depression and pregnancy

My kid has been crying for half an hour because he misses Joe. Joe was our dog… Joe died five years ago, long before my son was born… but his sister mentioned Joe yesterday, and now my son’s life is ruined.

He misses Joe.

This makes absolutely no sense to me… why does this child miss a dog he never knew so much that he would sob for half an hour? To me, right now, he looks and sounds completely irrational… but he’s clearly devastated. In his mind, the loss of this dog he never got to play with is fresh and extremely painful. And while I may not understand, I’m gonna let him grieve. I’m gonna let him cry as long and as loud as he needs to. I’m gonna hug him, rock him, and comfort him… and maybe eventually we’ll get to the root of what’s really bothering him.

Or maybe we won’t, and that’s ok too. He’s going to be ok. He’s going to make it through this and we are all going to be ok. I don’t need to know why he’s grieving tonight. I just need to love him and see him through it.

I’m a firm believer in letting my children feel, and teaching them healthy ways to experience and show emotion. Maybe that’s because I’m a super emotional person and I feel deeply. I like to cry every day, and when I don’t I start to feel a little unhealthy.

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But sometimes those tears are not the healthy kind. Sometimes they come, and they don’t stop. Sometimes they need to be explored, because they make no sense, and nobody understands. Not. Even. Me.

Those are the days I feel like my son in his meltdown tonight… crying over nonsense. But I’m not as kind to myself as I am to my son. Instead of nurturing my unexplainable grief, I tell myself to “STOP! You’re being completely irrational. Stop crying, get off the couch, and get yourself together.”

May I share something vulnerable? I’ve been waiting for the right time to get this out… I’m feeling healthy today and I think that time is now. We need to talk about depression… and pregnancy.

For about eleven months I’ve been crying over “nonsense.” I’ve been depressed, I’ve been anxious, I’ve been to therapy, and I’ve been on medicine. I don’t know why there have been so many days I haven’t been able to peel myself off of the couch, or why I make lots of plans but work very hard to cancel them no matter how much I WANT to keep them.. There have been moments I have cried so hard that I couldn’t speak or breathe. For months after I found out I was pregnant last summer I shamed myself for these feelings. I felt guilty for being so sad when there was a new life growing inside of me. I felt literally insane sobbing in the church bathroom for absolutely no reason, while my kids sat in the service without me. I felt like a neglectful parent when my kids were running around eating candy and breaking things in the house but all I could do was sit at the table weeping, doing everything in my power to just breathe in and breathe out.

The morning I took the pregnancy test shocked me to my core. Chris was asleep. I turned the TV on for my son, and I wept. And I kept weeping for eight months.

I did NOT want a baby. We were not ready for another baby, and I was not all about changing diapers for three more years. In the months following the test, when I spent time around babies I was annoyed by their spit up and neediness. I didn’t want to hold babies or look at babies. When I was at home I cried on the couch and when I was not home, I couldn’t wait to get back home to my couch and kleenex. I was scared of complications and life with a newborn. There were moments I felt a tinge of joy sneaking in, but those moments were quickly overshadowed and stolen away by anger, fear, terror, and dread. My smiles were replaced with tears, and my glimpses of joy were few and far between.

And I felt SO gross for not wanting the baby God was knitting together inside of me. I felt like a disaster of a mom, a truly horrendous human.

And I felt alone.
Surely nobody understood what I was going through or felt the way I was feeling.

You know what though? I don’t think I was alone… in fact I know I wasn’t. I just think we’re not talking about it, and that needs to change right now.

I told my doctor and she wrote a prescription. I was so hesitant and scared, but I knew I had to try to get on top of this before the baby came. She reminded me that medicine and therapy work best together, so I called a therapist, and THAT is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But I did it, and I told her all my horrible thoughts and feelings, and you know what? She told me I’m not a disaster of a mom or a truly horrendous human. She validated my feelings, and explored them with me. And after I talked to her, it became so much easier to talk to my husband, to friends, to family.

And the more I talked, the less alone I felt.
Crying and sharing my grief, I found compassionate and knowing hearts who had been where I was.
Weeping in the church bathroom, I looked up and saw faces surrounding me, listening, holding me, praying over me.
Stuck on the couch crying for months, I heard my phone ding time and time again and read sweet texts from friends, sending scripture and prayers.
Feeling neglectful as a wife and mom, I checked my email to find a message from a friend asking if the church could bring us dinner every week.
Sitting at my dining room table, mid-anxiety attack, I made a phone call to a friend. All I could get out was a sobbing breathe, and that friend was on her way to hold me tight, pray, and take care of my children, the broken glass, and my heart’s deep brokenness.

Friends, in the moments I felt most alone, God opened my eyes to reveal how surrounded I was by His love and the relationships He’s given me.

Sometimes I still go back to that place of unexplainable sadness and depression, but I’m much kinder to myself these days.

And mama, if you’re feeling these feelings, I hope you will be kind to yourself too. I pray you know that you’re not alone, you are not a disaster of a mom or a truly horrendous human.  Medicine doesn’t mean you’re spiritually weak, and therapy doesn’t mean you’re not a strong woman with a strong Force leading you onward. You are going through something hard, you may need a little help to get to the other side, and that’s ok. Don’t hold onto it so tightly. Share, feel, pray, receive love from those around you, and make sure you let the tears flow when they need to.

You’ve got this, mama.
Wait… that’s not entirely correct.
HE’S got this... and because He’s holding your heart, you’ve got this too.

After all was said and done, my guy gets to see Joe in his room every day, and I get to look at the precious little bundle on the right. Keep walking mama, it will be worth it.

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Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2-4