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What He Said Mattered

Written By: Lauren Howard

He was sitting next to me in my hospital room. 

I had just had my first child, but she wasn’t with me. 

She was in the NICU, where they take babies who make their grand entrance six weeks early. 

He was in his wheelchair. I think he was excited to be there, but it was hard to tell at that point. He got sicker by the day, but there was no one that he wanted more in this world than this baby. He was not one to cover up his excitement, so his muted responses were off-putting in a way that I now only understand as foreboding. 

He was still my dad, though. He still came and stayed. He still waited with me just like he would have any time, even though his body didn’t have that much more to give.

I laid in bed to rest and probably recover from the shock of so much of this. The room was quiet except for the television that was on low. It was just us. 

Out of nowhere, he spoke up: “Some women get a transient depression after having a baby. It’s treatable. If it happens, just let me know and we’ll take care of it.”

And that was it. That’s all he said. No big deal. We’ll take care of it. It helped that he was a psychiatrist, but in that moment, he was just my dad. 

I was well-informed on the realities of postpartum depression. I knew what to look for, and I was no stranger to anxiety. It was basically my longest relationship. That said, even with the arsenal of information about what could happen, what he said mattered. 

It mattered because he didn’t want me to be scared by it.

It mattered because he was letting me know he was watching for it. 

It mattered because he wanted me to know that he wouldn’t let it happen if he saw it. 

It mattered because it was validating. These things happen no matter who you are and how good you are at motherhood. 

It mattered because he was my dad and he was preparing for bad things while celebrating good things. 

All of it mattered even though I was informed enough that he could have just let it go. 

A few weeks later I showed up at his house in tears because my baby was still in the NICU and I was exhausted and everything was terrible. 

And he just said, “Okay. We can handle this.” 

And he did. 


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