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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Looking Back at Pain and Promise

What do you see when you look at her?  Do you see someone who has everything?  She does.  She has those two beautiful, healthy boys and and she has one more baby boy, only 4 months old.  This is Valentine's Day 2005.   Her husband loves her and she loves him.  He has offered to watch the baby and let her take her 6 and 4 year old boys out to dinner for Valentine's Day.  Isn't this perfect?  Isn't life wonderful?  Isn't she blessed?

She is.  But do you know what I see when I look at this picture? At first look, this picture always breaks my heart.  This picture draws the tears and they spill down my cheeks and splatter on my typing fingers.  I look deep into her eyes.  They are deadened eyes.  They are scared eyes.  She is falling.  She is riddled with guilt because she cannot conjure up the happiness that she knows this moment should bring.  She doesn't want to go out.  She doesn't want to eat.  The only thing she wants desperately is to FEEL PEACE and FEEL CONFIDENT and FEEL WORTHY and FEEL HAPPY.  Because this life?  This is the definition of the happiness that she wanted.  And she cannot feel anything but fear.

She has never been so tired, but the sleep will not come.  She has never been so hungry, but she cannot eat.  She cannot believe the favor God has shown her by giving her this family that she dreamed about when she was a very small girl.  She, in the next few days, will become more and more certain that she cannot live up to the blessing.  She will become more and more certain that she must have been mistaken when she believed she was strong enough, smart enough, good enough for this man and these boys.  She is becoming more and more certain that she is not up to the task that God has gifted her.

I have been thinking about that long ago season of my life a lot lately.  I marvel at how quickly it slipped away, but remember that at the time, I thought it would never end.  Somedays I miss the little ones so much that I am a mixed-up mess.  I almost burst into tears in the pediatrician's office last week when I saw a mommy bringing in her newborn for a check-up while I was listening to the nurse announce that my boy is now taller than me.  I recognized all the noisy trucks and musical toys and lamented the absence of toddlers in my house as I played with the little ones in the church nursery on Sunday.  But, later I'll notice a mom at the grocery store, basically wearing her pjs and pushing that little "bucket o' baby" in the grocery cart.  I know that she can hardly focus on what kind of  detergent she needs to buy.  I really fight the urge to run over, wrap her up in a giant hug, kidnap her baby for the day and whisk her away to a hotel to tuck her in for a 24 hour sleep.  That would be awkward though.  In any case, I remember the storms that season of life brought to me. 

I had a bout with postpartum depression in the winter of 2005.  I'll tell you what . . . this is a phrase I despise, but I'll use it to describe this period of time:  IT SUCKED. (Sorry, Mom. And boys, no, we are still not allowed to use that phrase.  It's downright tacky.)  The phrase works in this case though, so much so, that as soon as I hear of a woman having a baby, right behind the "Oh, that's wonderful" thought, comes the "Oh, that poor girl" thought.  I have a heart for women with little bitty kids and little bitty babies all at the same time.   I see them when I work in the church nursery.  I see that they are tired and I know that they probably want to huddle in the corner of the pew and take a nap.  I see them at Target.  I see that they just want to buy some diapers and maybe a loaf of bread and a Diet Coke and get the heck out of there before the pacifier falls out again.

I think that inside myself, there is a lot to say to these women, but I hesitate.  I find myself typing away about this season of life, but I stop myself from posting because of so many reasons, so many worries.

I worry because it will be painful for me, but more, it might be painful for women going through that period right now to read.  I worry because I don't want women who are suffering just a bit of the blues to make a leap that they don't need to make and think that they are as bad off as I was. 

On the other hand, the depression and anxiety I suffered did not last a terribly long time.  I was able to recognize the problem, I sought help in many different ways and I felt better in a relatively quick period of time.  So, I worry that someone who is suffering might think, "Well, I can't get better, so her God must love her more.  Her husband must love her more.  She must love her children more.  She must have been stronger than me."   Absolutely, positively NONE of that is true.

Mostly, I worry because this is a big, significant subject and who the heck do I think I am? I'm just a small, insignificant girl who bangs out all of her thoughts on a blog.  I might have some sympathy and a few ideas that worked for me, but I am not a doctor and I am not a psychologist and I am not a pastor. 

I am just me.  And I worry.  And I write.

And are you thinking that maybe if I just would have gotten rid of that AWFUL skirted round table sooner, I might have saved myself some serious mental distress?  Uh-huh, me, too.

See? I am just me.  I worry.  I write.  And when everything gets heavy and serious, I make inappropriately timed jokes. 

I'll be back on this subject with some thoughts on what worked for me, but mostly some urgings for young mamas to try something, anything, to bring yourself back, because you can come back.  It will get better.  It will.  Sometimes it will get better simply with the passage of time and sometimes with a little (or a lot of) extra help.  I know that the mere thought of pausing to get help, even just to find the time to get to a single doctor's appointment, can be overwhelming to a new mommy. 

This is what I also know, young mamas:  God gave YOU those children.  He gave them to you because He believed that you should be their mother and make the right decisions for your family.  One of those decisions might be to loosen your grip on control, get yourself some help and trust that God and some of His people can help with your children for a bit.  You can do this.  You might need some help for a bit, but you can do it.  I know it. 

Blessings, people.


Lynn B said...

Thank you for writing this. Even several years out from that moment, I needed this and it blessed me. I will be sharing it with my mommy friends. Every mom needs to hear this. God bless your brave and sharing heart!

Jenn said...

Thank you so much, Lynn, for your kind words. Blessings to you!