I can only speak for my wife and what I was able to observe after the birth of our beautiful daughter (the second of two). She was less confident, more prone to negative thoughts and borderline depression as well as the occasional short term. I realize that postpartum hormones are a big factor and in most cases being emotional is a natural way for the body to adjust. The challenge for me is how to help given that what I do can (and usually is) misinterpreted and the limitations of the types of things I can do to support her. Being less knowledgeable than most, I mistakenly thought that having a second child will be simpler, deducing that she already knows what to expect and is mentally prepared for the challenges to come. I quickly learned that’s not the case, with our first she rarely had any emotional breakdowns nor was she prone to self-criticism as was the case with our second.
Granted she was dealing with big changes including moving to another country, not working anymore, and being further away from her childhood friends which would have a toll on most people if not all. As this progressed and dragged out, I sat long and hard to think of how I can solve this. I come from a very Project Management oriented background, if I see a problem, I list out an approach, I put timelines and I execute. But of course life does not work that way, least of which dealing with an emotional partner after a dramatic change in their life. So here is what I attempted to do:
- I soon realised this is not a problem or a challenge to solve, it’s about providing support to a partner that needs it
- Letting things go, being kind and gentle – including easing my usually sarcastic humour to avoid any misunderstanding
- Letting her cry and have her moment, often times she would cry and laugh at the same time in front of my son, so I would quickly distract him or take him elsewhere and let her have her moment (rather than asking her to go somewhere else)
- Pamper her, as much as possible, particularly getting her things that might temporarily address her self-consciousness (I often go to nomamoma.com where they have a section on postpartum care)
- Break the routine and take her out as much as possible, even if it’s just to change the scenery like a botanical garden or an apple farm – doesn’t; have to be anything too pricey
- Tell her what a wonderful mother she is – self-doubt and criticism is a constant in this vulnerable period
- Give her one or two nights of full sleep (if she’s not breastfeeding) on the weekend when I don’t have to get up for work – sleep deprivation is a big part of it
- I also had to take care of myself and allow myself to indulge once in a while – otherwise that pent up stress might be triggered with a lashing out at her or my kids, so I had to be mindful of my capacity
- Get help where you can, whether laundry, cleaning, shovelling the driveway, taking out the trash, ironing and dishes. Getting a local neighbour teen to help with chores while you focus on other things (paying them is way better than the aggravation you would get and would be more affordable than getting professionals) – will save you a world of pain
If this goes one of course professional help is in order. Check out this Blog for some excellent tips for the mother (https://www.healthline.com/health/postpartum-care#family-unit)
But I wonder if anyone else has had a similar experience or ideas that you might do to help your partner deal with the postpartum period that many women go through?