I don’t know when it was exactly, but several years into this journey called motherhood I realized there are lies we moms often believe after we have children. Some of them are lies we tell ourselves. Others we’ve heard from social media, family members who may mean well, and our peers.
No matter what the source, these fabrications can steal the joy of what can be one of the most meaningful journeys of our lives. Over the next week I will uncover a few of these with you and offer you truths to combat them. After battling postpartum depression and anxiety for over a year following the birth of my first child, God gave me a heart for struggling moms.
I pray by sharing some of my experience, you will know that no matter what your struggle is, you are not alone.
Which brings us to lie #1: You have to do it alone.
There is something paralyzing about knowing another human being’s life depends on you.
My five minutes of bonding time with my firstborn was followed by the announcement that my grandmother had died, days of crying (both from me and my baby) and an insatiable newborn appetite my petite frame couldn’t satisfy. Since my birth plan had followed the same path as all other mothering plans I’d made and ended in an emergency c-section, I grasped onto the one sacrament of motherhood I had left: breastfeeding.
But the more I looked at my son, the more the weight of responsibility crept into my body. One morning after returning home from the hospital, I sat in the rocker nursing and felt a tightness in my chest. I struggled to breathe.
The doctor’s office thought it was a pulmonary embolism, which, by the way, can kill you. No pressure to get to the ER. Just feed your baby and get there as soon as you can.
Thirty minutes later I laid in the Radiology Department and waited to be injected with dye which rendered my milk unsafe. “Failure,” played on repeat in my head. I couldn’t even give my child what he needed to survive.
Instead of feeling relief when my mother-in-law called to say my son had taken a bottle, the tightness in my chest turned to a deep ache. I was dismissed from the hospital with no diagnosis, an order to pump for 48 hours, and a pamphlet about obesity.
My insides had been cut open less than a week prior.
Over the next few months when the family was gone and my husband returned to work, a veil distorted my perception of reality. Although I was aware of it, I didn’t know how to get rid of it.
Rather than invite, the sunlight threatened. One day I remember looking out the window at the mountain peaks east of our home, convinced my spouse and child would be better off without me.
I counted the minutes until my other half walked through the door with pointed precision. Morning filled me with dread. Morning meant I’d be alone again.
Somewhere in the midst of my dark my husband saw me and knew I was still there. He encouraged me to seek help. But the darkness whispered lies, and for months I believed them.
“Seeking help is an admittance of inadequacy,” it said.
“Seeking help will make you one of “those people.”
But who were they? And more importantly, who was I?
There is no place darker than the soul who thinks she needs no one.
One night I laid in bed and cried the only prayer to God I could muster: “Help.”
There was no lightning bolt moment or sudden rescue from the pit I was in but I remember walking out of the OBGYN office a year after my surgery and a prescription for a second antidepressant.
I dreaded taking it. I dreaded the insomnia, the loss of appetite and zombie-like state I recalled from a previous medication.
As the western sun shined that evening and turned the Wasatch Front to an amber glow, I knew I had to make a phone call. I found a trusted counselor’s phone number on our church’s website.
Sometimes admitting you need help is the mightiest thing you can do.
And when I spoke the words out loud and voiced my need, I took a step toward something that had waited for me in the light. I moved toward hope.