Hi Is This Normal,
I’m a new dad with a 3 week old baby and a completely changed world. I know that this time is all about my wife and I’m focused on her. I can’t tell her how I’m feeling, which is utterly overwhelmed, riddled with anxiety and sick to my stomach every day. I don’t feel connected to my child. I am scared I never will. I feel like I just completely uprooted my world and I don’t even know how to process this change. I wish there was a return label. This was a huge mistake that I can’t undo. I can’t talk to my wife, friends, parents, etc. about this. I know they’ll be horrified to hear what I’m feeling. I’m not even the one who birthed the child. I have the “easy” job. I don’t know what to do.
Dear New Dad,
First of all, I want to commend you for reaching out here and being open to sharing what you’re going through. It’s so important that we address the stigma of parental mental health from all angles, not just as it pertains to moms. Parenthood is scary, and it’s a massive responsibility, and there’s really nothing you can do to fully prepare for it.
You’re clearly focusing so much on your wife and how she’s feeling and recovering and adjusting, and that makes you an amazing partner. But you’re part of this, too. We know it feels like you’re the only dad in the world who’s ever felt this way, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Dr. Catherine Birndorf, a clinical psychiatrist and the co-founder of The Motherhood Center can attest. Here’s her take on your ‘new normal’:
This is totally normal. And believe it or not, you are not alone. I can’t tell you how many new moms and new dads feel exactly like this and are living in silence because they feel ashamed. Just like you, they feel like they can’t tell anyone because, like you said, “they’ll be horrified to hear what I’m feeling.” Feelings are just feelings – they are not actions, they don’t define you, they’re not permanent. What they are is legitimate. If you try to not feel what you actually feel sometimes things can get worse. It’s important to know that when you’re able to speak openly and honestly about how you actually really feel, the feelings dissipate. While it may seem scary to think about voicing how you feel, you will hopefully be surprised by how receptive anyone who loves you will receive this.
I don’t hear you saying you are leaving your wife, your new baby, or your new life… I hear you saying you feel like you’ve made a mistake and don’t know how the hell you will manage this all. This is a profound transition that requires time and effort to make it through. You actually need the support of those who love you and possibly a professional to help you think through how to acknowledge your feelings while stepping into this new life. It will be okay, and it will take time. Tolerating, and if you can, sharing these feelings is an important first step.
You’ve got this,
Is This Normal
The Motherhood Center, provides supportive services for new and expecting moms, including a range of treatment options for women suffering from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Whether you are looking for a support group for new mothers, lactation consultation, individual therapy or more intensive services to help you feel better, The Motherhood Center offers something to every woman making the transition to parenthood. Staffed by experienced professionals, they take an interdisciplinary approach to tackling pre- and post-natal care, PMADs, and everything in between.