By Julie Thomas
I left the hospital three days after the birth of my second son. And like any mom, I was overjoyed to have my baby! And he has turned out to be a fun-loving, amusing little bundle of fun. Not so little anymore. This was six years ago. Did I mention I have two of these precious bundles? A sweet, gentle-hearted big brother too.
However, you can probably predict from the drift of this narrative that the joy of childbirth was short-lived.
I “left the hospital.” Only, I didn’t. I came home. But my mind, tarried at the hospital. Pacing up and down the hallway of the postpartum floor. Leaving me with a gloom, that I had left something behind. I could see the halls, an empty hospital crib, I could see the doors to the postpartum rooms. I felt like I was searching for something. I just didn’t know what!
I would have probably shed a sizable number of calories had the mental pacing I took on been literal. Sounds unreal? But, it had become a disturbing reality to my mind. I started to believe that I had wronged my child. A child who was perfectly whole. I began to mourn over my baby as though I had lost him. I was convinced that his premature birth was due to the lack of nurturing from his mama.
My days seemed blurry, delusional. I wasn’t able to keep track of myself, my surroundings, my kids, …everything! At this time, I was in graduate school, with a newborn and two year old. Needless to say, these alone were draining. And now something else had taken over my reality. Depression took over. Postpartum depression.
A lot of days, months and eventually years were spent in confusion and frustration. The diagnosis for postpartum came months after the mental confusion arose. I was started off on prescription medication to treat the symptoms. The symptoms however, would not yield to treatment. They began to multiply.
And alongside depression came another diagnosis…fibromyalgia. And pain flared up all over the body, accompanied by chronic fatigue, difficulty focusing, even immobility. The pain made me sensitive even to the slightest touch.
Everyday I dragged myself out of bed to try and keep up with routine – the kids, school, laundry, cooking. And unknowingly, these became merely robotic functions. My mind was more lost than ever. So lost that many times it send me running out of the house in a frenzy, barefoot, in the dark of the night. I didn’t know why I was running. All I knew was that I wanted to get away. Away from whatever was tormenting me. Only, it came home with me.
Everyday I held my babies. But my heart grew more distant from them. Even the daily feeding, reading, could not gather the bond I should have had toward them.
The distressing thing in this, is the shame my heart experienced while shouldering all of this. I felt responsible for the early birth of my child. I felt like people would judge me for the way I was; unwell, weak and withered. And indeed, some did.
Although it could have been sooner, I was finally able to assure myself that I wasn’t responsible for my illness or struggles. And that I am blessed to have these healthy, beautiful children.
I know that the past cannot be undone. But the mind kept wanting to go back and bandage all the hurt, make it better. And at other times, it felt like all the bandages in the world could not fix the pain.
I didn’t do it until almost two years into my struggle, but I started to share my struggle with those that were close to me and would genuinely care. I was fortunate to have my life sustained because of this care. Meanwhile, in my surrounding, the life of a young mother battling postpartum depression was tragically torn away from her precious children. Like many mothers, suffering in silence because of the guilt of feeling sadness after the birth of her bundle of joy.
If you are in the middle of your struggle with postpartum depression or any form of depression, I beg of you; don’t struggle in the dark. When you’re going through this, everything in your being will tell you that you are alone or strange.
That is far from the truth. Share your story with someone your heart trusts. Join a support group in your community or churches. You may see the faces of people that relate to you. Whose struggles are yours too. Look for support sites like Fresh Hope, where you could read about journeys of depression that may resonate with yours. Whether you’ve crossed over from depression or still walking it, our journeys matter.
“God…the source of all comfort….comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”
(2 Corinthians 1:3-4)