Postpartum depression (ppd) was a term I knew.
I have a nursing background and although the majority of my nursing career has been in long-term care and home care, I was familiar with ppd to a certain extent. I learned about it in nursing school and while working as a student nurse on a labor & delivery ward and in public health. I knew that women who's "baby blues" lasted longer than two weeks were usually experiencing ppd and that they should be referred to their doctor or midwife. I knew that some women needed medication to get better.
I also knew that postpartum depression would never happen to me.
Brian and I were married in August of 2017. We had a long courtship compared to couples around us, but God called us to some very specific things during our relationship so we patiently (ha!) obeyed. (It's always better to do things God's way rather than screw things up on your own and take twice as long to learn your lesson.)
I came into the marriage with a daughter from a previous relationship, so Brian was not only marrying me, but becoming a father for the first time - all in the same day.
Six months into our marriage, while still newlyweds trying to learn how to be married, we were learning how to co-parent, run a household, work full-time, and serve the Lord by volunteering at a live-in ministry. Then, because things weren't interesting enough, God surprised us with a pregnancy. Very quickly we realized what burn-out really feels like. We decided to purchase a new home and planned to move in after our one-year volunteer commitment was completed.
Just before Christmas 2018, our baby girl arrived two weeks early (three if you count from the date I believe I conceived). She was beautiful and we were over-the-moon. But adding a new baby to our list of responsibilities was definitely not easy! On top of everything, our baby screamed for hours on end at night for the first 3 1/2 weeks.
I had a strong desire to breastfeed my new baby. "Breast is best" they say. Breastfeeding had not gone well with my first daughter and I switched to formula feeding her after 5 days. With this new baby, I lasted 3 1/2 weeks when I made the switch. The doctor told me our baby needed to be supplemented with formula because she was jaundiced and not gaining weight.
I was mortified, angry and offended. I remember feeling like such a failure as a mother. I could not even provide for my infant. I believed that I was to blame for her relentless crying. I must have been starving her, that's why she was crying so much all the time. I cried out, “I am not a good mom. Lord. Why did you give me this child and now I can’t even take care of her? Where are You God? Because I sure don't feel You.” I knew in my head that He never leaves me or forsakes me, but my heart wasn't believing it in those 3:00am moments when I had to lay my screaming child in her bassinet and leave the room to regain my composure and regroup.
The "baby blues" lasted for a few weeks, which turned into six, which turned into eight. My husband and amazing friends prayed for me, tried to counsel, support me, and urged me to seek professional help.
I had developed postpartum depression and anxiety and could barely bring myself to brush my own teeth in the morning, let alone go grocery shopping or cook dinner for my family. And I pushed people away. I refused to allow people to visit. I was so anxious that I would lay in bed at night stressing about how I would get the baby bottles washed in the morning by myself or get the baby to her check-ups. I would cry and not be able to stop.
I hated leaving the house. It was so hard. I wondered how on earth driving to the store to pick up my grocery order could be too difficult for me. I didn’t even have to leave my vehicle! They would load my online grocery order into my car for me and I just had to roll down my window to make my payment! Prior to maternity leave, I was a home care coordinator with a high capacity. I managed staff, did scheduling, handled problems that arose, spoke in public. I talked to complete strangers on a daily basis. But now I couldn't drive down to the grocery store and roll down my window. I knew something was seriously wrong with me.
I spoke to a friend who was very concerned about me and she encouraged me to go see a doctor. She also helped me come up with a plan to get out of the house every single day to avoid isolation. Another friend shared with me that she had been so concerned that she had asked others to join her in praying for me. The next day I agreed to go see a doctor.
The doctor was very understanding and suggested I stay connected with a support network, try to eat healthy, get some exercise, and take medication. As much as I wanted to feel better and knew that medication was important, I was terrified to take it. What would it make me feel like? What if there are side effects? How long will I have to take it?
I remember crying as I swallowed the first pill and telling my husband I was scared.
But guess what? I survived. And slowly but surely, the medication helped. The outings and connection with people helped. I could get up at night with my baby and remain calm. I could get myself ready in the morning. Household tasks didn’t feel like mountains anymore. I began enjoying my visits at cell and with friends. I began enjoying being a mom. I began to have joy.
Do I have hard days? Absolutely. But I have I have learned a lot too. I learned that even though I couldn’t see it at the time, God was working. He was moving in the hearts of those around me to pray for me and care about me. When I was crying out, "Where are You, God? Why aren’t You helping me?" He was, and is, there.
Most people don’t care if your dishes are overflowing in the sink or you have dust bunnies under your couch. God didn’t mean for us to do life on our own. It's okay to let people in. And even when it feels like God is absent, He is working.
About the Author:
Leona McInnis is married to Brian and has two daughters 12 years apart. She is a Registered Nurse with experience in various roles. Leona and her family love camping and spending time outdoors with their labrador retriever. Leona was a single parent for many years and has a huge heart for single moms. She and her family moved into their first home this spring and look forward to making many memories together. She and her husband love to dream about the future and where God might call them to next. If you would like to send Leona a note, email firstname.lastname@example.org and put her name in the subject line.