“Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His; praise His holy name. For anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” ~Psalm 30:4
I never saw it coming. It was a total shock. No one told me that labor and delivery might not go as I had planned. No one told me you aren’t guaranteed the birth experience you want simply because you want it. And it was a disaster. We made it to the other side but I had some pretty serious consequences.
I remember heading home from the hospital with our firstborn daughter. Already, every dream I had had for her first few days was shattered. I realized I controlled nothing and I knew very little. The hospital, satisfied that we could bathe a baby without dropping her on her precious little noggin, cut us loose. That was the least of it really though.
I was tired. Weak. On restrictions. Wasn’t even supposed to lift baby by myself. How does that even work? And I had no clue. Looking back, it was the perfect storm. Only I hadn’t the faculties to recognize it.
My days were long and the nights longer. My precious baby girl was colicky like so many babies. I wondered if I ought to get her to read some of the parenting books I had read because she surely wasn’t following the rules. We struggled through those early days and I’m pretty sure I cried as much as she did. Maybe more.
Probably I should have guessed there was a problem when the hallucinations started. I was afraid to walk near windows for fear I’d somehow drop her. Going down the steps with her from our second floor apartment caused anxiety attacks. Driving her someplace solo? Heck. NO! And forget about turning the oven on. We ate crock pot meals or none at all.
Then came the day in which I found myself curled in a ball on the bathroom floor, crying out to God: Why. Have. You. Forsaken. Me???
Post Partum Depression at its most raw.
If nothing else, those dark days led me to dig into Scripture. If I believed God was God and He was good, then His constant presence by my side also had to be true. But oh, it didn’t feel like He was near. The swirling, bone sucking blackness of depression threatened to destroy me.
God used my daughter’s sweet little face to heal me.
As winter turned into a brilliant spring, I began to look up and see God’s hand around me. In the beautiful sunrises I got to see (since my daughter seemed to adore them). In the wonder that was dandelion fluff. In the contrail cloud left by a passing airplane (something that delighted her ever and ever so much). But most of all, in her eyes. In her smile. In her unadulterated joy.
It restored my soul to watch her discover the world that had tried to break me. To see her sheer delight as she was showered by flower petals from a blooming tree. I began to see that though my struggle was very real and some days were harder than others, I had a choice, too.
In her upcoming book, “She’s Still There,” Chrystal Evans Hurst reminds us, “Sometimes the only way out is through.” And though the process of working through that season was very painful, it was necessary. I had to admit my struggle with post partum depression and I had to walk through it. I couldn’t go around it. Tried it. Didn’t work. I couldn’t ignore it. Nope. Couldn’t numb my way out of it. Because then I missed the joy. Through, long and tiresome though it was, was the only way to the other side.
There was joy. I just had to see it. Feel it. Breathe it in.
In that season, I began to learn to be thankful for what I had and worry less about what I didn’t have. I began to look for small joys and celebrate small victories. A nap without a fight? Win. Driving my daughter to the nearby mall without anxiety? Win. Story time and snuggles? Win. Flowers from the grocery store just because I liked them? Win.
One of the things a mother so easily loses is the necessary care and keeping of her soul. And when we’re tapped out and undernourished, we become a prime candidate for disordered thoughts and enemy attack.
Being willing to walk through is hard. Recognizing that I wasn’t Wonder Woman and couldn’t do all the things and be well? Also hard. Not reaching out when I needed help? Definitely not a solid plan. But there was growth through the pain. There was weeping for a season. But slowly, slowly joy returned. And my soul took a breath.
She graduated last month. To me, it’s a tangible reminder of God’s hand in our lives. By rights, neither one of us should be here. But God gave us beauty for our ashes, for sure. I’d be lying if I said that days weren’t long. They surely were. But oh, the season has been so incredibly short. Gone in the blink of an eye.
I’d love to tell you I learned to always cultivate joy in my life from those days forward, amen. But that would not be true. I’d love to say that I’m victorious over depressive thoughts 100% of the time. Also not true. It’s been journey for sure. But here’s what I know to be true: When God promises to bring joy in the morning, it’s a done deal. It might not look as you had expected. He’s surprising like that. But He will do it.
What I’m learning these days when I feel those dark thoughts crowding in is to stop, to breathe, and to look up. I pause to remember the many ways God has been faithful to me in the past, trust that He’ll do it again, and then I step out. Somedays I do that more gracefully than others, but as I make the effort, He’s meeting me.
And in the meeting there is redemption and peace.
The journey back to myself has been long. Progress has never been linear. And daggone it, I haven’t arrived yet. But these days I’m giving myself more grace. I’ve persevered through a lot but this is the best part: God is still writing my story! And I can’t wait to see what the next chapter holds.