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Not What I Expected

Not What I Expected

Along with my baby came another new arrival: postpartum depression.
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Weeping, panic, rage, and shame were not exactly the words I was expecting to define my grand en­trance into motherhood. But expecting is itself a tricky word.

Postpartum depression is one of the cruelest battles your body can undergo. It takes what you were expecting and flips it upside down. It steals joy, leaving behind anxiety, contempt, anger, and dread—at least that's what it did to me. I could give you the statistics and outline the symptoms, but that's why God gave us Google. Instead, I'm going to tell you my story.

How it began

We'd been home from the hospital for just a few days. Our tiny blond-haired, blue-eyed beauty was healthy, squirmy, and delightful. Ruby was every single thing I had prayed and longed for. Now here she was, real, in our home.

And then, one night, it happened.

While my husband cleaned up the dishes and my mom held our girl, I sat alone on the edge of the bed and had my first terrifying panic attack. I could feel the electricity dancing just beneath my skin. My hormones had launched an aggressive and cruel onslaught against my nervous system. The same thoughts looped over and over through my mind: I can't do this. I'm not ready. We should have waited. I need out!

I buried my face in my hands and let out a desperate wail. What was wrong with me? And who could I even tell? If I said aloud all the things I was really thinking as I sat on the bed, I would sound crazy. And crazy is scary. I was ashamed and scared to death. I trembled, tapping my fingers on my knee, anxiously trying to talk myself down and reason myself back to sanity. But the truth is, it's hard to be in your own skin when you're not in your right mind.

Beyond the "baby blues"

Being a new mom is challenging enough, even in the best circumstances. There's the crying infant, the endless, sleepless nights, the shocking lack of personal space, and all that being needed 24/7 business. And then there's the terrible moment when you feel utterly naked because being a mom actually reveals what a little girl you still are in so many ways. You expected (there's that word again) motherhood to be beautiful and healing, revealing your deepest desire for innocence, intimacy, wholeness—the stuff of creation. And it is—unless, of course, your insides are buzzing like a madwoman and not enough oxytocin is rushing through your brain, smoothing out exhaustion into joy or churning your emotions into a buoyancy that is born of sleepy gratitude.

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From Issue:
Today's Christian Woman, 2014, May Week 2
Posted May 14, 2014

also in this issue

May Week 2
How Can You Manage Depression?

How Can You Manage Depression?

Try "catching" your thoughts
7 Things Not to Say to Someone Who's Depressed

7 Things Not to Say to Someone Who's Depressed

These words can just make it worse
Confronting the "D" Word

Confronting the "D" Word

How to find help and hope in the midst of depression
Kay Warren on Depression, Grief, and Hope

Kay Warren on Depression, Grief, and Hope

Choosing joy "even if my worst nightmare came true"

ratings & comments

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Jodie

May 22, 2014  9:34pm

Thank you so much for your honesty & transparency. I had post-partum depression after both my biological children were born...it was delayed and so much worse the second time around. I think I had tried to ignore the signs...my first round though I was treated with an anti-depressant prescribed by my obgyn team...that was it. I tried to keep it as quiet as possible. I retreated instead of asking for help. I felt so so so much shame. The second time around we called in not only the medical/counselor but also began building my "village" and learned it was ok to ask for help. I still am fighting off the shame. Cognitively I understand why I should not feel shame, but my heart can still deceive me at times...so really thank you.

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Kelly Evans

May 22, 2014  11:18am

So glad to read this today- I had a severe case of the Baby Blues with my first born that luckily did pass after two weeks as the doctor predicted- but I was really scared during those two weeks that it would last forever. I had never felt more incompetent in my life. This is one of the things I always warn moms-to-be about - no one told me this could happen and it made me feel isolated. I know not everyone experiences it but I think it's so important to let women know that it does happen to some and it's okay.

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Lisa Murray

May 22, 2014  9:16am

Postpartum Depression is so insidious precisely because it is NOT what we're expecting. Learning how to name it is a huge step toward dealing with it and finding balance along the journey. Thanks for your insights! @LisaMur90355601

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