Speaker: Why donít we start with you basically giving me your name, your age, marital status, how long youíve been married, and what do you do?
Chris: All right. My name is Chris McKibben. Iím 37 years old. Iíve been married to my wife, Rachel, going on 11 years. We have a son, Trevor, who is 7. Our daughter is 4 years old. Her name is Paige. And I actually work at a, a local university. Iím an assistant athletic director.
Speaker: OK. All right. Iím gonna just get right into the questions because weíre running out of tape. Maybe we can squeeze them in. If not, weíll just switch them out.
Chris: All right.
Speaker: Am I Ö?
Chris: Fredís enjoying his Pepsi, so Ö
Speaker: All right. All right. What, if anything, did you know about PPD before your wifeís experience?
Chris: I had heard of it before, really didnít give it much thought to be honest with you. My wife has always been kind of a Dr. Spock Jr. when it comes to medical analysis and things of that nature so I had heard it before through nurses, you know, just literature in the hospital, but never really gave it much thought.
Speaker: Since you both experienced a perfect experience basically with your first child, what was it like for you, second time around, with Paige seeing your wife kind of be so different?
Speaker: Ö Her behavior being so different even while she was still pregnant and leading up to the delivery.
Chris: You know, I, Trevorís pregnancy was, youíre right, from beginning to end, was the storybook-type pregnancy. The second time, it was actually, it was, it was great up until probably the fall. You know, through the summer, up to the fall, probably about two months before Paige was born. I probably didnít give it much thought, again, to be honest with you. I mean, it was in the moment, really probably didnít give Rachel as much attention as I had the first time because we did have Trevor who was just, 3 years old at the time, 2, 3 years old. And I didnít really notice the mental changes immediately but I did notice the physical changes where, you know, Paige was 10 pounds so my wife was very uncomfortable. You know, she got very, very big with Paige and then she had the shingles and the, and the Bellís palsy. I saw the physical attributes and I kind of maybe with her mood changes, kind of put it, blamed the physical. I didnít really realize that there was a real mental issue until, until after Paige was born.
And then afterwards, I did notice in the hospital that she was not resistant, or not interested in Paige. I just felt she was maybe just tired. Again, I unfortunately itís my personality to kind of just, I donít know if get in the zone is the right word, but I wasnít really aware of that. I was just kind of just taking the moment for what it was and focusing on Trevor, focusing on Paige, making sure Rachel had what she needed, but I wasnít really locked into the side effects of, of, of this pregnancy.
I mean, it really didnít hit me until, until we got home, and, you know, Paige was, she had the colic, you know, it was adjusting to life with two children. We had just moved into a new place. I had a job where I was a home office. So it was, it was very, very chaotic, I guess you could say, organized chaos, as a young family usually is. But it, it really kind of just hit me in the face when Rachel was, we actually took her to the hospital and when the doctor said you need to go to a, you know, psych-, psych- Ö like a mental hospital. Thatís the way I felt it. And I was told to go home and pack her bag and I literally was standing in the middle of the road as an ambulance wheeled her away to wherever she was going. I didnít even know where she was going. And thatís when it, thatís when it really hit me. I had to find care for my children and my life was totally changed for the next, the next couple of months to be honest with you.
Speaker: Now again, this is all unexpected, of course, because the first experience with Trevor was total opposite. So just like what was your, what were you thinking emotionally? What were you going through as iIt just seems like things were kind of snowballing?
Chris: Yeah, well you know what, yeah, they definitely did snowball. Itís so funny. I guess, our lifestyles when we grew up as well were very, very different. I was used to a lot of chaos and things of that nature. So, not that I was numb to it, but I just handled things differently. I kind of accepted things for what they were and kind of dealt with things as they came to me. But, it was, when Rachel had to go away, thatís where I had to become a big boy if you will and really kind of make some major decisions. And for the first time the focus wasnít about me, it was about, it was about my, my children and I had to really put my attention on, on Trevor and Paige. And, you know, it was really quite difficult. Iím not really good at asking for help either and I kind of, I did feel by myself quite a bit. Some people, one thing that really happened was, is it seems like the husband and the dad get kind of shoved aside for the most part. There really was no, hey, howís Chris doing? I mean, of course, the focus should have been on my wife but I was, I was lost. I didnít know what to do. It was really survival mode to be honest with you.
Speaker: I think thatís really important that you mentioned that. So as you said, you did notice symptoms in her even at the hospital?
Chris: Yeah. I mean, I had the opportunity to go down and visit her at the second hospital. That was really, really surreal to be honest with you. Rachel had mentioned that there were no other postpartum patients there. I mean, these were severe mental illness patients. It was, it was like a movie to be honest with you. I mean, Rachel wasnít even allowed to wear her shoelaces, you know. There was a man shaving his sonís face because he was unable to do it. It was a horror movie to be honest with you. And to see my own wife there, someone Iíve known almost my whole life, in this position, it was really quite bizarre. And I, itís really kind of indescribable. I mean, I mean, itís really not something that many people can relate to, to be honest with you.
Speaker: I know you touched on it but if you could talk more about, you know, what you were doing for the kids on a day-to-day basis just to get through the day. I know Trevor was school-age, so Ö
Chris: Yeah. I think Trevor was still in nursery school at the time. So I pretty much put my, my job on hold for the most part and it was just focusing on, on the childrenís needs, specifically during that timeframe where Rachel wasnít in the house. And I was, I was Mr. Mom for the most part but it was just kind of, I didnít really know what to do, I mean thereís an instinct, but I kind of just try to remember what Rachel did to take care of the kids and that sort of thing.
You know, Rachelís sister lived locally so she would come over once in a while to, to help out but I mean there really, there really wasnít much assistance because no one could relate to what we were going through.
And, you know, I almost feel, and I think Iím guilty too, I had this feeling that, Oh Rach, this isnít that big of a deal, you need to get over it, itís just hormones or whatever the case may be. And I donít think anybody truly took it seriously until Rachel wasnít there.
So I, you know, I donít think and I donít know if Trevor really understood what was going on, obviously he probably didnít, but he goes from being the, the king of the castle to kind of just in his own mini-survival mode as well. So it was difficult because Paige had such a, such a bad stomach issue and she would cry for four hours at a clip and we did have the doula but, I have to be honest, I wasnít very, much of a fan of the doula. I kind of butted heads with the doula. She had a whole different holistic approach and this and that, and I really, I wasnít really interested in her services to be honest with you. And this whole time my wife is literally sitting in the, in the bed, just kind of staring through all of us, not even aware of whatís going on. I mean, itís Ö
You know, when we prepared for this, I really didnít realize how far back Iíve pushed it. I havenít thought about this for the longest time because I just, I donít, thereís a lot of me that doesnít want to remember exactly whatís happened, so Ö
Speaker: Thatís very understandable.
Speaker: Itís, like you said, itís really, you canít put into words, just how, you know, itís, itís a very horrible thing to live through so I do appreciate you bearing with me.
Chris: Yeah, sure.
Speaker: And again, because I said, I think hearing it come from, from you, someone else, you know, another father, you know, could really relate, Iím sure.
Speaker: Iím wondering, now we, letís talk about maybe when you started to see your wife, that light back in her eyes again.
Chris: Yeah. It really was, it really did take a long time. I donít know if there was an exact timeframe but I think when she really felt better was when we moved out of our townhouse and moved into our house now. It was a chance for her to paint the walls and kind of have a home feel where she could feel comfortable and we can feel comfortable as a family and, you know, Trevor can go out in the backyard and play. You know, she, there was a lot of, you know, counseling visits, a lot of medication and such. You know, she found a church that she was, got very involved in which made a huge difference in her life. I mean, she now is employed at that church and is very involved. That was a major, major difference.
You know, like I said, there really wasnít an exact timeframe but, you know, I, itís really kind of hard to articulate when it happened but she really made a concerted effort to fix herself, which I did notice. She did kind of just say, forget it, Iím just gonna give in and take the help that, that is provided. There was a major resistance to that at one point so I think it really started to change for the positive when she accepted the situation, talked to the proper people and went through the necessary steps to, to repair herself.
Speaker: When she kind of was in the throes of it, I was just wondering, did you ever, did the thought ever cross your mind that she might never be the same again?
Chris: Yeah, Iím sure at that point, I did. I didnít think, I didnít see any light at the end of the tunnel, thatís for, thatís for sure. I mean, it was a, it was a scary, scary period. And anybody thatís had small children would know that there is no off day. And, you know, at one point, it felt like I was taking care of three people and essentially I really was. You know, Rachel, unfortunately, was helpless. There was really not much she could do. She wasnít taking care of herself. She never got out of bed for the most part. I mean, everything from A to Z was my responsibility, which was a new change for me. I mean, we were always a pretty good tandem, a good team, and I didnít realize how much I personally depended on her for a lot of things. So I had to take care of a lot of things that I never even gave a second thought, to be honest with you.
You know, but I, when it came to our children, I know I have always been one to, to step up. I mean, we, you know, when it came to, you know, 3:30 in the morning feedings, things like that, we had a great, you know, a great team effort. You know, I had my responsibilities, she did hers. But all of a sudden, it was, it was all me. And it was, it was very difficult for me to accept and I had a little resentment, I think, towards, it was probably partially towards Rachel but towards the whole situation. And I donít know if it was a martyr mode or what have you, but I felt very alone and like no one really gave a care what was going through my mind, to be honest with you.
I was totally left out in the dark. I didnít have a support group. You know, Rachelís relatives and friends really rallied around her and, and there I was kind of holding the bag, if you will. And it was, it made me feel, it definitely made me feel resentment.
Speaker: Two questions that kind of popped into my head. One, I just want to talk about, well I want you to tell me, was there a feeling of relief when she did start to come around? And then, my other question was, if there was a support group for you, do you think you would have gone?
Chris: First off, yeah, there was a relief when she started coming around. There would be relapses too, which would frustrate me, because Iíd think we were making progress and then weíd regress a little bit. But yeah, to have her back, to, you know, to, to be there, not necessarily for me, but just to be an active participant again and to, you know, first and foremost to help herself and to, to be a mother to our kids was very important. You know, we did cause quite a few strains on our relationship and it took a while to repair those, thatís for sure. There was, I hate to use the word damage, but there was probably a little bit of that so we had a, a long way to go to, to really be where we are today.
Support group-wise, I probably would have to be honest with you. I had the unique experience of being home with Trevor as a stay-at-home dad for his first year and a half and so I did have some of the maternal instincts if you will because I had had to learn with Trevor. I mean, he and I were attached at the hip for his first year and a half and I would never trade that experience ever. But it was funny, there is a, seems to be a stigma with fathers or husbands that do the motherly responsibilities. You know, I learned that a lot with, with Trevor. I mean, weíd go to the playground and thereíd be all the moms and thereíd be the weird dad there, it seemed. It really did. It was just, it was just, you know, it was just, felt, it was really uncomfortable. Iíd go through the parenting magazines and everything is addressed to mommy and mother, and thereís nothing, nothing at all about a father. Thereís not even a father pictured, to be honest with you. I mean, I donít know if itís just socially accepted now that, you know, the father isnít existent or what have you but there was nothing in any kind of a periodical to help a father. You know, I didnít know what to do. I mean, it was really, it was really just instinct to, to basically take care of my family. I had no one to talk to about that.
Speaker: Since sharing how PPD affected your family, through your wife sharing and opening up about it, have any other husbands or men at all approached you and shared anything that they might be going through or asked you any questions?
Chris: This is literally the first time Iíve talked about it in five years, to be honest with you. I mean, it doesnít even seem like it happened. I know it happened. I know it was one of the worst times of our life, but it doesnít seem real. Literally, it doesnít. I just, you know, when I talked to Rachel for this, I have forgotten so much. And sheís like, you donít remember the panic attacks? You donít remember me doing this? No, I donít. It was just, it was literally just a survival. And I do remember how miserable my daughter was and how awful she felt, and I remember a lot of that stuff. But the whole, you know, I guess it was almost a year, dealing with this, it doesnít, it seems like a dream. I mean, I know we did it, I know, I know I visited my wife in a mental institution. I mean, how many people do that? But again, I just have no, it just doesnít seem real. This normalcy that we have today is what I try to, try to focus on.
Speaker: Do you want to talk a little bit about what life is like at home now and, you know, kind of the role that youíve played since Rachelís experience?
Chris: Yeah, I mean, itís five years later now and Iíd say weíre pretty much the normal family. Sure we have our disagreements. We argue. You know, our children hate each other and love each other at the same time. But weíre, I think, I think weíre more a normal family than most people to be honest with you.
We know weíre not perfect. We know weíre not the best at everything. Thereís no such thing as the perfect parent or the perfect wife or husband. We have our battles and we just deal with it. We work it out and we try to hash it out the best we can and we know weíre not perfect people and we have our, our downfalls, but we do our best to teach our children, you know, whatís wrong and right and, you know, you know, they can learn from their parents even if itís learning from a negative experience. Not everything is rainbows and sunshine, but , you know what? When we do have rainbows and sunshine, itís that much nicer, thatís for sure.
Speaker: OK, last question. What would you, what would your advice be to other husbands whose wives are going through PPD?
Chris: Well, thereís a good chance theyíre not exaggerating their feelings. That was one of, you know, my wife, sheís a very colorful person and has a different way of living life and sheís, you know, Rachel is Rachel, so sometimes thatís used against her. She was really calling out for help and I didnít recognize it at all so take it seriously. You know, there are triggers and real signs of PPD that Iím very aware of now but was not at that time. And really just, just be there for her and for your family. You know, itís a selfless thing, you know, itís, but itís really, itís unfortunately really not about you, itís about the family as a whole. You have to do what you have to do. And I just feel itís a manís job to do what he has to do for his family. But donít, donít be embarrassed of it either. Even if, whoever you talk to, whether it be friends or a priest or counseling. There really isnít anything directed towards men, but by talking about it with others there might be other venues that you could get the help you need. You know, Iím the type of person that kind of tries to battle things themselves, and I donít need help, I can do it, and itís not that easy. This will overpower you very, very quickly.
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