19/06/2018 10:34 BST | Updated 19/06/2018 10:34 BST

There Was No Mental Health Support Available To My Husband When Our Baby Was Born

Today is International Father's Mental Health Day

Ariel Skelley via Getty Images

My husband has truly been my rock.

But who has been there for him?

I would now class my self in recovery from my mental illness. I was diagnosed with PTSD and PND after a traumatic birth.

I have shared my birth experience previously (you can read about it here) and the more I look back, the more I realise just how much my husband also suffered. He not only nearly lost his wife and had to take care of me as I was completely bed bound, he also had to take care of our newborn baby alone.

He once said to me that he didn’t have time to feel or think about how he felt, or let his emotions get in the way as he felt he had to be strong for me and our baby.

I ask him questions as my memory is hazy because of the trauma. He finds it difficult to talk about it even now. I can tell it’s hard for him. I was never asked about my mental health pre or post-natal. Neither was my husband. Looking back, even after everything that happened, not one doctor or midwife took him aside and asked how he was feeling or how he was coping with being a new father. I really do feel that focus should be on both parents during and after pregnancy.

Not one midwife showed him how to prepare a bottle as I couldn’t breastfeed due to the trauma. No one showed him how to change a nappy or how to hold our baby. I know some this is a second nature but to some it is not. He was lucky as he had a younger brother growing up. But he still should of received some support.

They just left him to it. Some men feel they cannot show their emotions through fear of being seen as weak.

Not macho enough.

Not man enough.

I hear the phrase ‘JUST MAN UP’ too often.

It takes so much courage and strength to talk about how we feel, man or woman. It does not make us any less of a man or woman to get help and speak up about how we feel.

How are you coping? It should be a generic question that every parent is asked. Pre-natal and post-natal. It is thought that 1 in 3 fathers suffer with a form of mental illness. One in ten suffer from PND. PTSD can also play a part if the father was at the birth and witnessed their partner go through a traumatic time.

It certainly puts a strain on your relationship as it’s a very stressful time. Not only becoming a parent but dealing with a mental illness and all these mixed emotions. Support is key for both of you. My counsellor once said to me that you can only be strong for someone if you help yourself. You cannot function on empty, you need to take care of yourself first. It struck a cord with me and I remind myself when I am feeling low that I need to take a step back and take time out for me. I tell my husband to do the same.

My husband supported me through the worst experience of my life and still supports me to this day.

I often ask myself who was there to support him. I wish the stigma surrounding men coming forward and seeking help for their mental wellbeing would reduce. It is thought that the suicide rate is higher in men than women. If you feel that you need to talk to someone privately about the way you are feeling please don’t hesitate to ask for help when you are ready.

 

When you go through IVF and the birth experience I did you truly realise how strong your marriage is. Having that person support you day in and day out. They see the darkest, most terrifying side of you. Telling the person you love, the person you had planned to spend the rest of your life with that you want to die because the pain is too much is a lot for any partner to deal with.

Once a mother has been diagnosed with a mental illness there is no support for the father. I can appreciate there are not enough resources as it is, but wouldn’t it be great if both parents were asked that simple question of, ‘how are you coping’ throughout pregnancy and after. To get fathers talking, to help them realise they are just as important, that they don’t have to put on a brave face and deal with their mental well being in silence.

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Useful websites and helplines:

  • Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
  • Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
  • The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: help@themix.org.uk