By his own admission, Adam Davies is “a very lucky man”. Nine years ago he swapped the hustle and bustle of Cardiff for the tranquility of Wiltshire, and met Hayley a year later. They’ve been married for six and a half years, and have two children.
But it wasn’t that long ago that Adam was feeling anything but lucky; after the birth of his daughter, Nia. The arrival of a child often leaves both parents feeling exhausted, but by the time he returned to work after a fortnight of paternity leave he was really feeling the strain.
“I was already deeply depressed, extremely tired and extremely low,” he says. “People at work, even sales reps who I didn’t see regularly, would ask if everything was okay as I looked awful.”
Like all new parents, Adam put his tiredness down to the lack of sleep, the late nights, the crying baby. But the feeling wouldn’t go away, and Hayley was beginning to notice. One day, she found an article in a newspaper about postnatal depression in men and left it out one day for Adam to read. Almost every word struck a chord: “I could have cried when I read the article…in fact, if I remember rightly, I think I did.”
Although it was never officially diagnosed, Adam ticked all the boxes for male PND, and identifying it began the most difficult six months of his life. He worried how his depression would affect his relationship with his daughter, his wife, his family. He worried that he would turn to escapism somehow, and dreaded how he would escape.
Male postnatal depression affects between 3 and 10% of fathers, and usually begins before the birth of their child. Its grip can last, as well: in addition to increasing between six weeks and six months after birth, a father’s postnatal depression often lasts for at least a year. At the moment, support is lacking, with the focus being on the mother.
“Mothers have a massive life-changing experience and go through so much – physically and psychologically,” says Adam, “but my concern is so do the fathers. There is not enough research or information out there to explain what a father might go through or how he may feel. All I had access to was information on how to be a supportive partner or a ‘can-do dad’, which was the last thing I needed.”
In fact, Adam didn’t feel like much of a father at all. “Everyone kept telling me what a great dad I was, but I felt anything but. I felt like a failure, and as such would do anything I could not to be around the house: work late, make excuses as to why I needed to mow the lawn, wash the car…”
Even now, it pains Adam to admit that he did all he could to avoid any involvement with Nia, despite seemingly helping by filling the bottles, making dinner and doing the washing. At first, Hayley found it tough, feeling that her husband couldn’t be bothered with their daughter; but then she came across the article, and began to research male PND.
“My wife was my support and my rock throughout this,” recalls Adam proudly. “She took the time to support me back into parenting gradually, and recognised early on when she could see if I wasn’t coping. It perhaps wasn’t scientific in its approach, but it worked.”
It took six months for Adam’s depression to subside; but now, he and Nia are inseparable. They have ‘Daddy Days’, quality time between father and daughter, when they will go swimming, or play in the garden, and Adam can’t imagine his life without her and her younger brother, Ieuan.
“When I tell Nia I love her she often replies with ‘I love you more, Daddy’,” smiles Adam. “She is so funny, a real pleasure to be around, and she genuinely makes me laugh out loud with her jokes and silly dances. I wouldn’t change my life for anything!”