Patrick Daigle, 34, and Brad Peterson, 27, thought becoming new parents would be easier.
Daigle, of Calgary, and Peterson, of Lethbridge, both experienced postpartum depression — something neither they nor their wives, Laura Daigle and Heather Peterson, imagined was possible in men.
Peterson recalls his brother’s early advice.
“[He] was like, ‘Watch your wife! She’ll get postpartum, I guarantee it!’ It turns out I was the one.”
According to a peer-reviewed 2007 study entitled “Sad Dads,” up to 25 per cent of new fathers suffer from postpartum depression. Daigle and Peterson had little understanding of just how deeply the condition would affect their lives.
“It sounds terrible to say, but I almost didn’t acknowledge that [my son] existed,” says Peterson.
Laura, Daigle’s partner, struggled to adjust to her husband’s depression which was unlike anything she had previously seen.
She remembers asking, “How is it possible that by gaining this baby, I’ve lost my husband?”
The 2007 study states symptoms in men differ from symptoms in women. Men with postpartum depression are often more irritable, angry, impulsive and more prone to substance abuse.
These differences — as well as society’s instinctive need to focus on the mother — often leave new fathers struggling alone and unaware of their condition.
“I fell into the trap of feeling like … I wasn’t a worthwhile part of this equation,” says Daigle.
Daigle sought help from the Calgary Counselling Centre where he has regularly attended counselling for his depression and anxiety. Peterson found support through family and friends.
Both Alberta fathers say if they had known they weren’t alone, the thrilling experience of having a new baby may have been less grueling.
In partnership with the Calgary Canadian Mental Health Association, we’re publishing a series of podcasts and news stories about mental health issues in our city. Track these stories using #CalgaryJournalHealth.
- By Karina Zapata, Sofia Gruchalla-Wesierski and Cassie Jamieson