When I was thinking of What to name this blog post there was no question in my mind that “the void” was the perfect metaphor and name. Emptiness, a chasm, a wall, lack of, nothingness, blank space…all ways I can think of to perfectly describe Post Partum Depression. I recently returned from a 6 day vacation with my Husband from Oahu and we decided last minute not to take our 4 month old baby girl Keira at the last minute. We originally planned for her to come with us for many months but when both our families generously offered to watch her for the duration of the trip we decided to take the much needed time to ourselves and have an official honeymoon (which we didn’t get the previous year in 2017 after getting married).
Keira was born on October 31st of last year (yes friends, Halloween day. If you know me and my dislike of all things Halloween you know how ironic this is haha.) I remember when I found out I was pregnant. I was over the moon excited about having a baby and doing ALL THE THINGS. I have wanted to be a mother since further back than I can remember. My whole pregnancy was a song and dance of fantasies about being a mom despite any physical challenges like nausea or migraines. My head was filled with decorating the nursery, snuggling my little nugget, giving her baths, laughing with her, taking her everywhere, teaching her about Jesus, helping her learn everything from ABC’s to sharing and waiting her turn in line. I imagined having such a special bond with her. For some reason I imaged that I would have this warm and tangible connection of sorts whenever I saw her, held her, thought of her, or was even around her. I had so much great sobering wisdom from incredible and experienced women around me so I don’t think I went into being a mom completely disillusioned. I believed it would be hard and probably the most challenging thing I’ve ever had to do but I didn’t know to what extent or what the other side would look like. She was so long awaited and when she finally got here I was sure we would be the best of friends. I had some pretty unpleasant L&D complications. I went in for swelling about 6 weeks prior to my due date at 32 weeks and was admitted with pre eclampsia. I was induced and we met Keira about 24 hrs later. Recovery was pretty slow for me and Keira was in the NICU due to being premature (although we got to take her home after only 3-4 days. Once we got Keira home she was a champion eater and grew wonderfully.
For those of you who don’t know I already have a diagnosis of treatment resistant MDD + anxiety (Major Depressive Disorder) so I knew going into this that I was even more likely to get Post Partum Depression. On top of all of that medications I was previously on had stopped working (very typical of treatment resistant MDD) and we had to switch prescriptions post baby. We are still trying to find some sort of effective medication with very little success. This leads me to the present situation. The VOID. I feel like post partum depression is something that still isn’t widely spoken about publicly. Medical professionals are great at being open and honest about this as they should be. Our neighbors, pastors, public figures, co-workers… it seems so many others are a lot more quiet which makes me feel very alone at times. I remember when Keira first started crying. Like really crying (after the newborn phase at like 2-3 weeks when they aren’t just sleepy most of the time anymore) and instead of wanting to run TO her I wanted to RUN AWAY. I couldn’t fix it, I didn’t know what was wrong and had checked off all the things; changed, fed, napped, temperature…I wanted out. I remember starting our bedtime routine and her falling asleep in my arms time and time again, my precious sweet angel babe, and feeling nothingness. The weight of that void crushing me like I deep in the ocean surrounded by deadly pressure. I would cry out to God “Where is the bond? Where is the connection that I’m supposed to feel?” I remember so many times looking down at her in the nursery that I would frequent before she was born and reaching deep inside myself for something that wasn’t and still many times isn’t there.
I try desperately not to compare my bond or my motherhood with other moms but its difficult. I see this ‘connection’ other women have out and about, on social media, in conversations with them and I feel crushed and ashamed.
I remember being in Oahu and missing Keira but also feeling a sense of freedom. Not because I was without her or because I had escaped her but because I couldn’t fail her. For those 6 days there wasn’t a huge void, I had escaped the chasm. I got back from Oahu with Brian around 9:30 and heard that Keira was still awake so I asked my Dad to keep her up so I could do bedtime with her (I really did miss her.) When I got home she was pretty sleepy so getting her ready was pretty easy. We walked into her nursery and started with her lullabies (She loves being sang to, and I love singing to her.) As I stood there swaying, singing, and embracing her something new came over me.
It was different. It was new. It was everything.
I felt compelled to pray for her outloud for the first time since she was born and I went with it. I prayed protection over her, I prayed she would grow to love Jesus, I prayed I would always surrender control of her life to God and she would be His, I prayed she would be a leader and influencer of her generation and would shine brightly for Christ. I prayed she would love others deeply and have her Daddy’s compassion and kindness. As I stood and prayed for her I was overwhelmed with the desire to transfer every fiber of Holy Spirit I had into her tiny body, “Oh how I wish I could protect you!” I thought.
The way I felt wasn’t some warm, soft, fuzzy, tangible connection or ‘bond.’ What came over me was just a strong desire to LOVE on my child, to be a good steward and caretaker, and be close to her. I have not had many moments like this with Keira. I think this is the ONE and only moment of connection I have had with my sweet little nugget in 4 months together. I will cherish this moment forever. I don’t know when this VOID will give way but I know I have a moment to hold to now. I believe God knew my needs and lovingly gave me that special time with my girl. I know and believe I will have more. As I continue to read my new favorite book “Nothing to Prove” by Jennie Allen I am getting more and more wisdom from the pages. The recent chapter I read spoke a lot about “numbing out” :
“Numb is easier than pain. Numb is easier than striving. The weight of sin or stress or hurt surrounds all of us, the burden and pain of failing to meet our own expectations, of not being the neighbors, managers, daughters, friends, spouses, or parents we wish we were. This is not who we thought we’d be, and were tired of even trying to change our reality. Turning everything off through social media, busyness, six seasons of Friday Night Lights, alcohol, work, or even religious activity numbs us and helps us cope with all the heavy or hard things flooding us everyday.”
I don’t know about any of you but I know the above statement was true for me. I strive, I feel pain, and I do my best to NOT FEEL the ouch of it all. If I were to ask you how you were doing you would probably use one of the human auto responses that we know so well: “okay.” “fine I guess.” “I’m good.”….though it may sound invasive and terrifying to ask the author presses further:
“But how is your soul
Are you truly fulfilled and happy?”
“For most of us, days are blurred into years or life stages, and the unique storylines played out in our God-given lives become wearisome instead of our delight.”
My goal is to be more intentional. I want to remember what God has done for me in both the hills and the valleys. This special moment I had with Keira, times of laughter and joy I have with her and even the times of struggle, sadness, and difficulty. I don’t want to compartmentalize what was designed by God to weave together. I think the mundane sometimes painful ‘everyday things’ can be just as important and useful to God. I don’t want my days blurring into years.
Whether I am struggling with a VOID, a teething toddler, a defiant 2 yr old or later a teenager with an attitude (I know a couple moms working with this right now!) I want to see Jesus in my everyday so I can BE Jesus in my everyday.