More than the blues

Alright, my mamas, prepare yourself for a touchy subject.

Imagine: You spend 9 months growing your little booger – 9 months of sleepless nights, cravings, nausea, worries, and scares; 9 months of feeling your baby before anyone else; 9 months of unsolicited comments and touches from strangers; 9 months of convincing yourself your baby will exclusively breastfeed for the next year. You give birth to your precious child – maybe according to your birth plan, maybe not – and you are so ready to start your life with your new bundle of joy. But you don’t quite feel yourself.

You’re exhausted, right?

That’s what it is, you tell yourself you’re exhausted and will be for the next (at least) 18 years so get over it. You have a new little life that depends on you for EVERYTHING. Your life consists of washing, rinsing, and drying – clothes, bottles, breast pump parts – sprinkled with some baby feedings and snuggles. You hear about other moms who are out drinking coffee at a little coffee shop, meeting friends, and shopping. That mom just grabbed motherhood by the horns and rode it. But there you are – living in your pajamas and glasses, not knowing the last time you took a shower. You cry all the time, and if you’re not crying, you’re angry, and if you’re not angry, you’re not feeling at all. You keep the curtains closed and the house dark while you ignore phone calls from family and friends – you’re trying to sleep while the baby sleeps, right?

But, you can’t and you don’t.

Instead your mind is rushing with thoughts – good thoughts, bad thoughts, and some thoughts you would never ever tell a soul. You go to your doctor for your postpartum checkup, and you fill out the mandatory screening tool – the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale to be exact. You try to convince yourself that this isn’t you. Mothers are not supposed to be depressed – they have a beautiful bundle of joy! How can they be depressed? But you continue to feel this heaviness and darkness. 

Maybe this doesn’t sound familiar to you as not all mothers suffer from postpartum depression (PPD). But, this is a very real story and it is my real story. Motherhood is a glorious thing but for some, this adjustment to a new addition takes some time.

So let’s get real…

Count yourself and eight other girlfriends – there is a very good chance one of you has battled with postpartum depression. According to an article published by the CDC, 1 in 9 women in the United States are affected by postpartum depression – better than the past, but still not great. Depending on severity, treatment ranges from counseling to medication and duration is patient specific. And although there is a correlation with maternal age and marital status, there are several other triggers including stress-inducing events. So what about me? What triggered me? 

STRESS

Within six months of getting pregnant:  1) I got married  2) My husband scrambled for residency  3) We moved across state – six hours away from any social support  4) I started a new job.

Throw in the mix that we further isolated ourselves by living a quarter mile from our neighbors, who happen to be Amish. Oh, and I gave birth in the middle of a snowy northwestern Pennsylvania winter – at the height of flu season. 

At my 2-week postpartum check up, my midwife made the suggestion I talk to someone – she gave me the name and number of PPD counselor. I told her I would think about it, and that’s all that I did. I had no energy, no drive, to talk with a stranger to schedule an appointment. At my 6-week postpartum check up, my husband came along with the intent to discuss my PPD with my midwife. During the appointment they called the counselor’s office and scheduled an appointment for the next day – unconventional, yes, but I wasn’t going to do it. 

I started going twice a week to these counseling appointments. At first, I dreaded them – packing myself and my baby up to talk to someone was quite miserable. But as the weeks went on, I realized how much I needed this time. My counselor was a Christian woman who made the brave suggestions I pray, find a MOPS group, and go to a church. I found a church 10 minutes from my house that just started a MOPS group that September – what a blessing! The group was small but the healing was amazing! The best part –

I stopped having to mom alone!

Today’s “never mom alone” is yesterday’s “it takes a village to raise a child”. I had mom friends who were more than willing to pop over and watch my little nugget while I went out to the store kid-free. They have sat with me while my place was a mess and just talked, prayed, and helped fold laundry. They are like unicorns!

Mentally healing has taken months. Honestly, I am now 11 months postpartum and still have anxiety that causes me to freeze. I still have days where I accomplish ZERO. The combination of counseling, mom-friends, and getting closer to God has helped immensely. When my anxiety strikes I say a prayer and text my husband. It humbles me; it’s my reminder that as a Christian I am not promised a pain-free life. However, I am promised that God will be with me every step of the way – so when I feel alone, I am not alone. My role as His child is to continue seeking Him – during the good and bad times.

The hardest parts for me with fighting PPD was having courage to ask for help and finding help. Resources in a small town are very limited. If you are having difficulty with postpartum depression, please do not think you must do this alone! There are resources available!

If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby, PLEASE seek medical attention immediately If you are unable to get to your doctor’s or an emergency room, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

If you are feeling alone and need someone to talk to, reach out to Postpartum Support International (call 1-800-944-4773; text 503-894-9453). They don’t handle crisis situations, but they have coordinators who will help you find local resources!

Need some mom friends and support? Check out MOPS (Mother’s of PreSchoolers)! This is a Christian-based organization for moms by moms – because the only one who knows moms better than moms is GOD! Their website has a page to find a group near you! You will not regret it!

Need some Bible verses on which to meditate? Check out these two!

Luke 12:22-26 

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

P.S. – Did you know dads can have postpartum depression as well? It is true! But we’ll talk about that another day.

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