It was a monumental conversation with a friend that I look up to. A conversation that I probably wouldn’t have had if it wasn’t for this shirt. My husband had ordered a shirt to coach in and it just didn’t quite fit right for his liking. It had one simple fleur-de-li on it (the school logo), so we brainstormed who else it may fit and could use it for coaching or teaching. We came up with one of his colleagues. I told him that I would text his wife a picture to see if he would be interested. She said that he would take it. Now my husband could have easily taken the shirt with him to school to give it to his colleague, but for some reason (now I know it was God), I told him that I would make arrangements with his wife to get it to him. Sounds kind of like a round-a-bout way, but God knew what he was doing. His wife texted me back and said she could stop by and get the shirt and asked if she could stay to chat. I agreed and I told her I would have the coffee on Wednesday at 10 a.m. She knew that I had been dealing with some stuff and I agreed that it would be nice to chat.
You’re probably wondering why you’re reading a blog post about a silly ole shirt and why it matters so much. To give you the full understanding of what this conversation did for me, you’ll need the back story. This is a story of one of the darkest places I’ve ever been in my life. It’s a story of how God has demonstrated redemption and has shown me His grace. It’s about how he takes darkness and turns it into light. It’s a rough story. Not one I’m proud of. One that I never in a million years thought I would be sharing on social media. But it’s one that I’m sharing so that others know they are not alone. And so they can see that God works even through the roughest of circumstances.
I gave birth to our sweet baby boy on August 5th, 2019. My water broke when my feet hit the floor at 5:00 that morning. Our sweet Judah Thomas entered the world at 12:58 p.m. after a relatively quick labor and an hour of pushing. They laid him on my chest and I remember feeling so in love. They then took him away because he wasn’t crying as much as they wanted him to be. We were told he probably swallowed a lot of fluid and they needed to look him over a little better. In the meantime, I began hearing words of “her uterus is limp” and “we need to stop the bleeding”. After a baby is born, the uterus is supposed to contract to get back to normal size and constrict the blood vessels to prevent bleeding. However, I basically began bleeding out. I suddenly felt terrified. I remember saying “Is my baby okay?!” and “Am I okay?!” all at the same time. After what felt like a very long time (although it was only a few minutes, maybe just a few seconds), my doctor was able to get my bleeding under control and Judah was laid back onto my chest. They said that he looked great and they would continue to monitor him. I was told that they were able to use internal and external massage on me (ouch!) to stop the bleeding that was occuring. They would check my levels the next day to see if I needed a transfusion, but I should be okay.
The next few hours / days were spent getting to know our sweet boy. He was perfect. More than we had ever been able to dream of. Breastfeeding was hard and overwhelming and painful, but I felt positive that we would get it figured out. I was sore from giving birth, but I knew that would soon ease. Despite these minor discomforts, we were just happy. Happy to finally have this little human in our arms after 9 months of dreaming of what he would be like. Happy to show him off to our families and on social media. Happy. Everything was good. Or so I thought. Everything seemed to be going well and I didn’t realize how much I was truly struggling inside.
This is my story of postpartum depression and anxiety. Yikes. Actually saying those words is still hard. It’s hard to share on a platform like this, but it’s one that needs to be heard. I don’t know who else out there may be dealing with something similar, but I want you to know you’re not alone.
Postpartum depression and anxiety is something I never thought I would deal with to the degree I did. It was something I thought I was prepared to deal with because I have had “anxiety and depression” in the past. I had done all the right things to prevent it – seeing a counselor and reading all the books and following all the instagram accounts. But it hit me like a rock falling out of the sky. And I guess that’s how it works. I’ve learned that sometimes you’re depressed and you don’t realize it. And that’s totally what happened to me.
Looking back now, I think I dealt with postpartum anxiety right after Judah was born, and I definitely didn’t realize it. He was born on a Monday and we brought him home on Wednesday. Everything seemed to be going fine. We took him in for a 5 day checkup on Friday. We found out he had lost a whole pound. It’s normal for babies to lose weight after they are born, but they are not supposed to lose more than 10% of their body weight and Judah had lost 12%. The nurse practitioner didn’t seem too concerned, but we did need to get this boy gaining weight. She gave us this little syringe device to be able to supplement our feedings. She told me that I needed to start pumping after every feed to get my supply up. She gave me recipes for oatmeal cookies to increase supply and told me where to buy brewer’s yeast. We were to begin “triple feeding” – nursing, pumping, and then supplementing (yes, it is as exhausting as it sounds). We were to continue waking Judah every 3 hours at night to make sure he was getting everything he needed.
That weekend (and the next 3 weeks) was rough. It was exhausting, physically and emotionally. And it wasn’t at all what I thought the newborn life was going to be like. I had visions of me snuggling my newborn baby with my hot cup of coffee and my breakfast burrito (that I had meal prepped before baby was born) sitting on our comfy couch in my cute nursing tank and robe that matched baby’s swaddle. Instead I was attaching a tiny human to my breasts with an improper latch which led to tremendous pain every single time he nursed. Then I would hand him off to my husband or mom or sister (praise Jesus they were there!!) to give him extra milk while I hooked myself up to my pump for the next 20 minutes. Every. Three. Hours. And in the newborn world, you count their feeds from start to start. Which means that I would begin a feed at 2 a.m. which sometimes lasted 40 minutes, and then pump for 20 minutes, which put me at 3 a.m. and then go back to sleep only to have to wake up again in TWO hours. We did that faithfully around the clock for 3 weeks and it was rough. I was exhausted. I was constantly worried that he wasn’t getting enough. I was constantly worried that I wasn’t pumping enough. I was so worried that I wasn’t adequate for him. I was refusing to give him formula for supplementation. My sister graciously offered me some of her breastmilk (she happened to be nursing her 7 month old at the same time and had an abundance of milk – shoutout Britt – you are amazing), and I felt “weird” using it. Because I should be able to provide for my baby on my own, right?? I shouldn’t have to use anything except for each and every little drop that my body produced, right?? WRONG. If you’re reading this, please know that it’s OKAY to supplement. It’s OKAY to use donated breast milk or formula. FED is best, no matter how you do it. The amount of milk you pump in a setting does NOT have anything to do with your worth or your ability to provide for your baby. All the things I told myself I wouldn’t let bother me before I was a mom, I was totally struggling with as a mom.
Those first few weeks were rough, but then things got better. Judah finally made it back to birth weight and we were able to let him sleep for longer stretches at night and get more rest ourselves. I no longer had to pump or give him a bottle after every single feed. He started to seem happier after feeds. I started to feel better physically. It was all good. I was finally feeling more like a human. I spent the rest of my maternity leave loving on my baby. Looking back, I know I didn’t truly heal from all of the trauma from Judah’s birth and those first few weeks. I sort of just took that experience and shoved it deep down. Because I didn’t want to have any negative feelings towards my sweet baby. I didn’t want to let myself feel the feelings of inadequacy. I was his mom and I wanted to be enough for him. So I just ignored those feelings and moved on. And it did seem like all was good. I felt like I was good. But I most definitely wasn’t. And it didn’t hit me again until I went back to work.
I returned to work full time as a physical therapist 12 ½ weeks after Judah was born. I was excited to get back to work and to have a routine. I was nervous about leaving Judah but I felt good about it. I fully trusted the daycare providers we would leave him with and it would be nice to have adult conversations again. But what I didn’t realize was that there was a storm on the horizon. Between leaving my baby at daycare, pumping, getting back into the swing of things at work, pumping, worrying about him gaining weight (still), pumping, worrying about him when he got his first cold, pumping, etc., etc., etc., it was what I have been referring to as the perfect storm. I soon realized I was just going through the motions. I was in a fog. I woke up one Saturday morning and told my husband that something was horribly wrong with me and that he needed to take me to the hospital. I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I felt so out of it. I had numbness and tingling in my arms and legs. I had a headache and I was dizzy. I had intermittent heart palpitations and shortness of breath. And I realized I had been feeling this way for a few weeks. I was convinced that I must have a brain tumor or something was physically wrong with me because depression and anxiety could most definitely not make you feel this bad. Well, I’m here to tell you that it totally can. I did not realize that I was depressed. One of my psychiatrists referred to it being like a frog in a boiling pot of water. If you put a frog in a boiling pot of water, it will immediately jump out. If you put a frog in a cold pot of water and then slowly bring it to a boil, the frog doesn’t realize the gradual change and will just sit and be content until it boils and dies.
I thought that all the mom worries I was having were normal. But these were not normal. I became obsessive about these worries. These worries soon led me to a very dark place. Despite the continued worries about Judah gaining weight and getting enough, I was now having worries that something horrible was going to happen to him. I even had worries that I would accidentally drop him or hurt him. I now know that this was just the anxiety (and the devil) overtaking me, but at the time I was so incredibly scared that something bad was going to happen. Anxiety and depression can present itself in many ways, but this is the biggest way it affected me. Looking from the outside, it would appear that I would have had no reason to be struggling. I had an amazing husband and sweet new baby, a warm home to live in, and a good job. I’ve since learned that anxiety and depression do not discriminate. Satan uses it on whoever and whenever he wants to.
But, this is not the end of the story. Praise Jesus. Over that weekend, my husband and I both realized that something was most definitely wrong – I was struggling with severe postpartum depression. We both called into work on Monday and he took me to my OBGYN. She was incredibly amazing and supportive. She increased my medication dose, got me set up with a psychiatrist for medication management, encouraged me to continue counseling weekly, and took me out of the workplace for 4 weeks while we worked on getting the right medication dosage. She even gave me her cell phone number and told me to call her if I needed anything. She hugged me and I felt a small sense of relief – I was finally getting help getting out of this pit I was deep into.
Over the next 5 weeks, I spent time recovering and healing from this disease. It took more counseling, conversations with loved ones, and two more medication changes. Finally after beginning a 2nd medication, I began to feel more like myself. I began to smile for real again and motivation slowly came back. I returned to work and felt passionate about my career and my patients. I distinctly remember driving home from work one evening and noticing that the houses, trees, grass, and lights down our street suddenly seemed more crisp and clear than they ever had. That was because I had been living in a literal brain fog for the last few months.
So the shirt. Remember the shirt that I talked about at the beginning? Oh yea, how does that fit into this story? Well, let’s just say I can confidently say I am glad I went through this hard time. Wait, what? Yes, I am glad it happened. It was horrible and I don’t ever want to go through it again, but I can honestly say that God knew what he was doing. See, now that I am on the other side I can see why I went through it. It was in this conversation with this friend of mine that made me realize why I went through it. The shirt didn’t quite fit my husband so we decided to give it to my friend’s husband so she came to pick it up. It was in this conversation with this friend over coffee and tears on a Wednesday morning that God showed me why this happened in my life. I filled her in on my struggle over the past month and mentioned that through it all I felt so alone.
Yes, I had people that knew what was going on and reaching out to me to ask me how I was doing, but I still felt alone. I felt alone because I had a hard time asking people for help. I didn’t have a group of moms to lean on, even though I had a plethora of numbers of moms to text in my phone and lots of people checking in. I was so grateful for everyone that did reach out to me, but I didn’t have a weekly physical space to bring up my struggles. It was in this conversation that God solidified my desire to create a space like this. My sister-in-law had been encouraging me to find a group like this for months and in this moment I realized that there is such a need for it in this area.
And now that I had returned to work part time, I would have time to create such a space. And it turns out that this is a group that my friend here had realized was needed as well. I texted a few moms in town and they too agreed that they had felt this same need. So that is what we did. Weekly. On Thursday mornings. Moms in all seasons are meeting over coffee, the Word, conversation, muffins, and kiddos running around. Because mamas, just as my favorite podcast moms Laura Wifler and Emily Jensen say, “Motherhood is hard. One second we think we’re doing a good enough job and the next we feel like the worst mom on the planet. Which is why we need the refreshing truth of the gospel to be repeated over and over, giving us hope in the everyday moments” (Jensen and Wifler, Risen Motherhood). And we need the support of other moms to walk through life with. It was in this moment that I realized that I went through something this hard so that I can hopefully be there when other women around me are going through something similar.
And it wasn’t just the solidifying conversation that morning, it was also the verses that my sweet friend happened to read that morning that really opened my eyes to what God was trying to tell me. I’ll leave you with the verses, Philippians 2:12-13, in a few different versions, because the words are all so beautiful and true. I’ve added emphasis for the situation at hand.
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” – ESV
“My beloved ones, just like you’ve always listened to everything I’ve taught you in the past, I’m asking you now to keep following my instructions as though I were right there with you. Now you must continue to make this new life fully manifested as you live in the holy awe of God—which brings you trembling into his presence. God will continually revitalize you, implanting within you the passion to do what pleases him.” – The Passion Translation
“For it is [not your strength, but it is] God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure. – Amplified Bible
*I do want to take a moment to thank each and every one of you that reached out to me and did things for me during this rough season. I am so grateful that God placed each of you in my life when I needed it most. I’m most thankful for my sweet husband who held my hand, wiped my tears, and reminded me of the hope of the gospel every single step of the way.
**If you’re in the Concordia, MO area and want to be involved in this group, contact me for details at 402-806-2918.
***List of resources that I’ve found helpful in my journey:
- Risen Motherhood blog and podcast – https://www.risenmotherhood.com/
- Coffee and Crumbs blog and podcast – https://www.coffeeandcrumbs.net/home
- Postpartum Support International – https://www.postpartum.net/
- A resource for fathers whose wives are dealing with PPD – https://www.postpartum.net/get-help/resources-for-fathers/
- Babies Are The Worst: A Memoir about Motherhood, PPD, & Beyond by Meagen Gordon Scheuerman
- The Center for Counseling and Training – https://www.counselingandtraining.com/