My Experience of Perinatal Mental Health #DadsMHDay
My former partner suffered postpartum psychosis after the birth of our son. She started seeing things that weren’t there, had suicidal thoughts and believed that the baby in her arms was not her son, she believed he had been swapped with another baby. This was a very stressful time for me, I had support from family of course, but professionally there was next to nothing. The priority was my ex-partner, as it should be however, my mental health and wellbeing were an afterthought at most.
She was taken to an MBU (Mother & Baby Unit) in London due to there being no MBU in Wales as the only one was closed a few years ago because it was felt there was no need for this facility. There are 17 of these units in the U.K, dotted across the country, so where she ended up was a lottery dependent on when a space become available. One day it was Bristol, the next it was Newcastle or Scotland. I didn’t care about where, my concerns were that not only would I be apart from my partner at a time she needed me, but also my new-born son. This was particularly hard for me as I had to hold a job down back in Wales so I had to work all week then travel to London, see them both on Saturday and a little on Sunday and then head back to Wales for work.
I would struggle emotionally when away from them as this was not how I imagined it would be. I also struggled to form a bond with my son early on. More him than me which was upsetting. He would cry and I’d comfort him but he wouldn’t settle. A nurse would come and help and would get him to settle in moments. Staff had a better relationship with my son than I did. It left me feeling useless at times because I felt like I was failing as a father and missing out on the crucial early stages of his life.
When returning home I would barley function. Dirty dishes and pizza boxes left where they were placed. Unopened letters by the door that I just stepped over every time because I couldn’t care less what the contents said. Sleeping on the sofa as I didn’t want to sleep in an empty bed. A table full of gifts, flowers and well wishes left unopened congratulating us on the birth of our son that I couldn’t face sorting and would just stare at.
The MBU offered a session every Thursday for the dads to have a chat about the situation and how they were, or more likely were not coping. I never attended so I can’t speak on the effectiveness of these sessions. I had to work, pay the bills to ensure that finally, when they came home they actually had a home to live in. Did my mental health take a knock, yep it sure did and I would be lying if I said I was fully over the whole experience however I’m lucky, I’m resilient and whilst it has been a struggle I have not been affected drastically with mental health issues. Some dads, and men in general are not so lucky. We need to be more upfront and open with our emotions to ourselves and other men. But we can’t do this alone, we can’t just man up and get on with it, we need more support from professionals and acceptance from society that men struggle too. Only then can we make a real impact in helping men with mental health issues and reducing male suicide numbers.