Are there letter writers you wonder about to this day? While Iím away, readers nominate some who stayed in mind. You can find the following March 2009 story online at http://wapo.st/13zyi1O.
ďI still worry about that family all the time!Ē
Q. Please help; Iím desperate. My husband and I are parents to an 8-month-old son, and while we were very excited to welcome a baby, 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 weíd be miserable doing it.
We canít talk to anyone because itís so shameful admitting this level of failure at something others do naturally. We are honest only with each other, and it is obvious that what we are doing now wonít work. We canít imagine what options we have. Please, please, help me look at this from a new angle and, hopefully, save my family somehow.
A. Out of almost 12 yearsí worth of letters, this might be one of the most heartbreaking ó and bravest. I canít tell you how many people want to hold your baby right now and not let go.
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 itís common, it wreaks havoc on mothersí ability to bond with their babies, and it can lead fathers to turn on infants for ďcausingĒ the unhappiness.
While youíre on the phone to the doctorís office, ask for your doctor to call you as soon as possible. Say itís urgent ó do not take no for an answer. 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 canít meet within a week, then call the next one, and so on through the list. If nothing works, call your doctor again. (Donít be afraid to go to the emergency room if you ever think you might hurt yourself or your baby.)
When you get in to see someone, tell the truth. This is the safe place to tell it.
Itís also the place to get new angles on your specific situation. While itís understandable that you two are honest only with each other, itís also dangerously limiting.
Your imaginations and expertise havenít come up with answers, and thatís not going to change unless you bring in someone elseís imagination and expertise ó someone with the mileage and training to apply more than just one personís perspective.
You asked me to serve that role, probably because of the anonymity I afford you, but that also means I donít have the specifics of your health, your marriage, your life context, your babyís health and temperament, or anything else that factors in. In these most formative days for your son, you need high-percentage guidance from someone who sees you up close.
I will say this, however: Not everyone takes to parenthood ďnaturally.Ē Whatís unnatural, in fact, is our societyís unspoken expectation that parents tough it out alone. Donít see it as your personal failing that you need to ask for help. Donít do that to yourself, or your son. Call in the troops today.
ü Email Carolyn at tellmewashpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.
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