Hope for the Christian Mother with Postpartum Depression

Guest Post by Jessica of Smartter Each Day

Honestly, I don’t know much about clinical “postpartum depression.”

But I know what it feels like.

It’s exhausting.

I remember one day when Sam was a week old. I had hardly slept in a week. After fifteen minutes of pleadings, and “you shoulds” and, finally, an order from my husband, I shirked upstairs for a nap. I sat on the bed. I cried. I prayed.

I begged God to protect Sam if I fell asleep. Although exhausted, I couldn’t sleep. I felt like I was going to throw up because I knew something bad was going to happen. This became frequent; worry overtook sleep.

It’s scary.

One time I was nursing Sam. I remember looking down to see his little feet, and thinking something like, Is that my baby? Those feet look so unfamiliar, and here I am, nursing this baby. This feels odd…I felt out of place and afraid.

It feels desperate.

I found it difficult to soothe Sam when he cried, which was often. Eventually we discovered that his allergies to milk, egg and peanut were causing a myriad of troubling symptoms. But at the time he just seemed inconsolable.

One time I was holding him when he began to cry. I just wanted him to stop. I think I shoved more than handed him to my mom, uttering something along the lines of, “Here – help…”

I always knew these feelings weren’t “right.” What kind of a tired young mother can’t take a nap? Who doesn’t gush over her own baby’s feet? Of course babies cry – what kind of a mom can’t stop thinking about herself enough to calm down a fussy baby?

Image by meddygarnet

So then came the worst feeling of all: guilt.

I was so, so ashamed of what a bad new mom I was. I constantly berated myself for not enjoying this time, for not being a happier mom, for crying too much, for being too worried.

I wondered how I could have made such a horrible mistake in thinking all my life that I wanted to be a mother, when, obviously, I was so terrible at it.

Gratefully, I had a strong support system, and everyone realized quickly that I was suffering from PPD or postpartum depression.

And then I did a lot of things I never pictured myself doing. I broke down in the doctor’s office and asked for help. I moved in with my parents for a few weeks. Daily, I prayed with my husband for strength just to make it through the day.

A few things really helped:

Christian counseling

I met weekly with a kind, wise counselor who listened lovingly and promised that the Lord would use this time for good. I also met with a loving pastor’s wife who had also struggled with PPD. She accepted me, and shared her own weaknesses.

Breaks

As my husband and I watched 24, as I went for a run, as I sipped on coffee chatting with my cousins, I began to heal. Although sometimes I felt guilty for enjoying time away from Sam, these “normal” moments rejuvenated me.

Prayer

Along with my own, I know that all my family (and who knows how many others they had elicited) were praying. He is a God who hears.

For as traumatic as my struggle was, it’s amazing how quickly I healed. It was the most amazing moment the first time Sam laughed. I laughed too, and cried for joy. He was such a wonderful baby! I liked this after all!

And before I knew it, all that darkness seemed like a distant fog.

As I healed, I promised myself that I would use my struggle to help other moms.

If you know someone who might be suffering from PPD, three things are especially important:

  • Professional help. Encourage her to see her OBGYN and a counselor. I am grateful for family that made me go even when I felt uncomfortable doing so.
  • Acceptance. For me, much of my pain was simply guilt for not feeling the “right” way. It was so helpful to hear that other moms, even really “good” ones, had struggled with feeling unhappy or incompetent in their roles.
  • Hope. As is common in any form of depression, it’s tempting to think that things will never change. The truth is, we serve a God who brings good from bad and light out of darkness. People do heal!

Now, I wake up everyday thanking God that I’m a mom. I still struggle with anxiety at times, but not a trace remains of that scary time of before. And, (as if you need another reason to adore chubby toddler feet) every time I see my boys’ little toes, I smile at the visible reminder that the Lord replaced my darkness with his goodness and light.

Top image by mrinkk

 

Jessica Smartt blogs about motherhood, faith, cooking for allergies, and homeschool preschool at www.smarttereachday.wordpress.com. She enjoys poking fun at the everyday challenges of motherhood, sharing yummy allergy-free recipes, and sharing how God still loves her no matter what phobia she has recently developed. She lives in Concord, NC with her two boys, three and one, and her cute hubby. Check out the blog and “like” on Facebook!

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Comments

  1. Kristin Koglin says

    This is most likely a hormonal imbalance. Get your hormone levels checked with a doctor who prescribes bioidentical hormones not synthetic ones. Or even just purchase Arbonne progesterone creme or Young Living Progessence Plus which is a progesterone serum. I have not had postpartum depression but have had hormonal imbalance and they have similar “symptoms”. God made our bodies to operate optimally when we are in balance, chemically and spiritually (as well as mentally). So Christian counseling is great, however it is only part of the picture…..and I say that with my Counseling/Pyschology degree:).

    • says

      Thank you for your comments, Kristin. I absolutely agree that hormones play a crucial role in post-partum depression. I’m glad that you added that in…I didn’t mention these things because in this instance I did not utilize medication or hormone supplements and made a full (and surprisingly quick) recovery. But I bet they would have helped. Thanks for reading.
      Jessica recently posted..Giveaway for Valentine’s! Win “Crock-On” Cookbook!My Profile

      • Kristin Koglin says

        I think older women (over 35) really need to watch their levels since we start losing that ability to produce the amounts of hormones we did before that age. A pregnancy after 35 will most llikely be very different than the previous ones and we need to be prepared and informed. I say that because I am pregnant at 43 and never had a problem in my 20′s with pregnancy but now need progesterone just to get through the first trimester. I learned that through a miscarriage. Another place to investigate is http://www.advancedsciencewellness.com since they deal with balancing hormones at an energetic level….which is vital! They are still getting products listed on the website so check often. These remedies corrected my husband’s low testosterone levels and he is off all hormone replacement therapy the doctor said he would need all his life!

  2. Amanda says

    How I wish I would’ve seen this article 6 years ago, after the birth of my first daughter. I had read about PPD, but I was in denial that it could happen to me. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t enjoying being a Mom, why I felt anxious all the time, and why I had literally no appetite and survived on Ensure meal drinks for a week. I suffered in silence. My husband had idea what this was, or what to do. Less than two years later, I gave birth to a son, and hoped those feelings and fears would not return. But they did, only worse. I sat in the bathroom and sobbed. I called my mom who lives 500 miles away. She came to help. I just needed someone there. Something familiar and normal. When she left after 8 days, I finally asked my doctor for help, as I sat there in her office, sobbing uncontrollably. She prescribed an anti deppressent. I was so afraid of taking it though, and having it end up in my breastmilk. I never ended up taking it- it was my dear husband who finally broke the cycle with such simple but wise words. He knew the root of my problem was this awful anxiety about everything. I, like you, worried that something was going to happen to my son. So he looked at me and said, “God loves him (our son) more than you do.” For whatever reason, something clicked. It was like someone hit a switch, and a fog lifted, and I could see clearly. Immediately I began to heal.

  3. says

    I too was going to say that in the postpartum period low Progesterone is one of the main reasons for the depression. The pregnant woman is loaded with progesterone and once the baby is born that level drops severely. Dr. Dan Purser is one of the main people that helped formulate Young Living’s Progessence Plus product. It has helped so many young girls and women. You can check out Dr. Purser’s website @ http://www.danpursermd.com and if interested in purchasing you can visit my website.

    It is the product I use the most by Young Living.

    • Kristin Koglin says

      Amen Sister! I also distribute for Young Living and love that product! It has helped my daughters with their PMS as well. God has given us the tools (“everything for life and godliness”) to heal physically and spiritually:)

  4. Leslie says

    I don’t understand why you start your blog with saying you don’t know what it’s like to have clinical post-partum depression, but you “know what it feels like”? Are you dealing with PPD or not? I wanted to come here as a resource, but I’m not sure exactly what it is that I’m reading-can you help me out and explain a bit?
    thanks

  5. says

    Leslie, Thanks for commenting. What I meant by the first statement was that I haven’t researched “clinical” definitions of post-partum depression. I most certainly did deal with that. My opening statement was simply a way to explain that although I’m not versed in the clinical terms and definitions, I definitely know what it feels like!
    Jessica recently posted..How To Not Lose All Your Library BooksMy Profile

  6. Renee says

    I just want to say Thanks for sharing your experience. I had PPD, but I didnt realize it until a year after I had my pregnancy. One of my friends pointed out to me. It all made since. Once again… Thanks

    • says

      I am so thankful for moms like Jessica who share their stories! I, too, had PPD after the birth of my second…it was such a difficult season!

  7. Holly says

    Thank you so much for sharing thi, it is something that is so real but no one wants to talk about…
    I was diagnosed with very severe post- pardum depression/anxiety/OCD and it was the scariest time in my life, unlike you, I didn’t say a word until my daughter was 4 months old, I was hospitalized and humiliated. It took 2 years for me to be normal again, but I believe The Lord truly healed me. It was during this time I learned what true love really is.

    I have had the opportunity to encourage a few other mothers going thru the same road and I always tell them, do not be ashamed, get help, and you live your baby. I say that because many women don’t feel like they may love their at the moment but I believe actions speak louder than words, and by them taking the first step of sharing and getting help, they are acting in live towards their child to care for their little one. In other words… You may not feel like you live your baby, but you getting help is proof that you love your baby deep down inside .

    Thanks so much for sharing !!

    Holly

  8. Rachel says

    I was never diagnosed with PPD but I remember not feeling “right”. I hated being a mom. Felt hopeless. I would sneak out of our bedroom in the middle of the night and sit in the living room and cry for hours. The guilt was overwhelming. I had never wanted to have children and now that I had one I felt like I didn’t love her enough and there were other couples I knew who should have had her. She was a blessing, but not MY blessing. There is so much more that I don’t have time to share. It wasn’t until a woman at church shared her experience with ppd that I was able to admit it to myself and my husband what I had been experiencing. We don’t plan on having any more children but if we ever do I think it will be much different because we will deal with it different!!

  9. Tracy says

    Thank you for posting this! For so long I figured Christians with depression had a sin problem until God gave me the “gift” of “depression” and it changed my life!

    Brady and Jadyn’s 3rd birthday came and went.

    I don’t know what other mothers anticipate when it nears their child’s 3rd birthday, but for me the frightful anticipation mounted each day closer we came. I knew in my head that a child will not magically become severely mentally delayed over night, but my heart dreaded it each day until the dawn of April 3….

    Being pregnant with a baby is hard on your body. Especially if it is in your first year of marriage and you are teaching 5 lecture classes at the high school level! When they boys were born it was definitely culture shock, and I was very scared to become a mother. Over the next nine months of the twins life my husband switched jobs, we celebrated our 1st year of marriage, I started a homebased business, we moved, I quit a job, we took a trip to Florida with my entire family, and I nursed the boys full-time watching everything I ate.

    By their 9 month check-up I felt as though it was going ok as a mom. The boys seemed to be doing well and I seemed to be handling it all well too.

    Then the bomb dropped.

    My husband was gone. He had taken another job, and although better, it took him out of the state for conventions and training all but 6 days of the month of January. The 3rd day of January was the boys 9 mo check-up at which they were diagnosed failure to thrive, with ear infections, anemic and prescribed steroids for eczema. If you have ever been alone with such a diagnosis you could imagine how my world stopped. My husband was scheduled to be gone for the rest of the month and I couldn’t bear to put my 9 mo old babies on all the meds prescribed! Although I love my friend who was my doctor, it was too much to handle. Failure to thrive = failure to mother right?

    Over the course of the next nine months my husband struggled to really get a handle on this new sales job and the traveling and all the conventions and the learning curve, my inlaws moved in, we moved again, i began to cook from scratch adding oil and fat and greens to each meal, I began teaching one Biology class and became pregnant with my daughter, we celebrated our 2nd year of marriage.

    In October we had the boys 18 month check-up with a pediatrician and a gastroenterologist who, in the nurses words, “had taken more blood, poop, and urine out of any kids she had ever seen.” At this check up, the gastro declared that, “if I continued to feed my kids the special diet I insisted on, they would be on the growth chart by age 3 but severely mentally delayed.”

    Now remember, my special diet consisted of a bean, a green, a root and a grain as well as a variety of good fats, red meat, lamb, chicken and turkey for EVERY meal every single day. We did some dairy, as too much gave the boys diarrhea and no soy as it made then lay on their stomachs and cry until they passed gas.

    He also said that we had 30 days to get 30 oz on the boys or they would admit them into the hospital and insert feeding tubes. This was also around the same time as the mother in southern MN tried to treat her son’s cancer with home-remedies and was taken to court for child abuse. I asked the doctor about how much power they had and she said, “more than you know.” and sent the county nurse to my house to check-in with me each week and weigh the boys.

    So thus began the days of measuring, feeding, force feeding, juicing, measuring what wasnt eaten, getting the boys weighed and checking in with a dietitian……all while being 8 months pregnant.

    Throughout this whole process and after my daughters birth I asked my OB several times if she thought I needed depression medication. She said that from what she gathered about me, it was stress in life more than depression and did not prescribe me pills. I was grateful to not be on meds and tried to get as much vitamin D and exercise as possible.We found a new doctor for the boys. She has been a pediatrician for 12 years and also is a naturopathic doctor. I also asked her about my “depression” and she as well told me that from what she observed it didnt seem pill-worthy either.

    The hardest thing about this time was the looks, the books and tapes on depression and comments about my “deep depression” people would give me. I realize that they had good intentions, but it felt so demeaning.

    I decided to get help from a lady who specializes in Chinese and European alternative medicine. She used a bio-meridian machine and the reflexology points to test the stress or weakness on my organs. She is not a doctor and did not diagnose me with a condition, but she did notice that my adrenals seemed very weak. Your adrenals do a lot of things, but one is that they control the “fight or flight” in you. You actually can be seriously hospitalized with adrenal fatigue and after such a stressful few years and pregnancies and nursing, it makes sense that my adrenals were fatigued!

    I remember sitting on the couch listening to all the kids cry and feeling dead inside. This may shock you. How can a Christian who has the Holy Spirit living in her say that she feels dead? I believe that the Lord is the creator of my body and at any moment He could’ve healed me. But I also believe that He gave us minds to understand how our bodies work and take care of them.

    I started ADHS a homeopathic that supports the adrenal system. I also would apply frankincense oil.
    Without being sacrilegious, I felt like I was given a second chance at life. I felt alive again. I went from no feeling to lots of feelings.Then those feelings began to escalate. I remember grabbing my younger twin’s little arm as he hit my older twin and yelling at him. Then putting all the kids in their cribs and walking down the driveway crying. How could this tiny person make me so angry?

    I went into the local health food store. I told the lady, who has proven herself amazingly knowledgeable and a believer, about how I was feeling. She asked if I felt rage? I was embarrassed, isn’t rage sinful? I choked out a “yes.” I used to be a happy person, the glass was always half full and now all I do is complain and hate the circumstances of my life. She suggested I try a homeopathic called DIM. I guess it is supposed to help your liver process all the estrogen so when a stressful moments happen and all the cortisone is rising you can handle it instead of wanting to break something.

    It was a Friday. Tears are welling up in my eyes as I write this….My husband had been gone for 6 days and when he got home that Saturday afternoon I greeted him with a smile! I told him how wonderful the day was! He was shell-shocked! Many times before i had told him how it would be more pleasurable for me to bash my head against the wall or pull my hair out and run down the driveway then to be in this situation. He always thought I was joking. I always felt so guilty and beat myself up in the spiritual and emotional sense daily.

    Now, dont get me wrong here, I was earnestly seeking the Lord in prayer, and stapling verses all over my house (my poor sheetrock), listening to good music, reading the Word, going to church, asking others to tell me about their devotions, and even asked my pastor if he could exocise demons from me…..yet I felt so out of control!

    That next weekend I went to hear a doctor – pituitary endocrinologist speak. He and a team of many types of doctors have written a book called Proactive Preventative Medicine. He did a talk on Young Living’s Progessence Plus, he had a part in formulating it. He talked about progesterone. He said that most women understand they have estrogen and some testosterone, but many woman and doctors dont realize the benefits and need for progesterone. He tested 700 woman at a natural health convention. 5, yes 5 had normal levels of progesterone! (2 were pregant!) 300 of the woman tested had a level 0!
    He said when women are pregnant their progesterone levels are at 400 but when you are not pregnant you should be around 10! Talk about jumping off a cliff – I think its medically called, “baby blues.”
    I used the progesterone/frankincense blend Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday…..Sunday night Mark left for another trip. I decided to start potty training the twins and my daughter was sick…..it had been a rough rough day, I cleaned up a lot of pee and poop and my husband wasn’t going to be home for 3 more days, yet at 8:30pm as I rocked the last baby before bed I caught myself smiling….I also recalled earlier that day when all three kids and I laid on the floor giggling.

    I started to cry, as i am now…..I hadnt done that in…….years?

    When I shared this with my mom she teared up, as she and my sister’s had feared for my life many times throughout the last few years.

    I asked my husband, in tears, many times “please, you are the only one who can save me! please help me!” To which he responded “you have to..do this or that to help yourself..”..or “I dont know what to do!”

    Hormones are CRAZY! But there is help out there!!! ADHS and frankincense brought my adrenals back and gave me life and feeling. DIM gave me the ability to think and take back control of my life.

    Progessence Plus allowed me to remember what is feels like to be happy again.

    I am not a doctor. Some of your readers may be. I just wanted to share my story with you. Am I embarrassed that I felt this way? Horribly, but you dont have to be disappointed, I am enough for all of us. I am just so so so so so so so glad that the time for craziness has past! When the Bible says,”He gave us all things for life and godliness” I believe it is true! And it includes those things for LIFE as well! I also want to encourage you that the Bible also says, “I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans to prosper you, not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

    I shared my story first on facebook on the eve of the boys 3rd birthday. They did not have mental difficulties and 2 years later, we hit 5 years old with perfect health!

    I did battle bitterness at the professionals that drug me over the coals and gave me so many hoops to jump through, but then I realized, when 30+ woman in 2 days and well over 100 since have gotten help through my story, what items helped me, that my family is eating much more healthy since I learned how to cook from scratch and many others have been blessed, I can say, “He led me all the way!”

    I still struggle – yesterday I took 3 DIM and lathered in progessence plus, but now I know that I have tools to help me keep my sanity and that “He gave us all things for LIFE and godliness” that we may live “exceeding abundant, above all we could ever ask or think!”

    • Tari says

      Thanks for sharing pieces of your life with us. It was inspiring. I just wish I had enough motivation to start to change; but with all the shame and with no support from MY key-person, I don’t. Please, say a prayer for me that I can hope gain. Thank you!

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