Friday, April 27, 2007

Let's talk about Postpartum Depression

It's a difficult thing to be in the first few weeks of caring for a new beautiful creation, yet all the while feeling consumed by negative emotion coming from deep within. I have suffered from postpartum depression and when I was in the midst of it, I did not have the words to articulate my experience... but now I have them... and so I will share.

When I was in my last few weeks of pregnancy with Baby J, (my baby girl) I knew in my heart I was having a girl and the dread was already setting in. For me the depression was largely situational, meaning there were several dynamics that acted as kindling for the hormonal swings to ignite into a full blown mess. I had just left a job I loved and it was a messy separation. Remind me to talk about that some time again in the future. I left the job only a couple of weeks before delivering my sweet baby girl, so the process of grieving that season of my life was shoved to the side and yet was stealing energy from me on a daily basis.

Add to that, I had a baby girl who became a mirror for me to really see how small and innocent I was so long ago. I had a ton of shit in my past to wade through and lots of family of origin issues just came seeping up to the surface. My husband and I were struggling financially, when I did work I got paid a ridiculous amount of money for what I contributed, but it was more than I was making being at home. We were in huge debt from our business of the dot com crash and we were not managing things as well as we could have. I felt isolated and overwhelmed every waking minute of my life. I did not have any stay at home mommy friends. I did not know how to ask for help from the family and friends around me and I was just a mess trying to convince people and myself that I was perfectly okay.

Only now, after having my next child, can I see how bad the darkness was for me then. I am not suffering from postpartum depression this time around...thanks to many years of psychotherapy that has finally taken hold in my life and my relationships to bring about true transformation inside of me. When I find myself laughing and giggling with my kids these days, I remember what I missed the last time around. I did not giggle for a good year after Baby J was born. Now saying that though, I do not mean I did not take joy in watching her and Boo grow...my depression was not dark enough to cut me off from their joy, but the joy was through their eyes. I did not feel joy in me, if that makes any sense. I was walking around burdened by my own past... the abuse I survived and the mistakes I could not forgive myself for. I was difficult to be in relationship with. I was like a wounded animal who had a tremendously difficult time even trusting someone who was safe to come close enough to help me heal. There was a lot of darkness.

But then the light came in, and God work a mighty act in my heart and life. First, my girlfriend and former co-worker helped get me involved in a group called Mothers of Preschoolers or MOPS. I had left behind the church of my childhood and career so I was not in fellowship at the time, and I needed it. The women of my MOPS group welcomed me with open arms. I usually have a very difficult time cultivating new friendships, but I felt comfortable from day one and I felt connected by the end of the first semester...which is huge for me. It was great to be in the midst of many other women who were in the same season of life as I was, and it was good to have great caregivers for my children.

One of my biggest issues is trusting my children to someone else's care. I had the terrible fortune during my childhood to be in a not so good childcare situation and it is my deepest seeded fear as a parent. I can trust someone and they can betray that trust and my kids might not have the ability to tell me what happened. Being able to trust my kids to the care of the church's children's director and the caregivers has helped heal that very old wound in me. They were sensitive to my kids and their needs from day one.

Second, I made the choice to put distance between me and the areas in my life that were not working. I needed to be grown up in lots of ways. I needed to gently be taught how to put my big girl pants on. It was really messy, but in the end it was all good. I needed to exercise my responsibility to make my life my own. I was no longer a child, now I was the mother of two wonderful children and I needed to behave that way. I needed to put boundaries on my thoughts, who I spent time with, and where I found community. And as I did that relief came. I needed to make my own decisions and I needed to learn to take responsibility for the outflows and changes of the decisions I was making. I took my power back and I learned a spirit of humbleness... a spirit that is still evolving in me today.

I know this is a hecka long post, but I just needed to get it out. Postpartum depression is horrible, but living through it, I can see it now as the opportunity in my life to make the changes that would open me up to deeper connection in all of my relationships. I now like who I am and so I like people around me a lot more. Now that I embrace my humanness in new ways, I have the grace and wisdom to accept those around me who are also human. I am freed up to love my children and my husband in whole new ways and I am able to trust God with more of my heart than ever. I am grateful for two things from that dark time. 1. I don't ever have to re-live it and 2. I am forever changed because I dealt with when I hit me.

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