“Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters;
the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched.
My eyes fail, looking for my God.” Psalm 69:1-3
By: Jennifer Mullen
When my first-born arrived four weeks early on her own, I was NOT prepared. The nursery was set up, the clothes were washed and hung, and the thank you notes had been written. During my pregnancy, I had read month by month of “what to expect”. When my water broke my first thought was, “This can’t be happening, I have not read the last chapter.” You know… the one on CHILDBIRTH…Not to mention the one on how to care for a NEWBORN!
My husband and I were in awe that just shy of four hours after my water broke, our perfect angel had arrived. The first feed went as well as could be expected with a crash course from the nurse. Then she was wheeled away for routine evaluations as I entertained the various well-wishers. In two and half short hours, the nurse brought her back to me saying that she was ready for another feed. I said out loud, “Really? She just ate three hours ago?” The nurse looked at me with shock on her face and said, “Babies eat every three hours.”
I knew I should have read those chapters!!! I say that tongue in cheek. There is no way to be fully prepared for the birth of a child (although, I guess most people know more than I did at this point.)
As the next twenty-four hours transpired, I was becoming increasingly aware of what a huge responsibility it was to be a mother. It was more than beautifully decorated nurseries and super cute outfits with matching headbands. Of course I knew that before going into the whole mothering process, but the reality of it all was setting in.
No amount of reading would have prepared me for the reaction I had to all the hormones pumping through my system! Because of my history of depression and anxiety, my OB/GYN and counselor had decided before the birth of my daughter that I would need to start on an anti-depressant before leaving the hospital.
From the moment I left the hospital, I spiraled into the “miry depths where there was no foothold”. In the first three days, I slept about 6 hours total. I was so anxious that I could not wind down. Every newborn squeak that came from her, I interpreted as certain death. Finally, my mom and husband made me take a sleep aid, and I slept soundly for 2 hours before waking to nurse. I was so out of my mind, when she finished eating, I asked for “my other baby”. In my mind, I had twins.
Every time I heard her cry that first week, I would bury my head under the pillow and cry. I didn’t want to nurse, change a diaper, or even hold her. I even had thoughts that if I had to hold her, I might throw her across the room. I only held her long enough to nurse and then my mother and husband cared for her. My pastor and his wife came over, upon my request, to pray with me. They set up a rotation so that it was six weeks before I had to prepare a meal.
My counselor met with me on her lunch break within that first week. She assured me that my violent thoughts were just that…thoughts. I was not going to act on them. Knowing that and voicing them out loud took the power away. As I continued counseling, I shifted from not wanting to take care of her to being the only one who could take care of her. I was so anxious to let anyone hold her. I kept her from family and friends. When meals were delivered, I would hover and not allow the visitors to hold her.
My mother-in-law came to help after my mom left. I will never forget the words that she shared with me about how lost she felt after the birth of her first child. Being a mother of five, she always seemed like a supermom to me. I remember thinking if she felt that way, I must not be alone. That encouragement gave me so much strength as we cried together.
One day there was a knock at the door. It was a lady from my church who I consider to be a mentor. She is my prayer warrior! She took my baby from me and told me to go lay down. I refused and tried to visit with her. She insisted that I go lay down. I went to lay down. I did not sleep well, but I rested for two hours. That day I had a little break through in learning that it was okay to let others care for her.
After about 5 weeks when we were settling into our new normal, colic came for a long stay. My daughter would cry for hours on end, and I was so sleep deprived that my nerves could not stand it. This only made my anxiety worse. I remember mulitple nights waking up to not only check all the doors, but also check to make sure all the windows were locked.
When my daughter was 10 weeks old, I returned to work to finish my year as a school teacher . Although at the time I could not see it, this was my lifesaver. The time that I had away from her was so therapeutic for me. My mind was relieved of the constant concern and care of my child and shifted to the concern for my students. It was so hard for me to leave her in the care of someone else…someone who I did not know. But this helped me to realize that I was not the only one who could take care of her.
When she turned six months old, the school year was over, and I resigned from my beloved teaching job to stay home with my angel. Right about that time, she got over her colic phase. I continued counseling and remained on my depression medicine until she turned one. It was between the age of six to nine months that I was able to start enjoying being a mom. To this day, the cry of a newborn makes me cringe and a little bit nauseous.
God was faithful in bringing me through this battle. And, yes, I went willingly into it again! I believe in His promise that says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” (Isiah 43:2) It was so worth “passing through the waters” to get my precious children and to be here to encourage you!
If you are currently struggling with similar thoughts and feelings, you are not alone! I have been praying for you! There is no shame in this condition. With treatment, you can have peace and joy again. Cling to His promises, and please seek professional help.
- Introduction to a Three-Part Series on Postpartum Depression- Published February 1, 2012.
- Techniques that Helped Me with Postpartum Depression- February 8, 2012— I will outline some strategies that worked for me to cope with postpartum depression and what others could do to help those struggling.
- Round Two: Manna From Heaven - March 6, 2012— I will share how my experience with postpartum was different the with my second born and how God carried me through it.
- Morning Has Come!: Claiming Victory Over Postpartum Depression- Published on January 7, 2013