I’ve already shared with you how I was to be the perfect mom with the perfect child, and we all know that turned into an epic fail. One of the catalysts to my realization that I wasn’t enough, would never be enough, and actually needed to learn to ask for help was my ongoing struggle with depression. It has been both a brutal master and an eye-opening, soul cleansing journey.
Judah was determined from birth to match my determination for perfection with his own will. I was dead set on natural child-birth. I had taken Bradley classes, learned the stages of labor, and written out my birth plan to be delivered to my doctor. The plan got thrown off but not completely derailed in my 37th week when my blood pressure skyrocketed and I was diagnosed with severe preeclampsia. But I still determined to do it natural. After 16 hours of induced pitocin labor, and the encouraging comment from one of the labor nurses that they were lowering my pitocin even though I was only at 3cm because my uterus might rupture from the strength of the contractions, I relented. I took a shot that did nothing for the pain but made me extremely loopy and nauseous. Yay me! I was then thwarted 27 hours later by an emergency c-section.
One of the parenting books I read in my quest for perfect mothering was Babywise. Other moms swore by it and I was determined to do it right from the get go. I started sleep training my newborn in the hospital. Realize folks that I had to have an emergency C-section at 37 weeks after 27 hours of excruciating pitocin induced labor. I was exhausted. The epidural had left me so numb that I could not sit up without assistance. I tried to breastfeed but the nurse had to prop Judah up and he refused to latch on.
I felt powerless and scared. I did what any determined, immature new mom with my control freak personality would do. I enforced order to the situation. I laid him swaddled in that sterile plastic bassinet and decided to wait until he woke to start him on his nursing schedule. That’s right folks, stay with me. I was going to put him on a nursing schedule. Brilliant.
I had read that it was healthier for them to nurse at regular intervals, never to fall asleep at the breast: lest they pick up bad habits and never learn to self soothe.
In retrospect, I think my need for approval and to be seen as a good mother, as well as my own pride severely clouded my judgement. If I could go back I’d take that Babywise book and slap myself with it before tossing it out with Judah’s poopy diapers. Then I’d settle that little newborn bundle of goodness into the hollow spot under my neck and let him nuzzle himself to sleep. But I didn’t know then what I know now.
Thus began my first year with Judah that would include failure for my milk to come in for almost two weeks, an infection from the c-section, mastitis, jaundice, too many sleepless nights to count because I wouldn’t let him fall asleep nursing, severe postpartum depression that would blind me to the joy that new mothering could bring and left me lost and isolated. I had closed myself off to others, too fatigued and overwhelmed to muster the energy it would take to connect.
This depression was white. Often when I read about depression, it is a deep, painful, dark place. A burrowing into oneself. But this was something else entirely and it made it even harder to recognize. This depression was sterile, white, blinding. Like a cold winter of the soul. It didn’t hurt so much as make me numb. I walked around in a stupor. Life was bland, tasteless, joyless.
I suppose I functioned to a degree, after all, I was maniacal about sleep training, nursing on a schedule, and meeting Judah’s basic needs. I think I even hung out with friends occasionally and had play dates, so long as they didn’t interfere with our schedule. I was going through the motions as best I could.
What I lacked was connection. This depression was so white, its glare penetrated deep and washed out any feeling. I simply was. I existed but did not thrive. I lived through Judah’s first year in this zombie-state.
The pain isn’t always in the depths of the depression. In the thick of it, I didn’t even realize how numb I had become. I didn’t long to feel anything because I didn’t long to feel at all. How does a leper who has lost all feeling know that their damaged nerves are no longer sensitive? It is often when the infection sets in and is visible to everyone.
The pain comes later, as the white dims and everything is cast in a hazy glow, and things start to come into focus. It is in that place that the pain begins.
Next post: My Struggle with Depression: Pain in the fog
Maybe you can relate. Maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about and if you don’t, I say great, but chances are that someone close to you, someone you care about will experience some form of depression in their lives. It’s often misunderstood, especially in the church, where the joy of the Lord is supposed to be our strength. Are only the weak in faith depressed? What of Charles Spurgeon , who struggled with devastating depression for most of his life? How do we react when positive thinking is supposed to lift us miraculously from any mire we stumble in? How do we live and walk in faith while addressing issues like depression?