Comedian Aziz Ansari wrote a book called Modern Romance in 2015. It is all about finding your way in the modern tech world of love. What does that have to do with postpartum depression? Well, bear with me a second…
In the book, he tells a story of texting a girl after a hookup where he felt they both had a good time. He waited a few days, and texted her to see if she wanted to catch up for a concert. He agonized over the text when it was not returned after minutes, hours, and days. His emotions ranged from feelings of anger, to sadness and inadequacy. “What did I do wrong?” he asked himself. “Why is she being so mean to me?” he wondered. “Is this person evil? Mean? The devil incarnate?”
Nope. Just a girl.
Now, when your baby is born, you are giving it your all. You are helping change him, rock him, feed him (if you can), and… you get NOTHING! Or, if you do, you get crying, and more crying, and wait for it…more crying…which you often cannot stop. But maybe mom can, or the grandparents, or that person you just met who has never seen children before. But not you.
How does that make you feel? Angry? Sad? Inadequate? Sound familiar? You may ask yourself questions similar to the ones Aziz asked after the girl did not text him back. Is the baby evil? Mean? As you search for the 666 on the back of the baby’s head while she cries and projectile vomits…. Wait, is this the devil incarnate?
Nope. Just a baby. Just a normal baby.
But when you are in the throes of depression, and likely not aware that that is what you are feeling, you don’t see a “normal” baby. You see something else. Something not so good. Just like I did.
No one tells you how hard it can be to adjust to a new child. A baby comes with no owner’s manual (and if it does, it is in a language no one can read) and all a normal baby knows how to do is take and take and take. And for some of us, that can be a burden we are ill-equipped to handle. But there is hope. Just as Aziz realizes that the girl is not evil, but likely just not interested and not wanting to lead him on or hurt his feelings, the baby is not evil either. It is just growing and trying to figure things out. It only wants love, and will only learn to give love over time. And it will give LOTS of love. The most wonderful love you will likely ever encounter. It just takes time, and patience. And, if you are like me, support from family, friends, and a good therapist.
Knowing you are not alone is a powerful thing. It helps put things into perspective, and can make the mountain back into a mole hill.
All you need to do is to ask for help. The hardest thing of all.
That’s where we come in.
Dr. Levine is part of a team of dads working with PSI to celebrate the second annual International Fathers’ Mental Health Day on June 19th, 2017. Get more information about how to access resources and participate in this one-of-a-kind event focusing on new dads’ mental health by checking out the IFMHD pages on Facebook, Twitter, and the PSI website:
David Levine, MD, is a pediatrician at Summit Medical Group in Westfield, NJ, and has been featured in the New Jersey Family magazine’s “New Jersey’s Favorite Kids’ Docs” for the last 4 years, as well as on the Charlie Rose show, discussing his own experience with paternal postpartum mental health. He graduated with high honors from Rutgers University, as well as AOA Medical Honors Society from NYU School of Medicine. David did his pediatric internship and residency at Yale Children’s Hospital in New Haven, CT. In his spare time, he enjoys hanging out with his family, playing softball, watching movies, and plotting to take over the world with his 3-year-old son.