Let Freedom Ring: My Struggle with Post Partum Depression & Anxiety

Let freedom ring.

“God has not given us a Spirit of fear, but he has given unto us a spirit of power, a spirit of love and a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

This post has been a long, long time in coming. It’s the kind of thing that you don’t normally want to shout from the rooftops. It’s my experience and not one I have particularly enjoyed. Putting my story out there means that I risk unsolicited advice, pity and people who don’t believe me or brush it off as “nothing”.

But putting my story out there might also encourage one or two people who are going through their own battles.

Let me tell you my story.

I have always wanted to be a mother. I actually even enjoyed being pregnant the first time around. And I was horrified once Tera arrived to realize that I didn’t really like it. I for sure knew that I didn’t love it. At my 6 week checkup the doctor asked me if I was feeling sad or depressed and I said no because I really didn’t think I was. But in reality, the first six months of Tera’s life were pretty difficult for me. It was a combination of exhaustion, adjusting to being a mother and a crazy amount of hormones coursing through my body.

I didn’t put two and two together about my postpartum experience with Tera until Little Miss Abigail (our foster daughter) came along. She was far more challenging than Tera ever was, she was up most of the night and screamed her little head off for most of her first six months of life. It was so incredibly stressful, but I handled it fairly well. One day I suddenly realized that having newborn Abi was actually easier than newborn Tera because I didn’t have any postpartum hormones coursing through my body. Realizing that was REVOLUTIONARY to me.

To this day, I still don’t know if I really struggled with depression after Tera. But I know that I certainly struggled…a lot.

So going into Kiah’s pregnancy and birth I was more prepared to fight. I knew more of what to expect and how I could take it in stride. I understood better that the first six weeks were the hardest, then the next 6 weeks, and then once we hit around six months it would be smooth sailing.

And then things in our life started happening that left me spiraling out of control. At 36 weeks pregnant, our well collapsed and we lived without water for three weeks. I thought I was handling it fairly well, but looking back now the fear and stress worked its way into my heart and stayed there, playing a huge part in my PPA. Two days after we got our well fixed, our entire family came down with the stomach bug (I was nearly 39 weeks pregnant). That was physically draining, but even more emotionally taxing.

Kiah’s birth was beautiful and the first few weeks at home were wonderful. I was so happy and I was loving (almost) every moment with Theo and my two precious gifts.

And then Kiah’s weight issues popped up, the failure to thrive diagnosis was slapped on him and I spiraled almost completely out of control. Every moment was jagged with fear, I never knew what was around the corner or what tomorrow would hold for me and my boy. I was terrified we would lose Kiah and out of nowhere I became a huge germaphobe, terrified to leave my house and have Kiah get sick. My anxiety was not over huge, rational things like car accidents or cancer, but over tiny, inconsequential things like the stomach bug and Kiah not drinking his entire bottle.

It consumed me for days, weeks and months. I had no idea that I was going through PPA. No clue. I was just terrified all the time. I had several panic attacks around Christmastime and it was probably the hardest time in my life. The craziest part was that I acted perfectly normal out and about. I wasn’t necessarily ashamed of it, and probably would have talked to someone about it had I actually known what I was dealing with, but I didn’t know how to bring it up or what to really share about.

In January, I picked my word for the year and landed without hesitation on FREEDOM. I was living as a slave to fear, I was literally letting fear dictate my every action and interaction with those around me. I came into 2017 BATTLING with all my might for the FREEDOM found in Christ Jesus.

I finally had a “come to Jesus” conversation with Theo where I realized that I needed help. We started to look into Christian counseling and I even called my OB to start asking about medication. All of this was at around 5 months post partum.

And then, almost as quickly as it started, my anxiety started to fade. It started to fade about the same time that I started losing chunks of my hair, which is how I know without a doubt that my anxiety was all related to the postpartum hormones. You see, when a woman’s body starts to regulate after birth, her hair starts to follow out due to the decrease in hormones.

Everyone’s story is different, and I hesitate to share what “worked” for me, because I understand it might not work for someone else. I can honestly say that my freedom from PPA is a complete healing in Jesus Christ. There is no way that I could have overcome the battleground of my mind without the Scriptures or the power of the Holy Spirit. I did not end up receiving counseling or medication, but I think that is a completely necessary option for some people.

However, it is also important that we not discount the power of the Holy Spirit and Scripture in our struggles against the things of the flesh and the mind. That should always, always be our first step and one that we have to FIGHT for. Even Scripture and prayers doesn’t always just solve the problem overnight I have to commit those Scriptures to heart and when the thoughts of anxiety crowd into my mind I have to literally throw them out with the sword of the spirit and the word of it’s testimony.

 

I am writing my story here for several reasons. I am hoping that there is someone out there who needs to hear it. I am hoping that there is someone who is encouraged by my testimony and feels less alone because of it. If you have any questions, or have gone through the same thing, I would love to hear from you. You can leave comments, but if you feel this is too personal, you can feel free to email me and I assure you that it will stay between us. You are NOT ALONE if you are facing PPD or PPA. You have not done anything wrong and you as an individual are probably not equipped with the tools that you need to overcome it. Please reach out to a trusted friend to begin taking the steps needed to overcome.

I have actually had this post in my drafts folder for months now, but May is mental health awareness month and hearing that was the final push I needed to publish this post. Please feel free to share it, even if PPD and PPA are not something that you have struggled with. You never know who might be going through their own battle.

 

 

 

 

15 comments

  1. Rebecca says:

    Thanks for being honest and sharing. So often we hide behind “I’m fine” when people ask us how we are. Having a new baby is hard. And a small one is even harder ( I had a little girl who grew very slowly)
    We need help in the beginning and tomlet new moms know what they are feeling is normal and tonseek out the help.

    Thanks for sharing

    • [email protected] says:

      Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving this comment…it means so much to me!

  2. Jessie says:

    This is almost word for word the same as my experience! I’m so sorry you struggled through this, it’s just terrifying to go through and I don’t think a lot of people realize that. I also had. I idea what was wrong with me at the time, because I didn’t have the classic symptoms of PPD, so I felt alone. I wish I wouldn’t have waited so long to get help because my anxiety turned into depression as well. It’s truly exhausting. I completely agree with you about pouring yourself into scripture and shielding your life with it. The power it has is amazing. Thanks for sharing your story! <3

    • [email protected] says:

      Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving this comment! I am so sorry that you have gone through this, but I’m so, so glad that I’m not alone!

  3. Kaity says:

    I have a family history of depression so I was on high-alert after both my pregnancies for signs of PPD and PPA. Thankfully, I have never experienced that and I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to deal with on top of just normal postpartum/new Mom life. Obviously, your experience is totally different than mine, but I can definitely relate to your anxiety around Kiah’s FTT diagnosis. It seems almost trivial now, but when they weren’t sure why Charlie was so small it consumed my entire life. Honestly, I still occasionally freak out about his eating habits (when he had the stomach bug and lost weight, I was so anxious and fearful). He was fine in a matter of days, but not knowing whether your child is eating/growing properly is SO stressful.

    On another note, your blogging game has been STRONG lately. Keep it up!

    • [email protected] says:

      I really think my perspective is so unique because I have had two bio kids and one that I didn’t have to deal with the hormones! Haha!
      I think we can very much relate on the tiny babies front! It IS trivial in hindsight, but in the moment it’s literally the most terrifying thing. I think we as Moms love to be in control. We can control the volume of the TV, what toys our kids play with, the time they go to bed, what they wear….but we cannot control their weight or what they eat (or their attitude, but that’s another matter entirely!) and it’s a terrifying position to be in!

  4. Anna Gallop says:

    You’ve had a lot to deal with and it seems you’ve dealt with it well even if it’s been really difficult roller coaster ride! I’m sorry it’s been so hard.

    Our bodies do affect us so much. The last 5ish years have been extremely difficult for me (especially the 2nd two pregnancies) even though I love my kids more than I ever could have imagined. I’ve had a similar experience to you, but it hasn’t gone away with time. (I think I may have had depression and anxiety before having kids though, possibly related to TCK struggles.) Sometimes I feel fine, I am happy about things, I get excited, and when I’m with other people I think I generally look like I have it somewhat together. But more often I feel like I’m fighting for my life. I cry frequently, have panic attacks, have thought about suicide quite a bit, am irrationally anxious, am soo emotionally unstable, etc. (I also have other health problems with doesn’t help.) Like you, I have told people that I’m fine simply because at first I didn’t recognize how much of a problem I had or that it wasn’t normal and then later didn’t know what to say or how to get help. About 6 months ago I started seeing a counselor frequently which has been extremely helpful. (Our church has a professional counselor on staff who members can see without having to pay so it doesn’t have to be cost-prohibitive, which I think is great!) Previous to that I made a few attempts to get help, which helped but weren’t ongoing. Currently I see my counselor regularly, have a few close friends I’ve been able to talk to and who are there for me, have made some lifestyle changes like going running a couple times a week to help relieve stress, etc. (My Etsy shop has been helpful too.) I have thought about medication but so far haven’t wanted to deal with side effects, cost, and possibly disrupting my hormones more IF I can manage in other ways. I’m still struggling but doing a lot better with support. I do wish I could be more stable for my kids. I think I do a good job with them but wish I could do more and worry about how my struggles will affect them. We’re also planning to move and I worry about losing my support.

    I think sometimes it’s especially hard to get help when you need it most. It’s also embarrassing when you know that your life is good and you have so much to be thankful for and yet you still can’t cope. It’s made me want to be able to be there for other people as I am able, to come a long side and meet them where they’re at.

    • [email protected] says:

      YES to all of this! Oh, Anna…motherhood is SO HARD. It’s so lonely and isolating and it takes everything that we were before kids and makes us a whole new person. While that person is not bad, it’s like waking up in someone else’s body, and it’s so hard. I’m so glad that you are finding help and that you have the resources that you need.
      I completely agree- I don’t think I was ever in denial. I just didn’t know the signs and couldn’t recognize them in myself, even if I did know the signs! I am also an extrovert and when I was able to get out of the house I didn’t feel depressed (after Tera, although my anxiety and germaphobe-ness was really hard to get out after Kiah) and so I didn’t ever talk about it or seem like I was depressed (because I wasn’t when I got to interact with other people!). It’s the lonely days at the house by myself that really get to me. I also agree with you about the medication- I think it’s completely necessary for some, but I think we are too quick to jump to it as an “instant fix”.
      You can feel free to text me anytime (just email me for it!). I find that just being able to have that instant texting back and forth with my sisters in law have been really, really helpful to me. Thank you so much for leaving this comment!

  5. Nancy DeValve says:

    I could see how you were struggling when we were there and have spent much time lifting you up to our loving Father. I think going to a Christian counselor is a great idea, when needed. I think sometimes we need professional help for our mental health as much as we do for our physical health. Unfortunately most insurance won’t cover getting mental health care. We love you, Theo, and the kids dearly.

    • [email protected] says:

      Yes, I agree with all that. Sometimes its so hard to know if I was struggling with only Kiah’s circumstances or if it was more. I’m thankful that it all seems to be directly related to the post partum hormones and it does seem to fade away. I would have loved to see a Christian counselor, but I just didn’t know where to even find one that would work with my schedule and the kids.
      Anyways, I’m excited for you to be here this summer and I won’t have a newborn baby (at least not one I birthed!)! I think I will be able to have a lot more fun when you come this time around!

  6. Lauren C. Moye says:

    I know that I’ve written this before, but I can relate so well to the failure-to-thrive anxiety. Even now, I start to get a little funny when my daughter is not eating very well.

    I’ll be praying for you as you continue to recover from your journey.

    • [email protected] says:

      YES! Kiah is a little under the weather this week and I have been working extra hard to fight those lies and anxiety thoughts. It’s stressful! And when other people comment “Oh, he’s so TINY!” it just sends me into a spiral!

  7. Rebekah says:

    Thanks for sharing your story, Suzanne!! I struggled with PPA after the birth of my youngest as well. And for me too, it was over the crazy things, like what if one of the older boys grabbed a knife and came near the baby, what if he started choking while we were going down the road and I didn’t hear him, what if he was struggling to breathe while sleeping and i didn’t wake when he tried to let me know. It was a hard thing to go through.

    • [email protected] says:

      YES! Always crazy things! Sometimes I would be voicing my fears/anxiety to Theo, and then stop myself and say “that doesn’t even make any sense”. Still, it was hard to get through it and talk my mind out of feeling those fears. Only by the grace of God!

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