After nine-and-a-half torturous months, I finally gave birth to a 10-pound boy on March 14. Yes, you read right. Ten freaking pounds. Maybe now you can understand why I whined so much the entire time he was wedged inside my uterus.
Traditionally, I’d take this time to write the heartwarming tale of how my water unexpectedly broke nine days before my due date, how the baby’s heart rate dropped during labor and I thought I was going to have an emergency C-section, or how I have no earthly idea how, at his size, he managed to get out of my body the, er, natural way. But birth stories are so last-millennium. Surely you’ve heard that having a baby isn’t all about the mother anymore. Oh, no.
It’s about the dad.
I got an inkling of this trend a couple of months ago, when Hubs brought home an article given to him by a co-worker.
“It’s about postpartum depression in men,” he told me. I laughed politely, waiting for the punch line. “Did you know that a new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics journal says 10 percent of new fathers show signs of depression after their babies are born?” he asked, tapping the story triumphantly. “This totally proves that even though the women get all the attention, dads have a really hard time, too. It’s time for the guys to start getting a little sympathy.” My smile faded.
Was he serious? Sure, he’d had to make more grocery runs and pick up some of the chauffeuring duties. Perhaps his sleeping conditions, accentuated by the new baby’s noisy feedings and diaper changes (all of which I handle), were less than ideal. But did he really believe that his paternal angst could in any way compare to my delivery trauma, my chronic cabin fever, my hallucination-inducing lack of sleep and my postpartum hormonal insurrection?
Yes. He did.
Despite the warning signs, I couldn’t think too much about whether Hubs would go on a crying jag or find it impossible to get out of bed after the baby arrived. I had myself to worry about. After my first pregnancy, I experienced some mild depression, not realizing until later that my skin-crawling irritation with everyone I encountered was a key symptom. I simply assumed everyone else had suddenly become really annoying. This time around, I resolved to pay closer attention to any warning signs.
I didn’t need to worry. After giving birth to my second child, I was moony-eyed with bliss, mostly over the feeling of having a 22-inch-long Riverdancer out from under my rib cage. I spent the first week bubbling over with enough domestic benevolence to make Donna Reed look like Susan Smith. Hubs, though, was another story.
He took the first week off work and temporarily headed up food preparation, housekeeping (in theory) and caring for our toddler. The resulting shock to his system was profound.
Within days, Hubs was leaping out of bed at 2 a.m. to check on our 3-year-old, worrying endlessly over the entire family’s eating habits and collecting coupons for his grocery list. He was becoming…me. And neither of us was very happy about it.
“I want you to defrost the lasagna in the freezer for dinner tonight,” he told me over the phone while bringing my two stepdaughters home one afternoon.
“But Marci’s bringing lasagna for us tomorrow night,” I said. “We don’t want to have lasagna two nights in a row, do we?”
“Just do it,” he said.
“But I think we should have something el…”
I stared at the phone in shock. Clearly Hubs was suffering from depression. And as big, fat tears began to roll down my face, I began to suspect that I, too, had caught the baby blues.
According to the study, depressed parents are less likely to take proper care of their newborns. I took that to mean that if we didn’t do something soon, our little bundle of joy would end up sodden-diapered and bawling, sleeping on his stomach on a filthy old mattress. By the time Hubs got home, I was frantic.
“Do you think you’re depressed?” I asked.
“I mean, maybe you have postpartum,” I said. “The man kind.”
He paused, appraising my bloodshot eyes and mascara-streaked face. Suddenly postpartum depression no longer seemed like such an attractive option.
Just like that, Hubs’ flirtation with postpartum depression disappeared forever. It wasn’t long before I found myself back in charge of dinner and all was right with the world.
Today, I’m happy to report that our new baby is clean, fed and sleeping on his back. Well, actually, he sleeps in his car seat, but that’s another story for another time. I still get a little teary from time to time, but it’s nothing a Percocet can’t handle. Wait. Did I just say that? I meant Tylenol.