GROWING PAINS OF LIFE: MY BOUT WITH POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION
I expected a huge change in my life, but I didn’t expect this. I expected the dirty diapers, the breastfeeding, the crying, the lack of sleep, and the exhaustion. But what I didn’t expect was the depression. I never expected the feeling that hovered heavily over my body. I never expected the smiles to need to be so forced or the expectations of being a happy new mom to weigh me down so far. I was not deeply depressed but that almost made it harder.
I remember going to her first Pediatrician appointment and the nurse handed me all the paperwork to fill out about our newborn. I was post c-section and could barely walk or stand up straight at that point only a few days after delivery. The discomfort and sharp pain I had had from getting out of the house and in and out of the car, and finally down into that orange chair had me in a sad place. I was sad. I had a beautiful, tiny 6lb infant in my rescuer of a husband’s strong arms next to me, and all I felt was sad.
I filled out the name and address and all the info they needed, flipped to the final page which was a postpartum depression scale. Up until that point, I didn’t know what I was experiencing, truly. I knew I was tired, yes, that I was devasted by the c-section, but I didn’t really have a reason for it. I turned my head to my husband, and said: “look at this.” He looked at it and then looked me. “You think you’re depressed?” It was a weird question at the time. I had been crying non-stop for days, I hadn’t slept a wink, even when I had help. I was sad and I was obviously out of sorts. He saw it all just as I was experiencing it, but to have it labeled was a whole other conversation.
The paperwork had questions that asked me about my feelings, how much I was crying, if I felt out of control, if I considered suicide. I had not considered suicide. But I also hadn’t stopped crying since her birth. I hadn’t stopped reeling in a sadness that felt undefined and now I knew this was normal. This was the first time it was something I could identify as something real that I was experiencing, but the knowing did not take it away. Not even a little bit.
I went weeks. I went weeks asking Steve to not let people in our house; the people who brought us dinners and flowers and gifts. I didn’t want to have to face anyone, to have to drum up the joy I expected to feel, but somehow had less of. I just wanted to sleep (which I couldn’t do for weeks), and for life to go back to what it was before.
My husband on the other hand; he was in love. He was the perfect dad; full of joy and pride and life. I would watch him adore her, staring at her tiny little face, speaking in his new daddy voice, and it melted me. It melted me and it reminded me of what I thought my motherhood in those first few weeks would look like. But they just didn’t.
I remember I was in the passenger seat of my dad’s truck, and my dad was asking me about what was on my heart. I was so sad and down and almost angry at what was happening all around me, where I just felt like I was trapped in the fog, hovering over it. I had had so many conversations with my husband, my sister and my mom about what was happening, what I was feeling, what my heart was experiencing, and they probably all said the same or similar things to encourage me, to press in but sometimes it’s my dad that has the key to unlock what my soul so longs to hear.
He started the conversation gentle as usual, allowing me to talk out my heart, speak my frustrations, my hurt, my unmet expectations, and my sadness. I was crying and crying and he just kept letting me talk. Then I stopped as we turned the bend close to my parent’s house, and he leaned in to get me to turn my head towards him. He said something along the lines of: “this has been a huge growing period for you. You faced a birth that went completely different than you wanted, you haven’t slept, your hormones are all over the map, you have a new baby. These are all growing you. You have to know that this is part of His Kingdom work: To grow us to be less about ourselves and more about the other.”
OUCH. But it wasn’t an ouch at the time. At the time it was a hard word that I needed to hear. I could grasp the hormones and I could grasp the exhaustion, but it wasn’t until that moment that I grasped that this sadness had a lot to do with my nature to be about me. Humanity is about serving the self and when something or someone interrupts that, some people, like me, if not all of us, have a really hard time pressing into letting it change us into a giver, not a taker. This baby brought me into a season of giving. It brought me from a place of in control of myself and now to a place of needing to be for someone else. It was a Kingdom shift for me. It was a part of the why I was feeling the way I was feeling because I am human. I am not God. It was a shift to say that perhaps the feelings I was feeling were meant to point me back to my need for the Savior, that it was okay to feel what I was feeling, but that the shift that was happening was about me coming to grips with the fact that this life is not meant to just serve myself and live a stagnant life.
It doesn’t require you to have a baby to fully realize what my dad was speaking to me in the truck that day. This doesn’t mean that if you don’t have babies, you're all about yourself and this certainly doesn’t mean that when you have babies you somehow suddenly become a perfectly selfless human. No, but what it does mean is that in our humanity, we prefer less trial, less pain, less discomfort. What it does mean is that the Kingdom of God is here, now, but that it is also in the future. We get to use whatever trial we are in, whatever level of postpartum depression we feel, whatever death we just experienced, or in my case whatever life we just welcomed and use it to reveal the purpose of the Kingdom of God, bringing ourselves and others closer to the King and His heart. We get to use it to draw nearer to the other and their needs, but for me, it was having our first baby to recognize how about myself, my comfort, my time, and my life, I really was.
These were the growing pains that reared its ugly head in the form of postpartum depression. These were the growing pains that became a lot more painful the more I fought them. Sometimes, the growing pains are trivial and sometimes they last for years, but I would argue it’s in the fighting, the resisting, and the shielding from it is what blinds us from its potential divine purpose in it. I saw the change happening and I felt the rude awakening, but it wasn’t until I got clear about the Kingdom in it, did I go from stuck to purpose.