We all know the bond between a mother and her newborn baby is a special, basically sacred thing. But the bond between baby and dad — when there’s a dad in the picture — is equally important. Which is why a Reddit post from a dad whose wife won’t let him hold their baby broke our hearts this week. Then we realized what might really be going on in this situation, and our hearts broke for the mom, too. This sounds to us like a case of postpartum anxiety.
“It is quite troubling that my son has been home for almost a month now and I can count on one hand the number of times that I have been allowed to hold him, and a lot of that was in the hospital,” BelugaCup wrote on the AmItheAsshole subreddit Thursday, saying he felt his wife wasn’t letting him bond with their son. “So I sat down with her and tried to articulate this, and I was surprised when she admitted she was doing it consciously. When I pressed her for her reasoning, she says that I’m not to be trusted because I ‘drop things’ which is BS.”
Feeling her reasoning was illogical, the dad made an effort to get to the baby first when he cried in the middle of the night, and refused to let his wife take him. For all of the next day, she locked herself in the baby’s room and said she couldn’t trust him with their baby.
If this sounds like an alarming situation to you, you’re not alone. Almost immediately, readers spotted the mom’s behavior as a sign of a perinatal mood disorder.
“Your wife has postpartum depression and/or anxiety, my dude,” EastLeastCoast wrote. “You’re [not the asshole] for wanting to hold and bond with your kid, obviously, but it’s also not going to help your wife’s anxiety. Her brain is telling her it’s an absolute fact that you are going to drop the kid. It doesn’t matter that you’re not; that’s her reality right now. She needs to speak with her doctor about care and treatment, and probably a therapist. Good luck!”
Some moms wrote in to share their similar experiences to the wife’s.
“My brain kept telling me the baby was in the bed next to me, lost in the blankets, when I knew the baby was safely in the crib,” Music_withRocks said. “My own brain was lying to me and it was so hard to fight against. I talked to my OB about it and she prescribed me something and I started to feel better really quick. I weaned myself off of it a few months later and have been fine since. Go to your wife’s next OB appointment, or even call her yourself. You need to get your wife help.”
“This is 100 percent what happened to me and my husband,” Mehreeny wrote. “I felt like only I could take care of the baby and he wasn’t equipped to handle our kid. … We had a situation like you did with your wife where my husband snatched the baby from my arms and refused to give him back. I had a complete meltdown at that point. I bawled my head off. I strongly suggest you don’t take the baby forcibly; it’s very traumatic. You are right about wanting time with the baby, but you need to help your wife get help first, rather than sending her further into depression. It took months for me to be myself again and let go of all the crazy. Postpartum depression can be crippling. Get help!”
Adding to this theory is a fact the dad later revealed: He and his wife had a baby together as teenagers 10 years ago, and they gave it up for adoption. This kind of trauma can absolutely be affecting the wife now, even if she hasn’t talked about it.
Postpartum anxiety can happen with or without trauma, and with or without pre-existing mood disorders. Symptoms include racing thoughts, visions or intrusive thoughts, irritability and anger, insomnia, inability to focus, and sometimes physical symptoms such as aches, nausea, and rapid breathing. As our own writer Kimberly Zapata wrote of her own experiences with the disorder, this isn’t something you can dismiss as new mom worries. Fortunately, it’s treatable — through therapy, medication, and self-care.
We’re not doctors and absolutely can’t diagnose this man’s wife from afar. But we’re quite grateful to him for posting his story, since every person who shares their experience with mental health issues validates someone else’s struggle, too. If this is you, please speak to your doctor soon, or visit Postpartum Support International to find resources near you.