I Will Trust in You: A Story of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety
"Humility is the mother of giants. One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak." GK Chesterton
Two weeks ago we celebrated my now one year old's 1st birthday. I remember when my oldest daughter, Alexandria, was a baby people told me how fast time would go when you had children. I didn't believe it, but now it seems like I blinked and I have a 5 year old little girl and a one year old little boy.
When I was pregnant with Leo I had so many worries. I thought I was going to lose him (as I did his older sister, Ezraela, at 18 weeks pregnant) and once we got past the halfway mark, I thought there was going to be something wrong with his appearance or development. I did not have to wait the full 40 weeks because he roared like a lion onto the planet three weeks early and was born on June 20, 2015. And he was perfect. Ten little fingers, ten little toes, beautiful skin and a perfectly shaped head (only because he was delivered c-section). Nurses were telling other nurses they had to come and check out this dashingly handsome baby.
Perfect, that is, until he failed his hearing test twice while in the hospital and once we got home I started having a great deal of pain while breastfeeding. That was when it all began. Over the course of several weeks we were diagnosed with a lip and tongue tie (which we had clipped, but not far enough by an ENT and had to later have it lasered by a dentist), thrush (which we ended up having twice), a circumcision that didn't take and for lack of a better term - a pee hole that was too small. Not to mention the multiple hearing tests that we had to endure post discharge. If I wasn't at the doctor's office, I was on the phone with one either making appointments or paying bills or on the phone the insurance company trying to get a clear answer on what was covered under our plan. I was doing all of this while trying to care for a newborn and my then four year old daughter.
While I was thankful that all of the things that were wrong with Leo were minor and that I was not worrying for his life, it was still a lot to take on after just giving birth to a baby via c-section. I found myself getting panicked in situations that would have normally not phased me. My entire life I have dealt with anxiety, but the anxiety I was feeling postpartum was at a new high. There were times when my heart was beating so rapidly I felt like I was having chest pains. I also wasn't able to get back to sleep at night after Leo's feedings because I was so worried about what was going to happen next with him.
It wasn't until my lactation consultant came to see me one final time after I was concerned Leo's mouth wasn't healing correctly that she told me, "You are dealing with postpartum anxiety." She went on to tell me postpartum anxiety is not really talked about in the medical community, but is something that a lot of new moms deal with as much as postpartum depression. She also told me that I could definitely be on an anti-depressant while was breastfeeding (she was abhorred by the fact that Alexandria's pediatrician told me when she was a baby that I could not) and that I should talk to my doctor about it.
Fortunately I had already been seeing a therapist my entire pregnancy, so this newfound anxiety was something I began to discuss with her.
But it wasn't like there was a band aid stuck on it and it magically went away.
When my cycles started at when Leo was five months old, my body entered into a new level of PMS. I had never had a lot of issues with PMS mood swings before, but this time they were mood swings of epic proportion. And then there was great depression. I was a stay at home mom with no grandparents in town, so I had no choice but to go through the motions that I needed to go through to get my kids through the day. I didn't have any joy in my new child and had little patience for my oldest.
Leo was supposed to be my perfect rainbow baby. The baby who I had looked forward to with so much excitement and anticipation. Instead, he just constantly reminded me of my struggle and pain.
The days that followed were very dark. I felt extremely isolated and alone.
It was hard to explain to anyone how I felt. How the anxiety and depression felt like chemicals surging through my body. And even though I know that is exactly what it was, I couldn't help but feel responsible. Like I wasn't doing something right. Like I was bringing all of this on myself. Some would say that I wasn't having enough faith. That I wasn't trusting God enough. That Jesus could heal me if I would only let him. But when I was going through my worst bout I was closer to God than I had ever been. I was reading my Bible every day and praying. I was leaning heavily on him and his promises, but the anxiety didn't go away and the depression lingered. Like he told the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9, after Paul begged that God take the thorn out of his flesh, "My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness."
My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness
It was then I realized that I needed to let go of the perfect picture I had in my mind of what Leo's first year would look like. I needed to extend myself extra grace, because I was doing the best I could. That I needed to be honest with the friends in my circle that I truly trusted when I was having down days. I also needed to explain to my daughter that it had nothing to do with her. That her mama loved her so very much. I never wanted her to look back on these days and think it was her fault.
Things didn't get better from there. They actually got much worse. Each month I was plunged into a sea of darkness as my body tried to figure out what to do with all of the hormones. Quite frankly, it was doing a pretty crappy job.
The worst day was in the spring. I had a few things happen that induced my anxiety and then I ended up crying myself to sleep that night. I was only able to get out of bed to tend to Leo, but went straight back to bed only to return to my tears while Alexandria watched PBS Kids. I knew I needed help. I sent out two S.O.S. calls to friends who would know exactly what I needed. I called my mom to talk through some of my issues. One friend came over that afternoon to help with Alexandria and Leo just so I could take a nap. I ended up making lunch for her and we played a game, which was very therapeutic. I did get that nap too. The next day I met with my other friend for lunch and we had some mom therapy time. Because of these lifelines I was able to push through the dark and begin to see some light.
|Pictures from a duathlon I competed in recently.|
|The story these pictures don't tell|
|Is I wasn't feeling any joy or accomplishment when I finished my race. I just felt empty.|
It wasn't too long after that I was driving in my car with the kids and I heard a song on the radio.
I lay each one down at Your feet
Every moment of my wondering
Never changes what You see
I've tried to win this war I confess
My hands are weary I need Your rest
Mighty Warrior King of the fight
No matter what I face You're by my side
Truth is You know what tomorrow brings
There's not a day ahead You have not seen
So in all things be my life and breath
I want what You want Lord and nothing less
When You don't move the mountains
I'm needing You to move
When You don't part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When You don't give the answers
As I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust
I will trust in You
I will trust in You
You are my strength and comfort
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation
The Rock on which I stand
Your ways are always higher
Your plans are always good
There's not a place where I'll go
You've not already stood
I wish I could say that after a year I was no longer dealing with anxiety and depression. The anxiety has definitely gotten a lot better, but I still have some very dark days. In fact, even as I write this I recall the bout I have dealt with the past two weeks. But each day I am finding that God's grace is sufficient. One day last week I heard the song again on the radio and even though I've heard it one hundred times before, the last line jumped out at me:
There's not a place where I'll go,You've not already stood.
I immediately remembered Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane praying right before Judas betrayed him. Right before he died on the cross. He asked God to take this cup away from him. And then he said, "Not my will but yours be done." (Luke 22:42) Jesus was arrested. Given an unfair trial. Beaten. Flogged. Whipped. Humiliated. Spit on. Yelled at. Betrayed. And crucified.
The amazing thing about God is he completely understands our losses and our pain. He understands our sickness and our diseases. He understands death and suffering. He did it with us. He was right there. And it was all for us.
So in my saddest days, even though it is so hard, I try to remember to trust in him. The days where I feel no joy. Where laughter doesn't touch my eyes. I try to remember to cling to him. I remind myself that I am not a failure because I have been dealt this medical condition (yes, depression and anxiety are medical conditions). That one day (even if it's not until Jesus returns and renews our bodies) I will feel genuine joy again. That I will have peace again. And until then, I will pray daily with king David, "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me...Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." And rest in the knowing that God is standing there right beside me, weeping with me, hugging me, encouraging me to press on.
**Please note if you are suffering from postpartum depression or anxiety please seek help. There are so many resources and support systems out there for new moms. Know it is not your fault. That you didn't do anything to bring this upon yourself. More moms than we know face it and they do not have to face it alone.
***Please also note if you have differing views on mental health, aside from them being a medical illness, please refrain from commenting. Comments like this will be deleted. This blog is created to be a safe place. If you would like to talk to someone who has the professional training to explain to you why this is a medical issue, please let me know. I have several friends in the therapy field who would be more than happy to discuss it with you. Thank you.