For the third time in twenty minutes, I crept into the bedroom where my tiny son was napping. I stared at him, dark lashes against soft cheeks, little rosebud lips, petite fingers curled into a fist. Was he breathing? Of course he was… but I touched his back just to make sure. Then I touched him again, giving him a little shake so that he stirred. With a sigh of relief, I left the room, but I knew I’d be back. This constant hovering was more than just new-mama jitters: it was becoming an obsession.
When the anxiety reached the point of waking baby Declan even when I was holding him, having panic attacks when I was driving and couldn’t stop to check on him, and I also started dealing with intense feelings of rage over tiny inconveniences, I came to grips with the knowledge I’d been dreading: I had postpartum depression and anxiety.
While many women give birth and recover with no issues, postpartum depression is not uncommon. It’s a hard thing to talk about, as all depression is. At least for me, there was an additional level of shame associated with PPD: I had a beautiful, perfectly healthy baby and easy physical recovery, so I “should” have felt on top of the world! Instead, I was crying every day, furious with my husband and three-year-old daughter over literally nothing, and felt like I was completely alone in a black cave.
I knew something had to change. Crying out to God for help, I fought the blackness from every angle, and with every tool at my disposal.
The root of some forms of depression is spiritual, but I don’t believe that applies to postpartum depression, which is clearly caused by hormonal imbalances. However, any form of suffering has the potential to drive us toward or away from God, and I wanted to run to Him, to find comfort in His unchanging love, and to cling to Him when everything looked impossibly difficult. There were many days that I didn’t have the mental focus to read my Bible (or, let’s be honest, the time: I had a newborn, a three-year-old, no local family, and my husband was working nights). Thankfully, we live in a time when we have more ways to access the Word than ever before, so I often listened to an audio recording of the Bible, or when I needed someone to explain it, an Alistair Begg podcast. When I couldn’t form my thoughts into prayer, I borrowed from saints of old by using prayers from The Valley of Vision. I also listened to music that turned my heart to the truth that Jesus was still King, regardless of how I was feeling. Jason Gray’s A Way to See in the Dark was precious to me.
With any kind of depression, the temptation to hide from the world is strong. It’s so much easier to isolate yourself than make the tremendous effort to just get out of bed some days. But that behavior will only exacerbate the problem. I told my husband I would need his help, and that he should keep encouraging me to go outside, to do things, to spend time with friends. He took me to the botanical gardens, on hikes in the woods, on coffee dates, and on shopping excursions, with both kids in tow. We did music together. He ministered to me through countless little details to make me feel loved, and more importantly, he held me when I pushed him away. I remember him literally lifting my chin, forcing me to look into his eyes, and saying, “I’m here, I love you, and I’ll never leave.”
Postpartum depression has its roots in hormonal imbalances, so addressing my body’s needs was vital. I was able to avoid medication, but wouldn’t hesitate to use it if my body hadn’t responded to the herbs and supplements. I made sleep a priority, choosing to rest instead of clean or do laundry when the little ones were napping. I ate real, healthy food, and plenty of dark chocolate. I took walks nearly every day, even if I had to force myself to get outside. I let my mind rest, setting aside writing and counseling for a season so I could heal.
By the grace of God, I made it. He carried me through one of the darkest seasons of my life so far, and brought me to a new place of trust.
I share this story to encourage anyone who may be dealing with depression, especially mamas with postpartum depression. It’s a hard road, but you don’t have to walk it alone! God is able to deliver you.
Psalm 66 is my testimony:
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! … Bless our God, O peoples;
let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept our soul among the living
and has not let our feet slip.
For you, O God, have tested us;
you have tried us as silver is tried … we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.
Come and hear, all you who fear God,
and I will tell what he has done for my soul … Blessed be God,
because he has not rejected my prayer
or removed his steadfast love from me!
Photography: JenniMarie Photography
(originally published in 2015)