Reprinted from "Having a Baby" issue of Visions Journal, 2012, 7 (3), pp. 14-15
At the hospital, Jeanne spent a whole night coping with the pain of labour. After 17 hours of labour, the baby had moved into a dangerous position, and Jeanne was given an epidural anaesthetic by injection in her back. Exhausted, she passed out right away, then they pulled her into the operating room for an emergency Caesarean section. I thought she was dying!
Thankfully, the baby was born, alive and healthy. But it was four hours before Jeanne woke up and we could hold our baby together for the first time.
Jeanne breastfed our son night and day for eight months. I could feel the strong connection between them. Many times, when she was breastfeeding the baby, I’d approach to kiss them, wanting to be part of this connection. My wife would often say, “Don’t be so close. You’re in our space, don’t you see?” But I couldn’t help my desire to kiss them and to be close to my wife and my child. I started to feel rejected and not welcome in this new relationship.
The disrupted nights and resulting sleep deprivation over the months of breastfeeding didn’t make our life easier. I’d had mood swings since the birth. We argued so many times. Tension built up between us, and I became frustrated and angry.
Jeanne seemed dramatically different than she was before the birth. I didn’t recognize the woman I had dated and been living with. I felt so close to her during the pregnancy, and so much closer during the labour and the C-section. But after the birth, she seemed far away, deeply absorbed in her thoughts. She was in a bubble, still choked by her experience at the hospital.
Every day, I wanted to hug her. I believed I could help relieve her suffering and reconnect with her, but Jeanne kept slipping farther away from me.
Since the birth, we haven’t had a life as a couple. We’ve stopped dating and stopped making love. I really love my wife. I still have intense desire for her, even stronger than before. For many months, Jeanne barely touched me and rarely held my hand when we were walking together with our baby, and she rarely kisses me with true love. She may still love me as the father of her son, but is she still in love with me? Am I still attractive to her?
“Do you love me?” I asked her.
“I don’t know,” she said. “Something is broken.”
Is she mad at me? I wondered. She endured everything at the hospital. She was in pain, not me. She could have died, not me.
I had become a father, and strangely, I lost my self-esteem and confidence as a man. Doubts popped up in my mind: “She may want to leave me. I may not have been a good lover and partner for her.”
Bitterness filled my heart. I wanted to be in control of the relationship. I started to ask Jeanne for sex. I thought I was tender. I was abusive, actually. It put pressure on her.
My wife doesn’t recognize me either. I struggle to focus on my job: I have memory troubles, confusion, overwhelming concerns, difficulties concentrating . . . My appetite has decreased during the daytime.
Frustrated, disappointed, resentful and lonely—this is how it has been for both of us. Several times we’ve been on the edge of separating.
We both strongly love our son, but my dreams to build a family together sometimes vanish. I feel like I’ve spoiled everything. I feel alone, stupid and sad. Happiness has faded away in my life, like a stone falling in the ocean depth.
Coda: Albert is not alone in his experience of postpartum depression as a father. The thoughts and feelings shared above were written about one year after Jeanne and Albert’s son was born. Now, over a year later, Jeanne and Albert have moved forward. They attend sessions with a couples counsellor to defuse the anger and resentment they have shared during the past year and to build a strong and happy family.
About the author
Albert lives in North Vancouver