'Men can get postnatal depression, I know because I had it'

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When Vaughn became a father to quintuplets, plus the three children he already had, life as he knew it suddenly changed forever. He details his struggle with postnatal depression and reveals how he made it through his darkest times.

Preview above: What happens after four or more siblings share a womb? Insight considers the challenges and triumphs in multiples families, from pregnancy and birth, to parenting and growing up. Full ep. on SBS On Demand.

When I think back to the person I was before I became a father of quintuplets I don’t recognise that man.

I used to be very social, I liked to go out a lot, my wife and I enjoyed regular date nights. But everything changed the moment I found out about the quins.

During my wife’s pregnancy, and after the quins were born, I took on the role of supporter and provider. I knew how much my family were relying on me and I didn’t want to let anyone down. But it was difficult juggling being a dad to the quins, and my three older children, as well as being a husband.

At times I felt like I was going insane. I struggled to deal with all the media attention and the strangers that would stop me in the street to ask questions about my children. If we were around people we didn’t know too well I wouldn’t say anything about my children because the questions were relentless. It made me feel uncomfortable. There’s more to me than just being the dad of quins.

The lack of sleep my wife and I were dealing with made everything that much harder. I tried to get sleep wherever I could but I just felt tired all the time and my mood was constantly low. I knew there was something else going on but I tried to push on and do what needed to be done.

Eventually I spoke to my wife about how I was feeling. I felt vulnerable and awkward but I knew the conversation needed to happen. She thought I might be depressed. I denied it for a long time – I never thought it would happen to me. I didn’t want to deal with it.

Vaughn
Vaughn and some of his children

Finally I came to my senses and I spoke to my doctor and then a counsellor. I was suffering from a mental breakdown and was struggling with depression.

The counselling was great, and I was also able to reach out to another dad of quins on Facebook. Soon a group was formed of quin dads from all over the world and we were all able to share our experiences and struggles. They knew exactly what I was going through and the support was an amazing help.

Throughout my mental health journey I’ve realised that most men don’t talk about their mental health. We think we are too tough, that we can handle anything, but the truth is we can’t, we have emotions too and those emotions need to be dealt with.

I know now that men can get postnatal depression, it is a thing, it happens but you can overcome it.

I would say to other new dads, whether you have quins or not, having like-minded people to chat to about your struggles is great, but you have to seek it out. Once you do find someone it helps beyond words so make the effort to find that person, or group of people, that you can talk to.

You need to take care of yourself first, if you don’t, you can’t take care of anybody else. You need to love yourself so you can give love.

I feel as though I've changed as a man and grown in leaps and bounds. Having depression doesn't mean your life is going to stay the same, a constant struggle or black hole, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. When you do make it out, depression makes you stronger and wiser, you learn to let go of the small things. 

As for the man I’ve become, well now I spend my days cooking, cleaning and prepping for the next day. Having children takes away the person that you used to be but you just have to learn to adapt and that's OK.

Source SBS Insight

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