Faith, Momming

On This Day In History…

It started one year ago today. The darkest, most nightmarish time of my life started one year ago. A joyful trip to the zoo, for the first time as a family of four, resulted in a nauseatingly horrifying intrusive thought that propelled me into months of panic attacks, heavy anxiety, and intrusive thoughts.

I have never been as terrified or felt as broken as I did last summer. My foundation was shaken. I questioned myself, my perception of reality, my future, my faith, and my ability to love and protect my children.

When the intrusive thoughts first began, I remember wondering if I was suffering from postpartum psychosis. When I finally did some research, I quickly realized my symptoms matched the symptoms of postpartum OCD. Postpartum OCD can involve intrusive thoughts about harming your children. A few of the people I spoke to about my thoughts said they’d had similar thoughts in the past, but quickly shrugged them off, while I was horrified by them and couldn’t shrug them off. I felt like such a horrible person that the thoughts remained at the forefront of my mind, taunting and terrifying me. The fear of what I was capable of triggered thoughts of ending my life before I might act on the intrusive thoughts and harm the children I adored.

One night, as the thoughts and anxiety were intensifying, I cried to Thad, “I don’t understand why this is happening. I am so happy right now. I love my life.” I had just gone through postpartum hypertension in the days after my daughter was born. While I waited for my blood pressure to return to a normal level, I had been terrified that I would have a stroke and die. Who would love my children as much as I did if I died? I didn’t want to die. My experience only two months earlier made that crystal clear.

One year later, I’ve gone through therapy. I’ve been on medication. I’ve learned to fight the intrusive, lying thoughts with truth. I’ve seen just how blessed I am with an amazing support system. I’ve learned the power of having a mind fixed on God and filled with His Word. I’ve also gained a level of empathy and understanding for those who suffer from mental illness that I did not have before.

Looking back on the darkness that began a year ago makes me want to cry. I’m a million times better than I was, but I’m not completely back to normal. I don’t know if I ever will be. I have scars that weren’t there before. I am fully confident that God can redeem my nightmare, and make my scars into a story worth sharing.

One of the ways He redeems my story is in its sharing, because when I share it, others can see that there is hope. Life can be so much better. The nightmare can give way to dawn.

If you are struggling with postpartum mental illness, please reach out for help. I know it’s scary. I know it’s uncharted territory. But there is hope. You are not alone. Reach out to your doctor or midwife. Find a therapist you trust. Don’t give up. Keep fighting.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. #BreakTheStigma

Faith, Momming

The 10 Ways I Wasn’t Prepared to be a Mom

After months of crying and praying and waiting for my son, in many ways, I wasn’t prepared to be a mom. My son will be a year old in a few months, and here is what I’ve learned I wasn’t prepared for:

1. I wasn’t prepared for the amount of bodily fluids I would come into contact with.

I expected spit up. I did not expect to be squirted during diaper changes, and I didn’t expect diapers leaking through to my shirt during church, yellow goo on my hands because he wasn’t finished going when I started changing him, or being thrown up on 5 times in two hours. Not to mention, he has a sweaty head when he sleeps if his head is touching anything besides a sheet (just like my youngest brother had).
Being a mom involves getting dirty.

2. I wasn’t prepared for how his first smile felt.

It was on a Sunday afternoon, and I took a break from getting the house ready for our small group to spend time with my baby. I told him I loved him, and he smiled for the first time. My heart melted, and my eyes filled with tears. Since then, he is almost always ready to give a smile (unless he’s tired or hungry).
Being a mom involves heart melting moments.

3. I wasn’t prepared for the number of baby-inflicted injuries I would sustain.

When he was first born, I received scratches on a regular basis, and I had the marks to prove it because gloves would not stay on his little hands. Now that he’s mobile, I have had bloody lips because he plops his head down on my face. He’s also learned how to pinch. Apparently my arms and neck are prime targets for pinching. Again, I have marks to prove it. My hair is a pull toy that goes wherever I go. Unfortunately, I didn’t count the number of hairs he has pulled out of my head, but if postpartum hair loss didn’t make me feel like wearing a wig, or at the very least, a hat, my little hair puller might push me over the edge. The worst part is, after he tugs, I say, “OW! That hurt!”, and my ordinarily incredibly sweet baby smiles. He. Smiles. Thankfully he doesn’t have teeth yet, so he can’t bite, but I anticipate adding biting to the list of ways he’s assaulted me. 
Being a mom involves pain.

4. I wasn’t prepared for how smart he would be.

I know I’m naturally biased, but guys, my son is smart. At eight months old, he knew how to refute my “no” with an “ah!” and a nod of his own. He responds affirmatively and gets excited when we ask if he’s hungry and wants to eat, he waves bye-bye when questioned about where he’s going when crawling out of the room. If he has a dirty diaper, he smiles when asked if he stinks, he looks at his dad when I ask where Daddy is, he stops what he’s doing or sits up and watches for his dad when he hears the key in the door (even from the upstairs bedrooms!) or the garage door open, and he comes close when I ask if he wants to snuggle.
Being a mom involves proud moments.

5. I wasn’t prepared for the lack of sleep.

Oh sure, I was warned. Plenty of people took it upon themselves to tell me to enjoy my sleep while I could. I either ignored them or laughed it off as exaggeration. I graduated college and had my share of late nights of studying, and I lived in a dorm with fire alarms going off at random times in the middle of the night—I could handle it. Ha! I felt like a zombie for the first month and then again at 3-6 months when he was up every 1-3 hours. Then there’s a tough decision to make in the daytime: drink coffee and feel a little bit more energy but risk not being able to nap if you have the opportunity or don’t drink coffee, keep feeling like a zombie, and be able to take a nap if the opportunity arises.
Being a mom involves not sleeping.

6. I wasn’t prepared for laughing at 4AM.

My little character is in rare form these days when he wakes up in the middle of the night or early in the morning to eat. We bring him into bed with us to feed him, and he takes a few sips, then sits up with a massive smile, climbs on me, climbs on his dad, pushes my head or my other arm off of the arm resting on the mattress to make a place for his head to go as he plops down next to me to snuggle for a minute before he gets up with another smile and starts the whole process over again. At some point, decides to start eating again, and then snuggles for a little while longer before being taken back to his bed. 
Being a mom involves unexpected laughter.

7. I wasn’t prepared for how nerve racking the first few nights were.

Was he warm enough? Was he too hot? Was he going to scoot down into his swaddle and cover his face? Would I wake up if he cried? Was he still breathing? For the first few nights, I slept with my pillow propped up, overlooking his pack ‘n play, and waking up every few minutes to look at him, not because I was so crazy in love with my new baby, but because I was so afraid he’d stop breathing in the night, and I needed to make sure his chest was still rising and falling.
Being a mom involves worrying. 

8. I wasn’t prepared for how much I would love his personality. 

While I was pregnant, I worried that he wouldn’t like me or that I wouldn’t like him. While we have a few years before he grows up enough to decide whether or not he likes me, I’m pretty crazy about him. My little guy is a character. If you know my husband, you’re probably not at all surprised. He definitely inherited his goofiness from his daddy. He babbles and dances in his high chair or at the baby gate. He showers everyone he sees with smiles (again, as long as he’s not tired or hungry). He laughs at random things (mostly things his dad does, every once in a while I’ll earn a laugh). He is stubborn. He’s fearless (unless he’s faced with sunflowers, and then his bravery rapidly melts away). He’s adventurous. He is incredibly sweet and snuggly. He is observant. He is ornery. 

Being a mom involves falling in love.


9. I wasn’t prepared for the isolation I felt.

Granted, it took me weeks to feel human again and to be somewhat functional, but the first couple of months were incredibly lonely. I had worked until the day I went into labor, and I was used to being around people. Suddenly, I was with one tiny person all day, and for a while it seemed like all he did was cry, sleep, eat, and stare (he did a lotttt of staring, especially at the painting behind our couch). It was worse than it could have been because he was born in winter, and I am terrified of driving in snowy or icy weather. Plus, flu season was one of the worst in recent years, and my newborn didn’t have the immune system to fight a sometimes deadly flu. From what I read of other people’s experiences, the flu sounded absolutely miserable, and I didn’t want to get sick either!

Being a mom involves loneliness.

10. I wasn’t prepared for how fast it all goes.

When he was first born, I longed for the day he would sleep through the night, and therefore, wanted to just get through the newborn phase–even though I was warned about how quickly it goes. Again, I ignored what I was told. In just a few, short months, my newborn has gone from needing held constantly, not being interactive, being tiny, and being a loved little stranger to being able to sit up on his own crawl, pull himself up on furniture, walk with a push toy, smile, laugh, “talk” back and respond to questions, being big (okay, he’s still pretty tiny for his age, but he’s so much bigger than he was!!), and being someone whose likes, dislikes, and moods I know. It’s crazy how fast he’s grown. His growth and development has been so bittersweet. On the one hand, it is an absolute joy to see the new skills he develops, to watch his personality develop, and to watch him grow, but on the other hand, I cried when I boxed up his newborn clothes, and I know it’s just a matter of time before my snuggle-loving baby grows to be a space-craving little boy (my eyes filled with tears as I typed that).
Being a mom involves time flying.

And in just a few months, we get to start it all over again. I will probably still not be prepared.




Momming

Letter to a Newborn’s Mom

Dear Mom of a Newborn,
Congratulations! You did it! You gave birth to a beautiful son or daughter! Now the question is: who does the baby look like? You might not know yet, but what you do know is, you could stare at that little chubby face for hours, and you can’t quite bring yourself to put that precious little person down.
Maybe it’s been a few days or weeks since the big day, and the combination of hormones and sleep deprivation have started taking a toll. Everyone told you to enjoy your sleep while you could, but…you didn’t take them seriously. While you were pregnant, you woke up throughout the night and early in the morning, having a baby couldn’t be much worse. You could handle it.
After your first night with your little bundle of joy, you might have been kicking yourself. Waking up with a baby isn’t a matter of just emptying your bladder or finding a more comfortable position. Waking up with a baby means a diaper change, feeding, and burping. If your baby’s a slow eater, it could be a 40 minute process—every two to three hours. Which means you might get an hour or two in which you can sleep before you start the process all over again.
Nights are so very long. Because they’re so long, even though you are exhausted, you sometimes dread going to sleep because you know you will be awake in a couple of hours. You feel like a toddler who fights bedtime.
The days can be long too. All alone with your little guy or girl. All alone to handle the leaky diapers, multiple outfit changes per day because of the leaky diapers, and screams that make you feel inadequate, from a baby who’s already been fed, burped, and changed. And if your new arrival is a boy…you might have been a target during a diaper change.
You’re in survival mode. Exhaustion, coupled with new responsibilities, has stretched you thin. You’re so anxious for this phase to be over. Everyone told you time goes so quickly and that babies grow so quickly, but this feels like it’s lasting forever.
Dear Mom of a Newborn, just like they were right about the lack of sleep, they are right about time going quickly. Fully take in the moments with your napping baby who still likes to be cradled. I know you’re more tired than you’ve been in your life, but treasure the time you get to spend holding and feeding your little one—even in the middle of the night. Enjoy getting to try on all of the tiny outfits while they still fit.
Before you know it, your newborn won’t be a newborn anymore. Yes, you’ll get more sleep, but suddenly your baby won’t want to be cradled, you’ll be putting away those newborn size clothes and replacing them with size 3 Months. Despite the fact that you love seeing your son or daughter grow and develop, and you love seeing those smiles that melt your heart, your heart will ache a little because your baby will never be as tiny as he or she was just a few weeks ago.
Drink some coffee. Take a nap when your baby naps. Try not to feel too guilty for leaving dishes in the sink or letting laundry pile up. Whatever you do, treasure these days, take in every moment, because they were right, time goes by so very quickly.
Love,
A Mom of a No-Longer-Newborn

Faith, Momming

Cream and Sugar Mystery: Solved

Before Thad and I got married, we decided we wanted to wait a year before kids. Well… our one year anniversary is in less than two weeks, and…we started trying to get pregnant in August. We’re currently in our 8thmonth. It’s been a difficult journey, with each month filled with hope, only to end in disappointment and frustration.
Today, we got a test result back that confirms that there is an issue. While I’m thankful to have answers, I have to admit to being fearful. I know nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37), and that I need to trust and rest knowing God is sovereign and able. But…my human heart is made heavy with fear and sorrow. I don’t enjoy dark days.
As I got home from work today, I saw a package on my doorstep. I had found some great sales online earlier this week, and my order is scheduled for delivery on Friday and Saturday. I assumed one of my packages had arrived early, and I was excited to try on my new clothes. I went to pick up the box, and I noticed a bright red “Fragile” label. Clothes shouldn’t be fragile, right? After checking the label twice to make sure the box was intended for me and not one of my neighbors, I took it in and opened it. Inside the box, I found a beautiful, purple flowered cream and sugar set. However, there was no note or indication of who they were from. I messaged my mom and my husband. Thad knew nothing about it. My mom finally replied and admitted to buying them for me and said they had arrived a day early.

The cream and sugar set reminded me of a few things. First, they reminded me that God goes before me every step. The future is unknown. Every day is a step into uncharted territory, but God goes before me. He knows what comes next. He knows what I need and when I need it. He knows when dark days are coming and how to add brightness to them.

It also reminded me that I am loved and thought about. My mom thought about me when she saw the cream and sugar set and bought them for me because she loved me. In Matthew 7:11, Jesus said, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” My Heavenly Father loves me even more than my earthly mother could and He too gives good gifts.
Does a surprise cream and sugar set change the situation or the test results? No, but they do remind me to look to the One who can.
Maybe you’ve had a dark day or a string of dark days. Your situation may not be easy or one you would have chosen, but God is still good. He is still able, still faithful, still gracious. Be reminded, you are loved by God. He goes before You, and He knows what you need.