This interview with country singer Wade Bowen was conducted by Lauren Hale at the Postpartum Dads Project. Wade wrote the beautiful song “Turn on the Lights” about going through the experience of postpartum depression with his wife Shelby. Wade also generously hosted a Charity Golf Tournament to benefit Postpartum Support International in 2008, and will host his second Charity Gold Tournament coming this Spring. We thank the Bowen family for all of their support!
Would you share your experience as your wife struggled with Postpartum Depression? What kind of emotions and thoughts did you have as you witnessed her depression?
Well it was tough at first because she and I had no clue about PPD or that it might be what she was going through. I had really never heard of it before and I’m pretty sure she hadn’t either. So, for the first part of it, I just thought she didn’t love me anymore. Being on the road as much as I was at that time I know it was hard on her and I really felt like I was to blame for what she was going through. The worse it got, I realized that it was definitely something more than that.
When did your wife’s depression become obvious? What did you both do to help her recover?
I just remember coming home one Sunday and seeing a different person in her eyes when she met me at the door. There was a ton of anger in there and I could see it and I knew that was not her…at least not since I had known her. From there on, I mainly just held on for dear life until she got better. I just tried to be very patient and understanding but it was very difficult to do that most of the time. We fought a lot and disagreed on so many things and she was so protective of our son, that I couldn’t do anything really with him. So, I just held on and hoped it would get better and it did. She didn’t want to talk about it.
Have you grown as a man and as a father as a result of PPD?
Without a doubt. Like they say, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger and I believe that it has all been part of the process of Shelby and I growing our love deeper every day. I know she would tell you the same. I guess you could say that the positive way to look at it is that our relationship went through that and it survived somehow. I think we both now feel we can tackle anything that comes our way. She’s a much stronger person now and I’m so proud of her and the mother she is. It’s pretty amazing to watch.
The song Turn on the Lights is about your family’s struggle with Depression after the birth of your son. Describe what it was like to write the song and what feelings you have when you perform such a personal tale on stage.
I was right in the middle of the worst period of PPD for us when this idea hit me. The only way to describe it was that I actually felt like a child scared of the dark. Stephony Smith, a beautiful songwriter in Nashville, was patient enough to let this song and the emotions happen. It’s very rare that you can sit with someone and write something this personal but she was all about it and amazing!!
Luckily, for me, my songwriting and my career has always been an open book so I don’t believe too many people were shocked to hear such a true story from me. I do think, however, they were shocked to hear about the details of our story within the song. But that is the best way to conduct yourself I believe with anything in life…lay it all out there and leave nothing to doubt. That way you can always be sure of yourself and your actions. But, once again, the true hero of the song was my wife. She’s the one that forever has to deal with hearing it. She is the one that allowed me to be so public about it so that it may help others. I couldn’t have done it without her.
One thing I often recommend to mothers and families I work with is to keep a gratitude journal. In that spirit, would you share with us what three things you are most grateful for today?
- My boys
- My wife
- The gift of music
Share with us some of the ways you were able to participate in your wife’s recovery even though you were on the road because of your music.
I truly don’t know. Like I said, I just didn’t give up on us. It was so hard to hold on but I just kept believing it was all going to get better and I held on to my son as hard as I could and just tried to be there. I wasn’t perfect and I will never claim that I was. I made many mistakes. I was just unsure what to do at all times. I firmly believe my son held us together more than we did.
Let’s face it. Parenting is not easy. What are some of your most difficult daily parenting challenges?
Well, my most difficult challenge is not being able to be there every day like most parents. That is not easy for me at all and definitely not easy for my wife or my kids. We just make do as you are supposed to do in life and work through it, knowing that is the only way we’ll survive. The one thing that keeps me going is that the boys don’t know any better. So I just remind myself of that and remind myself they will be there when I get home and that keeps me going.
You hosted an event, the Wade Bowen Classic, which benefited Postpartum Support International, a wonderful organization dedicated to supporting women and families as they journey to recover from Postpartum Depression. Would you share with us how this opportunity came about?
I’ve been doing this event for 11 years now and just love doing it. The golf tournament has turned into quite a fun event and now the concert is quickly growing into a huge stream of revenue for our event as well. We actually chose them last year for our charity with the help of a great organization called Big Hearted Babes. We hired them to help us with the event and they did some great research on a few different charities in the country. It just seemed that PSI had everything together very well and seemed to be very organized and excited to work with us. PSI was amazing for our event and it has been one of the greatest blessings of my life and career to have worked with them. Together, with the help of some fellow musicians, we raised $85,000! I’d say that is a pretty good start!
And last but not least – if you had a chance to share just one piece of advice with an expectant father (new or experienced), what would it be?
Tell the doctors, nurses, anyone you can find to talk to you both about the possibilities of not only PPD, but the emotional toll that the mother takes when having a baby and ask them for advice on how to handle the emotional stress that is going to happen. It is different for everyone, but almost all experience some kind of emotional change. I firmly believe that this is the “cure” for PPD and a huge step in the right direction to getting women the help they need and deserve!