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DP has the new Dad 'baby blues' - how can I help him?

(15 Posts)
MatchstickMcDonald Tue 28-Jul-09 10:47:51

I've name-changed although I'm a new-ish regular..

DS1 was born three weeks ago. DP and I had been together for less than a year when I found out I was pregnant and it was unplanned. After the initial shock we quickly knew that we were committed to our relationship and would have planned a family at some point anyway. DP seemed happy and supportive through the pregnancy.

Since the birth three weeks ago he has seemed increasingly distant and unhappy. He is outwardly great with DS and gets involved with the physical aspects of caring - the changing, holding, burping etc, but there is no enthusiasm there at all and he does not seem to have bonded with his son.

Increasingly concerned, I talked to him about his feelings last night and he opened up saying that he'd never wanted to be a dad and although he loves me and his son, he was finding it very difficult to play the 'excited new dad' role. He also admitted that he's finding it difficult to relate to the "new me" in my role as mother. It was a difficult birth and I'm still suffering from some rather unpleasant after-effects; he has mentioned that he finds it very hard to see me in pain. To make matters worse, he feels very isolated at the moment as many of his friends have recently moved away and his family live at the other end of the country.

He doesn't want to feel this way and feels very guilty that he does

I suppose what I want to know is two-fold - both how I can help him adjust and be happy in our new family unit (without the need to be the guy wearing the "World's #1 Dad" t-shirt, IYKWIM..) and if there are any other sources of support that I could direct him to - groups for new dads either on or offline or something along those lines? I'm just very aware that there's loads of support out there for me, but very little for new dads.

NB I've got visitors popping in quite a bit today (you know how it is..) but I'll try and get on here to respond to any responses I might get to this. Thanks in advanc

MatchstickMcDonald Tue 28-Jul-09 10:51:16

oh dear that was a bit long.. blush sorry!

HolyGuacamole Tue 28-Jul-09 11:05:56

I don't have any advice as I don't have children but I just wanted to say I think it is really good that you can be honest with each other and talk about these things.

Other MNers will be along soon with some great advice and I'd say, just make sure you keep the lines of communication open.

Best wishes.

mrsboogie Tue 28-Jul-09 12:08:40

What he is experiencing is not that unusual I think (aside from the added complication of it being unplanned, which does make it a bit more difficult)

There has beena bit of thing in the press recently with dads coming out and saying that they didn't admit it at the time but that they took months and months to even begin to love their babies or bond with them. There was an article in the guardian Family supplement I think where one bloke said that when his baby was a couple of weeks old he couldn't have cared less if it got ran over by a truck but by the time it was a few months old he would have thrown himself under said truck to save the baby.

That might seem like a no-brainer for most mums but it doesn't seem to always be the case for men. I am not a apologist for reluctant dads by any means but facts are facts and I think that men often do not adjust to the reality of a newborn as quickly as women have to.

I have a ten month old with a man who definitely did want it and was excited at becoming a dad but there was a definite period of adjustment, while, like yours he was very hands on etc I don't think he would have claimed to enjoy it all until the baby was a few months old. Certainly you could see the bonding process taking place over an extended time period.

The fact is that it is very very very early stages for you both. At three weeks it is all very new and difficult. The first six weeks are pretty hellish for all concerned. You should explain to him that it is not uncommon to feel the way he does, that everything will become easier with time (by six months things should start getting back to "normal" albeit a new version of normal) and that he will fall in love with this baby.

The next bit will probably get me criticised by some of the more earth motherly types but I will say it anyway. - the baby comes first of course but try not to let your relationship suffer as a result. It is so easy to lose sight of the couple you were before and HE will think that this is forever. If it goes on long enough of course it will become a self fulfilling prophecy. As soon as you can try to make time for him and try to remind him that the old you is still in there alongside the new mum. Don't cocoon yourself with the baby all the time - make sure he keeps doing as much as possible of the hands on stuff and make him feel important and needed. Try to make time for you both as a couple even if you are knackered and really can't be bothered.

In a few months time this will all have faded into memory and he will be a devoted dad and will no doubt say he wouldn't change things for the world.

MatchstickMcDonald Tue 28-Jul-09 12:09:04

Thanks Holy. He is a good communicator for which I'm extremely grateful - it's why I think he'd benefit from a support group of some kind.

Domokun Tue 28-Jul-09 12:26:29

I really want to echo what Mrsboogie says - it's excellent advice. Men don't get the hormonal changes that women get during pregnancy, and so they don't bond as quickly. It takes months, sometimes years, but he will get there if he kees involved with the baby as he's doing now. Some men don't really form a proper bond until the baby starts to interact much more, at the toddler stage.

It's also very good advice to make sure you make an effort to keep your relationship with him going, as mrsboogie says. Apart from everything else, it's in your own interests too as it helps avoid losing yourself completely and feeling drowned by 'being a mum' and losing your own personality, which I know plenty of women can feel sometimes.

MatchstickMcDonald Tue 28-Jul-09 18:37:44

Mrsboogie and Domokun that is brilliant advice, thank you very much. I totally get what you're saying about keeping the relationship going that he and I share, I think that's going to be key.

It is early days..

He's just come in and told me that he feels much better just for unburdening himself of how he was feeling last night, so that's a step forward in itself.

DawnAS Tue 28-Jul-09 19:35:47

MatchstickMcDonald, I just wanted to jump on here and tell you that you're not alone.

My little girl is 7 weeks old and my DH has only just in the last couple of days started to interact again with our DD. He took 2 weeks paternity leave when she was born and was a brilliant support to me. But as soon as he went back to work, things changed. He didn't want to deal with her at all and sometimes, I would find him just holding her in his arms and letting her cry while he watched the TV. He didn't attempt to make her stop or comfort her.

Last week he had a week off and it was unbearable, I nearly insisted that he went back to work. Then a good friend suggested to me that because I'm doing so well as a Mum (it's our first baby), that he felt inadequate and the best thing was to let him take control of the hands-on parts for a while. I tried and although I couldn't completely let go, I definitely took a step back for the second half of the week and now he is a changed man. We always do baths together he looks forward to his cuddles with her.

It definitely helps that she's starting to smile so she's interacting with us a bit more.

I still do the early morning feed (yes, we're incredibly lucky as our DD already sleeps through the night!!), as DH works and I'm on mat leave, but he definitely does a lot of the cuddling and feeding now.

So, I know that it may take longer in your situation as everyone is different, but it really will change and will seem so much better.

I really hope that my personal experience helps you to feel more positive about it.

xxx

EffiePerine Tue 28-Jul-09 19:41:28

Keep talking to him - sounds like you're doing really well.

I think the first year or so is really hard on both parents, but in some ways it's worse for fathers (esp in the early days) as any support there is is (poss rightly) focused on the mum and the new baby. Many men don't react well to change and everything is changing at the moment. And he's being pushed out on all sides - by the baby demanding loads of attention and by well-meaning family and friends who either ignore him or tell him how he should be helping you. It's no joke being a new dad.

I'm not sure about support groups, I know DH would have cut off his leg before attending any group grin. Talk to him, acknowledge his feelings and be nice. And accept it will be hard, for both of you, for some time.

reikizen Tue 28-Jul-09 19:48:16

tis all true, men just feel differently about being a parent. For women, I think you feel like a mum well before the baby is born, but men just get chucked in at the deep end. Some cope better than others. The love does grow and develop, I remember when we had dd1 me and dp talking and saying 'I don't know if I love her yet do you?' but now I'd kill for my dcs! It all takes time.

eeky Tue 28-Jul-09 22:06:43

It's really early days for you both, and your dp sounds much more open than most for discussing it and unburdening himself - good for him. Our dd is 15 months old, and although she was planned I always knew that I was keener on having kids than dh. The pregnancy started off ok, but dh was clearly shit scared by the whole thing and grew increasingly more distant as the pregnancy went on. He refused to get involved in any preparation for baby at all, and it was an extremely difficult time for us both. He found it very difficult to talk about it which made it a lot worse. Things didn't improve when she was born for some months - he literally didn't hold her unless I shoved her onto his lap pretending I needed the loo, didn't change a nappy for 4 months, and would only feed her with ebm if pretty much forced to. I had bad PND (what a bloody surprise!) and he offered pretty much no support - I can honestly say it was the worst time of my life.

However, just to show that things do improve, he gradually started to interact with her more as she started smiling and moving. I went back to work p/t at 6 months and we had already planned for him to take over her care for a few months. I've never seen him look so terrified. He came through with flying colours and has been a SAHD for 10 months! He adores her now and she adores him. We have talked now about the dreadful few months, and although I still don't think he realises what an absolute dick he was for a lot of it, he admits that he just felt no connection with her at all until she was maybe 3-4 months old, and that he felt he was useless, and felt so guilty about this. I do feel that men get a raw deal as there is no support for them really, and often their dw is wrapped up in the baby - quite rightly but it changes your relationship massively and suddenly.

Sorry for the ramble! You can tell it still helps me to talk about it blush. We are expecting our second dc in 6 weeks and things are so different already; he is excited about new baby and quite capable of enjoying looking after dd for long periods or overnight when I was at work. I know this is going to be a great reassurance, esp if I have PND again.

Goood luck and keep posting to let us know how things are (wish I had discovered mumsnet in the early days!). Try to make some time for you both just to eat a decent meal together and have a glass of wine when baby is asleep. And keep talking to each other.

Snorbs Tue 28-Jul-09 22:18:43

I absolutely agree with what DawnAS says about giving him the space to be hands-on and for him to learn to be a parent. And that means that, yes, he's going to make some mistakes (as all parents do, mothers and fathers) but unless he either a) asks for your help or advice, or b) it's a serious safety issue, then leave him to it.

ABetaDad Tue 28-Jul-09 22:48:30

MatchstickMcDonald - yes I agree that is great advice from Mrsboogie and Domokun. Also Snorbs is spot on - do let DH make some mistakes and get his hands dirty so to speak. Many new Mums (yes even on MN) I feel tend to monopolise their baby to the detriment of the relationship with their DH/DP and his relationsip with the baby.

I was happy to be a Dad and lucky to be SAHD but struggled a bit with the sudden change in the relationship with DW and adjusting to DS1. I think all men go through it and it hits some much harder than others. As Domokun says, men just do not have the hormnal shift so they have to learn and experience the baby and love grows slowly.

TBH, I think counselling or a support group is a bit much. You could get him to read/post on Mumsnet rather than go to counselling though. I have read/posted/learned a massive amount in 5 months of being on here - even though I have been a Dad for 9 Years. Dads get little or no support in the ante natal or post natal period compared to new mothers and they need it because it is massive life changing event. Baby rearing is not like it is a hot topic down the pub with your mates either so men are left very much unsupported and feel lost for a while until they learn what being a Dad actually is.

wrinklytum Tue 28-Jul-09 23:00:45

As a new mum I was terrified,and I had carried ds for 9 months.Poor dp was TOTALLY in the dark and it was complete reality shock.I remember taking ds home from hospital and everytime he cried dp was going 2Whats wrong with him?" in terrified tones.This from a 35 YO man.He was scared to hold ds for ages,and it took longer orhim to do any other stuff.

It is true new dads get little or no support.Give him time,and a chance.Dp is now a very loving dad of 2,despite having developed severe health issues,and is involved with the dcs.

the first few monthsare hard for all parties involved,but if he seems interested and wantsd to help,let him get on with it even if the things he does are not exactly how you would parent your lo.Forget a nappy change now and again?DON'T STRESS,AS LONG AS THE BONDING THINGIS GOING ON.

There is a "Dadnet" part of mn

having a baby is a big reality shock for all parties involved.

Give it time x

MatchstickMcDonald Thu 30-Jul-09 15:54:22

Thanks for your thoughts everyone. Just to have his feelings out in the open has helped enormously, and we're still talking and prepared to take things very slowly.

ABetaDad, I quite agree, I think getting him together with a collection of other glum chaps sitting in a circle on plastic chairs down the community centre might actually be a bit much.. Online support might be the way to go, I think I might look for some content that he can have a read of so he knows that the way he's feeling is completely normal and can/will change with time. I might have a dig around for that Guardian article, MrsBoogie.

One upside of DS's new colic phase (the ONLY upside in fact..) has been that DP has got stuck right into the soothing and I've watched him become really quite enchanted when one of his rocking techniques has worked on our puce-faced little squawker. Bonding is happening, I think!

so, small steps!

thanks again x

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