Last year, I had Dan write for the rally.
When Nicci responded that she wanted to write for the MHMRWNSJM this year, she also asked if I wanted to share her husband’s side of her (their) battle with PPD/A. It’s so, so vital to understand what PPD/A can look like through the eyes of our spouses. It’s so easy to get sucked into our own misery that we forget there’s someone who loves us watching us break down.
Here’s Tim’s story, first published in October of 2010 on their blog, Changing the Universe.
It was late one night, probably 2:30 or so. Aric was crying. Bottle time. I had made a habit of going into the kitchen first to make his bottle, then going to get him, because otherwise he would scream louder for his bottle. I didn’t want to wake up Nicci if I didn’t have to.
Because I was still sleepy but trying to move quickly, I spilled some of the formula on the kitchen counter and on the floor. As I was trying to clean up the stuff on the counter, I ended up splashing some water on the counter. And I started panicking.
The only thing I could think of was the time she had come in to the kitchen and seen some water on the counter. She flipped out at me, yelling at me for “flooding” the kitchen, then proceeded to clean the entire counter, lifting up everything and making it spotless. I tried to take the bottle and go feed Aric, but she said to leave it. She was absolutely furious. And I was scared.
For quite a while after that, I actually panicked when making Aric’s bottle, afraid that even the smallest mess would set Nicci off. I normally didn’t mind getting up and feeing Aric at night – it comes with the territory of fatherhood. But I didn’t like the fear of making Nicci upset.
I didn’t realize it was PPD at the time, mostly because I wasn’t really sure what that meant. Whenever I heard the word “depression,” I always took it literally, as in the person in question is always just sad and lethargic. I passed off Nicci’s changes as extreme stress, as extreme mommy guilt. I just thought that she was so worried about being a good mother that she was expressing that worry in other places.
I should have known. I mean, she was a completely different person, one I had never seen before. She was downright mean, and I honestly didn’t want to be around her during her blowups.
Fortunately, I could sense when the blowups were coming. Things would always build up. Like if it was her turn to feed Aric, I could hear her get more and more frustrated if he wouldn’t eat, and I would be sure to go in there to relieve her if she was nearing that tipping point. Or in other situations, like when I spilled formula on the counter. She’d get upset about the fact that Aric was crying and I wasn’t in there to stop it, then she’d get more upset when she saw the spilled powder, then she’d get even more angry when she saw the water. It wasn’t just one thing, but rather several little things building up. I should point out, though, that at no point did I fear that she would do anything to Aric. Had I suspected that he was in danger even for a moment, I would have stepped in immediately and forced her to get help, given her an ultimatum if necessary. But that was never the problem.
It wasn’t just anger, either. There seemed to be a general feeling of lethargy. For example, I know she hated pumping, but it almost seemed like she enjoyed getting to spend those 20 minutes zoning out in front of the computer and not having to worry about anything. The computer became her constant companion most nights, as she’d lose herself in whatever latest series she had rented from Netflix. Once Aric went to bed, the computer came out, and I was often ignored.
In short, my wife was gone. I didn’t recognize the person who replaced her. I wish I had recognized the signs of PPD earlier, but I honestly don’t think she would have listened to me had I pointed it out. I think it was something she had to figure out on her own. I do remember there was one day where I said something – I can’t for the life of me remember what – and whatever I said made her immediately go and make an appointment at her doctor’s office.
Again, I wish I remember what it was exactly that I said, because it has made a world of difference. She took Lexapro for a while, and now she’s seeing a therapist, and it has helped. The Nicci that I married is back. And now that she’s back, I look back at what she was like before and I wonder how I couldn’t identify the signs. But it doesn’t matter. She’s back, and it’s really nice.
I admit, though, that she’s not 100% back. Maybe like 95%. When Aric gets too whiny, the impatience and the anger seems to come back. Not when he’s crying, mind you, but whiny. Maybe it’s because when he’s whining, it doesn’t mean something specifically is wrong, so there’s no right answer to turn to in the Mommy Handbook. I don’t know. But it’s like a trigger: Aric whining = Nicci loses patience. So she’s not completely there. But she’s close. And she’s so much better than where she was.