Whatever Wednesday: Things I’m Afraid To Tell You


In 2011, I dove out of my life, headlong into a brand new one. I still have no idea where that life is going but I can tell you that it’s been a hell of a journey.

There were days when I wasn’t quite sure who I was. Days when I fell apart and didn’t want to get out of bed. Days when I reached the bottom, wanted to delve even further, and never come back up for air. There were days when I didn’t want to breathe. Days when I sat, for what seems like forever, in front of my netbook, begging my brain to cooperate so I can write something for this blog. Yet nothing comes so I write for other websites about non-postpartum issues.

After all of this, I finally know who I am. I like who I am.

Here’s the thing I’m afraid to tell you and afraid to tell myself but I’m going to say it anyway – I have no idea how to merge who I used to be with who I am now. I’m at a crossroads, foot firmly on the brake, unable to move forward in any direction.

Frozen.

Do I need to merge the woman I used to be with the woman I am now? Is it necessary for me to move forward? Has the merge already happened as I have grown over the past year? How do I continue to do what I do here as a single woman and no longer an active full time parent? Am I still qualified to provide advice and support? Are my experiences negated now that I have stepped out of the very life which caused them?

These are the thoughts which race through my head. The thoughts which give me reason to stop and wonder about the very future of my blog….about my future. When I was a stay-at-home mom, I fought for my identity as me. Now,  I fight as me for my identity as a mother.

I have no doubt that the future which awaits me is filled with joy, happiness, love, and peace. A future in which I will no longer be lost to myself or to those closest to me. It is faith which has carried me this far and faith which will carry me until my days in this world are done. This is all I know, all I need to know. Learning to fully trust faith, to fully trust the plan laid out for my life, however, is the challenge I face now.

I am learning to lean hard on God with every day. In His time, I will understand and find my answers. Until then…I will wait, with joy in my heart, clinging to hope and fighting the ever closer creeping fear with fierce prayers emanating from my very soul.

This post written as part of a movement, Things I Am Afraid to Tell You. I realize it’s supposed to be more of a list, but this is how mine came out and I am okay with that.

You can find more brave bloggers sharing what they’re afraid to tell you here.

Postpartum Depression & Faith: There will be a day


I know the journey seems so long
You feel you’re walking on your own
But there has never been a step
Where you’ve walked out all alone

Troubled soul don’t lose your heart
Cause joy and peace he brings
And the beauty that’s in store
Outweighs the hurt of life’s sting…

(lyrics sourced here)

For more than a few months now, I’ve comforted several women struggling with Postpartum Depression who have also found themselves struggling with fitting their experience into the constraints of their Christian faith. Over the past few years, stories shared with me have ranged from uplifting and powerful to heartbreaking when the church has literally turned their back on a woman as she struggles with the very real condition of a Postpartum Mood Disorder. These experiences have led me to write this post today for World Mental Health Day. Please start the video above as you read…it adds a powerful aspect to the post.

Pray Harder

Depressed? Christian? PRAY HARDER. Fall to your knees. Lie prostrate on the ground. Weep. Wail. Gnash your teeth. Live for Him and nothing else. Beg for mercy. Pray. Read your Bible. Lean on Him. He’ll save you. You’re not leaning hard enough on God. There’s nothing wrong with you beyond a distorted and failed relationship with God. Don’t believe in a psychiatric diagnosis. It’s malarky. Your faith isn’t strong enough and that’s why you’re struggling.

If I had a dollar for every woman who has ever shared any of the above anecdotes with me? I’d be rich. Okay, well, maybe not rich but I’d be able to afford Starbucks for quite awhile. Yes, falling away from God may cause issues in your life but a psychiatric disorder after childbirth is NOT one of those. Hell, a mental health issue period is not one of them. There is no shame in a diagnosis. Not to shame them for taking medicine. Not to shame them for admitting to struggle.

Jesus walked the Earth to love those who were lost. As Christians, we are to follow in His example. To love people WHERE THEY ARE. Not to judge them. Not to guilt them into shame. Not to further add to their already overburdened lives. But to Love. To relieve their burden. To help. To accept. To LOVE.

The Bible is filled with people who struggled with depression for a number of reasons…. Cain, Abraham, Jonah, Job, King Saul, Jeremiah, David, Paul… and God still loved them. He guided them out of their darkness and into their light. Now granted, they didn’t have Xanax or Prozac back then, but God still loved them WHERE THEY WERE. They were provided for during their recovery.

I don’t view my episodes of Postpartum OCD as punishment. Instead, it is a point in my life during which I learned a lot about the depth of my strength and about the grace of God. I learned to lean harder on Him, not because I had sinned, but because He was there. I learned how to pray, not because I had forgotten, but because He was there. I learned how to live for Him, not because I had failed, but because through living for Him, I found solace and hope. In Him, I found hope, solace, and love.

God creates us in His image and knows what our life holds well before we do. He loves us even when we don’t love Him back. He knows where and if our path returns to Him even if we do not. When I first struggled with Postpartum OCD, my path was far away from God. But through my experience, I found my way back to Him. I crawled up into His lap much as an exhausted child does at the end of the day with a parent. I rested my weary body and soul in Him so that I might heal. He did not judge me. He accepted me. Did not question my past. Forgave it. Loved me just as he did before.

I hope against hope that one day, within the faith community as a whole, there WILL be a day when all will be accepted equally. When those of us with mental health struggles will not be told we can solve it with simply praying harder. That we will not be told medications are evil. That there will be a day when, instead, we will be loved, accepted, cherished, and given a place we can rest as we heal.

There will be a day.

But to get to that day?

We must not let our voices be silenced. We must speak up. We must share. We must tear down the stigma of mental illness within the Church. Within the walls of our faith. We must refuse to accept the judgment of those in the Church against us. We must rise up and love them even when they do not love us. It won’t be easy. It won’t make our journey less difficult. But one day, for someone, somewhere, it will lighten their load. It will make a difference in the life of someone else. And one day? It might make a difference in yours too.

There WILL be a day… “with no more tears, no more pain, and no more fears.”

(If you are a woman of faith struggling with a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder, please visit Out of the Valley Ministries. I would also highly recommend picking up a copy of The Lifter of My Head: How God Sustained me through Postpartum Depression by Sue McRoberts.)

I blog for World Mental Health Day

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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Whatever Wednesday: Prayers for a bully


"Praying Girl" photo taken By t.na~★ @flickr.com, text added by Lauren Hale

Over the past few weeks, our oldest daughter, who is quite normally a happily yet distracted little girl, suddenly changed.

Distant, prone to outbursts, inexplicably rude, snapping at all of us, quick to tears, frustrated, very hard on herself.

Flags went up.

So I started to reach out to her. I asked if there was anything bothering her. I told her to let me know. Mommy would listen. So would Daddy if she preferred talking with him.

She continued to insist nothing was wrong.

Her outbursts continued. She became even more introverted. Dragged her feet as she got ready for school in the morning.

Then we got an email from her teacher.

Our daughter was doing the same thing at school. Frustrated easily, crying, pouting, only doing work when prodded to do so.

SOMETHING was going on at school.

Finally, after a particularly difficult afternoon, I had to discipline her for intentionally throwing something across the living room. As we talked afterward, she broke down.

Tears streaming down her face, she finally shared with me what had her so frustrated and down.

As I suspected, my daughter was being bullied. Not by one but by two boys on her bus on the way home from school.

She shared with me that they were teasing her about something which happened last year. Calling her names like “baby” and telling anyone who would listen on the bus about her mishaps from the previous year.

I gathered her in my arms and rubbed her back as she wept and poured out her frustrations. My oldest daughter turns seven this year.

We had a long talk about the best way to handle bullies.

It’s helped that for a couple of years already, we have encouraged the girls to develop a strong sense of self. We’ve both worked hard to instill in them that the only opinion of self that matters is their own. That they are amazing girls and can be anything if they put their mind to it. We have already worked to share with them that God will love them no matter what. That WE will love them no matter what.

We strive to impress upon them the right way to go about dealing with negative people in their lives.

I quietly shared with my daughter a story of epic embarrassing proportions from my own elementary school. She looked at me with understanding eyes and said, “I bet that was very embarrassing.” It was epically embarrassing.

Then we talked about what she could do the next time these boys teased her.

I suggested that she just look at them and say, “I forgive you and I know God does too.” Or she could simply turn away and ignore their words as she prayed for God to change their hearts. I suggested that maybe this was happening because God wanted to use her to create a change in the lives of these boys.

We also discussed what to do if it kept on happening. How she needed to approach the bus driver and let her know what these boys were doing. She shared with me that she had and so far, nothing the bus driver had done had been successful in keeping the boys from teasing her. I promised her I would make some phone calls on Monday.

We lay there in her bed, snuggled together as we talked about all of this. Then we got up and went about the rest of the afternoon.

As I put her to bed and we said our prayers, I reminded both girls to pray for at least one other person beside themselves.

My oldest daughter prayed this:

“Dear Jesus, Please change the heart of the boy being mean to me. I know you can.”

And I?

Totally melted.

My daughter is already leaps and bounds ahead of where I was when I was her age.

I think she’s gonna be just fine.

On Monday, I called the Director of Transportation to talk with him about the incidents on the bus with my daughter. He went to the school, to her bus, talked with the boys before they even got on, and informed them that if they didn’t stop their negative behavior, they would be riding with their parents because public school transportation would no longer be an option. My daughter had a great bus ride home and felt safe for the first time in weeks.

Nobody deserves to be bullied. Nobody.

Sure, some may argue that bullying builds character. I was bullied in elementary school. All it did for me was deflate my self-esteem. Later in life, it has become a mark I use to measure my progress against. It shouldn’t be that way. Bottom line, it is my responsibility to raise children who won’t bully. It’s our responsibility to protect our children from harm, whether it be psychological or physical. Yes, there are learning experiences that must be had but I do not feel that bullying is one of those experiences.

I am grateful to live in a school district which clearly takes bullying seriously and will not hesitate to protect it’s students from the negative effects of such behavior. My children should not have to be the victim of someone else’s poor parenting. When I send my children to school, I am entrusting their safety and well-being to them. I fully expect them to fulfill that obligation on a daily basis. You should too.

Rest assured that if any of my children were caught bullying, there would be serious consequences. Bullying is not a skill any child should be taught. Children learn by watching, by imitating, etc. It is OUR responsibility to raise them in such a way that they don’t learn how to bully. It is also important we teach them how to positively deal with a bully even if it involves going to an adult and requesting help.

I have no doubt that my daughter has grown from this experience. I am glad it is over (for now) and know we will have many more issues down the road.

She’s already got a very powerful tool on her side though – her faith in God.

For that, I am grateful, amazed, and reassured.

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On the Twelfth day of Dismissmas: Twelve Ladies a-praying


On the twelfth day of Dismissmas,

Postpartum sent to me

Twelve ladies praying,

Eleven instant cures,

Ten women drifting,

Nine ladies grinning,

Eight maids no longer nursing,

Seven sins a-lurking,

Six women a-denying,

Five hours of sleep,

Four Just Snap out of Its,

Three perfect babies,

Two depressed parents,

And a wailing mess in a pear tree.

 

Prayer is a powerful tool for any deeply religious person. I believe deeply in the power of prayer. The past year has taught me to rely upon God for all things and to trust Him for all my needs. He has provided every single one of them.

There’s a story I would like to share with you that I use as an example for people who tell women with Postpartum Depression to just pray harder and they will be healed.

Once there was a great flood. A man, who had faithfully sandbagged his home, witnessed the flood waters rise over his meticulous sandbagging efforts. Forced to abandon the first floor of his home and eventually the second floor, this man became trapped on the roof of his home.

He began desperately praying for God to save him.

Shortly thereafter, a police boat motored up to his home.

“Sir, come with us. We can save you.”

“No thank you, I’m just fine. God will save me.”

With that response, the boat left.

A fire boat soon came by as well.

“Sir, you really need to come with us. The flood is only getting higher and will not recede any time soon.”

Again, the man answered with a calm, “No Thank you, I’m just fine. God will save me.”

With that, the fire boat left as they had several other families to save who gladly accepted their help.

A few hours later, with the flood waters now lapping at his toes, a helicopter came by, winch lowered. The crew madly encouraged the man to grab on in a last ditch effort to save his life.

The man refused and was swept away in the flood just thirty minutes after the helicopter left.

When the man reached Heaven, he had a question for God.

“God? Why did you not save me?”

“Son? I sent two boats and a helicopter. You didn’t really expect the Heavens to open and scoop you off the roof, now did you?”

God’s response to our prayers may not be in the form we desire. They may not be within the time frame we desire. All answers are His and His alone, within His time frame. Our answers may come in the form of therapy. Or medication. Or social connections. Or herbal supplements. Whatever path you choose, whatever faith powers your life, do not turn your back upon it when you are struggling. Lean hard upon your core values, trust them, pray if you so choose, but do not let anyone at all tell you that praying harder alone will save you from Postpartum Depression. Postpartum Depression is not a sin for which you must ask forgiveness. It is not  a punishment for a prior sin. It is a mental illness from which you can recover through the aid of the approach of your doctor and your own personal beliefs.

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