“I’m at my breaking point.”
These are the 5 words that got my husband’s attention today. I’ve gone 12 weeks without a single hour away from all three of my children, not including the rare solo grocery trip. I’m working my in-home party business part-time while working full-time as the mother of 3 young children and wife to a husband who had a mid-life crisis a few weeks after the birth of our third child.
Everyone repeatedly asked me how I was feeling after Emma’s birth but how could I tell them it wasn’t me who was having a hard time; it was my husband. “Is there such a thing as father post-partum depression?” I asked. I researched it and found very little but it was the reality in our house.
My husband and I started dating when he was 34 years old and although life moved quickly afterwards, he had more years than most to live an independent life. In some ways, this was beneficial. He was able to explore a variety of National Parks, fish more days than he worked, play gigs with his band and linger on the beach for hours without a care in the world. It was easy to get used to this lifestyle; however, this all abruptly changed once we had 3 children in a four-year time span. Gone are the long hours on the water or beach, gone are the gigs and hiking trips; in its place are diaper changes, piggy back rides, kisses on boo-boos and stories before bedtime. And truly, he loves his time with his girls. He is not a mediocre father. Just like fishing and volleyball, he is all-in. But that comes at a price.
Emmett had just started to feel like he could genuinely connect and play with our two-year-old, Harper, and here we were starting all over again with a newborn. It was more than he could wrap his brain around and he broke. His body hurt from head-to-toe and it wasn’t from a sports injury. One day I found him completely immobilized, lain across our bed. He couldn’t see a way out and didn’t know how to help himself. He had actively chosen this life and yet he felt like he was drowning.
Here I was with a two and three year-old begging for my attention as they felt replaced by the newborn, and now my husband needed me more than ever. So I was strong. I wordlessly woke up every night to nurse the baby, I called my mom over and hired a mother’s helper to support me during the day, and I reached out to Emmett’s friends to touch base with him. I encouraged Emmett to talk about it, to identify that which was bothering him for I knew there was no way to move forward without putting a finger on the source. Little by little he improved. He took runs, he played basketball, he got out of the house to play volleyball or visit a friend and he talked about it.
All the while, I felt it my duty to remain the sturdy backbone. He needed me, they all did. I reached out to my support group: my friends, my family and my therapist! And it worked, for the most part. I knew Emmett had nothing left to give, so on days I felt ignored or under-appreciated, I called upon a friend to encourage me; to remind me that this was just one of the many phases in our life together and that this too shall pass. I constantly counted my blessings. I focused on the miracle that was our three healthy children and the incredibly supportive friends and family we both have.
But here I am. It is Week 12 and I have yet to really do much for myself. So when I spoke those 5 words, Emmett said, “Babe, I got this. You go take time. I’m strong now.” I thought, “What do I even want to do for myself, by myself?” The answer is, I want to write. I want to write new music on my piano. I want to record our memories by finishing last year’s family photo album and starting this year’s. And I want to write about this. To remember what it was like in these early years so that twenty years from now, when one of us is at our breaking point, we can look back and say, “We survived that and we can make it through this.” And we will. When one is weak, the other will be strong and together, we will not only survive this, we will thrive as a result of it.