Rewriting My Postpartum Journey

This was not Quentin. This was not Elena. This was a new little one. God is gracious and loving. He does not give us more than we can handle without His help. They reminded me again and again that I needed to let go of my fears, of my past, and trust that God would rewrite my post partum story. 

Sometimes life goes as planned and other times it takes us down an unexpected path. The night I gave the devotional I shared in my last blog post, I began to have an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. Something was off. My period was late. It was really late!

The next morning my suspicions were verified. I was pregnant! For the first time in my life, I wasn’t immediately thrilled by the news. Less than 2 months before I had pulled out of 6 months of post partum depression, insomnia, and panic attacks. My sleep was still fragile. I had so many things I wanted to do in the months ahead–foremost among them building a relationship with the darling baby girl I’d given birth to just 9 months before.

I know for many the first few months after having a baby are a special time–hard, but special. For me, the first 6-12 months have always been terrible. I longed to bond with my babies, to have special memories of snuggles and soft cheeks. But I never could.

And now I was facing it again–way before I was ready. Way before I could handle it. The memories were just too raw. The pain was still fresh.

But God doesn’t call us to easy tasks. Remember Mary? She was asked to accept the scorn of becoming pregnant out of wedlock, of raising the Son of God, of watching him suffer and die. And she said, “Be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38).

I wish I accepted the news with her attitude. But I struggled. I struggled through the fatigue of pregnancy and the move to a new state and ministry. I struggled through the decisions facing us. How would we cope? What would we try? What if nothing worked? We’d tried so many things the previous two times, and though many things helped a little, nothing helped completely.

The night before Colin was born, my midwives (two wonderful Christian women) counseled me through my fears again. This was not Quentin. This was not Elena. This was a new little one. God is gracious and loving. He does not give us more than we can handle without His help. They reminded me again and again that I needed to let go of my fears, of my past, and trust that God would rewrite my post partum story.

And then the birth was over, and they handed me Colin Josiah. (Colin means “Victory of the people” and Josiah means “The Lord supports.”) And we bonded. I mean we bonded instantly. Do you know how amazing that was? I love my other two with my whole heart, but we never bonded instantly. It took a long time. But here I was bonding instantly with this little fighter who changed all my plans before, during, and after his pregnancy.

I’m three weeks post partum now. Things could change. I realize that. I’m at risk for the next 12 months. I have no illusions about what I may go through. But I’m not afraid any more. I’ve seen God’s faithfulness through a surprise pregnancy, a cross-country move, 10 weeks of preterm labor, a crazy birth that didn’t go at all as planned, and through the moments and days afterwards.

Having a newborn–and an 18-month old and a 4-year-old–isn’t easy, but I’m healing, I’m sleeping (when I can!), and we are making good memories as a family. We made some difficult decisions to reach this point, but I now know with certainty that we made the right decisions. There are no regrets because God has given the peace that comes when we follow His will for our lives.

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Continue reading “Rewriting My Postpartum Journey”

Staying Above Water During PPD (Or Any Other Rough Time)

During the worst of it, it took everything I had to get out of bed. Even feeding my baby seemed overwhelming. I wasn’t sleeping. I couldn’t eat. High levels of anxiety and random panic attacks stalked me throughout the day. And it went on and on. I would panic thinking how could I possibly make it through one more day, let alone one more week, absolutely not one more month. I did. I survived, not once, but twice. Not everyone does.

There is more than one way to get through Post Partum Depression–or any other hard time in one’s life. But there is no magic, immediate answer, just a lot of little, gradual fixes.

I was desperate for a quick fix. But they doesn’t exist for things like depression.

So I was forced to immplement a lot of little fixes. Some of them worked better than others. Some of them may well have been placebos, but they all helped. Maybe some of them will help you:

Do one thing for yourself each day. I know this sounds crazy, especially if you can barely get out of bed, but you need to do this. Even if you don’t feel like doing it, do it anyway. You have to push yourself. Walk around the yard 1 time, smell a flower, listen to a favorite song, read a page in a book, watch a movie, something! Seriously, sometimes walking outside seemed too much, but I was always glad I made the effort. It did help.

Dress better than you feel. Don’t give in to the urge to stay in your pj’s and forget the hairbrush. Force yourself to do more. Some days I succeeded better than others. Some days jeans, a shirt,  and a ponytail was a huge effort. At least I was dressed and my hair was brushed. Looking terrible only makes you feel worse! Some days I could add some mascara. Some days not. But I always pushed myself. It was worth it!

Do one household chore a day. If you are a task-focused person like me, sitting around unable to clean my house or care for my family only added to the feelings of failure and depression. At the same time, doing all those things was unthinkable! I made it my goal to do one thing a day. Sometimes that meant folding a load of laundry. Other days it meant putting a few dishes in the dishwasher. It was hard. It was overwhelming, but I felt better afterwards. Eventually I was able to do more. I started helping my husband make dinner. I added another item or two to my to-do list. I started making dinner by myself. I got out the cloth diapers again. The progress was slow, but I felt like less of a failure when I actually accomplished something–anything. After all, I’m supposed to be a mom, right? I’m supposed to care for my family.

Find friends/family to listen to you. You need someone to listen. Some days you just need a shoulder to cry on. Be careful, though. You don’t need criticism, to feel judged, or to have someone try to “fix” you. Find safe people who will listen, encourage, and care. I’m so grateful my mom made me a priority during that time. She has 6 kids, works part-time, and home schools my youngest sister. She is one busy lady. But she would answer my calls or texts any time of the day or night. It meant so much to me! Several other friends were also so helpful and encouraging. I couldn’t have made it through without them. It can also be helpful to find a good Christian counselor to talk to.

Hopefully you have a spouse who is caring and supportive. My husband literally put his life on hold to care for the kids, make meals, listen to me cry, and remind me over and over again that I was not a failure. Jonathan gets up at 2:45 in the morning to go to work, but during that time he regularly stayed up praying with me or caring for  Elena so I could try to sleep. If you don’t have a husband who can do that, find a friend or family member to come stay with you. You need that 24/7 support.

Spend time in God’s Word. This is a big struggle for me. I think it is a struggle for most moms of little children. I was so thrilled to discover swtblessings.com. She puts together daily Scripture passages for her readers to copy out. (That first month just happened to be on anxiety and fear.) I started doing Scripture writing before going to bed each night. Then I would meditate on that passage/verse while I tried to fall asleep. I also began to journal a sentence or two at the end of each Scripture writing–just how I was doing and any ways I had seen God working that day. And we prayed, and prayed, and prayed!

There are many other great strategies you can try. If you can find a medication that works for you, it can be very helpful. But most antidepressants take 2-4 weeks to take effect, so they aren’t an immediate fix.  Also, if you are breastfeeding, that makes taking prescription and over-the-counter medications more difficult. Hormonal supplements, especially bioidentical Progesterone, help some women. So does taking a magnesium supplement. I started drinking a cup of tea every night–first chamomile and later catnip. (I know it sounds weird, but it tastes like mint, and it actually acts as a sedative for humans.) I don’t know how much the tea helped my insomnia, but at least it was relaxing and enjoyable. My mom also bought me a diffuser. Certain essential oils, such as lavender and orange, help improve one’s mood. Exercise is huge, too. We began taking daily walks together as a family after supper. I noticed it did temporarily improve my mood–as I said, there is no magic cure, just a lot of little ones.

Recognize there is no magic cure, but anything that helps even a little is worth it. Find what works for you. The little things add up.

I hope this list is helpful to anyone who is going through PPD or knows someone who is. Actually, I’ve permanently implemented many of these strategies in my home. They help even when I’m not struggling with Post Partum Depression. After all, everyone has bad days now and then!