As I stared down at a positive pregnancy test in the spring of 2011, I was so thankful for the little miracle inside of me. God was giving Matt and I a baby. It would no longer just be the two of us. When I found out I was having a girl I immediately started to daydream about our life together. As I felt her wiggle in my womb I couldn’t wait to see her face, hold her, kiss her feet and tickle her belly. I wouldn’t say I had high expectations of motherhood, but with this being my first baby, ignorance really was bliss. Right up until I pushed Ava out of my body.
Ava was born perfectly healthy and beautiful. I remember holding her in the hospital and just staring at her tiny ears. God had knit her together so wonderfully and I was in awe. I feel like the first few days were euphoric and I was so proud to show off my girl. Everything was going just as I expected, but then the time came when the doctors made us leave the hospital.
We were home. Immediately, the OVERWHELMING tiredness started to set in. My milk supply took forever to come in, so my body was incredibly sore, and Ava was getting frustrated. Ava seemed to have nursed well in the hospital while the lactation specialist was sitting with me, but at home, not so much. Latching on was a thing of the past. Jaundice set in, ounces were lost, crying increased and my hormones were far from stable. Why wasn’t anything working? Why is this so hard? What is wrong with me? Why can’t I do this?
All of a sudden I found myself really disliking being a mom. In fact, I hated it. Everything seemed to be so hard for me. Nothing about my life seemed easy anymore. I felt like I just couldn’t do it anymore. Things got darker and darker until one day my mom lovingly sat me down and talked to me about postpartum depression. That was the last thing I ever expected to happen to me. It was so hard for my heart to hear because all I could think was that I had failed at something that should have come so naturally.
I thought I was the only one in the world that was going through this.
I agreed to accept treatment for my depression and I am so glad that I did. However, I learned early on in the healing process that postpartum depression is actually quite common. Um, excuse me? I had never heard anyone talk about it. Did statistics show that it was common? Absolutely. Do women openly talk about their struggles in hopes of ministering to other women? Absolutely NOT. I thought I was the only one in the world that was going through this.
Treatment for depression can include one or all of the following: appointments with your O.B and/or primary care physician, talk-therapy, psychiatric support, and medication. Now, all of these items require time and a little bit of money as well. I know that new moms are just trying to brush their teeth everyday, let alone go to appointments and see people in public. BUT, these treatments can literally save lives and I urge you to let go of any mommy-guilt and begin taking care of you or anyone you might know who suffers from this.
If you have ever flown on a plane then you have you heard the “safety while flying” speech given by every flight attendant. You are told where the nearest exits are, that your seat can be used as a flotation device, etc. One directive they share in regards to the oxygen masks that fall from the ceiling is, “If you are traveling with a passenger that requires assistance with their oxygen mask, please place your mask on first, then go to assisting fellow passengers.”
Dealing with postpartum depression and mommy-guilt is much like putting your oxygen mask on first. I could not be the mom that God created me to be for Ava unless I took care of myself first. If smoke were to fill the cabin of an airplane and I passed out trying to get Ava’s oxygen mask on her first before I placed my own, then we are both screwed. But, if I allow fresh oxygen to flow into me so I can better take care of my daughter and help her with her mask, then we both stand a chance.
Although it is counter cultural and feels like the opposite of sacrificial love, if you are struggling with postpartum depression the best gift you can give your family and new little one is to put on your own oxygen mask first. Get into counseling, fill your soul with the truths of His word, seek medical attention, start medication, and begin taking care of you. The greatest gift you can give to your family is a strong, healthy, fully present mom, taking each day as it comes, inhaling truth and positive self-talk with every deep breath you take.
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