I have been kindly asked to contribute to international Fathers mental health day this Monday 18th June. The hope is to raise some awareness of the emotional gravity experienced by expectant Dad’s facing their biggest job.
Unfortunately there is still a huge lack of support and needed services for fathers throughout the pregnancy, and going into fatherhood.
If you follow my blog you will be aware I’m a first time biological father to spontaneous triplet girls. You’ll also know I have overcome my own serious mental health conflicts before I discovered I was to be a father. Had I been in a less stable mental condition I don’t believe for a minute I would have been able to cope with the huge emotional changes and I experienced to get to this point.
The day I found out I was to be a Father of multiples, I also discovered I was completely alone to deal with my situation. After the scan took place, on asking a midwife if there was any sort of help, or somewhere I could find advice I was met with a simple apology. No such help or service exists for men.
My wife was in a state of shock and panic, overwhelmed with the news of the triplets. I was left without any landing equipment, heading into the biggest, most difficult event of my life without a clue as to what was coming. The entire focus of the pregnancy was understandably directed on the wellbeing of my wife and the triplets. Any questions that came my way were questions directed at how my wife was coping. I had no choice but to push on the best I could in the hope my intuition in dealing with my wife and family was right to trust.
The stress of the pregnancy was a test of our marriage, it was down to me to keep stability in the home even though I had my own constantly rising fears and concerns.
I met with my GP within the first month of the pregnancy. I was experiencing fear around old mental health concerns and felt it wise to discuss my concerns with a neutral party rather than burden my wife or friends. Even with a long past of diagnosis, I was given a form to send off and explained the waiting list would be at least 6 months to speak with someone by which time the babies would have arrived. It would be over a year before a meeting with a professional councillor took place.
My saving grace was that as a recovered alcoholic, In order to stay well and mentally stable I practice a daily meditation exercise that allows me to build resilience to stress. It was a way for me to remain conscious and aware of my rising fears without becoming overwhelmed. The situation at home was difficult as my wife suffered mentally and physically with the pregnancy. I had to stay out of anger and fear for the sake of the unborn babies and my family.
Thankfully the triplets arrived safe and well. And with the safe arrival of the babies my wife’s depression and fears left. I, on the other hand was beginning to get hit with mental exhaustion from the pressure of the previous months. Life was only to become more challenging when the babies came home. Again there was no support for myself other than the social media multiple Dad groups that became a God send to me.
There is a massive failing in relationships and marriages within the first year of multiples. Without a way to remain conscious of rising negative emotions, men feel evermore pushed to the sidelines feeling ignored and left out. Depression becomes a common symptom of the suppressed resentment energy that men are unable to shake. Yet they are left to struggle unless offered a real solution. When self-pity starts creeping in with added tiredness all hell can break loose in a home.
I feel I’m one of the lucky ones who survived the first year. I suffered at times in silence, my wife didn’t need the extra burden of worrying about me. She was discovering her own place. As difficult as it was at times I did my utmost to put her needs first.
It was during the first week in the NICU that a nurse came in and sat next to me while I was alone with the triplets, she asked me how I was doing, I immediately began telling her about my wife and she stopped me, she said again “no, how are YOU doing with all of this”?. I poured my heart out for a good hour. She understood my situation. It was the first and last time I have ever been asked solely as Dad how I was by someone professional dealing with us as a family. I think that’s pretty sad considering what we as Fathers go through.
A Fathers role is equally as important, and needs to be treated that way, it’s why I began this blog, to share with others who may be lost in the fear of a high risk pregnancy. I have discovered a solution to depression and a way to deal with the stresses of home life. Many haven’t.
We no longer live in a time where women deal with the babies and men stay out the way. I was fully involved from day one and continue to be as much as possible.
Maternity services need to start recognising the absolute importance of our roles and offer support to those who most need it. Many Fathers begin their journey into parenthood already suffering with un resolved mental conflicts which is why a fathers mental health needs to be taken seriously.
I am currently writing a book hoping to be published next year, sharing my experience and highlighting the emotional journey as a new Father to high order multiples I embarked on, and how finding my role early kept me involved no matter how disconnected I felt under the pressure of adjusting to a new life. It is possible to maintain stability in the home, and in oneself.