My husband and I welcomed our beautiful baby girl into the world last spring. Contrary to what I expected, it was not all pink bows and love-at-first sight. In fact the summer of 2011 was the worst three months of my life.
As it turns out, I had postpartum depression (PPD) and anxiety. Apparently, PPD manifests itself differently in women. My version of PPD led me to heightened levels of stress and worry. Every morning I would wake up nauseous with doubt and anxiety, not knowing whether I could make it through the day. I was afraid to be alone with her at home in case she cried and I couldn’t stop it. I was afraid to nurse her alone at night because I felt as though the lonely silence would swallow me whole. During the first few weeks, I remember googling the terms “motherhood” and “awful” to see if there were any others out there feeling the way I did.
I felt especially guilty because I was preventing everyone around me – especially my poor husband – from enjoying this special time in Abigail’s life. I would see ladies at church and tell them how hard it was. Some would give me puzzled looks because of my utter lack of joy. Some would tell me to just wait out the baby blues.
I would often ask myself how and why this happened to me? I’m a pretty capable girl who gets things done with hard work and determination. I went to b-school. I was swiftly climbing the corporate ladder. And now I had set my mind on being mother earth incarnate, on breastfeeding, and on raising a happy little genius. How hard could it be?
Initially, I refused to believe that I couldn’t just power through this temporary set back using the strength of my own mind or my lifelong walk with God. But after weeks of unexplained tears and spiraling emotions, I acknowledged that I needed help. I overcame the cultural taboo, found myself a therapist, and went on antidepressants. I’m not ashamed for needing psychiatric help. I took the meds; I finished the course, and I am stronger for it.
“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Gal 6:14)
My lessons from this experience aren’t particularly earth shattering. In hindsight, I now know that I needed to endure this trial in order to rein in my need for control, and bring to light my lack of faith. I suppose God needed a vehicle to get through my exceptionally thick, stubborn head. I needed to be broken down until I could be broken no more, in order to learn that I can only do all things through Him who strengthens me. I needed to learn that every ounce of strength, every accomplishment, every good and perfect thing comes from above, and not from myself.
I also learned that the best and only way to harness the good gifts from above are to rely on Him and to pray to Him more. Not just a couple times of day more, but every moment more. It sounds like a very basic concept that one would think a lifelong believer like me would have already learned. It’s almost as if He was using this opportunity to cultivate a “prayer reflex” in me. I need to seek God’s guidance and peace through prayer every second of every moment of every day.
Last week a fellow contributor wrote a post titled “Enjoying the Difference Seasons in Life”. She reminds us to “embrace each season, both the bitter and sweet, and know that God has already written each of our stories as we walk through these seasons.” While this hasn’t been an easy season for me, I’m filled with gratitude for it. I’m grateful for a God who was willing to condescend down to me and offer me hope in darkness. I’m grateful for a family who endured through months of instability and supported and loved me nonetheless. I’m thankful for friends whose love pushed me out of the fog. Finally, I’m thankful for the beautiful little girl that God has given to me to take care of, and for the assurance that the best thing I can do for her is to lay her down at His feet.