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!!

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