Here, new dad Ross Hunt shares his story of postnatal depression and his advice for parents going through the same experience.
When Ross had his daughter, he didn’t experience the overwhelming feeling of love towards her he felt he should. Over the next few weeks, these feelings turned to dislike. Here's his story...
How did you feel about having a baby when your partner, Rachel, was pregnant?
I cried when I found out. For years and years, I had wanted a child but there was always something that made us have to wait. Whether it was waiting for Rachel to finish university, moving house or getting married. But after six weeks of actually trying she became pregnant. I still vividly remember crying in our bathroom and being in a state of disbelief. I couldn’t believe that it was actually going to happen.
What happened when Isabelle was born?
Isabelle had cord prolapse, where the umbilical cord comes out of the uterus before the baby. At the time we knew nothing about it.
We were lucky that we were in a hospital with an emergency department. Had it been somewhere else we would’ve been blue lit in the ambulance and things could have been quite different.
As such I was in a bit of a mess mentally as all I could think about at the birth was the fact that I might lose the two of them.
How did you feel about the experience, and Isabelle?
I guess when she was born I didn’t really know what to think. There was relief that everything was fine in the end, but shock still from the stress of the situation. I was expecting this big rush of emotions that you hear so much about. That overwhelming feeling of love that being a parent brings.
But I didn’t feel that. I didn’t really feel anything. And slowly those feelings got worse. I started to dislike Isabelle, feeling jealous of her for taking away the time I used to have with my wife, then I regretted having her, and starting feeling guilty about how I felt.
How did this affect your relationship with Rachel and Isabelle?
Luckily I’ve always been open with Rachel. So I talked to her about it the whole way through. She was as understanding as she could have been. Of course she just wanted me to love our baby like any dad should, but knew I couldn’t control how I felt.
With Isabelle, it made everything a lot harder. Most of the time I just didn’t want to be there, but knew that the only way I was going to get through this was to keeping trying to form a bond. So I just absorbed myself in helping look after her. I knew eventually I would get better.
When did you realise you might have PND?
I’m not really sure to be honest. I knew it was depression, as I’ve suffered with it before. And since it was brought on by the birth of the baby, and my depression was heavily aimed at her, then I thought it must be postnatal depression. I knew men could get it, but only thought they could really get it if the mother did too.
What do you think was key to you getting the support you needed?
To be honest I didn’t really get much support. I was put on medication, but that only lasted six weeks as I’ve always had side effects that make me worse. Other than that I recovered with the help of my wife. Then I sought comfort from writing my blog, which is how I’ve been handling my depressive feelings for a while now. Having a place to write and talk openly about how I’m feeling has been a massive help in staying recovered.
Was there a turning point, where your feelings changed?
The moment where I felt things shift was when Isabelle was around eight weeks old and smiled at me for the first time. Up until that point I thought our feelings towards each other were mutual. I didn’t like her, and she didn’t like me.
But when she smiled I did feel some connection. It didn’t last, but at least I knew that it was actually there. And just knowing that I could feel it, made me know that it could be a feeling that could eventually stay.
How is family life now?
It’s mostly great. I still have the odd bad moment, but they don’t happen too often. I understand that I’m probably someone who’s always going to be living with some form of depression. Fortunately it doesn’t come up very often these days. Luckily I have enough coping mechanisms to get me through whatever comes up.
I love Isabelle and absolutely love spending time with her, especially when she’s in a playful, happy mood. I will admit that I do struggle when she cries and she isn’t quite right. It’s something I need to work on. But no one’s perfect. We all have flaws and it’s important that I see where I’m struggling and how to get better.
What advice would you give to other dads or mums who are going through postnatal depression, or struggling to bond with their baby?
You really do have to talk about it. You can’t bottle it up. Maybe you don’t want to tell your partner, and I can see why you wouldn’t. I’d always recommend that you’re open with them though. It’ll be incredibly hard at first, but in the long run it’s for the best.
After that, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can go on medication with advice from your GP, attend support groups, talk to people online or write about how you feel. There are so many forms of support out there.
That first step of opening up and talking about it is what kicks starts everything else. Don’t be afraid to make that leap.
Our support line offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700. We also offer antenatal courses that are a great way for both parents to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.
For information and support, visit Fathers Reaching Out run by Mark Williams, campaigner, speaker and writer.
The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is leading a movement against male suicide, the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK.
The Hub of Hope is a national mental health database, bringing help and support together in one place, with a focus on grassroots organisation.
ANDYSMANCLUB is a non judgmental, talking group for men.
DadsNet offers support and knowledge through a community of dads on practical parenting and fatherhood.