I would like to periodically post the stories and testimonies of ladies who have been through a postpartum mood disorder. The goal is for you to see hope by reading of another’s journey and how she and her family walked out of the valley. First is Shannon whose blog is “Focused on the Center: Living Life with See Saw Faith.” In her story, you will read about how well her church family loved, prayed for and supported her through her second pregnancy and bout of ppd. In addition, her husband’s observance and quick action and love and support are incredible. -Tara
It’s hard to look at your child and try to wish them out of existence.
Even while it’s happening, you know it’s wrong. You know there is something very very wrong, but you can’t see clearly enough to understand what it is, where it’s coming from, and how to get past it. It just is there. Something. The only thing you can really understand that has changed is that new little baby, so it must have something to do with them in your life.
My husband and I had been married a little over two years when our son was born. We had a normal pregnancy and delivery, and we were as prepared as first time parents could be. I was fine bringing him home and I loved him, although I wasn’t overly excited or even connected. I just thought I was really tired. My Mom arrived from out of state about a week after we brought him home. She was so very excited about him so I let her “take over” her grandson, feeding, caring for and such. My husband did his part and immediately bonded with him and loved his time home, but soon he had to return to work.
I had not really had any interaction with our baby for about a week. I would look at him sometimes, but other than that, I didn’t want to be around him. I was starting to see how he was going to interfere with my life, take my freedom and create so much work for me. The more I could let my mom or husband take care of him, the better. My mom was only supposed to stay about a week or two, but she could see that I was not adjusting well, so she just left her return home open.
I spent a lot of time crying, not eating, not sleeping at night but sleeping a lot during the day, not talking and trying to find any time alone that I could. I think my mom and husband were trying to figure out if this was normal or had gone past that to something else.
The day my husband figured out what was going on, my mom had left me with our son to go to the store (a 15 minute trip at best as the store is just down the street from us) and as soon as I saw the car turn the corner, I started crying. Sobbing might be a better word. I was absolutely terrified that I would have to touch our son before she got back. I didn’t want to hurt him, I just couldn’t stand the thought of touching him. I called my husband to tell him how horrible my mother was for leaving me with him and how I hated our baby. He immediately asked me where our son was. I told him he was sleeping in his pumpkin seat. He told me to hang up, walk in the other room and call my doctor. That was the first time he had acknowledged out loud to me that he was concerned about my behavior, although he had been concerned for quite awhile. He told me to tell them I was not doing well and that he thought I needed medicine. While I called, he was on his way over to their office to pick it up (my doctor was located in a city about 40 minutes away). Luckily, I had the best medical staff ever. As soon as I heard the nurse’s voice I started sobbing so hard I could hardly talk. She spent several minutes just calming me down enough to understand what I needed. I know my husband was concerned about me because from the day I met him to this day, I have never seen him make that drive so quickly. He had the prescription filled and was home within an hour.
I started taking the medicine faithfully, and within a few weeks my mom felt OK to return home. She gradually weened me INTO caring for my son. Assigning me tasks while she “had to” do something else. To this day, I am a little unsure as to how long she was here. It felt like a week but I know it was longer. Somewhere around Kevin’s three month checkup, I really started to connect with him. I started to really see how amazing he was. Through it all it was just me and my husband and my mom. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it was on them, taking care of both of us. My husband and I didn’t have a support system and so we muddled through as best we could. I spent a lot of years and a lot of time feeling extremely guilty and shameful over the thoughts and feelings I had during that time. Even after I learned what postpartum depression was, I still felt like I should have been able to control it better. I made a promise to myself that I would never have another baby. There was no way that I could put myself, my family or another innocent baby through that.
Fast forward to just four years ago. During a very turbulent period in our marriage, while dealing with the long-term and finally terminal, battle with cancer that my mom went through, I actually made my way to Jesus and became a fully committed Christian. I had not been in church since I was about twelve, and didn’t really know what to expect. I was so blessed to find a church that instantly became my family. To this day I have treasured friendships with people that I met on my first visit to Sunday morning service.
It was a very difficult two years as my husband and I worked through our marriage problems, parenting issues and just learning what it means to follow Christ. We had fully committed to doing everything we needed to in order to heal our lives and serve God. During this two year period, I finally acknowledged and dealt with the emotional damage I had done to myself over those months of depression following our son’s birth. I was finally able to let go of the shame and guilt and allow myself to heal.
Strangely enough, it was only a few months later that I became pregnant. From the very beginning I could tell that this pregnancy was different. I immediately called my closest friend and told her what I had gone through the last time and asked her to pray for me. I then confided to a couple of other women what had happened and asked for their support as well. I can tell you with 100% confidence that I was covered with prayer for the entire duration of my pregnancy, specifically for protection from another bout of postpartum depression.
During my pregnancy, I was so excited and awed by every little nudge, wiggle and hiccup. About 14 weeks into the pregnancy we had a possible adverse diagnosis and spent a few weeks in limbo waiting for more testing. All during that time I prayed Psalm 139 over my baby, knowing that God would make him or her perfect, exactly as he intended. Our second round of testing came back clear, also with the knowledge that we would be having a girl. I could have reached out and touched the moon I was so excited.
The rest of my pregnancy was picture perfect and my delivery was quick and with only a little excitement (meconium in the amniotic fluid required a little extra monitoring and a little wait from the time she was born until I got to hold her). There are no words to explain how I was feeling, only that my heart would have burst if God didn’t allow for all that love to make it grow.
Within about two weeks it was obvious that I did not escape the PPD monster. It was just a completely different monster. I was absolutely terrified that something would happen to her. Any time I got quiet and especially when SHE got quiet, I would start to have these movies run through my head of all the ways I could lose her, how she could get hurt, get lost, be abused; you name it, it went through my head. I spent a lot of time praying protection over her. Each day I would receive emails, texts and phone calls, wanting updates on how I was, what I needed and what I was struggling with. I had offers of help with housework, meals delivered to my home, hands to hold mine and to hold my precious angel, and prayers by the hundreds. My husband was a complete rock (with his own support system in place that I will be FOREVER grateful for), and my daughter was born with her brother wrapped around her little finger. He has designated himself her personal bodyguard, entertainment center and transportation unit. Because of the prayers and support, I never descended to the darkest places I went the first time, I just tip-toed along, trying to keep my daughter safe from all that I imagined, and trying to keep myself connected to my normal life. I will admit that I didn’t tell my friends exactly how bad it could get when I was alone, so maybe I allowed a bigger foothold to postpartum depression in my life than I otherwise would have.
After about four months, although somewhat better, I decided to fill my prescription for medication. I felt like I was admitting that God wasn’t big enough to handle this, but I just really wanted the images and fears to stop. After only about a month on the medication, I decided to withdraw and face this on my own. It wasn’t working very well, and we would have had to start the dosage guessing game. I have to stress that medication is absolutely the best course for many women and it can literally be life-saving. I never made a decision without my doctor’s approval and I encourage every woman struggling with postpartum depression to do the same. As you saw earlier, I used medication during my first bout of PPD and it was exactly what I needed.
So what finally worked?
I have a friend who has this chair that I go to when I need some boosting up. She is the administrator of our church so luckily I can go there pretty much whenever I need her. I sit in it and she speaks truth to me and loves me. I told her where I was at, and what I was still dealing with, and she gave me one of those things that, in hindsight, I should have just known, but at the time I couldn’t see it. She and I talked about how Satan will attack us through our thoughts and feelings, turning them against us. Although I had spent time in the Bible with other friends, and received scripture references about perseverance and faith and joy, they didn’t help me attack my problem, just sooth over the aftermath. This day, this friend put the best weapon in my hand to fight postpartum depression that I had ever found, at least for me. She lead me to Philippians 4:8.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
She helped me to see that I was not basing my thoughts in the love and truth of Christ. This verse became my thermometer. Is what I am thinking true? Is it lovely? Is it excellent? Is it praiseworthy? Those are the thoughts of the Holy Spirit. Or, is what I am thinking full of sadness and fear? I literally would shout this verse out when I would start to have “those” thoughts. It truly became the sword of the Spirit in my life, helping me attack and defeat the thoughts that tried to overwhelm me.
It was not a magic pill of healing from postpartum depression. I still had to fight my way past and through several more months of thoughts and fears, but now I knew how to fight it. I had a lifeline that told me the truth, and helped me to find my way.
There is no way to count or measure the time that my church family spent in prayer, support and service to me and my family. Even in the darkest moments, I still never felt the hopelessness of the first time, or the loneliness of feeling like we were the only ones fighting this. Most importantly, because of the response and care of my church family, I never had to deal with the guilt and shame I did the first time.
Postpartum depression is very real and can vastly affect and effect the lives of many people, not just the woman experiencing it. I am always willing to share my story, hoping that through my testimony, I can help others to see that this is something that should be shared, not hidden. The more we support those who are struggling through this, the faster healing can take place. By accepting and actively supporting women struggling with postpartum depression, we can fight back against the feelings of shame, guilt and faultiness that are so often associated with this form of depression.
Thank you, Shannon, so much for sharing your story and testimony.
If you are a survivor of a postpartum mood disorder and wish to share your story and testimony with other women, please feel to contact me at tara (at) outofthevalley (dot) org.
Care for Others, Encouragement, Survivor Stories