The professionals, the midwives and the health visitors - the first port of call for mothers and fathers after a birth - are in agreement that PND does exist in fathers. They acknowledge it and are trained to ask about it, and this is a significant step in the right direction towards getting fathers the help they need.
It's important that we recognise that some men will not benefit from being at the birth of their child. For some people this would seem like a step backwards, the exclusion of anyone based on their sex, from anything, will always be seen as such, but we must remember that a father's mental health is important too.
Feeling slightly inadequate or left out is normal. You may sense that you are missing something special, by not being able to feed the baby. You might experience a perceived (or real) loss of intimacy, as your lover's role is reframed... So, it is helpful to know there are many ways you can 'breastfeed' the baby!
You might feel that no-one at work quite understands how you are feeling. Men need to off-load too. Some find it difficult to ask for help, especially with emotional issues, but please do, find someone you feel comfortable with (a friend, a relative or a professional) and let go, it will be a great relief.
I remembered my own childhood: the long and quiet (and sometimes lonely) moments, when I sat in my room or by the window and did NOTHING. Staring out of the window, a bit of day dreaming, watching people and cars passing by... being bored. At the same time I enjoyed exactly those moments. So peaceful and calm, so relaxing and refreshing at the same time.
Here is the contradiction: Society wants men to spend more time with their kids and families (believe me, at least once a week I get a comment like "Oh it's good to see daddy being in charge" when in public), but employers and government do next to nothing to support them. I believe we need some fundamental changes here...
I recently heard a good story from someone about becoming a dad. After his child was delivered the man was handed the tiny baby, as the midwife did so she quickly checked the sex, and proudly said 'here's your big strong boy.' The father wondered if the midwife had delivered a girl whether she would have said 'here's your big strong girl.' Right from the first seconds of being born we are judged and compartmentalized.
There were nights the crying got so bad, I hoped my son would stop breathing altogether. There were worse nights than that. And the guilt I felt- for those thoughts, and for my inability to help my son- further fuelled my suffering. I felt as though I deserved to hurt. Then one day in our son's second year, my wife convinced me that we should take him to the clinic...
As someone who works with men and boys, these two descriptions of couvade, inspire and excite me. Our ancestors knew the importance of having the father bond with the baby as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. The reduction in testosterone shows how this is a biological and evolutionary imperative.