Tony’s Story

My story starts quite a bit before Postpartum Depression was even a thought in our lives.  We lost our first baby to an ectopic pregnancy almost 4 years ago which was absolutely devastating for both my wife and I.  We had prepared so long to start a family and to have our first conceived child taken away from us was more than we could bear.  To this day we wonder what our lives would have been like if we hadn’t experienced this tragedy.

My wife and I bonded closely during this experience; we found most people didn’t understand how badly we felt so we took refuge in each others arms.  As sad as we were I was happy that we were close and sharing our feelings.  We needed that strength because we were unfortunate again in the fact that we had a terrible time conceiving once we had our courage up enough to try again.  Many months passed with no luck until we finally went to a fertility specialist.  My wife began to take fertility drugs and we also tried many invasive procedures that ultimately didn’t work.  We both began accepting the fact that we may not ever have children and once again we bonded in our solidarity.  Ironically, as soon as we gave up trying we went on a vacation to Las Vegas and The Grand Canyon and conceived our daughter Abigal.  Go figure!

My wife and I were very scared throughout the first three months of the pregnancy, especially when we had to make sure we didn’t have another ectopic pregnancy.  Eventually, we relaxed and almost two years ago my wife gave birth to a happy, healthy baby girl.

I mention all that we had been through previously because I want to make it clear how wonderful I felt to be with my wife; we were teammates, and partners in ways I never even imagined.  While we would never forget what might have been we didn’t let it stop us from trying again.  To this day, and forever, I am proud that I didn’t let fear stop me from taking another chance.About three months after my daughter was born my wife came to me and said she didn’t feel the same way she used to.  She said we had marital problems and she didn’t feel close to me anymore.  She asked me if I felt the same way and I said no, I was never happier and I truly meant it.  I was finally getting adjusted to life with a baby (who, incidentally was a terrible sleeper); I felt nothing but love and affection for my wife which she seemed to not even notice.

A huge and terrible argument erupted.  I felt so lost and confused I didn’t know what to do.  It was like a stranger had come and replaced my warm and loving best friend with a woman with dead eyes and a cold heart.

The days after became darker for us as my wife began to think of the baby as hers and not ours.  Unlike many women with PPD, my wife never had any scary feelings towards the baby – in fact she was a model mother.  She seemed to only hate me and everything I did.  I hated going home.  I began to think about getting a dog to fill the void.  I felt like an outsider in my own home.  What bothered me the most was that I thought I wasn’t making the love of my life happy anymore – and I had no idea what I had done wrong.

I kept thinking of all that we had been through together: losing our first baby, having the courage to battle through what seemed like a brick wall of fear to try again, fighting through over a year of fertility treatments, finally conceiving with no help from drugs or doctors, and then having the fortune of having the most wonderful child we could ever dream of.  All that didn’t seem to matter anymore in the eyes of my wife.  She seemed to have her prize – the baby – and was all done with me.

The only reasons I got from her as to why she no longer cared for me like before was 1)  I had insisted that little Abigail sleep for a few hours in the nursery at the hospital instead of leaving her with us.  Apparently, that was an act of terrible parenting in her eyes.  2)  I complained a lot about Abby’s horrible sleep habits the first few months.  These two things meant I was not the father she thought I was.

I knew better.  I knew I might have made a mistake in insisting for Abby to be “sent away” but I knew I was looking out for the greater good.  I knew I probably pushed too hard and made a mistake, but my wife kept it inside for months before she revealed her anger.  I immediately apologized, but I began wondering again who this woman was.  She never let things go that long before; she should know better!  As for the adjustment trouble, I knew what I was going through was normal and honest – what wasn’t was the fact that my wife never complained at all.

I finally began to suspect that something else was wrong besides marital problems when I noticed that our two cats, of all things, were being treated as poorly and negligently as me.  My wife LOVED them so much before Abby was born; now they seemed like pests who gave her nothing – just like me.

Finally, about six months after Abby was born, I went exploring on the web.  After reading for no more than a few minutes I called my wife down and we began suspecting that her personality change wasn’t just related to us – it was Postpartum Depression.

My wife painfully admitted that she did indeed feel almost all other feelings listed on every list we looked at.  She WAS sad all the time.  She DID feel totally lost.  And above all she said she felt disconnected from EVERYTHING; not just me, but everyone and everything she used to enjoy.  The only thing she felt connected to was Abby.

We went to a psychologist shortly after and she said that she was quite certain that she was suffering from a strong case of PPD.  Once this was determined our marriage got better again.  Although, I had to withdraw to a huge degree my expectations of what to expect in terms of attention and affection.  Even though she had been diagnosed and we both began understanding how this had amplified all of her negative feelings, we still remained distant.  The difference was now, instead of feeling hurt I began feeling sympathy and anger towards the disease itself – not her.

The next few months were hard as I felt so lonely.  I missed my girl terribly.  I wanted to hold her and make the darkness go away, but very little of what I did ever affect her cold blank eyes that seemed to have had the soul sucked right out of them.  And the temper, WOW!  There were many nights where I took so much abuse over little things I thought I wasn’t going to make it with her.  It was rough; every day was a battle.  I hated watching every word I spoke.  I hated dancing on eggshells for so long.  I felt bruised and battered and totally alone.

Finally about 10 months after Abby was born my wife went on meds.  This provided a boost to her moods and I began seeing glimpses of her former self.  This was terrific, but also dangerous because now I had to overcome fear to get close with her again.  In many ways for me, this was the most challenging part of the ordeal because she would have good days and bad days – one day she would be loving and kind and the next a total beast.  I never knew which way was up.  Just when I began to trust again an ugly incident would occur that would send me scurrying back down my emotional safety hole; safe from the dangers my wife represented.

Finally, just like the doctors said, about a year later my wife began to have more good days than bad.  It wasn’t the medicine, it wasn’t the therapy, it wasn’t any specific conversation:  it was simply time that fixed her.  Like the flu the disease had run its course.

My wife began to ask for time away from the baby.  She began expressing her frustrations with parenting in general without feeling guilt, and the spark that had been missing for so long finally began to flicker behind her eyes.  The next few months were a slow process of trusting her again and accepting that most of what we experienced in terms of our distance and anger wasn’t either of our faults.  Let me say however that trusting again was very difficult.  I had been told I was a rotten husband and, perhaps even worse, a poor father.  Just when I needed the strength of my wife to get me through the difficult adjustment period of being a new father she had abandoned me.  Even with the disease as an excuse it took a lot of work on her part to get ME back.  Thank God she tried so hard, because after about 4 months I felt I was well on my way to normalcy and happiness with her again.  I had my baby AND my wife, not one or the other.

The reason I’m writing this now is that my wife is now almost 7 months pregnant again.   I am so scared of losing her again I have had terrible anxiety the last couple months – more than I seem capable of handling.  I am so thrilled to be giving another child, but I am also frightened of the prospect of losing my best friend again.  I feel like a soldier with post traumatic stress syndrome being taken back into battle.

My wife and I have talked a lot about this and we have agreed that she will take meds as soon as a problem presents itself, if at all.  Her doctors have told her that the fertility drugs she took prior to Abby being conceived might have played a big role in her PPD, and this time none were taken and that gives me hope as well.  But the fact remains that at least half, maybe more, of woman who suffered from PPD get it again if they have another baby.  Therefore, I am beginning to accept, I have to come to terms with reality and prepare myself for what may or may not be another difficult year.

I worked so hard to get back to my wife, it seems too soon to have to let her go again.  I really need her.  But what can I do?  Like when we refused to let our fear of losing another baby stop us from trying again I wasn’t going to let fear of PPD stop us from having another baby – and she wasn’t either.

I feel like I was ripped off last time, as I’m sure my wife does as well.  It was supposed to be wonderful, but instead it was part wonderful, part nightmare.  I have had trouble juxtaposing both of those memories into one

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One Response to Tony’s Story

  1. debbie says:

    Please be understanding and supportive of your wife when or if she experiences sign and symptoms depression.
    You can’t possibly imagine what it is like to be depressed unless you have experienced the “hell” of depression. It just so happens that I have experienced it first hand.
    What really bothers me is that I was a nurse almost 30 years (I was in grad. school at the time of the onset of my symptoms) and didn’t even recognize what was happening to my own body. I had been very active and a very health conscious person before the onset on my symptoms. I thought I was becoming lazy in my “old age”. I was only 43. How ignorant I was.
    Depression is not a character defect it is a true brain disease. I can only describe my experience as a “walking dead person”. I felt NOTHING. I cared about NOTHING. I wanted to die. I had to quit grad. school. More heartbreaking for me was I had to quit working. After being in this depression for more than 8 years I no longer had the energy to stand or sit.
    The first 7 years of my depression I used all my energy to follow the advice of my psychiatrist. I continued to exercise and eat healthy and attend therapy 3xwk. I tried multiple medications. I used light therapy. I had ECT. Nothing helped. I only became more hopeless and suicidal after doing all the things that my psychiatrist advised and the current “literature” on depression says will alleviate depression.
    My symptoms of depression came on fairly quickly and worsened as time went on.
    I don’t what happened, but one day I was sitting in the sun and felt this strange feeling in my brain and within a few days my depression had lifted. I don’t think my experience of depression disappearing quickly as it did is typical of what everyone else experiences, but I know the symptoms are the same. You can’t feel anything, but pain that can’t be detected on any test.
    Mental illness carries such stigma most people don’t even seek help and many commit suicide. How sad that as a society people still consider mental illness as a character defect. It’s not. It is a true brain disease. There should be no shame to admit we experience sign/symptoms of depression, but we feel shame and embarrassment. It’s not my fault or anyone else’s fault. It just happens. Compassion and understanding are what we need.

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