Monday, April 16, 2012

Memory Lane Monday: My Journey With Postpartum Depression

Most of my Memory Lane Monday posts are oozing with excitement & dripping with sweetness. After all, there isn't much that is sweeter & more exciting for me, than reflecting on the moments in life where a squishy, pudgy, pink skinned little soul made his way into this world & changed the very way that world rotates for this momma.

I love the times that I'm swept away & get to reflect on those days that seemingly buzzed by in just a blink of an eye--the baby showers, the planning & prepping, the foreign love that seared my heart the moment my eyes met his, the middle of the night feedings, the many, many daily celebrations our little boy brought to our lives. With a newborn on the way, I find myself replaying those moments--trying to remember what they look like, what they felt like & trying to gear myself up to be prepared to soak those beautiful, fleeting moments up once again. I'm ready for the sweet moments, the exciting ones, the ones I know won't hang around long enough.

But there are other moments, as well. Ones I wince at when my mind takes me back, ones that paralyze me with fear & crank my heartbeat up until I feel the rush of panic coming on-- ones that make me doubt myself & my ability to be a mother & wife. There's a deep, dark unknown that sits simmering in the back of my mind, reminding me of the moments I went through when that sweet, soft, pink, pudgy new baby boy made his way into our lives & I can't help but wonder, Will I face that giant again?

Most people don't know about my struggle with Postpartum Depression. In all actuality, most people don't know much about my struggles, period. I'm good about keeping people on the outside of my life. I'm good at rocking a smile when the pain inside me is debilitating. I'm good at pretending I've got it all together & that I can handle what this life is dishing out. It's been a form of protection & a way of functioning through my years of growing up & when I need to, I can put up a guard so high you'd never know there was a thing wrong in my life. And believe me, I don't say I'm good at it because I think it's a good thing. I say I'm good at it because I've mastered it.

Slowly, over the past eight to nine years, because of my walk with the Lord, I have very {& I mean veeeeerrry} slowly allowed my shield come down, to let my smile fade into tears & to show the people who I completely & one hundred percent trust see the side of me that I have only known to keep hidden. It has been both terrifying & freeing in the same sense & I continue to find out that the more I let people in my life, the more they let me into theirs. Our hearts become knit into this beautiful tapestry that never could have been woven without those raw areas being exposed. I'm learning, I'm growing, I'm becoming more & more open to the idea of being open.

But opening myself up in the midst of my deep, dark, struggle with depression? Forget it. That was an area that was locked up tight under lock& key & not a single soul was going to their get their hands on the key to that safe. I was embarrassed. I was failing. I was lost. I was barely treading water & I wanted nobody to see what was happening.

I grew up my whole life wanting nothing more than to be a mother. My grandma still tells me to this day that she always knew I was born to be a momma. As a little girl, I was drawn to the babies--I wanted to rock them, feed them, change their tiny little outfits. I had every kind of baby doll ever made & I won't admit how long I played with them--let's just say one of my friends brought it to my attention that we were a little old to be playing with dolls, so finally I moved on to music & make-up & boys. {Yeah, that long.}

I graduated college with a degree in Education, only to find myself not standing in front of a classroom teaching little kids, but you guessed it--taking care of babies. Instead of ever putting that Education degree to use, I found a family who had two babies already..then added another baby... & then another ...& my heart couldn't have been more at home. Taking care of those boys left me happy; it left me fulfilled. The thought of walking away from those sweet boys who had become just like my own, to pursue something I was supposed to just because a sheet of paper from a university said I should, never made sense to my heart. I loved those boys to the ends of the earth & back & I knew in my heart that one day, I'd rock the socks off being a mother to my very own.

But I didn't rock the socks off motherhood. Motherhood didn't come easy for me in the way I thought it would. In my own mind, there was nobody more qualified than me to be a momma, yet when reality hit, I was struggling deeply with it.

Looking back, I have an inkling that it was the traumatic delivery of Jett that began my downward spiral & struggle with postpartum depression. Jett was a big baby, I pushed for a long time & at the end of all of it was left with a right leg that I had no use of & that nobody was able to give me any clear answers about. In the hospital, I simply laid in my bed, never getting up without Jared & a nurse on either side of me, pretty much carrying me to use the restroom. I heard one of the nurses outside my room refer to me to a new nurse on duty as "Numb Leg Girl" & I just sat there wondering what in the world all of this meant for me.

Once we came home from the hospital, our lives seemed to go to hell in a handbasket. I couldn't walk {but fell many times trying}. I couldn't carry my baby, for fear of falling on top of him. I couldn't shower alone. I couldn't drive. And when I saw my neurologist, I was told we'd just have to wait it out & see if the physical therapy would work to regenerate my nerves, but that there was no guarantee my leg would ever be the same. Here I had visions of being this perfect little momma--I'd do the grocery shopping, prepare the meals, do a little craft during naptime, & the reality I was facing resembled nothing of which I had ever imagined. When Jared's two week leave from work was up, I begged, cried, kicked, screamed & pleaded that he not go back. I felt so alone & lost in my head & couldn't bear the thought of him not being by my side. So he took another week off--which I was grateful for, but the situation still didn't look any better at the end of that third week. My days with Jett alone consisted of mere survival. Don't get me wrong, I loved my baby. I adored my baby. I rocked him & nursed him, sang to him & snuggled him. Not one part of me had a thought of causing harm to him. But pushing him around from room to room in a stroller was not my idea of being a mom. Most of the time, I found myself simply going through motions. Jared & I's marriage began to struggle & there were moments I honest to God believed it wouldn't last. I found myself so angry at him. He would come home from work & offer to take me to Target, just to get me out of the house & rage would pulsate through me. Didn't he understand that I didn't want to go to Target during the evening with my husband by my side, while I hobbled through the store? I wanted to be NORMAL! I wanted to be like the other little moms, who got their babies in & out of the car on their own, pushed their carts through the store & did their grocery shopping during the morning or afternoon hours, while their sweet babies snoozed away in the carrier. Having to be driven to Target, having to limp around & having my husband take care of the responsibilities that I yearned to take care of on my own were just  reminders to me of how abnormal I really was. So I didn't go anywhere. And I didn't let anyone come to me. I sank deeper & deeper & deeper until one day I had a horrible thought {the tears stream already as I go there in this very moment, but it is a real part of my journey & I need to share it}. I remember this particular day I had never felt so low in my life. I remember feeling like Jared & Jett would be so much better off without me in their lives & I came up with a {very irrational} plan. I had decided that come the end of the day, I would feed Jett, rock him to sleep, place him in his crib & call Jared to tell him there's been an emergency & that he needs to come home. I would time it out to where Jared would be close to home & I wouldn't have to leave Jett alone in our house for but a few minutes & I would kiss my baby good-bye & disappear from both his & Jared's lives forever. I would chuck my cell phone out the window & drive & drive & drive until I couldn't drive anymore. I would start a new life & I would never look back.

I never followed through with that ridiculous plan, thank God. And that night in bed, I finally broke down to Jared & told him my inner wars & thoughts. He begged me to get help. The next day I begrudgingly called a hotline {that never called me back}. I was way too private to reach out to a friend or family member, so I convinced myself I could get better on my own. After all, if there's one thing I know about myself, it's that I'm a pretty tough cookie & once I set my mind to something, I can usually conquer it. Some of my days started to look a little brighter. I could pull it together & actually enjoy the day without feeling like I was just trudging through. When I visited my doctor at my six week checkup {on a good day}, I smiled & told him everything was going well, that I was a little depressed but not bad {total lie}. He offered an anti-depressant, which I quickly refused & he stated that I probably just had a mild case of the baby blues & that once the weather started to get nicer & I could get some sunshine on my face, I would most likely begin to feel better. {I had even managed to bulldoze my doctor}.

But there were still days. Days that were dark & terrifying. I remember standing in front of the mirror one day, looking into my own eyes & searching for what seemed like forever to find any glimpse of me. I no longer recognized the reflection in the mirror & I had no idea how to get back to the Holly I once knew. More days than not, the pressures of motherhood would take a toll on me & I would reach for the phone to call Jared up at work, full of anger, demanding he come home. Sometimes he would come home & sometimes he just couldn't just simply up & leave his job.

I was lost. I was unravelling at my core. I was drifting away from reality. And one day I cried & cried to God, pleading for His help. Above all the loud & thrashing turmoil going on inside of me, something still & calm whispered to me, "You are mine." I heard it--not in an audible kind of earth booming voice, but I heard it in that quiet, still, soft voice that my bible tells me about. In that very moment I realized a truth I hadn't seen up until this point. It didn't matter if I knew who I was as a wife. It didn't matter if I knew who I was as a new mother. It didn't matter if I knew who I was as Holly anymore. The only thing I needed to know was that no matter what is raging around me & inside of me, I am & will always be a child of God. A peace washed over me & a comfort trickled through me. I knew I needed to cling to that truth & let God take care of the pieces of being a wife & mom that I couldn't. And He did. He took care of me in ways I could never have dreamed.

A few days later, I received a phone call from a lady from our church. At the time, I considered this woman to be a friend--not a close friend, I hadn't known her too long, but a friend nonetheless. She was calling about a little event she was inviting us to & only a few minutes into our conversation, I found myself spilling my heart to her. I was sharing details of my situation & life with her that I hadn't shared with a single soul & all the while I was battling with myself-- Why in the world am I telling this woman my struggles? I haven't even told my best friend these things! This lady is going to think I'm a nut job! She's going to report me to a mental institute. Quit talking to her! But I didn't quit talking. I shared, I wiped tears, I continued to pour out all that was warring inside of me until every detail had been unveiled & every secret brought into light. She listened quietly for a long time. And then she spoke. And when she did, she poured out her own personal journey with postpartum depression {that had taken place 18 years ago} & revealed to me that she had never uttered a bit of it to anyone in her life. Her story mirrored mine. She understood. She assured me I wasn't crazy. She encouraged me that I was a good mom & a good wife & that it was all going to be okay. Just like a life ring being flung out to a drowning victim who desperately needs a deep breath of air to fill their lungs, she saved my life that day. God sent her my way, He gave her that life experience of postpartum depression in her own life so that she could save my life that very day. Needless to say, she isn't just a friend I barely know anymore--she's one of the dearest friends I have & I treasure her friendship. I treasure her.

Through the process of sharing my life that day, my healing process began. I slowly began talking to my friends & to other moms & I came to the realization that so many of us go through this roller coaster of hormones called postpartum depression. I learned that it's okay to unravel & fall apart. It's okay to fail. It's okay to crumble to the ground & have the Lord rebuild it from the ground up in the way He desires to. It's okay to share our difficulties. It's okay to ask for help. It's okay to not have it all together. It's okay. It's okay. It's okay.

That time in my life was earth shattering & painful in ways I've never felt before, but because of it, I emerged such a different woman. I came out on the other side a more compassionate, more forgiving, less judgmental individual. I became a better wife & the love in my marriage grew roots that went deeper & stronger than they ever had before. And that motherhood thing--well, I learned to rock the socks off it. I look back & I can honestly say I'm thankful for that period of time in my life. Do I want a re-do of it? Absolutely not. But can I say it was beneficial? For sure.

To sit here today & tell you I'm not afraid of what the future holds would be the biggest lie ever told. I'm fearful. And my husband is fearful--I see it in his eyes & it breaks my heart into a million pieces every time I catch glimpse of it. But I also remember & cling to what my God told me in those desperate moments I was enduring two years ago-- You are mine. And I believe what His word says when He tells me that through my weakness is when I am made strong {2 Corinthians 12:9-10}.

It's funny. I sometimes find myself rationalizing in my head, telling myself --This time I'm gonna be awesome. This time I'm going to show Jared how strong I am & he'll be so proud that I didn't fall apart & that I handled everything so well. I'll be a Supermom. I'll do it all with grace because I've learned so many lessons. But the reality is that I may very well fall apart. I may unravel. I may lose myself as a wife, as a mom, as Holly all over again. Motherhood may not be the best look on me for a little while. But I also know that one day down the road it will all be okay. I know I must remember who I belong to, who holds me in the palm of His hand, who loves me & sees me as His very own child, who whispered to me in my darkest hour, who will send a little lifeboat my way,  that will chug up beside me, toss out a ring for me to grab hold of & lift me to safety yet again. There will be purpose in the struggles that I face & I believe I'll come out a better me because of the bumps set in my path.

If you're my friend-- in real life or "blog land", I am going to ask you for something--because I've learned it's okay to ask for help. I need your prayers over my family. We are entering into uncharted territory, both exciting & terrifying & the power of your prayers would be the biggest blessing you could give to us, if you're willing.

Thank you. And thank you for letting me share my journey.

I promise the next Memory Lane Monday will sugary, syrupy, drippingly sweet.

I heard this song back in January while driving in the car & it has ministered to my heart in mighty ways.


  1. Holly, I can so relate to you! I too suffered from postpartum depression after having my second child. It is no fun at all! I was a mess! I was put on several different meds. However, the meds never worked! I was on so many different meds for almost 8yrs! Nelson is now 10 & I have been drug free for 2 whole yrs come this Sept! Girl, we are more alike every time I read your blogs! Depression is an awful battle to fight alone! I am so happy to hear that you conqured your battle! I will be praying for you & your sweet family! Just remember what God whispered to you if you start to feel low again. I love you girl! Thank you for sharing your life journeys & struggles! I know you are a blessing to me & many others! I'm always here to chat, if you ever need an ear. Take care & God Bless!

  2. Holly, I am a friend of Courtney's (she actually referred me to your blog!), and I just wanted to thank you for this post. I am a "new" mommy myself and struggled very quietly with late onset postpartum depression. My story reads very similarly to yours, and because of that, it is such a relief to read that other moms go through this very same thing. I have been reading your blog for a while now, but it wasn't until I read this post that I felt that I had to comment. Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Hi Chrissy! You have no idea how much it means to me that my story has touched the lives of others. For so long I was ashamed of the depression I went through, but I have learned that it is so empowering to share my story. I pray that no woman has to suffer in such silence--it is such a painful experience & the more we speak out, the more we realize we're not alone in this journey. Thank you for sharing a small piece of yours with me =)

  3. I am struggling with postpartum depression right now. I had my first baby--a son--5/22/12. I am getting better with the help of support groups and medication (Zoloft). I have met some really great women through these groups--probably will be my friends as we go through it together and motherhood in general.

    I can relate to your story, Holly, and know that I will get so much better. I have already had many days where I have felt like myself but sometimes the anxiety lingers a bit or the dark voice of depression creeps in. However, having faith in God (or another higher power) and looking toward a bright future--because everyone does make it out of the depression--surely helps.

    Good luck on your second journey, Holly; your family and all the other families struggling with postpartum depression are in my thoughts and prayers.

    Take care.

  4. Wow Holly! Thank you for for sharing your story in such an open and honest manner. I would never have thought when I followed a link on pintrest to a beautiful and serene nursery that I would find someone I can relate to in more than just decor style! I was in serious denial about my PND and so it took me 6 months to even tell my hubby. But I am glad to say that with the support of him, my amazing mom and some super special friends I made it to my little girls first birthday and am starting to feel more like myself again. Right now I am too terrified to even think of no. 2 I am just working on making up for lost time with my precious doll.

  5. Jacquelinevdw, I am so sorry to hear that you too, suffered from PPD. But what a relief to know that a new day breaks & there is a light at the end of the tunnel, huh? I am so happy that you are starting to feel more like yourself! It's a great day when that begins to happen =) Best of luck to you! Enjoy that precious little girl of yours!