Monday, March 11, 2013

The Silver Lining

Being a mother is no piece of cake, I'll tell you what.  When I was pregnant with my son, everyone said that this was like having my third child seeing as I nannied for both of my nephews from infancy.  I can say, with confidence, no matter how experienced you think you are with children it is no where near what you deal with once you have your own.  That is a huge lesson I had to learn through experience. Not only do you have the newness of having a baby around 24/7, you also have those hormones that are out of whack and trying to get back to normal.  

I never really understood depression.  The concept was always so foreign to me.  I have family members and friends who struggle with it but I never thought that I would struggle with it.  Depression, to me, seemed like an inability to put things into perspective.  But I've come to realize that depression can be a subtle and slow blanket that creeps up on a person, suffocating their emotions until they feel numb.  It was for me.  I didn't realize that I was struggling so much until my husband sat me down and told me how worried he was.  

The first "taste" of depression I had was in the Fall of 2010.  I had gotten pregnant but things were not looking good.  I ended up losing the baby on Christmas Eve (you can read about that here).  During that experience, I would feel small waves of sadness and hopelessness as my body still suffered symptoms of a pregnancy though my womb was empty.  They were only waves and I was uncharacteristically optimistic during that difficult time.  The struggle brought my husband and I closer together as we looked to God for emotional support, trusting that He had a plan for our family.

The first difficult time I had after giving birth was in the middle of the night at the hospital while I walked the hallways trying to recover from my emergency surgery (see birthing story here).  I felt a strong sense of loneliness and an overwhelming amount of responsibility that I was not sure I was ready for.  This feeling lasted a long time.

My son, Jude, and I had a very difficult....well, probably first six months.  For the first week that we were home things went very smoothly.  Then, reality started to settle in.  The dreamy in-love state started to slowly wear off and the lack of sleep began to wear on me.  We had a difficult time nursing.  Jude would choke in the milk.  I got a breast infection.  Jude also started showing signs of colic.  He was fussy and gassy very often which we later found out was an allergy to dairy/soy and would constantly spit up.

As my diet changed and Jude's symptoms got worse so did my emotional state.  Sometimes, I would burst into tears while holding him and James would come running in and ask me what was wrong.  I would often say, "everything" or "I'm so scared".  I remember having such an overwhelming sense of fear, helplessness and, above all, a feeling of being completely alone.  I also felt jealous of my husband.  I was even jealous that he could go to church on Wednesday nights and I had to stay home.  As mothers, we have a job and a sense of duty that men just don't get.  Sometimes this feeling is even more amplified with breastfeeding because you really are needed constantly.  I would try to explain to James how I felt but I knew he wouldn't understand.  In fact, I thought no one would understand.  I would try to talk to other people about it but I was also too embarrassed to share with them my real feelings.  I felt like I was being such a terrible mother because I wished I could just go out for a cup of coffee with a friend or go shopping alone or sleep or read a book or just watch a TV show.  All of those things were gone.  I, undeniably, mourned for my life without children.  It was hard to put things into perspective.  Yes, I had a healthy baby.  I would try to tell myself that and I would feel guilty pushing that huge blessing aside.  But, the negativity always won.

I could go on and on about how difficult the first 6-8 months of motherhood has been but that's not the point of this post.  What I really want to say, especially to first time mothers, is that you're not alone.  You're not alone and you need to talk to someone about it.  Thankfully, I had a friend who was going through similar things as I was, feeling similar negative feelings toward this whole new mothering world.  We were honest with each other and that is the only way we got through it.  When I had the miscarriage, it was easy to cling to God and His provision.  During my postpartum depression, I didn't feel that.  I felt disconnected from everything.  I was withdrawn.

Christ is sufficient for all of our needs and He knew that my friend and I would have babies only days apart from each other.  He knew that we would need to share our fears and struggles with each other. He knows exactly what we need, even when we have no clue.  Even if we don't realize it until 9 months later.  He is our silver lining.

Jude and I are doing much better now.  As soon as I was able to start reintroducing things back into my diet, I slowly started to get better.  Also, my husband forced me to take some time for myself so I enrolled in a cake decorating class.  It was the best move I've ever made.  I was able to leave Jude for 2 hours every Tuesday night (and didn't feel guilty doing it because he was already asleep) and do something that I enjoyed immensely.  I started to find myself again.  I found self-worth in something other than being a mom.  I needed that.  Here are some of the baked goods I've done, and hopefully there will be much more to come!