I have been down a long, winding road of ups and downs in my life with a PPD victim. My wife and I met in Junior High and have been together ever since. We lived in the same neighborhood, went to the same high school, and went to the same college. We were engaged and married early. Throughout these early years, we grew up together – always two very different people with very different personalities that completely complemented each other. She was the very emotional, caring, and compassionate one; I was the methodical, logical, and practical one. Our love, friendship and partnership carried us through the tumultuous teens and launched our adult lives together. We loved spending time together going to the movies, taking trips, learning to rock climb, white water rafting, and other adventures that a young couple could afford. She had suffered from many traumatic and abusive experiences her entire childhood and was raised by abusive adoptive parents. She moved away from them and never looked back when she turned 18. Her painful upbringing and lack of family have always plagued her with depression. She also frequently exhibited irritability over things I thought were irrational. We found her birth mother a few years ago and learned that she, her brother, and her mother all abused alcohol and drugs and were coping with mental illness. My wife’s half-brother also suffers from severe mental illness. All are significant risk factors for my wife. She took anti-depressants beginning in college and continued them until we started our family. My wife always had a short fuse and a short tolerance for stress. She did not sleep well and had to take naps during the day. She couldn’t handle more than one obligation per weekend. She frequently stated that her “plate was full”. I couldn’t understand why she couldn’t handle working a full-time job and leading a full and busy life outside of work.
When my wife became pregnant with our first child we were overjoyed. We were so excited to become parents and were looking forward to raising our family. My wife decided to quit her job as a successful professional in order to stay home and care for our child. The pregnancy was difficult for my wife and she was frequently irritable. She developed pre-eclampsia and was prescribed bed-rest. Soon after, she went into labor and delivered our first son – 8 weeks early. He was rushed to the NICU and was placed on assisted breathing, IV foods, UV treatment, and a heating regiment. He remained in the NICU for 2 weeks and was then released. This was very traumatic for us, and my wife blamed herself for not carrying him to term. I assured her this wasn’t the case, but she blamed herself nonetheless. She insisted on breastfeeding him, which meant that she did not take her anti-depressant medication for fear of harming the baby. Because he was pre-mature and it was cold and flu season, we had to keep him away from others for the next 6 months. We couldn’t take him anywhere. My wife was stuck in the house with him. During this time, I was working full-time in a job that required about 15% overnight travel, and I was taking classes all day Saturday to earn my MBA. It was an incredibly difficult time for my wife. She was so irritable all the time – always yelling at me that I was being a terrible husband, that I was neglecting her and that I was killing our marriage. So often she blamed me for choosing a job that required travel and for going to school for my MBA. She resented me for continuing my career and furthering my education while she quit her professional career to care for our child. Many times over the following years she was so angry that I did not stay home to be with our children instead of her. I knew things were stressful for her – she had just quit her job, she had a pre-mature newborn to care for, I was occasionally gone in the evenings, and I was gone all day every Saturday. To help her adjust, I worked with my boss to adjust my schedule so that I could be off every Friday. I used that day to care for our son so that my wife could get a break. She eventually used this time to go back to work part-time. For a year and a half after our son was born I wasn’t sure if we would make it. Her constant irritability and insistence that I was a negligent husband and that I was killing our marriage were horrible. I didn’t look forward to being with my wife anymore and instead dreaded her next “blow-up”. Looking back, I know my wife suffered from PPD, but neither of us really considered this or knew anything about it. As such, she went undiagnosed.
A year and a half after our son was born my wife began expressing her desire for another baby. I did not want to go down that path because of the horrible experience after our first. I still didn’t think she was handling the stress of staying home with our first child very well. She was angry that we couldn’t have another baby because I thought that “she couldn’t handle it”. After a couple of months, I acquiesced and soon after she was pregnant with our second. She was so concerned about delivering early again that she went on partial bedrest very early. She also took progesterone shots which made her very irritable and moody. Our daughter was born 3 weeks early and went home with us immediately. Our joy at having a term baby was only dampened by the fact that my wife’s tailbone was broken during delivery. She was in incredible pain and had trouble walking, sitting, and lifting. I had to go back to work after two weeks, but she was not yet ready to care for our two little ones. To make matters worse, no family members were willing to help us. As I mentioned, we haven’t spoken to her family in years, while my family was not willing to take time off of work to help. This made my wife very depressed. She was incredibly irritable and again expressed extreme resentment that I worked while she had to stay home with the kids. She refused (always has, and still does) daycare as an option. She became extremely irate about my traveling and was insistent on me finding a job that didn’t require travel. She was weepy, sad, and very irritable. She complained that the kids made her anxious and very irritable. We were constantly fighting and she was constantly sobbing. Again this was another case of PPD that went undiagnosed. Things were so bad that I knew I had to find a way to get her some help with the kids. I found another job that paid well enough for us to hire a full-time childcare provider in our home. This way, our kids did not have to go to daycare, and my wife could still be a part of their care in our home. The only problem was that the job still required travel, and we had to move 5 hours away from our home.
Our move was incredibly stressful. Being away from friends and family in a strange place with two small children and a wife with PPD was very difficult. She remained very irritable for many months. She complained about breastfeeding, and being tied to a feeding schedule. She mostly complained about my continued travel. A huge argument would ensue whenever I had an overnight trip, so much so that I dreaded telling her when I had trips. I did everything possible to make sure I was home in the evenings to take the kids. I drove at the wee hours of the morning, took early flights, and made day-trips out of every trip I could. Still, she remained resentful of my travel, my career, and the fact that she stayed home with the kids. She saw a psychiatrist and was prescribed several medications. By this time she was on two anti-depressants, several anti-anxiety medications, and several sleeping medications. She eventually developed her interest in photography and began a small, short-lived business. Then she switched back to her original professional career in a work-from-home capacity. Although improvements in her mood were evident, she remained incredibly resentful and irritable about our different roles and responsibilities in our household. As I mentioned, the biggest fights and the most tears were shed over the travel aspect – those nights when she was alone with no help with the kids. So, I found another job – one that had no travel AND paid enough so that we could have full-time childcare in our home. This time we had to move 21 hours away from our home. This move was also incredibly stressful and difficult. The transition was excruciating for our entire family – again no friends or extended family to lean on. My wife’s irritability subsided some, but she still expressed resentment over my working. Although we both agreed that having more children would likely pose great difficult to our family, we found out a few months after our move that my wife was pregnant again (surprise!). She was devastated. Just when she felt she was “getting her life back”, we were starting from ground zero again. She became very sick with the kind of morning sickness that lasts almost the entire pregnancy. She back very depressed and didn’t want to come out of bed. We transitioned through several childcare providers which was very stressful on her. She stopped trying to make friends, stopped taking our kids to playgroups, and was generally withdrawn. It was a long, difficult 9 months and we were afraid of what was going to happen after our son was born. It turns out that our fears were with good reason.
Immediately after our son was born, my wife’s depression worsened. At this point, we recognized exactly what it was – PPD. It was compounded by the fact that no family made the trip to be with us after our son was born. Nobody was there to help us. My wife actually had to drive herself to the hospital as I had to stay with our kids until the sitter could arrive. After I burned two weeks of vacation taking care of the kids and the baby, I pleaded with my mom to come help. She did come and stay for four days. This time around was the most severe for my wife. She didn’t have the will, strength or desire to breastfeed our son, so I took on the duty of feeding him every night. I slept in a separate room from my wife so that she wouldn’t be disturbed. The sitter watched the kids during the day, and I watched the kids at night. My wife would spend lunch time with them and put my daughter down for a nap. The rest of the time she would sit in the closet or sleep. At night she frequently went shopping. She found a part-time job in her profession which improved her mood some. She began intensive outpatient therapy sessions at a local mental health facility. These also seemed to help some. She became obsessed with the idea that her depression was caused by being so far from family and friends. She again blamed me for where we were and the situation we were in. So again, I found another job – no travel, enough pay for full-time in-home childcare, and in our hometown. We moved again and again the transition was excruciating. Since being back home, her depression and anxiety have not improved. She has tried several different medicine combinations with no luck. She has joined support groups and is considering an inpatient mental health program at a local mental health facility. She continues to not sleep at night, sleeps during the day, and sees the kids at lunch time. We continue to have a full-time sitter all day while I work, and I care for the kids at night and on the weekends.
She has said many times that she doesn’t want to be here – that she wants to get out, that she wants to end her life. She says that the only reason she doesn’t is because she doesn’t want to hurt the kids.
Our marriage has certainly suffered. I am either working or caring for our kids. That is my life. Her life continues to be mired in suffering and guilt which is compounded by her lack of family support. I am not able to be everything to her because I am too busy providing for my family and caring for our children. She admitted have an attraction to another man in one of her support groups because he was able to focus time and attention and express his admiration to her. She says that nothing inappropriate happened, but it hurt nonetheless. I’ve stood by and supported her for years through these traumatic times, yet she no longer feels an attraction to me. Our intimate relationship has never been outstanding because she claims that her past abuses impacted her. Now our intimate relationship is definitely not good due to the compounding nature of her illness.
It has been 11 long months now since our third child was born, and 20 months since her severe depression reappeared with our third child’s conception. It has been almost 7 solid years of miserable pregnancies or PPD. My wife is afraid that it will never get better or go away. I keep telling her that it will, but even in my own mind I am fearful that it will not. I am worn down, broken, and tired. People keep telling me to “take care of myself”. People who tell me this do not understand my life. I am literally 100% committed between my work, and my kids. I have no time for myself. I work through my lunch break so I can leave work early everyday to take the kids for the evening. I do not have time to see a counselor or a psychiatrist, or do something to relieve stress (exercise, etc.). I’m lucky I found time to type this! I pray to God every day that my wife will find some peace and that we can have a “normal” family and a “normal” life together. I look forward to the day when my wife and I can enjoy our family together and count our blessings instead of our misery. I’ve got to keep the faith, and be the rock for my family.