Faith & Motherhood: Faith, Mercy, & Miracles


 

Today’s post is fabulously crafted by Jess Arias Cooper from Mama’s Got Flair. Jess is a saucy chick and someone I am proud to call a friend in this land called the Internet. We can be ourselves with each other – sharing things we rarely share with others yet somehow feel comfortable enough sharing with each other. Every woman deserves at least one friend like Jess on the Interwebs. Someone they can share their secrets with and yet laugh at something inane as a multi-colored, multi-shaped mullet the very next second. She’s a heartfelt snark, this one. I was beyond thrilled when Jess agreed to write a post for Faith & Motherhood here. Her post is moving beyond words.

Today’s post may be triggering for some of my more sensitive and fragile readers as it deals with infant loss. So if you’re feeling fragile today, you may want to skip this one and read it another day.

Jess’ post truly exemplifies living in God’s grace and finding faith even in the darkest of corners. I am so blessed to have this amazing woman call me friend. Now I’ll stop writing and let her words fill your mind and heart.

 

I didn’t understand or appreciate faith, miracles and mercy until I lost my infant son in 2004.

My son, Aiden, was born 11 weeks premature by emergency cesarean. The second half of my pregnancy had been a rough one, to put it mildly, and my life was literally on the line. Though the doctors gave us as much time “together” as they could, my liver was failing and a tough decision had to be made.

Because I’d been so sick with preeclampsia and HELPP syndrome, my darling Aiden was born at an astonishing one pound, five ounces. In fact, he wasn’t much larger than a Barbie doll. Besides his miniature stature, he was also born with a rare condition known as Townes-Brocks Syndrome.

Townes-Brocks is generally a genetic condition, but in our case, it was one of those one in a billion flukes that randomly occurs in nature. My son had a wide variety of physical differences from the average baby, but I refuse to call them “birth defects.” In my eyes, despite his extra thumb, unusually shaped head and ears and disconnected digestive system, he was the absolute vision of perfection.

My husband and I tried for years to get pregnant, and Aiden was the beautiful answer to an unfathomable number of prayers.

I thanked God for every day Aiden grew bigger, stronger and more alert. I sat beside his little bed in the NICU, day in and day out, paced waiting rooms during his surgeries and loved that boy more with every beat of his heart.

Still, as he grew stronger, new things were being added to his list of diagnoses nearly every day. Hearing impairments. Brain damage. The list of Aiden’s differences continued to grow, and I prayed even harder for God to bring us a miracle and heal my poor sick, little boy.

It became clearer every day, that a few surgeries wouldn’t “fix” the problems that Aiden was bound to face for the rest of his life. And when my boy would become a man, with even the best outcomes to all the treatments that modern medicine had to offer, he would have to tell the women in his life that there was a strong possibility that, should they have a child together, he or she would endure the effects of Townes-Brocks Syndrome as well.

I had faith in God. I never felt that Aiden or my family was being punished. I trusted in his mercy. I had faith that he would reach out to my son and ease his suffering.

And He did.

Though, not how my heart had prayed for. On April 24, 2004, Aiden went to heaven.

I, of course, didn’t see the miracle and mercy at first. I was grief-stricken. The pain in my heart was heavy, yet I felt empty. I felt punished. My faith was tested in such an extreme way, I was angry.

But one day, as I was talking to God, asking to make sense of all the pain, I realized that the Lord had answered my prayers. He eased Aiden’s suffering. He was merciful. He reached out and made my son whole.

Aiden was spared a lifetime of painful struggle. His ears were spared the snickers and whispers of uninformed human cruelty. He wasn’t held captive in a body that wouldn’t do the things he longed to do. God is good. God is merciful.

I still struggle with grief and my arms continue to yearn for the embrace of my oldest son. I still find myself wondering what he’d be like if he were here with me. But that is a mother’s heart. I’m only human. I miss my son and look forward to the day when we’re united once again.

And, with my faith, I know that day will come. It will be a long time from now, as I have been blessed with three other sons to guide and care for. But, I know, someday, I’ll see my angel, Aiden, again.

Because God is good.

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Faith & Motherhood: Power, Love, and Self-Discipline


When I first experienced Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, my relationship with God was not what it should have been. I still prayed. Occasionally. I did not fear reading bible verses. I knew God was out there. Somewhere. But I was not actively seeking Him. I was not running from Him either. We had become roommates, God and I. Drifters in the night, one of us (me) barely acknowledging the other. Little did I know that my life would begin to change so drastically as I spiraled downward.

We lived in rural South Carolina during the my pregnancy and through the first five months of our oldest daughter’s life. No family nearby, no social support, no friends, no real knowledge of Postpartum Mood Disorders, an existence of ignorance of PMD’s within the local community – you see where I am going with this. Everything was right for me to experience a PMD. This is not to say that every woman who has these factors surrounding her will struggle but they do increase her risk.

With this perfect storm surrounding me, I succumbed to it’s power.

I worked at first to deal with everything on my own. I failed spectacularly for three glorious months. Then I sought help. My doctor denied my Postpartum and refused to help me. He did refer me to the in-house therapist but they kept rescheduling. At the time, I got angry. I felt so alone. Abandoned. Betrayed. Hurt. I had nowhere to turn.

If only I had opened my eyes then.

We moved back to Georgia, near my husband’s family, when our daughter was 5 months old. At first I was grateful for the help. But even then, I was not able to be fully appreciative. Relaxing? Hah. Totally out of the question. I lived filled with fear and anxiety triggered by my intrusive thoughts. Then we got pregnant again. My emotions continued to worsen through my pregnancy. Our second daughter was born with a cleft palate and spent a month in the NICU. Once again, a perfect storm slammed onto my shores.

During our daughter’s NICU stay, the first few verses of James became stuck in my head. In particular, verse 2 & 3. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” I finally opened to hearing the Word of God. We had begun to attend church a bit more regularly and leaned harder on our Church family as we struggled to come to grips with our daughter’s NICU stay and all the issues which lay ahead of us.

I know you may feel lost right now. I felt lost too. Completely lost.

God did not build us that way. Yes, we must get lost sometimes in order to find ourselves – even Jesus wandered in the wilderness. In order to walk strongly in faith, love, and have a strong sense of self-discipline, we must first be taught how to have faith, how to love, and how to practice self-discipline. I questioned my faith. I questioned why I had been left to wander in this wilderness. Now that I am a little over four years beyond my last brush with a Postpartum Mood Disorder, I see why I had to wander. I wandered so that my faith would be made strong, my ability to love myself and others grew immensely, and my ability to practice self-discipline toward myself and others also matured. For this, I am grateful. Yet still, I would not wish a PMD on my worst enemy. My faith, love, and self-discipline continues to grow, and I am re-assured on a daily basis by God that He will never forsake me. Faith, just as healing, takes time. If you feel you have lost your faith, please do not despair. You may not feel Him there but He is there, waiting for you to call for Him to carry you.

Friday Soother 02.18.11: Martin Luther King Jr. goes up some stairs


"Grüne Treppe - Green stairs" by dolorix @flickr.com

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

~Martin Luther King Jr.~

(Original by dolorix @flickr photo here)

Faith & Motherhood: 02.13.11: On Feeling Forsaken


We turn to God for help when our foundations are shaking, only to learn that it is God who is shaking them.

~Charles C. West~

Just as mechanics kick the tires when evaluating a vehicle, carpenters shake foundations, kick legs, make sure they’re strong and will withstand the wear and tear that life will bring their way.

Sometimes? God does that with us.

Every so often, He shakes our foundations to make sure we’re awake. To make sure that we are growing strong in Him as we journey through life.

It’s not fun when God shakes your foundations. Sometimes He shakes them until they break. Then we are left to decide if we will rebuild.

The thing is? God knows what we will do before we do. And He is there to help us do it. He’s got the plans, the tools, the nails, the screws, the crew, everything.

We just have to ask.

Every day, all day, every day.

Even then, though, the help we ask for may not appear in the manner we expect.

Prayer, while an important aspect of recovery for a woman rooted in faith, should not be the only tool used to fight depression.

God may send help in the form of an awesome therapist, a non-judgmental friend, medication, herbal remedies, etc.

What’s not okay is for someone to use your faith to make you feel guilty about your depression.

God often took strong men and women and put them in perilous situations in order to grow their strength. Think of Job, Esther, Jonah, Daniel, David, and many more.

I leave you today with Bible verses that kept me thankful for every single thing which happened after the birth of my second daughter. These verse soothed my soul during the month she spent in the NICU. It soothed my soul as I spent time in a psychiatric ward. I carried them with me everywhere I went.

The verses are from James 1:2-4:

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Know that my prayers are with you as you find yourself tested by God. I know first hand it is not an easy place in which to be, especially when you have little ones who so desperately need you and cling to your every waking moment.

He is there with you even if you cannot sense His presence. He may be carrying you. He may be waiting for you to call upon Him but He is there, oh yes, He is there. He is always there. That’s the easy part. The hard part is trusting Him with it all, waiting, and listening for His answers. They may not be what you expected them to be but they will always be just what you need them to be right when you need them.

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Faith & Motherhood: An Introduction


Good morning.

Today marks the beginning of a new Sunday Series here at My Postpartum Voice, Faith & Motherhood. I’m glad you’re here.

When I began my journey down Postpartum’s dark path, I had strayed from my faith. Little did I know that God had plans for my path through the dark woods of Postpartum. His plans ultimately brought me back to Him showing me I had not strayed nearly as far as I thought. For this, I am thankful.

Maybe some of you reading know me via Twitter. Perhaps you’ve seen me say I’ll pray for this person or that person. I mean it. I pray right then and there and add them to the daily list of things I pray about throughout my day as God speaks to me and moves me to pray.

I also believe in meeting people where they are at the moment in which they enter my life. It is not my job to judge, hate, or dismiss. As a Christian, I am to love, listen, learn, and grow in God. I believe we are all family and therefore I am to love each and every one of you as if you were my sister or brother, regardless of your current state. I do this because I know that once upon a time, God loved me regardless of my current state. Loving those around me is the least I can do in gratitude.

As I moved toward supporting new Mothers struggling with Postpartum Mood Disorders, I struggled with the question of faith’s role in my own recovery. Do I talk about it? Do I keep quiet? Do I make the meetings secular? Non-secular? How do I answer the questions about what got me through my darkest days? Do I have the meetings at a church? Will that make non-Christian women feel unwelcome? What do I do? I needed answers.

Then, as if to answer all of those questions and so much more, God put Tara Mock in my life. Tara Mock founded the website Out of the Valley Ministries, a Christian-based website for women with Postpartum Mood Disorders. Through email correspondence with Tara, the role of faith in my recovery became easier and easier to discuss with her, with others. I grew bolder and stronger.

Through Tara, I came in contact with Sue McRoberts, author of The Lifter of My Head: How God Sustained me through Postpartum Depression. She sent me her book which I devoured in a single sitting. Sue’s book is one of the only books I know of which deals directly with Postpartum depression from the Christian perspective. Sue opens up about her experience and details how her faith carried her through. If you are a Christian woman struggling with Postpartum Depression, I strongly recommend this book.

Even though God put these two amazing women in my life, I still struggled with talking about my faith once I started to blog. I have mentioned it a time or two in relation to my husband’s battle with addiction and possibly once or twice in relation to my Postpartum recovery. More and more though, I have come across blog posts from moms talking about their faith and how it relates to Postpartum Mood Disorders. They have been increasing in number. In fact, this week’s Postpartum Voice talks about faith.

I feel that it’s finally time for me to address the issue of faith and Postpartum Mood Disorders on a regular basis here at My Postpartum Voice. To continue to ignore this topic would be akin to silencing a large part of who I am. If you’re a regular reader here, you know I’m not a big fan of silencing any part of anyone.

I will be addressing the Christian faith specifically when I post. I hope to find regular contributors to share their point of view based on their faith or their culture’s faith. Faith plays a large part in many lives and therefore in many women who struggle with Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. Their faith may reject them for their struggle, judge them, play into their guilt, steer them away from valuable therapies which they need to recover, or it may be their solace. Whatever the case may be, I believe the faith aspect of Postpartum Mood & Anxiety plays a large role in a family’s recovery.

I look forward to exploring this topic with you each Sunday!