With Father’s Day just days away, dad of three Scott Rankin bravely shares his experience of postnatal depression to help other mums and dads who might be struggling.
“While I was aware of the concept of postnatal depression, it never occurred to me that I suffered from it. I’m male. Isn’t PND secret women’s business? Hormones running amok? But I can now see in the maelstrom of pregnancy and birth that my valleys got deeper and I sunk into them more frequently.”
These are the words of Scott Rankin. Scott’s wife Caro went into labour at 30 weeks while they were at the pub celebrating Scott’s birthday. The birthing process that followed was an incredibly dangerous time for mum and bub. You can imagine the horrendous stress Scott and Caro felt as their future hung by a thread.
Thankfully, with medical intervention their beautiful baby girl Scout Virginia was delivered safely. But their family’s rollercoaster journey had just begun. Caro developed postnatal depression and Scott became one of the one in ten dads who also develop the illness.
“Self-obsession became the norm as I worked to ‘fix things’. My face aches agonizingly when I recall the falsest of smiles I forced on myself. Worse still, I can now see that I tried to force a similar smile on my poor Caro’s face. She, who had suffered so much more than me. She who deserved to ache and hurt and grieve. While I’d somehow repressed the memory of the previous few weeks, she certainly had not. Traumatised, sad, hurt, confused, what she needed from me was unconditional love and space to mourn her trauma.”
Like many dads, Scott knew that his wife had been through so much in the birthing process and he pushed his own feelings of vulnerability deep down. PANDA – Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia hears a similar story regularly on its National Helpline: like Scott, many men feel they need to be the rock of the family and feel guilty about making their own struggles a priority.
“For me, as I see in so many of my peers, I am afflicted by being an old fashioned male dressed up in new age sensibilities. While I see myself as a strong advocate and enabler of women’s rights and empowerment, I still can’t escape the juxtaposition of being ‘traditionally male’ and seeing myself as holding primary responsibility for being the provider and protector for my family.”
Scott lay awake at night despising himself for not being what he thought of as a better partner. But he was simply doing himself more harm, and not helping Caro either by beating himself up rather than seeking help.
“I wonder how many – like me – have drifted into darker valleys due to the many stresses compounded by fatherhood? And how many of them are weighed down by the burden of feeling as if they are failing in that most elementally male of roles – being the rock that holds their family safe and protected? And what proportion choose to cover up their own needs in deference to the multiple trials they know their partners to have gone through and be going through?”
Happily, Scott, Caro and little Scout are in a much better place now. They are celebrating Father’s Day on Sunday with the worst of their troubles behind them. If Scott experiences difficulties these days he’s much better now at seeking support because he understands the benefits of doing so. And with the knowledge they’ve gained over their journey, both now volunteer for PANDA.
PANDA wants to share this message this Father’s Day: if either mum OR dad is struggling, it’s not a sign of weakness to seek help. It’s a sign that you are doing what’s best for your family.
If you or someone you know is struggling with the transition to pregnancy or early parenthood you can call PANDA’s Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Nation Helpline – 1300 726 306 (Mon – Fri 9am – 7.30pm AEST/AEDT).
PANDA’s Helpline provides a safe and confidential space for anyone struggling with the challenges of becoming a new parent. PANDA’s skilled and compassionate counsellors can help dads work through their challenges by talking openly and honestly about their thoughts, feelings and experiences.