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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

New parents admit they’re struggling

Washington Post

Are there letter-writers you wonder about to this day? While I’m away, readers nominate some who stayed in mind.

“I still worry about that family all the time!”

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hi, Carolyn: Please help; I’m desperate. My husband and I are parents to an 8-month-old son. We have learned over the past eight months that parenthood is not for us. We knew we would be changing our lifestyle, but we had no idea we’d be miserable doing it.

We can’t talk to anyone because it’s so shameful admitting this level of failure. We are honest only with each other, and it is obvious that what we are doing now won’t work. Please help me look at this from a new angle. – Md.

Out of almost 12 years’ worth of letters, this might be one of the most heartbreaking – and bravest.

But as visceral as this is, the crucial first steps are clinical ones: Get screened for postpartum depression, and do it today if your OB-GYN can fit you in. It might not explain your misery, but it’s common, it wreaks havoc on mothers’ ability to bond with their babies, and it can lead fathers to turn on infants for “causing” the unhappiness.

Ask for your doctor to call you as soon as possible. When the doctor calls, ask for two or three names of psychotherapists who work with young families.

The moment you hang up, call the first one to make an appointment. If the therapist can’t meet within a week, then call the next one, and so on through the list.

When you get in to see someone, tell the truth. This is the safe place to tell it.

It’s also the place to get new angles on your specific situation. While it’s understandable that you two are honest only with each other, it’s also dangerously limiting. Your imaginations and expertise haven’t come up with answers, and that’s not going to change unless you bring in someone else’s imagination and expertise – someone with the mileage and training to apply more than just one person’s perspective.