How to Survive Postpartum Depression: A Husband’s Reflection

By: Nicholas Davis (my better half)

When Gina gave birth to Calvin, I was unhelpful and insensitive. I didn’t understand why she couldn’t just take care of our new baby while I was juggling a list of responsibilities. It was a simple equation for me: she takes care of him, and I take care of us.   

What We Didn’t Expect When Expecting

I have two older sisters who had babies and I never heard anything about postpartum depression from them. So, I naturally assumed that Gina would be totally fine like they were and we’d press on into parenthood like the billions of parents before us.

I had a lot of assumptions about mothers with babies, and they were wrong. I had an old school mentality about it: “Just suck it up and it will be fine.” “Power through it,” I thought.

But I was a jerk, this mentality is wrong-headed, and I’m writing this so that any husbands and wives reading our story would be forewarned and would not make the same mistake. Thank God that he sustained Gina through that first time around even when all of us—her family and friends—failed to notice what was going on. Postpartum depression is a real thing, so be sure to watch for it when you’re expecting.

Preparing For It To Happen Again

When we were pregnant a second time, I resolved not to let my wife go through postpartum depression alone again. Her mother, sisters, and I tag teamed to encourage Gina in every way that we could and to prevent her from having needless stress. 

This time, we encapsulated her placenta (a special thank you and shout out to Trisha for doing this for us!) and stocked up on essential oils and a host of other baby products to make known routines easier for us.

All of us worked together to try to calm her anxiety about managing two young kids, we brightened the home in small ways, we made a plan on who could take the newborn at night in rotation so that Gina could get a little bit of sleep before the long nights of clustered breastfeeding.  

With Max, remarkably, Gina experienced little to no signs of postpartum depression. We thought our efforts worked.

Sometimes Being Prepared Still Isn’t Good Enough

When our third baby boy was born, all of us were pros at this—and yet—all of our preparation wasn’t enough. Gina experienced severe postpartum depression much like after her first pregnancy, only this time the placenta encapsulation, the extra help at home, the oils and baby aids and everything just wasn’t enough.

Gina seemed a little lifeless to me. She would tell me that she was having dark thoughts. When we realized as a couple how serious this was, we decided to give medication a try.

Thankfully, we had success with a low dosage of antidepressants and it prevented her lows from getting too low. Her highs and overall enjoyment of life came back to her, and overall, we’ve been able to support one another in the raising of our now three children.

Helpful Suggestions For Dealing With Postpartum Depression

I’m no expert on how to deal with this, but I can share what we have learned by going through it and talking to others with similar experiences. Honestly, I’m thankful to God that this time around, he has provided us with an abundance of help, support, resources, and wisdom to manage expectations and keep Gina in a healthy state of both body and mind.

For husbands who don’t understand why they can’t just muscle through this, I’d recommend a few things.

1.     Get educated on PPD. There are organizations like Postpartum Support International who can provide resources and help for mom’s with PPD. Watch the Netflix show "When the Bough Breaks" to get a better grip on how your wife is feeling.

2.     Help your wife find a community of women or a group of friends, to talk to. She needs to share what’s going on with others whom she can trust and who aren’t in the home.

3.     Listen to some podcasts with your wife. We didn’t do this, but I wish we had listened together.  A podcast can help with understanding the challenges that parenthood brings to everyone. “Mom and Mind” is one that comes to mind. 

4.     Find ways to give your wife time away from the baby, even if it’s only for as little as 15 minutes a day. Suggest that she take a quick walk in the neighborhood, or binge watch Netflix undistracted, or take an hour to treat herself to the nail salon or out for a cup of coffee (either alone or with another friend). Depending on the degree of PPD, it may be best for her to meet someone at the coffee shop who can give her some encouragement. Coordinate with others to help your wife get through this. She is not alone.

5.     Remind her that this is only a short season. When she just had a rough night with baby, remind her that it’s only for a little while longer. Babies will grow up and she will have time and energy again for other needs and things. 

6.     Support her, even if it sounds silly. I still don’t think that Essential Oils are all that essential, but if your wife wants to buy oils to help with postpartum depression, buy all the oils in the world. Maybe they do help—I really don’t know. The smell can definitely have a calming effect in our household so maybe that can improve overall mood and help with more severe symptoms. The science behind that, or candles, or whatever else your wife might want to try, is worth trying. Support her in everything—be there for her and help her every single way that you can.

7.     Consider medication. As soon as Gina recognized she was in a dark valley again, she immediately asked for my feedback on trying antidepressants. I encouraged her to go for it, and we started out with a low dose to help lift her low points. It’s worked really well for us, as part of a holistic approach to postpartum depression.

Surviving? What About Thriving?

I wish I could promise more than surviving to those who are experiencing postpartum depression, but to me, surviving is thriving. There is nothing easy about PPD—it’s hard. It’s hard to watch your wife in such a state of weakness. It’s hard to try everything that you humanly can and still come out short on what she needs. It’s all hard. But surviving that hard together is thriving because it’s real life—and after a short number of those hard days can come another season of life without that hard. Even if it doesn’t come, we’re in this together—in sickness and in health, ‘til death do us part.

Editor's Note: This post follows "an honest look at postpartum depression pt 1."