Episode 77: Brandon’s Story: Supporting Your Wife When She Has Postpartum Depression

Tyra Fainstad shared her story of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety on Episode 74 of the podcast Adventures With Postpartum Depression. The show notes for Tyra’s episode are right HERE. This week, her husband Brandon shares his side of their story. 

Like Tyra, Brandon is a physician so going into parenthood, he knew about maternal mood disorders. Mostly, though, he had the image of a sad mom hiding in the closet.

Tyra is prone to anxiety by nature. When she became pregnant with their first child, Brandon observed her becoming more and more anxious. The planned c-section was stressful for Brandon, and all of the anxiety of the c-section carried over into the first 48 hours of breastfeeding and figuring out how to soothe a screaming newborn.

Breastfeeding was a huge issue in the early weeks. Brandon is a problem solver and feels energized by action. He wanted to be involved and helpful when breastfeeding was difficult. He attended the meetings with lactation consultants. But he felt powerless. He had so much  energy to take action but he could not actually breastfeed the baby. If he offered to give the baby a bottle, the offer upset Tyra.

One week into parenthood, Tyra took a PPD screening questionnaire and scored highly on the anxiety questions. Brandon knew something was wrong but it was increasingly difficult to help Tyra. His offers to help were seen as unhelpful by Tyra. It was like there was a wall between Tyra and everyone who wanted to help her.

Three months postpartum, Tyra seemed to come out of a fog. She had seemed like a zombie. But their newborn finally came out of the colic phase, and therapy seemed to help Tyra.

A year postpartum, Tyra was pushing for Baby No. 2. It was as if she had amnesia about her postpartum experiences. Or, maybe she wanted to prove that she could be the mother of a newborn the “right” way.

Tyra got pregnant with their second child. Brandon and Tyra’s discussions about breastfeeding were explosive. Brandon wanted an exit strategy, but breastfeeding was a complicated issue for Tyra.

Their son Desi was born and he was a much easier baby. But if you listened to Tyra’s episode, you already know that despite her best efforts, she descended into a second round of postpartum depression.

From Brandon’s perspective, this second round of postpartum depression has been so much easier than the first. Tyra has greater insight and is self-reflective. She is actively trying to solve her problems whereas last time, she didn’t see the problem.

After the birth of their first child, Tyra’s postpartum depression felt very personal to Brandon. He felt like he wasn’t doing the right things to support Tyra. Brandon felt like he was failing his family. He also felt angry and resented Tyra.

This time around, Brandon is helped by the knowledge that this illness has an arc. It helps to know from personal experience that Tyra’s postpartum depression and anxiety will not last forever. He’s not taking things personally. Instead, he’s watching the postpartum depression play out like a movie. He’s not trying to fix things or find solutions.

In Brandon’s experience, his guy friends want to talk about their experiences as new dads. Men want to talk about the way parenthood is affecting their relationships with their wives. There’s a stereotype that men do not want to talk about their feelings, but maybe we are not giving the men we know enough credit.

Thank you, Brandon, so much for coming on the show and sharing your story and perspective.