As I held him for the first time, my heart swelled to almost bursting. It was no matter that this was my 7th baby. What I felt for him was the same fullness of love I had felt for my first and for each one in-between; a form of ecstasy that is difficult, nearly impossible really, to put into words. A gift.
I studied his features, smelled his head and tried to sleep with him in my bed during the pauses between unforeseen nurse visits. I know he won’t remember those first days we spent in the hospital, but I do — and I will continue to remember. I’ve locked them into my memory and hidden them deep within my heart so that I will never forget where we started. With him, I am forcing myself to remember in a different way and with a different purpose than ever before. Those days we shared in that hospital bed, they were the calm before my fear-filled storm came raging in.
Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” Matthew 8:24-25, NIV
If you would have told me then, what the next year of my life would hold, I would not have believed you. This was my 7th baby after all, and I knew what I was doing. In some ways, I knew this whole ‘being pregnant and having children’ thing more than I knew not being pregnant and having children. But this time? This time was different. Everything about this experience was new — even to ‘experienced’ me.
At the stage that most of my children began sleeping through the night, he continued to snowball into a fury every evening. As the nights dragged on, things only seemed to be getting worse. As he struggled to sleep at all, I struggled to breathe with panic filling my every crevice. My back screamed as I held his tiny, screaming body and my turbulent hormones left me tense, desperate-for-sleep and falling apart. This sudden, furious storm knocked my feet from under me and swelled over me with waves so disabling I felt like I was drowning. Fear-filled secrecy kept me stuck on this wave-swept boat of anxiety and depression. I could see in my older children’s eyes that they knew something wasn’t right with mom, but I was stuck and I couldn’t shake it.
There came a night when I reached my breaking point; the end of myself and my trying in vain to make sense of all that was happening between my son and I. The thoughts that flooded my mind that night scared me with such intensity that I handed my baby to my husband and desperately cried out to my steady God in the hottest shower I could stand. “Lord, help me because I feel like I am drowning!”
Taking a Step Back
Breathe. For the first time in four or five months I finally took a breath. Naming this beast that had been holding me hostage, intentionally getting help for this storm of Postpartum Depression, and letting worship music wash over my soul every waking second of every day became a healing balm. Slowly, the harrowing waves of fear, that at one point I thought might throw me overboard, began to calm and subside. It wasn’t instant, but it was a start. It was the beginning of my journey toward becoming brave enough for the battle. Brave enough to live out my calling to be his mom. Brave enough to ask for help. And brave enough to let go of the control I fought in vain to hang on to.
This baby I longed to hold in my arms for nine long months was a beautyFULL gift from my Good Father. He used this precious baby to grab my attention, to cup my face in His gracious hands, and to whisper in my ear, “My daughter, you need Me. I want you to be whole. Let me make you brave, by confronting and overcoming this sea of fears together, every day, every hour, every second. I will fight for you.”
A BEAUTYFULL STORM
For the following year, the battle with PPD was a part of my life — of our life. I say our life because it affected each member of our family — uniquely. But gradually, our Good, Good Father brought us through to the other side.
Our life with #7 has truly rocked us to the core of all that we thought we knew about parenting. Some days, I simply don’t know how to parent him. Other days, after attempting many things, something will click with him and OH! What a sweet moment it is! He just turned 2 in the heat of July, and although so much has settled, he continues to beat to the unique drum His Creator put inside of Him with a rhythm I have never seen in any of our other children. His drum is loud and hard. His drum is confusing and anything but steady. His drum beats some days with an overflow of happiness and other days with a consistent pounding of anger. He is our noise maker and he is exactly who he is meant to be. On our knees is the best posture for parenting any child and Shadd brought me back there — to my knees — for which I will forever be changed and thankful.
For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19, NIV
This boy was given to us. He needs us. We are his family. But so much more, we need him. God knows us, and loves us so deeply, that He allowed the bittersweet storm of Postpartum Depression to come into our lives, so that He alone could calm it — and by doing so, draw us closer to Himself.
He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” Matthew 8:26-27, NIV
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