Ross Hunt talks about his experience of postnatal depression and why all dads need to be more open about how they're feeling and seek help if they need it.
Becoming a parent was everything that I ever wanted to be. But when our daughter finally arrived, after years of thinking about the moment, I found myself numb to the idea of being a dad.
At first, I simply blamed the birth. I mean it isn’t quite as romanticised as movies make it out to be. And if you have a traumatic birth like we did then it’s very easy to find yourself in a place of shock.
Disconnected from fatherhood
Like most people, I naturally assumed I would have this instant bond with my daughter and I’d be filled with love. But that wasn’t the case. I didn’t feel connected with her and gradually I got worse and slipped into postnatal depression – something I didn’t even think was a possibility when my wife got pregnant.
"I cried at the mere thought that I was a dad and I genuinely felt that my wife and daughter would be better off without me."
Luckily for me, I already had an open dialogue with my wife, as I had experienced depression on and off prior to her becoming pregnant.
"I knew the signs of depression and knew that the sooner I sought help the sooner I would start to recover."
I quickly visited the doctor, went on medication, and tried to work on my bond with Isabelle as much as I possibly could.
Road to recovery
It wasn’t exactly an easy road, and even when I thought I had recovered I still had setbacks. Slowly but surely I got better and found myself in a place where I genuinely loved being a parent and it was everything that I wanted it to be.
It’s been over three years since I first had postnatal depression – and we even have a second child, Archie. Luckily, despite my worries when my wife got pregnant, I didn’t have a relapse when he was born. As a family we took it all in our stride and he slotted in as if he’s always been here. Let’s just say it’s been two very different baby experiences!
As much as I don’t like thinking back to those early days, I know it’s important that others hear about it too. I started blogging purely to try and help spread the word that men go through this too.
I've talked about my experiences before in this Q&A with NCT.
We need to be open about mental health
Postnatal depression is something that at times almost feels like a hazy, distant memory of someone else. I’m that far removed from those feelings that it feels alien to think that I ever felt them. But while postnatal depression is certainly my past, it’s inevitably someone else’s present or future.
Mental health is something that we’re slowly getting more comfortable talking about. But it’s important that we keep that momentum going.
"The more that people are willing to open up, the more likely they are to spread that openness and encourage others to do the same. A huge part of the battle with mental health is simply taking that first step to actually talk about how you’re feeling."
Supporting NCT with a charity clamshell
With everything that’s currently going on with COVID-19, now more than ever people are going to need charities like NCT. Social isolation mixed with money worries and pandemic anxiety can all affect mental health.
I understand that what I can personally do is very limited. I can try and talk about what happened to me in the hope that someone else feels comfortable to talk about themselves too. And now I can do a little bit more in the way of a charity clamshell.
We started Teddy Eva Scents – named after our two children’s middle names – in order to be able to spend more time as a family. Something I couldn’t imagine wanting to do when I first had postnatal depression, but now it’s all that I want. But we also want to use the business to have a positive impact wherever we can. Hence why we’re going to be giving 100% of the sales from this current version of the clamshell to NCT.
If you’re struggling right now, never be afraid to ask for help or to talk about how you feel.
You can read more from Ross in his blog.
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 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.