While postpartum depression is now discussed more openly and extensively than in the past, it still involves a stigma.
“It’s taboo for a mother to admit to experiencing negative feelings, even hatred, toward her newborn,” says Anna-Leena Harkonen, the author of Faint Lines.
Her postpartum depression bordered on psychosis, and she also has first-hand experience of how depressed mothers are perceived.
“One journalist wrote that I was exactly the kind of mother whose children grow up to be drug addicts. Another pitied my husband for having such a listless wife that she let herself sink into depression.”
IN A CULTURE where men are expected to maintain a facade of strength and not express anything suggesting “weakness,” postpartum depression among men is an even less widely discussed phenomenon.
“I’d never thought about the possibility of men struggling with depression after the birth of a child,” Hooper writes.
“At the time I was focused on the well-being of our daughter, as well as my own physical and mental health. But men do struggle also.”
HER HUSBAND was irritable, frustrated, and detached.
He would head to bed before seven. He said he was exhausted, even though he wasn’t the one getting up with the baby every night. Trivial issues made him snap. He just wanted her to leave him alone.
When their daughter was 21 months old, he confessed that he hated parenting—not half-jokingly or with cute sarcasm. He felt he truly hated parenting.
IT TOOK HIM months to come to terms with the idea that he might be depressed and should seek treatment.
“Unlike women, men are often socialized to value independence, dominance, stoicism, strength, self-reliance, and control over their emotions, and many see weakness as shameful,” Hooper points out in her The New York Times article.
“There are still bad days, but they are fewer and farther between. He’s more patient, less grouchy. He laughs more. And he’s developed a special bond with our daughter.”
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