'My wife had postnatal depression & couldn't leave the house.'

Adam didn’t know much about postnatal depression until his wife went from being a gregarious extrovert to unable to get out of bed.

Adam Bishop and his wife, Bec, had not considered being faced with postnatal depression when they prepared for the birth of their first child.

Then baby Louis arrived a month early.

“I remember after Louis was born and we were in the hospital, there was a poster on the wall saying that one in seven women will experience postnatal depression,” Adam told Mamamia.

“And Bec’s comment was, ‘Those poor people, how sad’. Six weeks later, that was us.”

Adam and baby Louis, who arrived four weeks early. Image supplied.

He said Louis’ early arrival meant he was unable to breastfeed. “So we ended up having this torturous cycle of sleep deprivation and fatigue associated with that, because Bec would be expressing milk and Louis seemed to want to wake every couple of hours.

“And six weeks after he was born, Bec was out by herself with Louis, walking in the park, and she found herself all of a sudden frozen, unable to move and lying on the ground,” Adam said.

“It was a pretty harrowing experience for her and led to an eventual diagnosis of postnatal depression (in Bec’s case, related to severe anxiety).”

He said the paralysing condition was confusing for the new parents, and placed a great deal of strain on their family, relationships and work commitments.

“Bec went from being a fiercely independent, extroverted person to someone who required my 24-hour care and that of her family, as well,” the 33-year-old father said.

“There were times when she couldn’t get out of bed until 4pm. That’s the way it was, it wasn’t her fault, but it was a challenge when you’re a new family and a new father and you’re expected to go to work to make some money to support the family.

“The fact that one half of the partnership just physically can’t function in the same way that you would normally expect, the burden of all those things falls elsewhere and there is so much to do.”

Adam said his role as CEO of Athletics SA was a fairly demanding one and trying to juggle his home and work commitments became difficult and had an impact on his relationship with colleagues.

“Unfortunately, that situation meant I had to do a lot of work from home,” he said. “I was working at 2 o’clock in the morning, when everyone was asleep, just trying to catch up on work.

“Work didn’t understand – it’s nothing against the individuals there, it’s just a lack of awareness. I just thought had I not been through this situation, I would not have an understanding of what’s going on.”

Image supplied.

He said he felt pressure to keep everything together, while his home life fell apart.

“From a work perspective, it never even occurred to me to take some time off,” Adam said.

“I had about four or five weeks of annual leave after the birth, but because I was so caught up in what was happening, it never even occurred to me that perhaps I could take some carer’s leave, or something like that.”

It was quite isolating not experiencing the symptoms himself and made understanding what Bec was going through difficult, Adam said.

“It’s hard to get your head around what your partner may be experiencing in that situation,” he said.

“I can only imagine how tough it was. But once you do get your head around it, it probably acts to bring you closer and appreciate and understand the other person more.”

Adam, Bec and Louis on a good day, after completing Run Adelaide. Image supplied.

Adam said that with amazing family support, a great GP and being referred to local services, such as a program run by Anglicare SA, Bec was finally coming through the rough period, three years later.

“Like any form of depression, it’s something that kind of lingers there,” he said.

“It’s a case of managing that and recognising the signs – sleep deprivation has a big role to play, so be conscious of that.”

The Adelaide couple are keen to share their story to raise awareness and Adam is working on a community program to support fathers whose partners suffer from PND, as they are often excluded from related services.

“We’re passionate about telling our story because the more we talk about it, the more people become aware and recognise the symptoms,” he said.

This Perinatal Depression & Anxiety Awareness Week, PANDA encourages all Australians to become aware of the prevalence of perinatal anxiety and depression. It’s not all black and white and everyone’s journey to parenthood is unique. We encourage new parents to reach out for support if they are struggling — PANDA’s free National Helpline 1300 726 306 is a great first step and offers counselling, information and services to support families throughout Australia.  

This year, PANDA are also encouraging parents to speak openly and honestly with each other during November through our Lunch Out Loud initiative, which encourages friends, family and workmates to get together for a positive and honest conversation about parenthood and life in general over lunch – wherever that may be!

For more information and 5 easy steps to organise your own Lunch Out Loud, see here.