is this week’s #MentalHealthMonday post! Get involved with the discussion on twitter and tweet us @mummykindoff

Let us know if there’s anything you do to raise awareness of mental illness! We would love to feature the stories of brave men and women so please get in touch!

If you liked this you may enjoy reading…