When Your Family and Friends Don’t Understand Postpartum Depression
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Postpartum Depression (or PPD) is very difficult to go through, and it’s even harder to go through if you have to go through it alone. Sometimes a mom goes through it alone because she doesn’t have a support system, others go through it alone because their assumed support system doesn’t actually support them the way that they should because they don’t understand postpartum depression.
I know a lot of women who suffer PPD and feel incredibly lonely, and this loneliness feels even worse because the people closest to them don’t understand what PPD is all about so they barely acknowledge their ongoing pain.
Before we get into it let’s look at some quick facts about Postpartum Depression:
- It’s a mood disorder that can affect women after birth.
- It can consist of extreme feelings of sadness, exhaustion, and anxiety that can prevent the woman from caring for her baby and family.
- It can be treated with both medicine and therapy.
- After birth the hormones in a woman’s body drop which can cause mood swings, but PPD does not have a single cause.
- Lack of sleep can contribute to the symptoms of postpartum depression.
- PPD cannot be prevented but the severity of the symptoms can be treated at home and professionally.
Do I have postpartum depression?
If you think you have PPD definitely bring it up with your doctor as they’re the only one who can diagnose it, but the symptoms you might experience could be feeling sad and overwhelmed, crying often and for no apparent reason, feeling irritable or irrationally angry, having trouble sleeping (even when baby is sleeping), struggling to feel an emotional connection to baby, worry and anxiety, loss of interest in usually enjoyable activities, and more. Talk to your doctor about anything you are feeling that may be related to PPD instead of waiting for a long time to “ride it out.”
It’s better to stand with someone through it than alone.
There are way too many women suffer in silence and guilt as they may believe that “good mom’s don’t get depressed,” or that spending the time on money to treat their depression would take away from their family. It’s not easy when the ones you love don’t understand postpartum depression but you still need to accept what is happening and get the treatment you deserve.
What if my partner doesn’t understand what I’m going through?
This is very difficult and very painful.
While I was pregnant I was very aware of the fact that I was at risk for postpartum depression and so throughout my pregnancy, my husband and I would talk about postpartum depression so he would really understand what it was, just in case I was going to be one of the many mothers who go through it. I thank God because with my first child I did not experience postpartum depression.
I did experience the drastic mood swings and being over emotional but it was much less severe and so I was able to treat it without professional intervention but we were prepared for the possibility.
One thing I learnt though was that is it important for your partner to understand what postpartum depression is from a clinical standpoint and not just based on your feelings. Some men can relate more to facts and science than with emotions.
Mental health is greatly underestimated and, unfortunately, many people cannot accept depression as a sickness if they have never experienced it themselves. If someone is sick with the flu and can’t get out of bed it’s understandable, but when a mom can’t get out of bed because of postpartum depression she might be seen as lazy, or doesn’t love her child, or is being over dramatic. That’s obviously not true, but to someone who doesn’t understand depression that’s what they can think.
Often times spouses can fight while a woman is going through PPD because the husband simply does not understand and he’s upset with the wife’s behaviour as if she is choosing to be depressed. There is no on and off depression switch!
So what can you do?
1. Educate your partner or family member
Your partner needs to hear from the doctor what you’re going through, or read some articles or talk to another man who’s wife has gone through PPD. He needs to see that it’s not just “all in your head” and that he needs to be the best he can be in order for you to get better. The reason people don’t understand postpartum depression is because of ignorance.
2. Talk it out
Talk to your husband about what you are feeling, and if you are going to any therapy or counseling bring him along. Some husbands may refuse, but even if he can sit in and listen it can be helpful.
3. Ask for specific help
In my marriage, I have gone through very difficult seasons where I needed my husband to support me so I wouldn’t fall apart, but he did not always know what it is I needed (even though it might have seemed obvious to me) and I needed to tell him straight. There have been times where I just need to say, “Honey, I feel really weak right now and the best thing you could do for me is to hold the baby so I can take a nap.” Our baby wellness nurse even told my husband that every day he should make sure I get some time to myself – even if it just means soaking in the tub for an hour while I cry! She gets it. Some men do best when they are given specific instructions and are told exactly what’s expected of them.
As women we can sometimes not make sense to men – for instance, has there ever been a time where you were upset and your husband touched you and you told him not to touch you? Then next time you are upset all you want is a hug but he isn’t coming near you? To us, it seems obvious that those instances are vastly different but sometimes they’re just trying their hardest based off of the knowledge they have for that circumstance. So don’t make him figure it out or expect him to know, just tell him.
And to the husbands reading this
Please care for your wives, in doing so you are also caring for your baby. She needs to be strong in order to give your child the best care, so if you can see that she is suffering then take her to the doctor or the therapist, listen to her, help her and be gracious to her and forgiving. She may have a temper at this time, and you might be tired after coming home from work but God has given you the responsibility to care for your wife and to protect your family. So honour the task that God has given you by doing it well.
But mamas, you should not feel burdened with the responsibility to educate your loved ones who don’t understand postpartum depression and have to hold their hand along the way – they should be the ones making the effort here and I’m sorry if they aren’t. Some mamas are always going to feel alone, your husband will never “get it” and some women even go through a divorce at the same time as PPD, but just remember that you are never alone. As you walk through the shadow of the valley of death remember that the Lord is with you and will hear you in your pain. Reach out and get help, even if those closest to you don’t understand postpartum depression.
Love and hugs to you mama ❤️
The Moving Mama
Lizzy Mash is an experienced early childhood educator now living in Africa as a missionary working with children and families.
She teaches Christian moms how to take a more respectful and Christ-like approach to motherhood by using Gentle Parenting strategies.
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