There are so many things I’ve changed my mind about throughout my life, but having a child wasn’t one of them. In fact, it was one of the things I was certain about. Shortly after my wife and I were married, I felt like it was time to start making a baby. My wife was apprehensive, we were only 26, but soon jumped on board. Getting pregnant was difficult for my wife, and when she finally became pregnant, her pregnancy was difficult too. That should have been my first clue that parenthood wouldn’t be a walk in the park and wouldn’t be perfect. But no matter what anyone told me, I pictured the perfect family of three, like I had always wanted and I knew it would be tough in the beginning but I was convinced that I was ready. Little did I know, I wasn’t prepared, no one ever is and sh*t would hit the fan.
After my wife gave birth, I jumped right up to the plate and did it all—diaper changes, feedings, baths. I was amazed at how quickly I caught on, seeing how I never even changed a diaper before. I thought “I got this”. And to be honest, I did. For the first few weeks, I was running on adrenaline. Being a dad was amazing and I expected things to get better each day. I thought my life would be on track, my daughter would be sleeping, my wife would feel better, and everything would be okay 6 months postpartum. It’s laughable that I even thought that.
After a few months, my wife began to show signs of postpartum depression. She was emotional, withdrawn, anxious, and sad. I kept telling her it was just sleep deprivation, but the more she explained her symptoms, I started to realize I was feeling the same way. Now, before everyone has a heart attack, I’m not trying to say I had it worse than my wife or women in general. Though I did not endure all of the hardships of trying to conceive, pregnancy, child birth, and the struggle to breastfeed, I definitely think dads can suffer from postpartum depression, because I did.
When 6 months passed then 7 and 8, I hit a wall. Sleep was all I wanted but could never get. I had no idea about leaps, sleep regressions, the horrors of teething, the non-stop choices we had to make that were extremely important. I was exhausted beyond belief and I had zero time to myself. I wanted to watch “Game of Thrones” with my wife with out our daughter crying, even though my wife never knew what was going on, because that was just what we did. I wanted to go to the movies to see a horrible horror flick that we’d complain about at dinner. I wanted to stop feeling so tired and to actually sit down for a minute and eat without passing a fussy baby back and forth. Most of all I wanted sleep! I wanted a slice of my old life back. I was gaining weight because cheap and quick meals were easier. I didn’t have time to exercise because the minute I got home, my wife ran to me. I had always heard “it takes a village to raise a child” but it doesn’t seem important until you have a baby and little to no “village”.
I was confused. I had no idea how up and down a baby’s sleep pattern could be. I didn’t anticipate how much would change. And, when I’d see my daughters face I would feel f*cked up for even thinking these thoughts. I love her to death but I honestly felt like I was dying some days. I know a lot changes for women after having a baby, I could see how much it affected my wife. But, a lot changes for dads too. Especially for dads like me, who are very involved. I’d get sh*t for not going out, for not showing up to an event, for not putting more of the duties on my wife or letting someone watch her so I could return to a “normal life” but I was too tired, my life was a wreck, and I was trying to be a good husband and father. But the truth is, I was losing my damn mind.
Dads may not admit it, but after having a baby, a transition occurs. My marriage changed, my life changed, everything was different. We tend to only share happy moments online but the reality is, at 3am when you’re up for the 5th time, it’s not cute and it far from fun. Slowly things are getting better, but they’re still not perfect. Sleep is still a luxury that I rarely get, and though I get to spend more time with my wife, our lives are very different.
I think I expected fatherhood to be easier for me, because dads rarely say otherwise but nothing about becoming a parent is easy. I don’t regret having my daughter at all, but being a dad is definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and postpartum depression can happen to anyone—moms or dads.