Husbands suffer too

To whomever is reading:

Where to begin?

My wife had an abundantly easy pregnancy and birth experience. Everything seemed too simple. I felt (and probably was) more concerned about the birth than she was (her tolerance of the pain, how would she do, etc.). We had a healthy baby boy, May 8. My wife was doing great at home. Baby had some struggles latching, I would stay up and encourage her, she would pump to make sure he could eat and I would feed him the bottle from the last pumping, and the lack of sleep definitely began to get to her, but any signs I picked up on were probably too late. She had said she felt numb one night while we were out eating, but I foolishly got her to stop thinking about it. I didn't know what was going on. I would search online for help and wasn't finding a lot. We both called her OBGYN who prescribed an antidepressant over the phone and made an appointment for Monday, June 3. I never had a chance to pick it up (this was Tuesday, May 28).

We had a "perfect storm" of events leading up to her episode with PPP at home. Her parents were coming for a week and my wife is a perfectionist wanting the house to look nice, I was going away for work for an overnight (May 31-June 1), we would be missing her brothers wedding across the country (June 1), my mom was going to surgery to test for a re-occurrence of cancer, and one of my sisters was leaving to take a job in the central US. All of this led to the early hours of Friday, May 31. From about 2-4:30 am she had no recollection of who I was, thinking I was God or that He was speaking through me. Keep in mind, we ARE very religious people. I am on the Leadership staff at my church, we read the Bible and pray daily. I was able to calm her down and eventually sleep. She was doing better in the AM. I had at this point my mother over taking care of the baby and Friday night she was speaking very deliberately, wanted me to read the Bible to her, but it had to be simple passages. She called her sister who is an RN (mind you her entire family is at a rehearsal dinner for her younger brother), she told me to take her to the ER. I did. We were there overnight, but not admitted. They gave her ativan through IV, but she was very confused while we were there. After the ativan, she slept and was fine on Saturday. She was happy to be on the way home, and I thought she was better. They gave a prescription for Lunestra (sp?) but she'd have to stop breastfeeding and she didn't want to, however, we did decide then that we would start supplementing in the evenings so she can stay asleep. Saturday evening she had a benadryl to help her sleep, and she did for 10 hours and was good in the AM. Then Sunday afternoon came. She was doing better, but I was scheduled to preach in the service and she wished she could come, but she was still so tired she stayed home with my sister and mom to watch the service. When I got home, she told me God spoke to her through my message (being a Christian, this isn't a rare thing to say, but I knew she was speaking unusually about it). She slept hardly at all that night, confused about who I was, and what was going on. Her parents arrived at our house at 12:30 Monday morning. Monday I tried to feed her, she ate some. I tried to get her ready, and she wouldn't have any of it. After getting her in the shower and getting her dressed, she was in more of a dazed status. She stayed that way to the OBGYN who suggested we head to a hospital further away for their Psych unit. We did, she was unresponsive there. Would walk while holding my hand, but slumped while seating. She kept then saying she was confused. They cleared her medically, went to give a catheter, and she did NOT want that done. 7 people came in the room to help hold her down, and I was holding her hand and her head. I've never experienced my sweet, quiet wife, in this state. We walked to the Psych unit and she was able to communicate some, but still confused as to what was going on. She asked for water, and deliberately crushed the Styrofoam cup and water went everywhere. She was admitted that evening at 11 PM although she was able to answer the questions the nurse was asking. She was afraid of some of the patients, but that isn't unlike her. We have a healthy marriage and are always together when we can be. She's not the adventurous type. We left and she was OK with that.

We received permission to see her twice, not just once during normal visiting hours, since her family was from out of town. Mistake! We were with her, she was confused still as to why she wasn't with us all day. She kept saying time is either fast or slow. She had a hard time with us leaving at noon, Tuesday. That evening, we came and when the nurse went in to let her know we were there, she had a big episode, hospital called a code green and she had to be restrained through the evening. We were there, hearing her cry out for help, and yet helpless and powerless to do anything. Hardest experience of my life. We came home to my baby boy and my parents. I held him as her stirred, then he cried because he was hungry and I lost it too. What has happened to my wife? I just wanted her back. I would have given anything.

She slept through the night and was good most of Wednesday AM, she even called me! Had another anxiety attack, but not near as bad that morning and the Dr. recommended we not come visit. We didn't. Hard thing to do. Thursday she was doing better, but doctor still recommended we not see her. However, she called, and how could I not visit my wife when she was asking for me? I did and we had a great visit. She told me where to find clothes I forgot to grab for her. what drawer, where in the drawer. I felt she was turning the corner. I even got to tuck her in! Friday, I was told she was quoting Bible verses to patients (to me this is good, that she is remembering them) and they redirected her to what she was working on. We are religious, but we do trust God gave doctors wisdom to create medicines to help. We aren't "those types of people." I came to visit and she kept saying she just wants to go home and be with me and our son. A recurring theme when she and I talk is that "I'm confused. Everything seems opposite here." I always reassure her she is where she needs to be and they all just want to help her. Then she begins to talk about my day, how our son is doing, how some of our family is doing. She went to bed after visiting hours. She called me an hour after I left telling me she loved me and she just wanted to come home with me.

Then, weekend staff arrived, and I'm sure they are unsure of her story. They told me she was "out of it." I attributed it to tiredness, which was probably the case since she called me pretty shortly thereafter to talk. They told me this afternoon when I called that she was still confused.

I consistently reassure her she is where she can get help. My struggle is, I just want timetables and I know it is different with everyone, but I can't find stories too similar to my wife that give me light at the end of this dark tunnel. It has been 4.5 days and I just want my snuggle bug back.

Update 6/15: Well, it is now a week later after I typed this. What a week of ups an downs. They were looking at discharging my wife yesterday, but decided not to after she had an "incident" on Wednesday the 12th. She went outside for only the 2nd time since she's been there. Every outside break is really a smoke break for the patients. She "climbed" a half wall (more like pulled herself up) to sit on it to get away from the smoke. When asked why she had done that, she forgot, but then remembered it was to get away from the smoke. They took this as a concern and wanted her to stay the weekend. Great. Now I missed my birthday and here comes Father's Day too.

And now it's Saturday. I love the weekend doctor. She has reassured me that even though my wife is having a rough day, Monday is still the goal for discharge. There are ups and downs in this fight, and really in any instance, but boy are they magnified for me. I can't wait for visiting hours tonight to see how she is doing. I am praying that she improves as the day goes on and I can get her home Monday. It seems at this point that the familiarity of home and me will help her sleep and eat better. I know she is where she needs to be, but I am definitely ready for her to be home. If they do not discharge Monday, I will have her write her 72 hour notice letter. This is so much to bear. I just need my wife back.

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28 Replies

  • Hi littleai05,

    What a terrible couple of weeks for you... I am so sorry to hear of this and you must be beside yourself with worry, it is terribly hard for the partners, to know what's happening and to know what to do practically to help. We understand this at APP and want to do as much as we can to help you to get through this terrible time. We have partners on our panel who have been through this exact same scenario and understand entirely what its like. It sounds from your description like your wife is experiencing some very classic symptoms of PP, but It worries me that she was unable to be admitted to a Mother and Baby Unit with your son. Can I ask where you are in the UK? Perhaps there isn't one locally to you - there are only 24 dotted around UK. I am trying to glean from your message, how long she has been in the psychiatric unit - a week or two? I know that you desperately want your wife back but discharge on Monday is very soon and could be very difficult for her to cope at home if she is not fully better. Especially if you have to work and she is left alone. If she could be referred to a Mother and Baby Unit, it would be a much nicer environment for her and she would be able to get better whilst having your son with her in a completely safe, homely environment where she can continue the bonding process with him. (I speak from experience as I have been in an MBU myself). There is also very good access for you to visit.

    First of all please let me know where you are in the UK and we can see if there is an MBU near you. Secondly you need to take care of yourself, try not to worry, she is in a safe place at the moment and given time, she will get better, but this process really cannot be rushed and you need to be strong and healthy for her for when she does come home.

    Please let me know...

    Thinking of you all


  • We are in the states. They will not let us bring our son in the unit. She has asked the last few days and they are adamant about no children under 12. She was doing so well last night, mostly herself, and then there is today. I tried calling today and they just said she is too upset to talk. I found out she had another big episode and had to be restrained. They reevaluate every 4 hours. This was a 180 from how much she was herself the last few days.

    She has been in for 11.5 days now, and Monday would make 14. I really think the familiarity of home would help. My problem is I can only visit 2 hours an evening and 4 on weekends.

  • Hi Littleai05,

    Yes it's so hard on partners & so much to bear & yes you need your wife back - I'm so sorry you're going through this. I can assure you that you really will get through it & you will get your wife back & what you're going through is temporary.

    It sounds like you're doing a great job supporting & visiting her whenever possible & also reaching out for help & info. There're plenty of tips here from other husbands & partners who've been thorough (& come out the other side) on other threads & I'm sure some will be along soon to offer more. As Nic says, it's really important to take care of yourself at the moment & get plenty of rest/time out etc. (often neglected when there's so much on your plate to deal with).

    A mother & baby unit would be ideal for your wife but I realise that unfortunately the provision in US is sparse. Be reassured though that she's safe & being looked after. Recovery from PP isn't something that can be rushed at all, it does happen but it's in it's own time & it's best to be very cautious in the early days.

    Have a look at this guide for carers whenever you get the chance, you might find some useful tips:

    Also you might find the PP FAQ page useful (there's so much to take in & try to understand in the early days):

    Take care & wishing you all the best - we're here for you.


  • P.S. Also, just wanted to say that there will be good days & bad days, it's a bumpy road but as she recovers the bad days will get further & further apart & she'll be more able to handle life at home without the 24/7 care she's getting now. It's a bumpy road but you'll both get to the end & enjoy the family life as you imagined it!

  • Thanks for the guide. I was looking for something just like this. I'm patiently waiting for her return home. Rough times.

  • I'm really sorry to hear what a tough time you're having. I recognise a lot of what you're saying having been through it myself.

    Please take care to look after yourself. You're under a lot of strain, and it's easy to neglect yourself. Make sure you eat (reasonably) well and please ask for help if you have trouble sleeping.

    I hope you're getting plenty of support from family and congregation. A common problem is that people misunderstand the nature of mental illness. It might help to point people to the web site. It's a good idea to ask someone to be the main point of contact for news about your wife. It can be very harrowing having to discuss her condition - even with close family members.

    I'd like to advise you to be patient, but it's probably not what you want to hear. Your wife needs time to heal and going home too early will set her back. Don't worry that you might be doing or saying the wrong thing. As she recovers, your wife will need your presence and quiet reassurance, but you can't talk her out of it.


  • Thanks for replying. Patience is needed and I know that. This is by far the hardest weeks of my life.

  • Hi littleai05,

    So sorry to hear that you're having to go through this, it's a really hard time for all involved. My wife had PP about 6 years ago and like you I didn't know what was happening, I can relate to a lot of the feelings your having. It's scary as anything and I too and probably all of us have never seen our wives more differently than during something like pp but you're doing great by listening and reassuring her.

    My wife was eventually admitted to a mother and baby unit, here in the UK and for us that was the best thing that could have happened because she needed that care and safety; it was a real up and down ride, some days better, some not, but eventually with the right treatment more and more better days. My wife was in an MBU for around 11 weeks in total, although as things stabilised, we had more and more outings during that time, including a weekend at home, etc. until it was finally decided that she was well enough to be discharged. I think it's key to take things easy, talk through the options with her doctor, etc.

    The main thing is that she is being looked after, this is nothing you or your wife have caused and I know this is really difficult because every spare minute is taken with worrying about your wife, etc. but please remember to try and look after yourself as well.

  • I just wish the states were as prepared for PPP as the UK seems to be. When she was more herself she asked daily if I could bring our son, but they wont even allow it. All I can do is bring pictures that I take and hope that is enough. Today's incident really took my emotions for a ride seeing that she was so much herself last night. Wish I could be with her. I'm not even allowed in her room with her.

  • Hi,

    So sorry to hear of the terrible time you are all having. I know my period of psychosis was much harder for my husband than it was for me. I didn't really know what was going on and he was so frightened I would hurt myself or our baby. And we had the most awful rows for hours and hours when normally we have a very calm relationship. I said some horrible things to him that I barely remember.

    I echo the others here and say try and look after yourself as much as you can. It sounds like you have good support network. I'm glad of that.

    The other thing I'd say is remember your beloved wife is still there underneath all the strange behaviour and she will come back. I found it very comforting to spend as much time with my husband and son as I could but again I was lucky here in Australia to live near a mother and baby unit so we were all admitted together.

    Hang in there - things will get better. My son is now a happy bouncing 18 month year old and things are totally back to normal.


  • Thanks for the encouragement. It is so hard to see the light at the end of this dark time when it is so dark. "When a train goes through a tunnel it gets dark, but we don't throw away the ticket and jump off." It's still hard though.

  • Hey mate,

    My wife told me to take a look at this and I can really relate to your posts. Your wife has probably been a rock in your life, the one person you can depend on a confide in. You also probably think it's vital that your wife and the little one are together. It's hard and personally I think the place your wife is in has a backwards outlook on allowing your child in there.

    Is there an opportunity for your wife to have a time out and be an out patient to visit your son?

    It's a bloody hard time and for a while after she is out you'll second guess her decisions. But have faith in your wife. This will end and things will get better. It will take time but in my experience this does end and things do get better.



  • Thanks for commenting. This is harder and harder with each passing day. They ordered an EEG for this AM just as another medical precaution. The weekend doctor was great and explained to me that healing from this isn't linear. I know that she does well whenever I am with her at the hospital. The weekend doctor understands, but her daily doctor seems unfazed by that. At this point I believe her being surrounded by people that love her is what is best. I just have to keep telling my self one day at a time.

  • Yes, one day at a time. Little by little, hour by hour, day by day & you'll get there. You're doing great!

  • Littleai05

    Hang in there. It is really really hard, but it WILL get better. She will get better.

    I came to this site late last year in, frankly, a terrible state because (like you) after a blissful relaxed pregnancy my wife had an episode of PPP, which led to her being in hospital from around mid November until she was discharged in late January. On the bright side she was allowed some trips out, but not for a while - our first few hours at home were on Christmas Day (what a day) - and she was in an MBU.

    But boy were those first few weeks tough. Much of what you describe sounds familiar: the confusion, the sweats, the physical manifestations of the delusions etc. And on your part: the exhaustion; missing your wife who you speak to every day terribly because even when you're with her it isn't right; worrying about what it means for your future life together with your lovely new child.

    It's absolutely right that progress isn't linear, in my experience. There were good days and bad days. It sounds like the doctors know what they're doing - but i absolutely understand your instinct to second-guess them in some cases. For example, you would like your wife to be home because it would be familiar and settling. I had a very similar feeling - i thought to myself: "if this illness is about having a tenuous grip on reality, what is going to help less than being in a very strange and unfamiliar place"? But be assured that she is in the best place she can be for the moment. I know your instinct is to have her home as soon as possible. But try to be patient - i know it's really tough. Only have her home when you and the doctors and she are all happy. My wife went from being desperate to be home (because she didn't realise how ill she was), to not being sure about whether she was ready (because she had some insight by then into how ill she was and had been), to absolutely being ready. But it took a few weeks.

    She will get better, and you will have the family life that you looked forward to so much. We're now around 6 months down the line and while that doesn't sound like much, it all seems a world away. We don't talk about it a great deal (we did at first when my wife felt better) and that works for me for now, as it helps to forget. And we're able to concentrate on our little boy.

    In case it helps, please look at the questions i asked, and the answers given by this network, some months ago when things were dire. app-network.healthunlocked....

    And look after yourself. It is hard - as my uncle said to me in the early days (his first language isn't English): stay well - that isn't a request, it's a requirement.

  • Thanks so much. It is helpful to hear from those who went through this, especially the husbands. I felt like I had no one who understands what I was going through as the husband. This blog has helped me more than I can explain.

  • Thanks for the link to your questions. It seems our experience was very similar in our wives responses. Thanks again!

  • Update from 6/17AM: spoke to her doctor who said she was the best they've seen her. He said she was able to describe some of her behavior, and knew she wasn't acting like herself at those points. She is scheduled for an EEG this morning. The doctor said tomorrow he will call at 8:30am to let me know if she will be discharged, and that is a real possibility! Her hardest times seem to be the evenings around dinner, so they want to observe today and see how she's doing overnight. The end is near and I can't thank you all so much for your comments and help!

  • I echo so many comments given, especially where medical intervention and treatment protocol is still lacking in the United States. If you feel she is where she needs to be, then you would not want her to come home too soon - only to have to go back and pick up where she left off with progress. Yours and your wife's story is so reminiscent of what I and my family had to endure as a result of what should have been standard prevention protocol. (Discounting the blues after childbirth can be likened to discounting a slight pain that grows to a deep, throbbing pain without monitoring the progression to find out where the pain is originating from.) A psychotic episode can occur with or without having had the blues or a depressed state - psychosis can occur alone, like mine did. You are to be congratulated for recognizing and validating your beloved's signs that warranted an ER check-up and eventually in-hospital care. Check out resources at - listed with Postpartum Support International, PSI, by state and/or country, and where a professional can help you verify if the care given is what she really needs to find remedy. Expect the unexpected, but also demand the very best in health care for her. Just remember, it takes a good year for a woman's body to return to its pre-pregnancy state. Demand an Endocrine work-up; the thyroid or pituitary may be out of balance. Keep on keeping strong.:)

  • So, my wife has been home since Tuesday afternoon. Tuesday evening was a tough night, but Wednesday was a good day. She even felt up to heading out for a shake in the evening. Thursday we had a followup appointment, but she didn't like it, nor could the place take her on with her medication. They suggested a day program for her. I can't handle having her gone somewhere without me, but I'm sure this is best. I can't find anyone to see her regularly to regulate her medication. My worry again is that she relapses in this program and they send us back to the hospital. She realizes today she still needs help. It seems most of her issues now are related to postpartum depression/anxiety rather than psychosis. AND everything she complains about is side effects of her medication. Something that does help occasionally is holding and/or feeding our son. I hate that this is still ongoing, it is so easy to lose patience!

  • Hi, Please continue to support your wife ,,,, she so wants to be well but isn't in control right now. However, in time you will be the happy family but it is a slow process of recovery. Are you able to ask for a second opinion about the suggested day programme, if you are not happy being apart? I'm sure you must be frustrated if there is no one you can see regularly to titrate your wife's medication. It is very stressful for you but do your best to look after yourself and I hope you find an after care service to give your wife the help she is surely entitled to..

  • Thanks for your comment! It seems that her rough days translate into rough days for me. I love her and wish I could take the suffering from her and place it on my shoulders. There have been two instances without Haldol in her system and Ativan worked perfectly and in minutes without side effects. That is why I'm really hoping the doctors grasp this tomorrow and lower her Haldol. The side effects really take a toll on her.

  • Hi, I can't comment on the medications used today as PP hit me firstly in the mid-70's and again in the early 80's. My treatment involved ECT as I was so far off the planet, not knowing the stress I was causing to loved ones around me. I'm sure it's not easy for you to see your wife suffering. However in time, with a lot of love, patience and understanding she will recover.

  • Hi, just a quick post to check in and see how you're doing littleai05 and continued best wishes.

  • Thanks for checking in. We saw a psychiatrist who immediately dropped her Haldol from 10 mg (two 5mg tablets a day) down to one 5mg tablet at night. So far so good. I'm really thinking this should have happened sooner, but I'm glad it is working. She is still very tired at times, and doesn't want to get out much, but recognizes if she does something, she feels better.

    She is definitely doing better! Day by day, moment by moment! I can't wait for all of this to be finished, but we are both taking it one step at a time! (But it is still easy to lose patience waiting!)

  • It's tough, only thing I used to do is take it one day at a time; you'll get there.

  • This is so good to hear Lillteai05. In a way it could be good it didn't happen sooner as sometimes it's best to be cautious - I'm so glad it's more manageable now though. The tiredness is really hard, I remember that vividly as being one of my big challenges (I just wanted to sleep all day, every day) & also not being able to go out on my own with my baby due to anxiety/fears etc. For me the best way to deal with it was to set a small goal each day such as a walk around the block or going to the supermarket. When I was really unwell the goals were simply to get out of bed, shower, wash my hair etc (huge challenges at that time). In the early days my mother would ring me daily to set these goals for me, in a non bossy way, which was a huge help as I temporarily lost the ability to make decisions for myself. It might be something to try with your wife, very gently & with plenty of encouragement?

    I'm so glad your wife is doing better. The waiting for it all to be over does seem endless especially on those bad days but yes, one step at a time & as Zapple says one day at a time & you'll get there, you really will!

  • So, the Mrs is doing much better, but I'm still hoping the Haldol is lowered next week. She gets anxious thinking about headed out before we go, and about seeing friends/family before we do. When she gets to the place, or is with the people, she does great around them. Just waiting for the Haldol to be weaned away. Anyone have experience getting weaned off an anti psychotic?

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