Breaking the Stigma of Male Post Natal Depression

Friday 17th February 2012 my son Casey decided to join the world, I was overjoyed. Close to 9 months I had been looking forward to meeting my first child and here he finally was. It wasn’t an easy birth, at least that’s what I’ve been told. You see I wasn’t there. Whilst my wife was probably the most scared she had ever been due to the pain relief she had been given which caused our sons heart rate to plummet, I was sat in the hospital canteen eating chocolate pudding with my mum!

The nurse, who administered, said to me that the pethidine would help relieve my wifes pain, she had been in labour since about 4am that morning and it was nearly 4pm now and that she would probably be drowsy and fall asleep. So after a conversation with my wife I left to go and find some food in the hospital canteen. I just so happened to come across my mum who had been with us all day and I thought had left to go home and rest herself. So I ate with my mum and went back to the maternity only to be greeted by 2 nurses waiting for me to tell the news about the emergency caesarean my wife went through in my absence and that my son had arrived. And I had missed it; something that still bothers me today.

But I put my feelings aside, as at this point I was scared, I wanted to see both of them and check with my own eyes they were ok.


I got taken straight to Casey and held him so tight I was worried I was going to hurt him, my wife was still coming round and I saw her about an hour later, by this point I had introduced Casey to his Momar as the nurses saw me in a frenetic state and let her in to calm me down. So I thought “OK one night in hospital for the two of them I can do that, and then we can go home and start family life.”

The next morning my wife was more conscious and we both were in awe of Casey when she said that she was going to be kept in, she had suffered from Thyroid issues during the pregnancy and the doctors wanted to check Casey over to see if his was performing normally, this was done by heel prick tests and every little wail he gave when they pricked him to draw blood me hit me but worse was to come. I left that night and felt low, really low. When in reality I should have been on top of the world. I felt lonely, isolated and useless, I know common sense and hindsight says there was nothing I could do to help any medical issues but it didn’t help then.

I went home and cried for probably half an hour, our house was all set for mummy & son to come home yet it was just me walking through the door and I couldn’t handle that. I wanted them there; I needed them there, maybe to prove to myself that the last 9 months hadn’t been some crazy dream. Cynics would say I should have enjoyed the undisturbed sleep but that didn’t matter, myself and sleep have always had something of a strained relationship but I just wanted them both there with me. They were both kept in hospital until the 21st and every night I went through the same emotions, fine in the day when I was with them and low at night when I wasn’t.

I think that the whole experience has left a huge emotional imprint deep in my mind, as even though it’s been 4 years I still remember everything as clear as day and I certainly haven’t mentally recovered, sometimes I use it as a stick to beat myself with when I get into a negative mind space and it’s something that seemed to kick open a door in my mind I had been trying to keep locked for a long time.

The stigma of male post natal depression is one that needs to end, men have a hard time during the first period of a new child’s life as well as the mum but are expected to be tough as a rock and not show their feelings and frustrations like some sort of robot, it’s wrong. Depression isn’t a sign of weakness it’s a sign of strength. I hope by reading this someone who is or was in a similar situation can relate and not feel lonely or isolated.

Throughout my experience and even to date I have never sought any type of treatment either therapeutic or medicinal instead I chose to isolate key parts of my environment and amplify them. Wether it be screaming my heart out in private to a song that means something to me or losing myself in the gym, Anything I could to not have to feel as bad as I felt. But I urge anyone that needs help and is finding it harder and harder to try and break the cycle to seek out what’s available to them. You aren’t alone, you aren’t abnormal or wrong & you certainly aren’t weak, it gets better. Something I’ve learnt and try to keep reminding myself is “Don’t let a bad day become a bad week and don’t let a bad week become a bad month”

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  1. Robert 28 April, 2016 / 4:33 pm

    I never expected to have PND, and was never formally diagnosed, but like so many parents it crept up on me in the months after my second child was born. I’d had a really close relationship with my son, and had expected the bond to form with my daughter almost immediately, but the relationship never really developed.
    I’d hurt my back about 2 month before she was born, and hadn’t fully recovered, so when she arrived it made sense for me to avoid lifting (and therefore cuddles) as mush as possible. Coupled with the fact that my wife was breastfeeding and we had an older child to look after, it made sense for my wife to stay with her, and me to look after our son.
    After a few weeks my wife was diagnosed with PND and referred for counselling. Our health visitor was brilliant, visiting every week, and really supporting my wife to build her network of friends. Fortunately for us, the PND was mild, and by the time her referral came through 5 months later, my wife was all but better and was quickly discharged. However, throughout this time the strain of supporting my wife and hiding my feelings from her had become entrenched.
    We carried on for 3 more months, with the relationship between my daughter and me becoming more and more strained. I can’t begin to describe the feelings of anger and hatred I had towards my daughter, and the guilt this made me feel. I’d ended up in a spiral of negativity, rejection by my daughter causing me to reject her and vice-verse. Her crying had become like background noise to me, and I outwardly completely ignored them, while steadily getting angrier at her.
    My daughter was also not weaning, and still isn’t, particularly effectively. She spent 5 months on purées, and only moved on to 7 month lumpy food at 10 months. She still won’t take bottle feeds, meaning her tie to mum is still pretty strong. My daughter is a happy little girl, but by god she’ll let you know if she’s hungry.
    At 9 months I started taking both kids out myself, a big step for me. This was to give mum a break and also prepare me for when mum was back at work. I dreaded these times, but ‘manned-up’ and kept it to myself. My PND peaked on one of these trips.
    I’d taken them to a local playgroup. Mum had assured me that our daughter wouldn’t be hungry, and if she was then she’d take some milk from her sippy cup to tide her over. I spent an hour and a half bravely battling through this playgroup, with my daughter crying almost constantly and a rage steadily filling me. Suddenly a burning desire to stop the crying filled me, by any means necessary including hurting her. I quickly grabbed all our things, bundled the kids into the car and headed home. I practically threw my daughter at my wife, put my son to bed and burst into tears. About 20 minutes later my wife came in having settled our daughter to sleep and I finally opened up about how I’d been feeling, the anger and the guilt.
    I never sought any help, but the conversation I had with my wife after helped enormously. I realised I wasn’t alone and didn’t have to bottle things up. I’ve become quite active in the dad’s scene locally, creating a facebook group and bring dads together whenever I can. The support of these guys has really helped me to become more comfortable as a dad, and imparting wisdom to them from my limited experience.
    Thankfully my daughter and I have been getting on better every day since. Finally a bond between us is forming and we’re starting to have the relationship I’d always hoped for. Weaning is making steady progress, and she’s 1 next week. I’m feeling more positive about life, and thankfully haven’t any episodes since, although I worry sometimes that I’ll go back to those dark days.

    • Ryan Howe 29 April, 2016 / 12:05 am

      Thank you for sharing your story, don’t worry about bad days they come and go. You aren’t weak , you aren’t a bad parent you are someone trying their best

      • Mark Williams 1 May, 2016 / 7:47 pm

        Ryan, im writting a book with Dr Jane Hanley. I would really like to have your story in our book for awareness… mark williams

        • Ryan Howe 2 May, 2016 / 1:30 pm

          Hi Mark,
          Whilst I would be happy for you to include it in your book, and also to speak with you if you require any more information, all rights are with the owner of the site. Let me speak to him and I will come back to you.

        • Rosina 9 May, 2016 / 9:55 pm

          Mark… You are already familiar with Al Ferguson. I introduced you last year prior to Dads Fest. :-) Al is still waiting for you to get in touch…

  2. marge 28 April, 2016 / 7:29 pm

    Thank you for sharing such an honest account of your feelings about the birth of your son Casey. I believe, like you, that male postnatal depression is a very hidden condition and it will only become more accepted and understood if men are brave enough to share their experiences to each other and empower them to seek help and support.

    • Ryan Howe 29 April, 2016 / 12:01 am

      Thank you very much for your comment, my hope for this article is that a dad who is going through the same thing sees this and knows that they aren’t weak and they certainly aren’t alone

  3. Kayla 28 April, 2016 / 11:54 pm

    As a mom I have felt your pain, there is no gender boundary. To be honest, it gives me hope to know a man as felt the same way I have after giving birth. The guilt or expectations of others is often worst than the condition itself. Kudos to you for speaking up!

    • Ryan Howe 29 April, 2016 / 12:04 am

      Thank you, like you say there is no gender boundary but unfortunately there’s is more of a taboo when it comes to the male side of PND

  4. Jose 2 May, 2016 / 10:53 pm

    It is a great story and very honest. I can identify with dads suffering from PND. My condition is mild anxiety/depression. Was diagnosed a year and a half after our twins were born. What contributed to it apart from not having any family or friends to really share things with was a house purchase. I felt I could not take it any longer. Sometimes I still do.

    Luckily I found a support group. Am also on medication. Sharing fatherhood issues at work just goes to a superficial level where we all understand this but get on with things. Taking my twins out to dad Saturdays or any other outing is still a challenge. But am learning to value the little achievements and also to feel ok with my own decisions. Out there there is a lot of silence and misunderstanding about what fathers do.

    • Ryan Howe 3 May, 2016 / 9:27 am

      Thank you for sharing your experience Jose, something I have noticed is that depression and anxiety seem to go hand in hand. Since PND and the depression it’s left I’ve become very anxious and introverted in large groups, even when I know people. It’s good to hear that you have found a support network and that you’re seeing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. If you aren’t already please come and join in the conversation on The Dad Networks private Facebook group.

  5. jaime kendler-arnold 15 May, 2016 / 1:09 am

    This is such an important topic.

    I experienced post natal depression after my son was born and it took me about 3/4 months to find my way out of the fog. I keep intending on writing about my experience, but even though I wish more men would speak about this, I keep avoid putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys!).

  6. S 24 September, 2016 / 11:32 pm

    My son was born 5 weeks premature and my wife, being a paediatrician, was treated with great respect and support by the staff at the hospital, given a family room for herself and my son, and carefully monitored for the weeks he then spent in there until he reached time to leave. Each night I remember, having spent as much time with them as I could, coming home to the balloons and banners and feeling completely alone. It had been a bit of a rocky time for my wife and I getting to the birth anyway (she had been quite anxious about the location of our home so we were planning a relocation) and the birth itself was tricky, so I could feel those feelings of separation and loneliness even more when at home alone. I knew my wife was struggling and while I knew my son was in the best possible place, I had no idea of how he actually was once I left. That sense of uselessness and lack of knowledge was awful and pervaded my wife and my relationship even once they got home. When they did get home it was awesome but that initial excitement soon wore off as my wife’s anxiety about our home’s location wore off and as I got more and more depressed by my lack of ability to ‘fix’ our problems. We decided to move house, but I think by then we both were so entrenched in our negative feelings/PND that we couldn’t truly agree with, or communicate our feelings to each other. Shortly after the decision to move house my wife left, taking my son with her. Both of us suffered from post natal depression, perhaps even pre-natal (although I suppose that is hindsight talking), and it took our relationship and our chance to parent our son together. My son is now 2, I see him 3 times a week, for a total of 13 hrs, and while I feel much better mentally, I urge anyone who has or suspects themselves or their partners to have PND to seek professional help. Don’t let it take the things you love.

    • Ryan Howe 4 October, 2016 / 5:04 pm

      Oh my, thank you for sharing your story S. I am glad that you’re feeling better mentally and I’m sorry such bad things happened along your journey. Such reverence is given to the mum that the dad is often forgotten and when both parents are going through it at the same time it’s even harder for a dad to feel worthwhile.

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