Editor’s Note: In addition to raising awareness about cancers that affect men, Movember organizers this year added a component to recognize mental health issues that many people are reluctant to discuss. Boston Dads Group Co-Organizer James Mahaffey has no such fear. Here he talks frankly about the post-partum depression he experienced following the birth of his daughter. KMcK.
Once, possibly twice, during my first three months of parenthood I found myself huddled in my home office, secretly and somewhat reluctantly shedding a tear in the dark. A very dignified and manly tear, that is. The kind that wells up and glosses over just the bottom half of the eye before stoically leaping like a Red Bull cliff diver descending in a super quick, unquestionably deliberate, straight line down the cheek, never to be seen again. (Denzel Washington did it in Glory. I last did it in 1986 when Optimus Prime died after battling Megatron).
Well, this tear was brought on by a combination of things. My newborn’s constant piercing screams, the unexpected disagreements with her mother on what to do during those times, my guilt for the occasional “bad” thought many parents have felt at some time but rarely admit and my unconquerable writer’s block. I remember wondering if I was “depressed a little.” I had been feeling this way for longer than I cared to admit and I couldn’t seem to shake the feeling. And, as a man, I didn’t necessarily know what to do except secretly cry in the dark.
It wasn’t until we were at CJ’s first checkup after giving birth to our daughter that I even thought about my manly tear incident again. Typically at this appointment, women all over the country are asked to fill out the Edinburgh Depression Scale to find out if their experiencing “signs or symptoms associated with postpartum depression.” After reading the questions I started uncomfortably laughing a bit because as she was answering them I began to feel like someone should be asking me the same questions.
I realize I didn’t have to carry or give birth to a 7-pound human being, but I have been there from day one and every day since the baby was born. It’s not like the shrieks and cries of an inconsolable baby or the physically and emotionally draining late nights and resulting sleep deprivation were her’s to experience alone. (My journey to becoming a ninja father started at conception. I’m hands on. That’s been my choice). So, yes, I was up with her helping out (and suffering just the same) as much as I could through all of those early tests of parenthood. And maybe it wasn’t postpartum depression I was experiencing but something else going on inside of me. The first three months are one of those stages where I do believe certain mothers are better equipped than fathers to withstand the irritability of their newborn. CJ didn’t seem to be as emotionally affected as I was.
So when CJ was filling out the form I decided to make a column for myself next to her’s so I could answer the questions, too. We went in and I of course made light of my little “cry for help” that manifested itself in the form of a drawn-in column on a postpartum questionnaire and so she laughed a little, too. We all laughed and then we got back to focusing on CJ.
Men’s mental health is rarely discussed and almost taboo in some scenarios. This is another reason why I shaved my face and started to grow a mustache this month to raise awareness and funds for the Movember movement. For the past 10 years, the movement has raised funds and awareness to combat prostate and testicular cancer. Movember has since brilliantly added mental health to this already impressive slate of men’s health issues that it successfully battles.
Please help Movember to keep fighting the good fight to keep men healthy and sane – donate.
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After nearly being “shhh-ed” to death while his daughter napped, filmmaker James Mahaffey decided to “become a ninja” of a father and vlog about his journey from “freedom to fatherhood” at “Becoming a Ninja: Freedom to Fatherhood” blog., where a version of this post originally appeared.