Last year, I wrote about our miscarriage, which was followed by an unexpected pregnancy. In November, we welcomed a beautiful baby girl, Susanna Grace.
Right on the heels of her birth, we packed up our home, our four children, and the gazillion items we supposedly need to survive, and moved to a new city and a new church for my husband to pastor. Everything about the move was a joyful, fresh start for us.
But I was struggling at our new home. I felt anxious and tired, yet had trouble sleeping. I felt doubt as to every decision I made about Susanna, even though she is my fourth. Too often each day the phrase ran through my head, “I can’t handle this.” I had no energy and zero desire to interact socially, even though I knew isolation was not helpful for me. My husband was enjoying the honeymoon phase of our new church, and I felt heartbreakingly unable to rejoice with him. I was going through my own inexplicable trial. Only it wasn’t really inexplicable.
One morning, I looked up “post partum depression” and clicked on the information provided by the Mayo Clinic. I had every symptom for their section entitled, “Baby Blues.” (Baby blues are slightly less severe than post partum depression, but still a red flag to get help.)
It shouldn’t have been shocking, considering the circumstances. But it was. New moms are especially prone to clouded thinking, due to hormones, sleep deprivation, and the consuming task of caring for a tiny baby.
I wonder how many new moms out there have no idea what is going on. Here are some symptoms of baby blues and post partum depression:
- Low self-esteem
- A feeling of being overwhelmed
- Sleep and eating disturbances
- Inability to be comforted
- Social withdrawal
- Low or no energy
- Becoming easily frustrated
- Feeling inadequate in taking care of the baby
- Decreased sex drive
I made an appointment with my doctor that very morning. It was a relief to get help, and I’m doing so much better now. So, fresh from the valley, here are five things I’d like to say to new moms who are struggling emotionally:
1. You are normal. Stop thinking you’re weak, broken, weird, or crazy. Nope. You are a completely normal, red-blooded woman with a body full of “roller-coastering” hormones.
2. It’s OK to be weak right now. Our culture values people who are strong, don’t complain, and sail through every life trial like it’s nothing. Don’t buy into that mindset, because it won’t help you get better any faster in this season. Instead, it will further muddy the waters by introducing shame into an already toxic cocktail of emotions. Not only that, but the Bible does not support this American ideal of individuality and strength. Rather, Paul said, “… I will boast all the more about my weaknesses… for when I am weak, then I am strong” (II Cor. 12:9-10). Be weak, rest in Christ, lean on those who love you most. It’s ok. The sooner you accept what you’re going through and seek help, the faster you’ll be back on your way to being you.
3. Get professional help. See a doctor. Even those closest to you are no substitute for professional feedback on how you’re doing. This is the best way to love your baby, by loving yourself enough to seek the best health, so you can be the best YOU for your baby. I know it’s hard to make that appointment (believe me, I know. I know), but hard things are often the things most worth doing (remember birthing that baby?). Do it. Today.
4. You are loved. It might not feel like it right now. But, (lean in closely here) feelings lie. In Matthew 6, Jesus reminds us that God feeds the birds, yet we are much more valuable to Him than those birds. He sees, He cares, and He will walk you through this.
5. Everything is going to be OK. Sometimes we need to hear that, and since it’s coming from someone who has been there, believe me. It’s going to be more than OK; it’s going to be great! You have created within your very body a tiny, complicated, fantastic little human being, and you can get through this. That little bean that was once inside you will delight you more than you ever thought possible.
Chin up, little mama. The best is yet to come.