Elizabeth, or Libby, was a special education teacher in Plano, TX. She suffered from postpartum depression after giving birth 20 months ago and it recently became more severe. Severe enough for her to drive her vehicle off the side of the road and into a cluster of trees.
Postpartum Depression, or PPD, isn’t simply baby blues; which includes tiredness, worry, and sadness. PPD is more severe and lasts longer.
My friend Leah Fisher Armstrong wrote a great Facebook post highlighting PPD after Libby’s story came out in which she said the following:
PPD is a chemical, hormonal illness that comes at the most stressful, sleep-deprived part of any mother’s life. No amount of positive thinking, hard work, or happy attitude is going to pull you out of the deep, dark pit that is PPD. Normal, loving mothers become shadows of themselves and make decisions they would NEVER EVER make in “real life”. PPD can take everything from you.
It did for this hurting mother and my heart breaks for the darkness she had to have lived in these final days. She did not do this – postpartum depression did. Yes, 20 months later. It takes 3 years for a woman’s body to recover from childbirth and a lot of times there are lasting, permanent changes to our hormone and thyroid functions (both of which contribute to depression).
Meds. Therapy. Self care. Support. In that order. Do you know someone who is pregnant or has a baby under the age of three? Talk to her about PPD. Ask how’s she’s doing. Don’t make her feel bad for still having a tough time even though the baby’s a toddler now. Don’t tell her “things will get better” or to “choose happiness (or thankfulness, or faith, or whatever)”. This should be a standard conversation for every new mother, multiple times, over the course of multiple years.
As a husband, I would feel helpless if my wife suffered from PPD. If you’re a woman reading this who’s husband feels the same way, please ask him to come and read the next several lines. Why? Because research has shown that a woman’s depression can improve with the constant support of their significant other.
From psychologytoday.com, here’s a list of things a husband can provide support with during this horrendous time.
Help around the house
Set limits with friends and family
Answer the phone. Take a message.
Throw in a load of laundry. Order take-out for dinner.
Accompany her to doctor’s appointments
Educate yourself about PPD, read the books your wife gives you
Write down the concerns and questions you have and taking them to her doctor or therapist.
Make a list together of the things that may provide an outlet for her so you can both refer to it when she needs a break.
The single most important thing for you to do is to just be with her. Sit with her. No TV, no kids, no dog, no bills, no newspaper. Just you and her. Let her know you’re there. This isn’t easy to do, especially with someone who seems so sad or so distant. Five minutes a day is a good place to start.
Men, this isn’t an easy journey for her. What happened to Libby Davis is a travesty. I’m not saying this can be avoided if we’re doing all the right things. I’m simply saying that there are unique ways to be there for you wife if she’s dealing with PPD.
If you’re relationship is suffering, in part from PPD, please don’t hesitate to contact our office at 832-421-8714. We have several counselors who would love the chance to help each individual during this difficult process.