Beauty from ashes: My postpartum depression caregiver (A post from my husband)

18 Apr
Celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary last February. We have survived much together, and God has graciously strengthened our marriage through it.
Thanks for joining me this week as I share my experiences with postpartum depression. This is the fourth post of the series. If you missed the first three, you’ll find them herehere  and here.

I asked my husband to write a post about his experience caring for me during my journey through postpartum depression (PPD). In the years that have followed my PPD, he has shared candidly with me about the challenges he faced as my caregiver during those months. It was heart wrenching for me to hear but necessary. I have encouraged him to write a book because we have not found an abundance of resources available for caregivers of loved ones with postpartum depression or mental illness. 🙂 (Maybe one day….) 🙂 The other victims who are left in the wake of postpartum depression and, also, suffer silently are the caregivers. If you are a caregiver or know of someone who is, this post is for you (and feel free to pass it along to others.) Now, I turn it over to my hubby…..
Suzanne has been sharing her postpartum depression struggles over the last few days. I am extremely thankful for her risk in sharing this hard story with the world. I pray and long for God to use our struggles for the sake of His glory and His purposes in the world. Before I begin, you should know a few important facts about Suzanne and me. I love my wife deeply. Our marriage is strong and healthy. We communicate directly and openly about struggles, faults, sins, and weaknesses. In this post, I will say some hard things regarding my wife’s PPD. These statements are things we have discussed. We do not feel the statements belittle either of us. We feel that sharing with openness and honesty is worth the risk of being misunderstood.
When it comes to PPD, what do you call the spouse who is walking through the struggle and giving much care to the person with PPD? We have not landed on a satisfactory term to date. For our purposes here, we will call this person the “caregiver.” My goal in this post is share my experiences as the caregiver during PPD.
My Journey as a PPD Caregiver
I remember subconsciously thinking, “Did the hospital send me home with the wrong woman?” The hospital had extreme measures to ensure we went home with the correct child. No one every checked to see if I was taking home the correct wife. After a few weeks, the Suzanne I knew and loved was not the Suzanne living in our home and caring for our child. The before children (B.C.) Suzanne was fun-loving, outgoing, strong, persevering, initiating, and independent. The after children (A.C.) Suzanne was fragile, withdrawn, almost anti-social, void of initiative, and highly dependent. There was no doubt that the woman in my house was not Suzanne. One question haunted me. Will she ever return?
The Vise: A vise is a strong, metal clamp. When tightened, it prevents an object from moving. For 8 months, Suzanne’s PPD went undiagnosed, and I spent every day feeling like we were stuck in a vise. These are the factors that were trapping us:
  • I had no experience with childbirth, childrearing, PPD, or anything related to it. So, I did not know how to explain or process what was taking place in our home.
  • We were also new to our town and our church. We needed friends. I found myself longing for people to know the B.C. Suzanne. Because I did not want our new friends and acquaintances to form wrong opinions of her, I attempted to cover and hide the truth of A.C. Suzanne. We withdrew together. Accidentally, we shielded ourselves from the help we really needed. No one was allowed in our world to show us that Suzanne needed help and that help was readily available.
  • Since we did not know that help was readily available, I took it upon myself to fix the problem. I bore the weight and fear of Suzanne’s PPD while she battled for sanity by the day. This was a desolate existence for me. I had withdrawn from the world to fight for my family, and my home was breaking by the minute. My wife needed my care and assistance virtually every minute of the day. Our infant son needed my care and assistance virtually every minute of the day.
If you have read the previous posts and wondered how Suzanne went 8 months without being diagnosed, this is the answer–I was caught in the vise, and I did not how to best help her. I spent 8 months attempting to serve and hold the family together until things got better. In the process, I was unintentionally denying Suzanne the better solution and care she needed through diagnosis, counseling, openness, and love within the body of Christ. The vise grew tighter by the day. We finally sought help when the vise broke me.
No Reprieve: PPD overtook my wife. Think about the worst day of PMS ever experienced, increase its intensity by 50%, add a needy infant, and stretch it over 240 consecutive days. Her actions, decision making, thought life, belief, disposition, and desires were altered. (The only thing unchanged was her love for Mexican food. For eight months in 2005, Nashville Mexican restaurants made a bundle of money off our family.) There was no element of our marriage or our home  unaffected. There was no realm within our withdrawn world that felt normal. Everything was new and more difficult than it used to be.
Help Wanted: As days became weeks and weeks became months, I knew that we needed help, but I did not know what that meant. Because I was scared and hurting, I was paralyzed. It took a series of meltdowns and interventions from old friends to see that we could get help. Once I shared openly with my pastor, the help came quickly and overwhelmingly. We were served and loved. If you hear anything from these blog posts, please hear this: Help is available. PPD is brutal, but it is curable. Your wife will return to you. Yet, do not wait for postpartum to “run its course.” Seek help. Love her by getting her the help she needs.
The Hangover: Suzanne was able to get much needed help. My wife was back. With equilibrium she was again herself, and she was a phenomenal mother. After a few months she was connecting, serving, loving, and impacting our new community. It took me almost four months to recover from walking as a caregiver during postpartum. No one ever gave me any medicine. No one gave me retreat to recover from the stress and tension of postpartum. No one sent me to counseling.  I do not say these things with angst, but they are a fact. Being a caregiver during PPD is prolonged survival mode. It is prolonged adrenaline dependency. There will be a let down. There will be some low, hurting days after your spouse is healed. There will be a hangover, and it will take time to heal. Give your body the time it needs to recover from existing, surviving on adrenaline.
The Residual: About one year after her recovery, Suzanne looked at me and said, “Jamie, I am not sick anymore. Please stop treating me like I am still that person.” PPD is behind us, but there is still residual fallout. It is a chapter in the book of our life, but the book is not closed. Postpartum depression is caused by a combination of hormonal changes and new life stresses. Remember the PMS reference above? As my wife goes through the hormonal cycles as all women do,  there will be brief windows in time (at least monthly) where I notice an attitude, a response, a thought pattern, or an action reminiscent of our PPD days. Every time it startles me, scares me, and causes me to overreact in some way. My overreaction is not fair to Suzanne and who she is, but it is something I will always battle. Brief momentary residual is expected. Don’t overreact like me.
I am not a model husband for sure, but I have walked this line. I hope these thoughts help you as you love and serve those battling PPD.
Join us tomorrow for some concluding thoughts from our PPD journey.

10 Responses to “Beauty from ashes: My postpartum depression caregiver (A post from my husband)”

  1. AnnieLaurie April 18, 2013 at 5:40 am #

    Ok this is amazing. I think we need to get this published. I am serious. I bet we could get relevant to publish it at least online. I had them publish something once. There are also other online sources we could try. My only feedback before doing it is ask him to add a paragraph about how he took care of himself during and after. If he feels he did not, then he could write ways he thinks would have helped him in retrospect. I really think the meat of this validating the caregiver is much needed medicine for many men to hear, so if he can add in a paragraph about self care during and after- specifically practical actionable steps a man can take, I think this would be MONEY. It’s already phenomenal. Add a part at the end about self care for the care giver and it will be dynamite!

    Thanks for bravely telling your stories. You are impacting many lives with this series. Live you!


    • Suzanne Shares April 18, 2013 at 9:31 am #

      thank you, friend! 🙂 after your encouragement, Jamie’s going to write about self-care for the caregiver. thanks for the feedback, love and support! love you!

    • Danielle April 21, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

      Yes, I agree with Annie.
      I think too that some amount of PSTD lingers, especially when it went on for 8 months.
      So thankful to you, Jamie, for taking the time to put your story out there. Men don’t talk about this, and they need to.
      There is a section in the Post Partum for Dummies book for caregivers, and it actually is really helpful. Despite the book’s title, I actually find that book to be a gold mine, and we give it out to everyone who comes to our local PPD support group.

  2. Julie Miller- Jacksonville, FL April 18, 2013 at 12:12 pm #

    I came to this blog because my friend Ellen Melson shared it on her Facebook page. Currently, I am 20 weeks pregnant with my first child, and PPD is something that has worried me about my future for a number of years. I have been struggling with depression on and off since I was in 7th grade and was on anti-depressants from my second year in college until about 9 months ago (about 12 years total). I weaned myself off the ADs over the course of a few months on the advice of my doctor and under the careful eye of my counselor. It was not easy, but I was doing it so that we could try to have a baby. Thankfully, I have been strong and have not had too many depressive times over the last several months, but I do worry about how I will do once our son is born in a few months.
    Even though I have not experienced PPD (yet- and hopefully not ever), I do feel a kinship to your story. I am the daughter of a minister and the wife of a worship leader, and it is difficult to navigate life in the public church eye with depression of any form.
    Thank you so much for sharing your story- it was very eye-opening to hear what it was like for both of you and inspiring to hear what the journey out of PPD was like. I plan on sharing these posts with my husband and my mother (who will be staying with us for the first month or so after the baby is born) so that they can be on the lookout for any symptoms in me. Obviously, given my history of medication and counseling, I do not fear seeking help, but sometimes it is hard to recognize symptoms in yourself, especially when you are in such a dark place.
    Anyway, thank you both again, for taking the time to tell your story.

    • Suzanne Shares April 22, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

      Julie, thank you SO much for sharing your story! I loved reading it! Congratulations on your pregnancy! As a mother of ALL BOYS, I’m excited that you’re having a SON!!! 🙂 🙂 I pray that you will transition easily after his arrival. 🙂 The fact that you are already aware to be on the look out for symptoms is half the battle and that your husband and mom will be there with you to look for symptoms, too, is awesome! I had NO IDEA what symptoms were and and neither did my husband, which I believe is why I struggled for so long without getting help. Please keep me updated! Praying for you tonight! Much love!


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