Postpartum Depression: An Interview With My Husband

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I try not to feel guilty about having postpartum depression, but sometimes I can't help but feel guilty about putting my husband through it. I can't begin to imagine what it was like for him. Husbands, the fathers of our children, are often left out of the postpartum depression conversation. Our men can be just as clueless about PPD as we are before it runs us over like a mac truck. They must feel just as lost and helpless as the women they love and now share a child with feel. Most want to help but have no idea where to even begin. I've been asked the same question by so many moms I know. They want to know how my husband was able to "get it." Some of these moms who also suffered from PPD had husbands who didn't immediately understand what they were going through--how could they not fall in love or bond with their baby right away--why a trip to the gym or nail salon couldn't alleviate their tears and anxiety.  I remember a few things about my husband during that time. First, he agreed to come to a therapy session with me. This proved to be extremely helpful because he could listen to a trained professional specializing in what I was going through. Second, my husband is a "researcher", so I'm pretty sure he educated himself about PPD on the Internet. Third, I made him read the information here and he followed it. Lastly, he just tried to be supportive without ever forcing motherhood on me or judging the fact that I wasn't capable of embracing it immediately.

For these reasons, I thought it would be helpful to write about my struggle with PPD from my husband's point of view, so I interviewed him. Here are his responses. He promised me he wouldn't hold back and wouldn't sugar-coat. He assured me he would give real, honest, detailed responses. Breathe Jen. You will get through reading and reliving this.

When did you know something was “off”? What were the signs and what did you do about them?  You started spending more time in bed--about two or three days after we got home from the hospital.  Some of the family had gone home and it was almost like you were putting on a show for them because as soon as they left I noticed something was “off”. I didn’t really know what to do about it. I just felt like I needed to focus on Mason and once I got him settled I could then come be with you. Luckily we still had family (staying for the bris) here so I was able to spend time with both you. 

How did you feel during those months of my postpartum depression struggle? What was it like for you? What is something that sticks out for you or something that you will always remember about that time? You in bed--that is the most recurring memory I have of the PPD. It’s not the memory I like to focus on though.  My memory of that time mostly revolves around the support we had from friends and family.  It wasn’t easy for me.  It was hard to watch you go through this. Going to work didn’t feel right, which is why I would stay home every so often to be with you.    

When did you see a change in me---that I was getting better and back to myself? How did you feel once you could recognize the old Jen you loved and married?  When you started advocating for yourself.  It has always been one of your best traits--that you won’t take crap from anyone and in this case you wouldn’t take crap from yourself. I knew that I didn’t need to push you to seek outside help because when you were ready you would do that on your own.  That being said, I am glad it happened sooner rather than later.

I know how I coped. How did you cope? Did you talk to anyone as an outlet?          I spoke with my dad, mom, brother and sister. I also spoke with your sister, mom and dad. They were all calling to check on Mason and make sure I was doing alright.  You were very good about expressing your feelings to them so I didn’t have to explain what you were going through to them.

Did you ever feel resentment for having to take on so many parenting responsibilities alone?  Absolutely not.  This was not what I expected the first months to be like but it’s not like you were doing it on purpose.   

Did you have any issues with me going on antidepressants?  No issues. I have never had a problem with people using them.  I have been able to see a genuine change in the way people carry themselves when they are on them, off them or on the wrong one.  Knowing that what you were going through was all chemical and hormonal, it was only rational that you would need them. 

What do you wish you could say to me that you never did during that time?  I never held back. I think I told you how proud I was of you more than once.  You started contributing when you were ready and when you hit your limit it was back to bed which was fine. There were times when I was probably ready to react in the wrong way but all of those feelings were gone within a few moments.  The best part of the day was once Mason was down I got to lay down with you.    

I have talked to other moms who suffered from postpartum depression who express that they wish their husbands would “get it” and be more supportive. How were you able to “get it?”  Everything was happening so quickly. I like to think that I wasn’t doing anything more than I would normally. Seeing as this was our first one maybe I didn’t know any different?  Once we really put a name to what you were going through I did do some basic research but I took most of my cues from you.  There were days when you were more active than others.  I took those opportunities to just be ourselves, sit on the couch and eat dinner, open a bottle of wine and our other pre-Mason routines. I essentially treated it as if you were down with an extended flu.

What advice would you give to other dads whose wives are suffering from postpartum depression?  First, acknowledge what PPD is. It’s an illness that requires treatment. It is not as simple as just getting back to the gym or spending more time with the baby. Don’t get frustrated, understand that she doesn’t want to feel this way, and no woman goes into this thinking this will happen. There will be days when you will want to scream, take a break, and even lash out at her for not sharing responsibility or pulling her weight.  It’s alright to have those feelings.  A lot of men tend to keep their feelings and emotions bottled up. In this case that will only have a negative effect on your relationship, your child and mom’s mental health. If you are someone who needs to talk this out then find someone to do that with--it can be a friend, relative or professional.  Most importantly, there should be no feelings of shame or guilt that this is something you caused or brought on your family.

I would like to close this post with one last memory of my supportive husband from this time. As I slowly began to get better, I received a beautiful flower delivery on a random afternoon. I always describe my husband as a man of few words, so reading the words written on the card accompanying his flowers showed me just how much he was routing for me, even if he didn't express it verbally everyday. I share those words with you above (I obviously saved the card as a reminder) and also a photo of our first real date night and selfie from a Bruno Mars Concert.

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A milestone back then when I would start to see myself and find my joy again.

The Stages of Date Night for Parents of a 3 Year-Old Boy

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The Morning of Date Night: 
Mommy just has to make it through the morning routine--get tiny human dressed, fed, and dropped off at school. Then it's just pick up from school, nap time, and movie in Mommy's bed while she gets ready.  Should be easy and smooth sailing until tiny human's uncle picks up him up for a sleepover.
Mommy thinks maybe she will have the energy for some post-date night sex. Mommy makes mental note to remember to shave her legs and moisturize.
The Afternoon of Date Night:
4:00PM - Wake up from light nap
4:15PM - Slightly panic as I walk to get son from nap/quiet time because monitor shows
                he is not in his bed anymore.
4:16PM - Open door to see quiet time was not so quiet.
4:17PM - Silently scream and curse because son looks like a mime as his arms, face and
                hair are covered in white from a mix of cream from the sunscreen tube and
                moisturizer pump he took off his dresser.

 4:18PM - Look around to see that son has ripped the CD player out from the wall,
                dumped his books and CDs out of their bins, opened his child-proofed closet to
                take his cowboy boots out, and his expensive Stark rug is now grey check with
                large white patches from same combination of sunscreen and moisturizer.
4:18PM - Smell poop and glance left at changing table to notice a full diaper of shit that
                son has taken off his body. He is still wearing sweatpants and now cowboy
                boots.
4:19PM - Look over at son to see him smiling and wonder if I am raising a sociopath.
4:20PM - Wishing I could engage in the fun kind of 4-20 activities but realize I might not
                have time to shower and shave my legs for date night because I need to bathe
                my son and get all the shit and cream off his body.
4:21PM - Son makes sure to tell me not to forget to clean his cowboy boot covered in
                cream.
4:22PM - Son reminds me he is supposed  to watch a movie in my bed after his bath is
                done.
4:25PM - Get son in bath and decide that getting him cleaned up and having time to
                shower, shave, and get dressed in non-work out clothes is more important than
                cleaning the mess in son's room.
4:45PM - Place clean son in bed, put a movie on, and finally shower.
5:15PM - Change four times because nothing looks right. Son instructs me to close the
                bathroom door when I dry my hair so he can hear the movie.
Right before Date Night:
6:15PM - Answer phone call from Husband who is late. "Where are you? I need to leave
                NOW. Do you want to know what your son did this afternoon? Good, I'll tell you.
                I need to drink wine...NOW."
6:30PM - The dog starts barking which means Husband and Uncle are here. "Finally!
                Hallelujah!"
6:32PM - Tell Husband he needs to hurry up and change and welcome Uncle inside. "He's
                all yours!"
6:34PM - Son reminds Uncle he needs more toys at his house before they get there.
6:40PM - Look for but can't find son's favorite sippy cup of water to send with him.
6:50PM - Son leaves for the toy store with Uncle.
6:55PM - Mommy and Daddy leave for long anticipated date night.
Date Night:
Mommy and Daddy see Kevin Smith at The Comedy Zone.  He is fucking awesome and Mommy feels like his talk about creating and honest self-expression is meant specifically for her. Mommy has a glass of wine due to her son's earlier behavior but sticks to Whole30 eating and considers this a win.
Post Date Night Arrival at Home:
10:30PM - Do not cross go, do not go straight to the bedroom and rip each other's
                  clothes off.
10:32PM - Clean dog's three different puddles of pee in the kitchen.
10:35PM - Tag team son's room with husband and clean all poop, change his sheets and
                  changing table cover which are covered in poop, strip chair of slip cover also
                  covered in poop, and throw everything in washing machine.
10:50PM - Look at each other and immediately and mutually agree to pay someone to
                  clean the cream off the rug because we are too tired and have no idea where
                  to even begin.
10:52PM - Remember the cowboy boot covered in cream and clean it with baby wipes.
10:57PM - Force myself to remove eye make up and wash face before getting into bed.
11:05PM - Finally about to get into bed and find the missing sippy cup...in the bed
                  emptied of water and responsible for the currently soaked sheets and duvet
                  cover.
11:10PM - The only thing getting blown tonight are the wet sheets and duvet cover.
11:30PM - Lights off. Sleep is the new sex on this date night.
Last night was a bonus date night. Tuesday is our regular date night. Let's try this again...

If Campowerment Were the Oscars...I Would Like to Thank My Husband

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When I first launched my blog back in January, I made an agreement with my husband.  He knew I was writing but he wouldn’t try to find my blog or read any posts until I told him I was ready. I had always planned to talk to him about everything right before I decided to go public. He fully supported this. He wasn’t concerned. He didn’t ask questions. My close friends and sister? Not so much. If you know me, you know that there is no bullshit. No sugar-coating. Just open, honest truth. I’m not afraid to share, tell you how I feel, and I own my shit and who I am.  I always planned to bring this to my blog. As I started writing my truth about motherhood, marriage, and sex, in came the frantic text messages and phone calls from various friends and family members.

Does my husband know what I’m writing about? Does he know how I feel about our sex life? Do I talk to him about what I write for the world to read? Jen, are you okay? Jen, are you going to do something impulsive like have an affair or run away? Jen, should we be concerned? Jen, do we need to come down to the South for an intervention?

This is what I love about my friends and sister . They are real. They call me out on my stuff and they make me talk to them even if I don’t want to hear what they have to say because they are probably right. I’ve said it before—real friends talk shit to your face and say the good stuff behind your back.

And to answer those questions, no, my husband didn’t know what I was writing about, not at first. I am okay—great in fact, which I attribute to having this space to write my truth and express who I am with no apologies.  And I’m not going to have an affair or run away. I love my husband and our life even if I’m not in love with where we live.

But the fact still remained, I needed to come clean to my husband about the name of my blog, the meaning behind it, and that there were and would be posts that discussed private aspects of our relationship and lives.  And after almost two months of writing, I did talk to him and it was a relief.

The fact is, writing about all of this helps me, which in turn helps our relationship because I can make sense of my feelings in writing before I articulate them in conversation. Most times I talk to him about what these posts. Sometimes I don’t. He is allowed to read the blog anytime he wants to. It’s his choice and a decision we are both comfortable with.

And I’m pretty sure it helps others—because I know I’m not the only wife who sometimes wants to throat punch her husband after he does something stupid.  I'm not the only wife who has a different definition of foreplay than her husband. And I’m definitely not the only mom who has a love-hate relationship with being a mom or misses her life before children.  I just have the balls to say it. And I'm saying it because I want you to know you are perfectly normal and not alone.

Marriage is hard work. It’s not always perfect and needs to be nurtured and cared for. There will be dry spells, some days you’ll want rip your husband’s pants off and other days you’ll want to punch him in the face. If you tell me you are madly in love with your spouse all day every day and life is always perfect, well then I’m just going to say it---you are lying and full of shit. The same goes for motherhood. And it's okay!

I know my husband get this. He supports me and believes in my writing and I love him for it. I’m sure the lack of privacy makes him slightly uncomfortable, but I know he is looking the other way on it for me—because he sees what writing has done for my mind, body, and spirit. Writing is helping me forge my identity, which I have been so desperately in search of. And most importantly, he supports my desire to honestly put myself and my shit out there to help others who might not have the courage to, even if it’s at the expense of a little bit of privacy.

I did not start this blog to bash my husband. Will he annoy me and piss me off sometimes? Of course. Will I write about it? Hell yeah! But while I might complain about the dumb shit he does as a man, he is still an incredible husband and father.  It’s important for me to make that distinction here. We might need to spice up our sex life, but I know my husband would lay the world at my feet if he could.

I love and appreciate my husband, the man who had no issues with me leaving him for five days to go back to sleepaway camp. The man who wanted to discuss me signing up for camp, but didn’t get angry or upset when I informed him there would be no discussion—the credit card was charged and flights were booked! The man who already knew without me telling him that I would be going back to Campowerment this September and probably every time after that.

The man who when I texted from camp to tell him that I won color war and my apache relay activity was bug juice flip cup, he responded by saying, “I expect no less.”  The man who put me up in a luxury hotel after camp so I could reflect and decompress and unpack all my emotions before returning to reality as a mom and wife. The man who I know will do whatever he can to help me be me, the person I revealed myself to be this past weekend at camp. The man who loves our son, cared for him and held down the fort while I was away. The man I can’t wait to share with all I learned, and did, and became while I away at camp.

So husband, I can’t say thank you enough—for your love and support and belief in me. And for letting me do what I need to do to be my best self—as they called me at camp—a  ROCKSTAR!

And just as an added bonus, there will be a large box of goodies from Freda’s Campowerment Passion Party waiting for you when you get home from your business trip. As for what’s inside? I will leave that to all of your imaginations. And if you’re really lucky, maybe there will be a toy review on the blog in the near future. I’ll need some liquid courage before I post that one!

Make sure you check back in the next couple of days for my upcoming post about the magic that is Campowerment and why you should run, not walk to this incredible, life-changing place.

Thoughts on Valentines Day...

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Valentines Day is so different when you have been with the same man for over 12 years (married for seven). I remember the first time I went to visit him at school. We were newly dating and it happened to be Valentines Day. Oh the pressure! Do I get him a gift? Do we even acknowledge it's Valentines Day? Is he going to get me anything? If he does, is he into this more than I am? If he doesn't maybe he’s not into this at all? It turned out to be the perfect Valentines Day for a new couple. We had dinner as if it was any other night, but when we got back to his apartment, he surprised me with homemade molten chocolate cakes. Um, a guy who not only cooks, but can make his own molten lava cake? I probably knew I was going to marry him right then.

I’ve always hated Valentines Day. I never had a proper Valentine. I swear I was jinxed by my 8th grade boyfriend. We will just call him asshole. Asshole dumped me the night before Vday when I was in 8th grade. And to make it even worse, my so-called best friend knew it was going to happen, went with me to buy him cards and a gift, and didn't tell me. What a bitch! And what an asshole! Who dumps his girlfriend the night before Valentines Day? I had already picked out my outfit. It was going to be my first real Valentines Day. Of course my life was over. I couldn't show my face at school the next day. My mom made me go anyway and I hated her for 48 hours.

Once I got to college, Valentines Day became Galentines Day. There was the year my single girlfriends and I bought 10 pints of ice cream and 10 spoons, passed them around and watched chick flicks all night. And lets not forget the year my sorority sisters and I made pot brownies at the house using the toaster oven in the basement. Good times! Amazing times!

Once I started dating my husband, I loved Valentines Day. I finally had a Valentine! What fabulous place would he be taking me for dinner? What creative gift would he get me? What sexy gift could I give him?

Now, Vday is just like any other day. We always do cards, but don't always do gifts. Sometimes we set a $25 limit to see how creative we can be at that budget. We've stopped going out to dinner. All the restaurants here do a set menu and jack up the prices. These are all restaurants we go to regularly and it makes us angry. What can I say, we are food snobs!

When you're a mom, what you want for Valentines Day completely changes. My toddler stayed quiet in his room until 7:45 this morning...the best gift he could have given me. I actually had the time to shower and dry my hair in peace. We went food shopping which I’m so happy about because it means I don't have any errands to do tomorrow. I got to binge watch three episodes of a show while my husband entertained our toddler. And our toddler went to bed without a fight and without any tears. No “one more book.” No screaming. No negotiating. A perfect day!

I wasn't planning on blogging today. But I've been thinking a lot about my week and I just had to write my thoughts down. When I posted my last blog, four of my closest friends freaked out. They all agreed I need to communicate my feelings to my husband. I agree. And I will…in my own time. That time is coming very soon. I promised them and I meant it. They wanted to make sure I wasn't going to do anything impulsive or stupid like run away or have an affair. I reassured them that while yes, I'm going through a bit of a midlife crisis, I won't do either of those things. They worried about my husband's feelings and what he would think about the fact that I put our sex life out there for the masses to read. Well, I think I only have about 10 readers and I think he will have to learn to be okay with it...because writing my truth has become my everything, my life line. I think he will understand, eventually.

Earlier this week, my husband and I attended the funeral of a close friend's father. He had been sick for a long time, but that doesn't make losing a loved one any easier. At the funeral, crying while our friend broke down reading a eulogy for his dad, my husband held my hand. He held my hand when we left temple, arrived at the cemetery, and watched as they lowered the coffin into the ground. He held my hand the next night when we went back to temple for Shiva. He always holds my hand.

The next night he made me hard-boiled eggs, steak, and chicken so I could have a few protein days. He was in the kitchen way past our bed time. Yesterday afternoon, he let me nap for two hours because he knew I was crashing. While I slept, he emptied the dishwasher and put all the groceries away. Last night he made my dinner smoothie. I didn't ask him to do any of this. The point is, he is a good man and even though I'm going through a mid life crisis about motherhood, marriage, and sex, I'm not going anywhere. I do plan to talk to him honestly and openly about all of this when I'm ready and I'm getting more and more ready by the day. And I'm hopeful that this experience will just help us grow together as I figure all my shit out.

And maybe that's why Valentines Day isn't a big deal when you have been with your person for years. Because in a way, it's just like any other day. My husband doesn't need a holiday to do the things he does everyday. He did get me two beautiful orchids and lots of cards and I'm pretty sure he ordered the pajamas I've been wanting. He told me not to get him a gift. But I did anyway. A tin of heart shaped Nestle crunch bars (his favorite chocolate)...and a blow job. Okay, maybe Vday isn't necessarily like every other day. He doesn't get a blowjob everyday!

Happy Valentines Day to all!

I Want to Punch you in the Face!

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I'm not sure how I'm feeling right now or how I should be feeling. Angry? Anxious? Guilty? Resentment? Fear? Exhausted? Yes, definitely exhausted. Maybe that is the problem when you're a mom. The divide between how you are actually feeling and how you should be feeling or how you think you should be feeling. For the past few nights, my almost three year-old has not only fought going to sleep, but he has woken up screaming like clockwork right around midnight. It doesn't help that we are on vacation and he shares a tiny room with my husband and me. He sleeps in his own bed next to ours.

And who do you ask wakes up with the little one? Well, his mom of course! I actually physically wake up the minute I hear him, like I have some internal mom radar. Where is my husband you might ask? Oh, he is next to me, sleeping soundly and snoring even louder. In creeps the resentment and anger. I want to scream at him, "HOW COULD YOU SLEEP THROUGH YOUR CHILD WAKING UP CRYING???!"

Not to mention, my child decides he wants to go potty and for some reason when I flush, the toilet starts overflowing. So there I am, in the bathroom, towels on both feet gliding on the floor to soak up the water while holding tiny human in my arms all to the musical accompaniment of my husband's garbage disposal sounding snores. When I finally get our child back to sleep, he rolls over towards me, strokes my hair as if to comfort me. I don't even know if he is awake. I don't care. Don't touch me! I want to punch you in the face!

Then of course I can't fall back to sleep. Too many thoughts going around and around in my head. Husband, I can't stand you right now. Child, why are you doing this again? Hello fear and anxiety. I'm so not cut out for this. This parent shit is way too hard. I hate this. How am I even old enough to be the one to do this for a child when I remember my mom doing it for me like yesterday. I love that little boy so damn much. I hate when he cries and gets upset or scared.

Is he even scared or is he manipulating me? He is so good at manipulating me. It doesn't take more than a hug and an "I love you mommy." No, I will not let him sleep in our bed. I won't start that habit which I know is impossible to break. I really want to let him sleep in our bed when he asks because we can cuddle. And it means I can sleep too. I love sleep. Come on B, stop thinking and go back to sleep. Your husband has no issues falling and staying asleep. Why can't you?

When does this get easier? Does it ever get easier? Other moms tell me it does at age 5. Age 5? Fuck! That's two years away! I'm not a patient woman. And I just want to sleep! Let me sleep! I'm not ever taking my small child on vacation ever again until he is 5, unless I can bring a nanny. How do people do this with more than one child? Everybody does, but I never will. Maybe I don't want to be a mom this week. Enter guilt. Shouldn't I be cherishing these moments?

When he is 5, will I miss when he was 2? Did I waste that time complaining and missing the days before being a mom? When I could sleep all night and wake up late and come and go as I please. Or when I didn't want to punch my husband in the face most of the time?

Finally, exhaustion. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.