Q. I'm currently 3 months pregnant. We are so excited about this baby. But after my last pregnancy I suffered from depression and my husband and I both had a difficult time with it. I know he did his best, but sometimes I didn't feel supported. I'm afraid this might happen again. How can I help him understand what I need?
A. Congratulations on your pregnancy! It's true that depression after childbirth can be very hard on a marriage. At the risk of oversimplifying this very complicated issue, let me say this: the best thing you can do is open a dialogue about this and be very specific about your concerns. In one of my books, The Postpartum Husband, we offer a number of lists for him such as, "things to say", "things not to say", "What to do", "What not to do", which many men find extremely helpful.
This is a very confusing and difficult time for partners who may find themselves frustrated by your symptoms. Husbands need clear direction about what will help you and what will not help you. Your previous experience can be used as the perfect tool to teach both of you what worked last time ("I loved it when you screened all the phone calls and told everyone I was sleeping when I was sitting right there with you, too exhausted to talk on the phone!") and what didn't work ("It was hard for me when you had to travel so much during those early weeks, I hated being alone. Maybe we need to make arrangement for more help at home if you anticipate traveling during that time again").
Again, the best thing for you to do is talk about it and be specific. Remind him how much you love him and how much you may need from him during the upcoming months. Having this discussion before you actually need some of these things from him is essential. And then, when it comes time for him to step up to the plate, hope that he remembers much of what you discussed, expect him to forget some of what you discussed and understand that you may be having this conversation more than once.