DEAR CAROLYN: My girlfriend and I had a baby about seven months ago. My girlfriend was a stay-at-home mom-and I work long hours, so I know I wasn't much help, but I did notice she was struggling with motherhood — unhappy, distracted, seemed irritated when I paid attention to the baby. She even seemed irritated when I said how smart or beautiful our daughter is. I thought she had postpartum depression and asked her several times if she needed to talk to her doctor or if she needed some time for herself. Every time I brought it up, she'd get angry and say she just needed time with me to herself. So I arranged for some date nights and she perked up while we were out, but went back to being angry and disgusted when we got home and I was so excited to see our daughter. Last week my girlfriend told me this was all a huge mistake, she's not cut out to be a mom, and then she moved out. Since then I've been running around finding a nanny, dealing with my job and talking to lawyers. My plan was to let my girlfriend terminate her parental rights and start her life over like she wants to. I think our daughter will be better off without a reluctant, angry mom in her life. My sister is telling me I'm making a huge mistake, that I need to slow my roll and get my girlfriend some help, since the root of her behavior is so obviously postpartum depression. Even if she's right, what more can I do? I feel like letting my girlfriend drift in and out of our daughter's life would be disastrous, and I can't make her get help if she refuses. Am I wrong to just want her gone and this whole mess over with?
ANONYMOUS: That's terrible, I'm sorry.
If there's a way to "slow my roll," then please do. I agree with your sister that postpartum would explain your girlfriend's emotional state.
I also agree with you, though, that you can't make anyone get help who doesn't want it.
The path you're looking for is the one that's best for your daughter. A mom who drifts in and out of her life, that's a no, you're right; a mom who's angry and resentful, also a no. Those are easy calls. But a mom who realizes she was sick, gets treatment, gets well and wants to share in the upbringing of her child? That's someone you can't dismiss as a "mess" to get "over with." That's a human whose frailties need to be understood and forgiven, as you would hope your own frailties to be. And that's a mom for your child, even if you're no longer a couple.
So that would be the point of slowing down, to give your girlfriend some time to realize she needs help and some room to get it.
You are rallying for your daughter under heartbreaking circumstances, an act of everyday heroism. I am not questioning that.
I am saying only not to rush to make anything permanent that doesn't need to be. Consulting with a therapist, solo — since presumably your girlfriend won't come — would bring some balance to the lawyers on your professional team.