Okay, folks. This one is near and dear to my heart. I may be big on self-care this year, but, the truth is, I came a long way to reach where I am today.
To share a glimpse of my story with you:
When my son was born last year, I went through a very difficult period in my life. We were thrilled, but Dutch (my son) was a big surprise.
I worked 30-hour weeks the entire pregnancy, swapping our one-and-a-half-year-old with Joe, while he finished his PhD coursework, taught classes at university, and managed one of the local scout troops (which meant monthly campouts). He was at school from 6am to 6pm, and away overnight many weekends.
Then, we welcomed a newborn into the family and prepared to move several hours away, just a month and a half after I gave birth.
My days were filled with sore and exhausted packing, cleaning, nursing, and losing touch with my spouse and kids.
I remember one day, I was juggling both kids at the park, and Rosie fell off the swing hard, in front of a million other moms, who seemed to have it all together.
I broke down that night.
Nothing Joe could say would make it better. Some things he said made it worse, because he wanted so badly to fix what felt “un-fixable” to me. We were doing what we had to, and we couldn’t change that.
Hindsight is 20/20
The tragic thing about postpartum depression is, these events and resultant feelings are so much clearer in hindsight. My OB/GYN asked all of the right questions, but I was adamant— I felt fine.
Every mother worries about awful things happening to her children, or feels tired and overwhelmed and forms a vague idea that heaven might be a nice break at the moment.
I wasn’t anything special.
I didn’t notice how much the lack of sleep affected my mental and emotional state. I don’t know when I stopped taking care of myself.
I just sunk deeper and hunkered down— until I felt strongly that my babies were at risk, especially emotionally.
I worried that my daughter felt responsible for taking care of me sometimes, and I wasn’t enjoying the sweet moments with my son like I wanted to.
5 Steps to Getting Help
- For me, the first step in getting help came in the form of searching for articles like this one. I needed to find other mothers quickly, whom I could relate to and know I wasn’t alone in this struggle. If that is you, if you are reading this, please know how much I instantly love you. If you were here, I would wrap you in a big hug and just let you cry. Know that you are NOT alone, no matter how much it feels like you are. Know that God loves you, too. You are in the palm of His hand. Even when you might feel so angry with Him for allowing you to go through this experience, know that He is in it with you. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son”, so that you would not have to do it alone. “…that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 KJV).
- The second step I took, was to limit, and allow myself to be picky about, my social media. Reading about how great everyone else is— how productively they spend their time, how quickly they reclaim their pre-baby body or exercise regime, the latest craft they completed with their child, who never looks homeless or has a runny nose— it’s just not good for you. Don’t put yourself through that. The connection is wonderful; I honestly believe that, but you know what your heart can and cannot take. If you need to take a break for a season, it will still be there when you get back.
- Next, I fell into the wonderful world of podcasts. I had just moved, and I wasn’t quite ready to make new friends and tell them all about my deep, innermost hurt. Podcasts provided the perfect outlet. This is where Famous at Home came into my life. I could have made this a separate post, but I wanted to highlight these resources here, in case you find them as helpful as I did. I literally love them all, but the most applicable episodes include:
- #51- How Emotional Safety is the Key to Raising Kids Who Live, Love, and Lead Well (This is the episode that led me to therapy for the first time in my life. I realized the baggage that I carry affects the people I love- my kids and my marriage- in a big way, and I wanted to be the best that I can be for them.)
- #34- Taking Care of Yourself as a Parent (Taking care of yourself matters, and these practical tips really helped me. Plus, Christi just opens her heart to relate to you.)
- #91- Why Parenting is the Wrong Term (The idea that parenting is not about what strategies you follow, but rather about who you are and who you are becoming- It’s amazing.)
- #94- Marriage: Why is it So Difficult to Connect? (Quality over quantity and what to do when you don’t have a lot of time- aka, parents in the trenches)
- #99- Your Questions: Co-Parenting, Bad Dreams, Teaching Your Child to Pray, and More (My parents are divorced, and it is hard! So is single parenting. I love when Josh talks about his family growing up, and how it only takes one emotionally-safe adult to make a positive impact in your child’s life.)
- #113- Finding and Cultivating Friendships as Grownups. (This one I have to shout out, not only because of the great discussion about community, but because they recorded an entire episode to answer a question that I sent in through their submission form!)
- #96- Kids Who Can Empathize (We have the book, What Am I Feeling?, and Rosie loves it. She makes sure to tell me whenever she feels angry or sad, and we try to teach her that all of those emotions are okay. Here, Josh and Christi talk about how to show your kids that you feel sad, too, while not assigning them responsibility for your emotions.)
- #122- Core Decision #1— Define Your First Goal (The Straubs just started a new direction with their podcast that I am so excited about- being famous at home– and the header quote about therapy comes from this episode.)
- Fourth, talk it out with trusted family and friends. If you’re like me, you need the first three steps as a buffer to know how you feel and what to say, but, if not, absolutely start here. Give yourself and your family grace while you go through this process. They love you, even if they don’t know exactly how to help, and they will always be there for you, even when it becomes difficult to show up. Remember, when someone truly loves you, you don’t “earn” that love. Rather, you each give it your best, and tackle whatever comes as a team.
- Finally, when you’re ready, it’s time to visit with a professional— the sooner, the better. I know how scary that can be, or how it feels like that’s the last thing in the world you have time for, but, as Miles Adcox puts it, “You don’t need therapy; You deserve therapy.” You deserve to be happy and to feel whole again. So, please, reach out:
- Postpartum Support International: 1.800.944.4773
- Find local support and resources in your area
I hope this helps in some small way, and, if you have any tips of your own, please let us know. I should also mention, I’m so happy to call this little guy my son, and so thankful he chose me to be his mother. To my kids, you are a blessing beyond words, and I love you.
Here’s to coming out on the other side, and to finding the joy we were all created to feel.