Beyond the Blues

“Meg,” my sister-in-law pleaded with me, “you need to call your midwife.” That morning, as I lay on my back in the middle of my living room floor with Amy on the other end of the phone, hopelessness hung over me like the musical mobile my husband, Scott, attached to our newborn baby’s crib four months earlier. What started out then as a common case of the baby blues, in recent weeks spiraled downward into a devastating depression.

After the birth of our second daughter, Lilla, we received plenty of help adjusting to our growing family. But at my six-week postpartum hospital visit, I felt an incredible urge to cry on my midwife’s shoulder and confess that I hated being the mother of a newborn again. I missed the freedom, flexibility and full night’s sleep that my older preschooler, Rainey, afforded me. I wanted to tell my midwife that I was sick with anxiety every time Lilla cried, that the thought of taking her anywhere made me want to throw up. But when she asked how I was doing, I lied and said, “Oh, I’m just a little tired.”

Tears tumbled down my cheek on the way home from that appointment. Wiping them away, I committed to snapping out of my postpartum funk on my own. The next day I laced up my running shoes and went for a jog. After a few weeks of this routine, I felt like myself again.

Then winter arrived.

Now when I ran, the cold air pressed on my chest like cinder blocks, so I gave up exercising. Whatever mental and physical progress I’d made dwindled. As Christmas drew closer, I lost all motivation to celebrate, and by New Year’s my mood was as cold as the weather outside.

I tried telling myself that this season of my life was only temporary, that things will eventually get better. So I flooded my house with uplifting music to drown out the endless stream of doubts, frustrations, and failures I felt as a mother. I searched my Bible every morning, clinging to the verses that promised brighter skies.

But my pain still seemed stronger than my faith. I cried out to God several times a day, demanding to know why he was allowing me to feel so horrible. I had a hard time believing this daily torture was for my own good, and I was convinced God was terribly angry with me. Every morning I woke up feeling the world bearing down. Throughout the day small problems loomed so large that by nightfall, all I could do was soak my pillow with sadness.

One night in particular, while trying desperately to nurse Lilla to a sound sleep, I tried picturing myself somewhere warm and tropical having fun with my family, and I couldn’t. I couldn’t imagine being alive to see that day. There in the darkness of Lilla’s nursery, I had absolutely no hope, and I entertained the thought of ending my life.

That’s when I knew I needed help. The next morning I left a message with my midwife’s receptionist and while I waited for her to call me back, I sat down to pray one last time for God to come through for me.

“Lord, I’m throwing up my hands here,” I scribbled into my journal. “I’m fighting a losing battle. Help me.”

Then the phone rang.

Thinking it might be my midwife, I answered, but instead it was my sister-in-law, Amy, whose calls I’d been ignoring for weeks. After apologizing, I described some nursing problems I’d been having with Lilla, hoping to receive some sage advice from a fellow mom.

She told me she had similar difficulties with my nephew when he was the same age. “I had such a hard time trying to figure him out,” Amy sighed. “He was all over the place with his eating and his sleeping, and I was a wreck. It was like I had absolutely no joy in my life.”

Amy continued to tell me about her personal struggle with postpartum depression and the treatment she received. My pride tried to stop me, but after realizing that she could relate, I shared with Amy how I’d been feeling for months.

That’s when she suggested I call my midwife. When I told her I already had, she was relieved, and with a few parting words of encouragement, we ended our conversation so the line was free when my midwife tried to reach me.

As soon as I hung up, the phone rang again and this time it was my midwife.

“I’m having a really tough time,” was all I could manage to say at first.

But then, without judgment or condemnation, my midwife answered all my questions about postpartum depression, and she asked me if I wanted to talk to a professional therapist. When I assured her that I had an answering machine full of loved ones willing to talk to me, she encouraged me to call her if I needed anything else.

I woke up the next morning feeling — well, less miserable, and I celebrated when, at the end of the day, I made it through without weeping. I figured it was just the placebo effect from the medication I started taking, but over the next few days, I really did begin to feel better. I played with Rainey more. I laughed with Scott more. And I enjoyed Lilla more than I ever had before. I was amazed by the remarkable change taking place in my body and in my heart.

In the weeks and months that followed, the chemicals in my brain and hormones in my body returned to their normal levels, and I slowly began to realize that during the worst part of my depression, I was in such a deep pit of despair that the eyes of my heart couldn’t see any light in my life; they could only adjust to the darkness. As a result, I lost my perspective.

But with the help of family and friends, God restored it to me. Now when the occasional dark mood threatens to downpour on my day, I’m reminded of his faithfulness to me in every difficult circumstance in my life, not just my postpartum depression. I no longer confuse his silence with a lack of caring. And rather than look for an explanation, I look to him to walk through the pain with me. Even though at times I may not feel it, like a baby to a rattle, God has a grip on me, and I know He will never let go.

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