If you are a regular reader here, I usually serve up encouragement for your Christian walk. Today, I feel led to share my story about postpartum depression which may not interest you. Next week’s post will be more like you expect. If you know me and Noah beyond this blog, I pray that reading this does not impact your relationship with us.
If you’re not a regular reader, I’m glad you’re here. I believe you found this post for a reason.
Overcoming postpartum depression is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. If you think you may be experiencing postpartum depression, know that you are not alone and there is help available. God has not turned His back on you and He is holding your hand through it. There is victory on the other side. You will beat this in Jesus’ name.
How It Started
It started for me while we were still in the hospital. Noah was crying, wanting to be fed. Despite the pain from my c-section, I walked out to the nurses area holding back tears. “He’s crying and I just can’t feed him,” I said. They helpfully sent the lactation consultant to help me with breastfeeding which actually wasn’t the issue. The real issue was that I didn’t love my baby. He didn’t feel mine.
The real issue was that I didn’t love my baby. He didn’t feel mine.
When we came home, It was the perfect storm really. My husband was working nights. I was sleep-deprived and weary, like new mamas are. And me and Noah were often alone.
I prayed desperately. I wanted God’s help, but I didn’t really feel Him near. And I felt guilty. After all, God had just blessed me with a beautiful healthy boy and all I could do was cry.
One day a couple of friends came over to visit. As they were beginning to leave, the husband asked how I was doing. Specifically he said something like, “Do you think you have any postpartum depression?” My tears welled up as I said yes. His wife shared her story with me and gave me encouragement.
That’s what I want this post to do for you.
How It Feels
From what I’ve read every woman with postpartum depression experiences it differently. Some women have suicidal or homicidal thoughts. I’m thankful that wasn’t the case for me.
If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It is a free, 24-hour hotline, at 1.800.273.TALK (8255). Your call will be connected to the crisis center nearest to you.
For me, my most significant symptom was crushing sadness. I call it the black hole. I cried a lot, sometimes uncontrollably. Sometimes I cried and begged my husband not to go to work. Other times, I was able to hold it back until he left.
I didn’t feel like I was supposed to. I had a strong awareness of that. Everyone was happy for me and gushing over my sweet boy. And I just felt numb. Like darkness had swallowed me up.
Life felt hopeless. There was nothing to look forward to except another day of darkness.
Home was the epicenter of the sadness. So sometimes I would put Noah in the car seat and just drive around. But other times the anxiety would cripple me and I was too fearful to leave the house. Most days it felt like too much to be around people anyway.
Everything felt too much.
If any of this sounds familiar to you, take this screening test.
I had a checkup scheduled with my OB soon, so I purposed that I would talk to her about my feelings. During the appointment, she asked if I was having any issues. I sobbed and squeaked out, “I’m just really sad. Something’s not right.” She gently said, “We’re gonna get you some help, sweetie.”
My doctor asked me a series of questions (very similar to the screener above). In spite of my guilt and shame, I answered honestly.
She prescribed the anti-depressant that was the safest for breastfeeding. She made other recommendations too, like getting outside, exercising, eating healthy, and counseling.
I’ve heard it said that Christian women should just pray their way out of depression. I believe that’s a lie from the devil designed to keep us in the shadows of shame. Within three weeks of beginning treatment, I felt more like myself and bonded deeply with Noah. I was able to be around people again and even braved going back to church.
I continued to fight postpartum depression for 18 months. Like many others, I experienced anxiety along with it. Medicine does help, but I also had to cling to God and force myself to keep trudging through.
Effects on Others
My depression was very isolating. It changed my personality completely. I went from a goal-oriented, optimistic, bubbly wife to an overwhelmed, sobbing, fearful mama. My husband couldn’t understand and I don’t blame him for that. He was figuring out how to be a dad and at the same time watching his wife slip away.
We grew distant. I didn’t trust him with my heart or my struggle.
I hurt my friends too. I tried to put on a happy face and push through, because I didn’t believe anyone would understand. I began declining invitations or canceling at the last moment when the act was too much to keep up. Essentially, I withdrew from those who could have supported me.
Clinging to God
As a Christian, you have access to God’s power and comfort; don’t push Him away. Surround yourself with praise music. Recite His promises from the Bible. Cling to His truth. He loves you and He is near to the brokenhearted, even if your heart doesn’t feel like it. He is holding your hand through all of this and He will give you the next bit of strength you need.
This is an excerpt from my journal at the time:
“I’m praying for God’s strength just to change the next dirty diaper, just to prepare the next meal, just to brush my teeth before bed. Everything is such a challenge. I long for life to be easy and natural. I force myself to get through just the next task. One thing at a time- what is the very next thing I need to do?
‘God is near to the broken-hearted,’ I remind myself. He says ‘Come to me all who are heavy-laden.’ He wants to rescue me and help me and take hold of my right hand.
Father, I’m holding on to your hand. I don’t understand this journey. I don’t understand why you partnered my beautiful blue-eyed, giggling, holder of my heart with this dark cloud of depression. I’ll never understand this nauseating rollercoaster of emotions- love so great my heart could burst followed by a deep well of empty sadness. I may never know what glory you brought to yourself through this. But I’m here. I’m coming to you for help. And I trust You to get me through it.”
If you’re struggling now, let this song speak deep to your soul:
You’re Gonna Be Okay
You’ll be even more than okay. You’re gonna be great! Life will eventually be fun again and you will enjoy your child. You’re going to come out on the other side stronger. Your faith will have grown and you’ll have a story of God’s faithfulness to use to help others. Believe me.
What Can I Do?
If you’re fighting this now, hold fast to God’s word. Seek professional help through medicine and/or counseling. Reach out to your friends. I’d love to be a friend that walks with you through this. Know that having PPD means you are likely to continue having bouts of depression; be aware of this fact but not afraid of it. God will get you through this season of depression and the next one too.
If you have survived this, share your story. Keep an eye out on new mamas you know. Pray for them and ask them plainly how they are doing emotionally.
If postpartum depression has never touched your life, be thankful. Be a safe place for new mamas to be real. Not everyone is joyful after they have a baby, even if they really want to be. You may be the one that breaks through their darkness.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
To my precious Noah,
One day you will know this story. I pray this story doesn’t cause you to question my love for you. Indeed, it was my fierce love for you that carried me through the darkest days. I did things for you that I never would have done for myself. You are a beloved gift from God, born to do great things for His kingdom.
Has depression ever impacted you or someone you love? Do you have any advice or encouragement to share? Leave a comment to share your story.