It was two weeks after welcoming our sweet baby into the world that I began crying out of the blue while snuggling him all curled up on my chest. I thought maybe I had a touch of baby blues and blamed it on all the hormone changes and being overtired. But then it intensified over the coming days. I felt nauseous, tearful, and like I had been given the very worst news possible day after day. Like that gut-wrenching, stomach-dropping sadness you feel when you find out a loved one has passed away. I kept asking myself what was wrong with me. How could I feel so sad and anxiety-ridden but so simultaneously thankful for the precious gift of our sweet baby? Welcoming a new life into the world should be the happiest time, so why could I also feel so overwhelmed? My husband and I had prayed for our baby, and God heard our prayers and entrusted to us the gift of a perfect, healthy boy. So, I started to question if it was a problem with my relationship with God that was to blame for my sadness. He gave us what we asked for, so why was I struggling? I recounted all those Bible verses on anxiety – "be anxious for nothing," "do not fear," "the peace of God which transcends all understanding..." and so on and so forth. It was embarrassing to me that I could not embody those things that I read in the Word even though I wanted to with all my might. Maybe if I trusted God more, prayed more, or was a better woman of God, I wouldn't feel so sad. Being a nurse, I have an appreciation for mental health and society's stigma of it but I never expected to have such a personal experience with it - especially just after giving birth to our perfect, healthy baby. I was so absolutely in love with him, but also felt incredible and inexplicable sadness that would sneak up like a thief in the night. I knew postpartum depression existed but never thought it would happen to me. Nobody really talks about it, so it probably doesn't happen much, right? And it especially shouldn't happen to a Christian woman, who should have the peace of God on her side. My husband, who is incredibly perceptive and in-tune with my feelings, asked how I was feeling a few weeks postpartum. "Really blue," I told him. And then the tears just wouldn't stop. I felt embarrassed, ashamed, and guilty. And really, really sad. My husband held me and cried with me. He told me his heart broke for me. And most importantly, he helped me to understand that it wasn't anything I did or didn't do – these feelings were not my fault. My baby nor I were ever unsafe, but I did recognize that I could use some help. This was terribly hard to admit because I felt embarrassed and ashamed. I wanted to be good at motherhood and I felt like I was already failing. My husband (bless his heart) gradually helped me see it as a sign of strength that I sought help and something I should be proud of, rather than embarrassed. Throughout my pregnancy, postpartum depression was never mentioned once. There was talk of breastfeeding, newborn care, safe sleep, and labor – but never postpartum depression. I received resources upon resources for lactation services, birth plans, and pain options – but never postpartum depression. At one postpartum follow-up appointment, I was once even asked "so you're not feeling depressed, right?" It made me feel guilty that actually yes, I was. There was a time that I thought I would never be able to crawl out of that dark hole. I wondered if God was actually hearing my cries. Were my pleas for healing falling on deaf ears? Since meeting with my midwife, starting therapy, adjusting my sleep schedule, and support from my incredible husband and family, I have finally started to feel like myself again. With time, I felt the anxiety in my heart slowly loosening its grip and dissolving into the joy and peace that can only come from knowing Jesus. I am thankful for a God who hears us, loves us, and carries us through both the peaks and the valleys of life. Looking back, I am even grateful for that season because I learned to cling to God so fiercely in a way that I never have before. I felt the truth of not being able to get through a single second of life without him in a way I never have before. I'm not really here to give advice, but I do want to give encouragement if you have or are suffering from postpartum depression, or know somebody that may be. These are the things that helped me, that I want other people to know:
- This does not define you. You are NOT a bad mom, person, or Christian because of these feelings.
- This season will not last forever.
- There is help available and you are strong for seeking it out. PLEASE ask for help.
- You do not need to be ashamed or embarrassed. Mental health stigma is real, but it truly shouldn't be.
- A practical thing that helped me during times of irrational anxiety is the acronym "CALM" by Max Lucado. C stands for celebrate God's goodness, A stands for asking God for help, L stands for leaving your concerns with him, and M stands for meditating on good things. This was a logical, practical tool that helped me refocus when my emotions were running rampant.
- God hears your prayers and sees your tears. There is comfort and joy (even in times when happiness is lacking) in walking with him.