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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.

Spirit

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.

Soul

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.”

Body

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)

9 Comments

  1. Thank you for this post!! PPD is *so* hard! I’m about to have my 4th baby in several weeks, and I am absolutely dreading the depression afterwards. With baby #3, vitamins and supplements helped a lot…but didn’t make it go away completely. I am encouraged to know that it’s not just me.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing! You have no idea how much I needed to read this.

  3. Incidentally, around the time of Katie’s wedding was my darkest. I look back at pictures, and I look so normal, and I remember guttural crying/screaming in the car on the way back, because there were no hotels available… And we had to go home, and I couldn’t handle home.

  4. Thanks for sharing Jeannie. Most of your tips, I also utilized to climb out of PPD. One more I would add is exercise, that made such a huge difference for me.
    I found it interesting that studies have shown PPD is statistically higher with boys. Maybe more hormonal fluctuations?

    1. Ah yes, exercise is so helpful! I mentioned walking as that was about all I could manage with the kids, but it really did help. I’m sorry you’ve dealt with it too. I didn’t know it was more common with boys, that’s interesting.

  5. So glad you are better now. I am thankful for the resources you listed as I am having post menopausal hormone problems and understand those times when you can’t hold on to a thought or emotion and find it difficult to pray or feel anything. I will be getting help soon. Reading others prayers and the audio Bible are great ideas. Thanks and God Bless.

    1. I’m thankful for resources to help in our weakness. Hold on to hope…God is faithful!

  6. I am so glad you’re doing better AND still leaning on the Lord. I would describe post-partum as a dark period in my life, too. It still makes me sad almost 3 years later. But I think, even moving on from that and into the fun toddler years, I’ve been challenged to think about mortality more than I used to, and I can feel myself needing to trust more than ever. I love that Psalm you shared, and rejoice together with you!

    1. God doesn’t waste our pain, does he? Blessings to you.

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