Looking back on it, my feelings are that Lisa’s post-natal depression was suffered by both of us. From the moment we arrived home with our twin girls from the hospital, we were like two children again, except this time with children. I can’t remember feeling that helpless, like I was standing in the sea and was being pounded by wave after wave. I certainly didn't feel unhappy at the time, and I don’t believe that I was, but our lives had changed so significantly – we were hostages to our children and their requirements.
We were lucky for the first 10 weeks as I had this entire time off work and stayed at home to get to know the girls as well as doing everything I could to care for Lisa post-cesarean. Obviously there were the normal sleep challenges that come with having children, let alone two of them, as well as the constant struggle to maintain some kind of dietary vigilance as we like to eat as healthily as possible, but much of the time this went out the window for the sake of convenience.
Frankly, the support from family members around us was minimal, and more often than not, left us with a strong sense of dissatisfaction afterwards as visits quite often left us frustrated and more stressed than we otherwise would have been.
This was not helped by our general state of mind as new parents – it’s funny how everyone seems to think that we should be ecstatic all the time, when our sleeping/eating patterns were so messed up and think that they have the right to tell us that we should be happy when we clearly were not in the state of mind to take such ‘advice’ all that well.
The real issues started upon my return to work. This was coupled with the death of Lisa’s uncle and her mother also breaking her foot quite badly straight afterwards. This was an especially hard time for both of us and it was during the first 4 weeks or so that Lisa’s postnatal depression escalated significantly, and in turn, my state of mind certainly wasn't conducive to work.
There were many occasions where Lisa would call me anywhere up to 10 times a day in tears as one of the girls would not sleep/eat appropriately or at the right time, or for any other reason. Lisa was having significant issues with breastfeeding the girls and managing major issues with blocked ducts and the like, but seemed inexplicably determined to continue to breastfeed them even though for Lulu, it clearly wasn't working. This weighed heavily on me as I had, on numerous occasions asked if it might be better if we formula fed Lulu, much to Lisa’s anguish and, at times, disgust.
I said before that I can’t remember feeling that helpless as when we arrived home with our children, but I really think that the 2-3 months after I returned to work was worse.
I had a hip condition at the time that caused me significant discomfort and precluded me from walking long distances, but there were times when I’d put the girls into the pusher and just walk around with them, in huge amounts of pain, just to give Lisa a break. I required major surgery that I couldn't have at the time for a number of reasons, but I felt that my own pain, and mental state, was secondary to Lisa’s, and my own wellbeing wasn't even on the radar – just be a man and get on with it!
Things dragged on like this for around four months, but started improving slowly after.
Lisa decided that the breastfeeding was not working, and she visited her doctor and did the Edinburgh test. She was diagnosed with postnatal depression and prescribed anti-depressants.
My sense of relief was incredible, and this improvement allowed me to take a night a week to visit friends and just relax away from it all, which I still do today. My friend Paul in particular has been of great comfort and support, though not directly, and has always been a tremendous distractor from the day to day goings on at home.
I personally was diagnosed with mild depression around two and a half years ago – which was probably a hangover from this time. As the man, you feel that you need to take all of this on yourself and keep things going. To be honest, you can’t. It’s not healthy or smart to just think you can cope. Never be afraid to tell anyone what you need if you think that they can help you. Never lie about how you’re doing, to yourself or anyone else. If you’re struggling, say so. Speak to your doctor, friends or family.