Stopping the Cycle for the Next Generation: depression as a mom

Baby#1
The hardest part I found with having a baby was the social isolation. I didn’t know if I was depressed in general or had postpartum depression. At the hospital they told me, “You’re more likely to struggle with postpartum depression if you have a history of depression.” Then they gave me a panphlet on it.

I mentioned it to my doctor around six weeks postpartum and she offered medication. I told her, “I’m not opposed to medication, but I know there are some other things I need to do even if I have medication, so let me try that first and then see if I still need it.” My doctor continued to check in with me regularly up to a year after having my first child. But it was tough to return to feeling like myself.

After having a baby, everything changed. It took time to figure out how to eat, shower, and “sleep” while caring for a newborn. At some point postpartum, after returning to caring for myself physically and running, I realized I still hadn’t returned to the world socially. Ironically enough, I also discovered my deep need for connection with other women. This might have been compounded by a certain best friend dropping out of my life completely, right after I had a baby. Whatever the reason, becoming a mom increased my need for female friendships a great deal!

Even though it was tough, even though I wasn’t used to getting out of the house with a four month old, even though my baby cried in the car, even though I risked my baby (and myself) missing a nap, I started packing up my baby and getting out of the house to hang out with people. I had always wanted to be a stay at home mom but never imagined the isolation from other adults to be so tough. Also, for one hour every evening, my child would cry and nothing I could do would soothe her. Many times I tried to get together with friends at that time. But when no one was available (and my husband was working late), I walked across the street to visit my neighbor, a lady in her late 80s. She had four adult children of her own and a handful of grandchildren. I soaked up all her advice. Her sixty year old son who lived next door to her, often visited her when I stopped by too. They became my new best friends. They just adored my daughter, and that alone made all my hard work seem worth it. As I chatted with them, my baby would stop crying. I sat in their rocking chair and told them all the crazy details of my life that no one else would have cared about. “My baby pulled herself up today.” “Yesterday she clapped her hands when I changed her diaper.” “On our walk today, I told my baby all about the different trees.”
“Did she like that?” they’d ask. “I bet she did.” I got to know those neighbors very well.

Baby #2
However when my second child was only a month old, my elderly neighbor went to live in a nursing home. Her son moved away shortly after that as well. I found months two to four to be especially rough the second time around because everyone expected me to be out and about and back to normal life, but I was still quite sleep deprived. I needed some breaks too and I wasn’t getting them. I took better care of myself the second time around, but having a toddler and a newborn was wearing me out! Quiet times were tough. Running wasn’t happening like I thought it would. I again considered medication but figured I should try working out and connecting with others first. After a discussion with my husband, we tried a gym membership that had some daily childcare included. That was a life saver. It allowed me to run again and read my Bible better. I also met with my mentor or another girlfriend at the gym while the kids were in childcare.

Baby #3
In some ways, this has been the toughest post to write, because I’m still in this season of motherhood. I don’t have it all figured out yet. I know it’s better to do life with others, but it’s tough to be in community as a mom, especially if kids are sick. While the gym membership worked for a while, after months of being sick and not using it much, we had to figure something else out. My husband says parenting is like walking on a balance beam that’s constantly moving. What works well for a season might suddenly stop working. Then we have to reassess everything.

So between the time when I wrote these blogs and the time that I posted them, we found out we’re pregnant with our third child. Surprise! When our third is born, we’ll have three children three and under. We wanted more children. We just didn’t expect more to happen so soon after finally adjusting to two. I keep finding great comfort in knowing that God created this child, and this is God’s plan (Psalm 127, Jeremiah 29:11, Psalm 139). Therefore, though we don’t know what to do, our eyes are on the Lord (2 Chronicles 20:12). We’re beyond excited for this child, but also excited to see the Lord provide. (If you’re a mom and you use Twitter, you might enjoy following me at theologymom@momtheology, where I tweet about the craziness and wonderfulness of momlife).

In the process of dealing with my children’s emotions, the Lord helps me with my own. One day in the car, my daughter suddenly started crying hysterically. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Drop shoe momma drop shoe!!!!!!!”
“Oh, ok, well I can’t reach it right now. You’re going to have to wait until we get there.”
“Drop shoe momma!!!! Waaaa! DROP SHOE!!!! SHOE MOMMA!!!!”
We were on a four laned busy interstate!She needed a lesson from Elsa. I just said, “Look, I know it seems like the end of the world right now, but it’s not. It’s going to be ok. Hang in there. We’ll get through it.” I think she thought we were driving Fred Flintstone’s car! Only a few days later the Lord reminded me of that same truth when I became worried. “It might feel like the end of the world, but it’s not. God’s still on the throne. We’ll get through it. God’s got this.”

A Few More Thoughts (in no particular order)

  • My dad always said, “having kids gives you a reason for living.” I get it. I have little people who depend on me for their survival daily. My children are answers to years of prayers. Mark Batterson explains in his book The Circle Maker, how often times answers to prayers make life more complicated. He especially explains this in regards to having children. I completely agree.
  • “The sign of a successful parent is that your children go to counseling for something different than what you went to counseling for,” said Pastor Steve Carter. Ha! Well, I heard that long after we’d had our first child. But I liked it a lot because we had given our first child the middle name, “Joy.” I wanted my daughter to know that just because her mother had struggled with depression, it didn’t mean that she had to struggle. She can have joy. She is a joy. I can’t protect my children from all trials in life or even guarantee that they won’t have to deal with depression. It’s a frightening thought. All I can do is point them to Jesus, the only One able to help them through all trials of life.
  • I found out my cousin committed suicide the same day my first child figured out how to open cabinets. I remember sitting on the kitchen floor amazed at her ability and curiousness, full of joy for her new found ability. I told her, “good job!” as I also cried for my cousin. Having depression as a mom means dealing with some of the hardest and some of the best things in life, all at the same time. “Even in laughter the heart may be in pain, And the end of joy may be grief” (Proverbs 14:13 NASB). I love my children and they bring me such joy, every day. But at the same time, tough stuff happens in life, and it’s still really sad.

  • Did you know that it’s common for writers or leaders or have bouts of depression after major accomplishments? For instance, after completing a book, a writer might feel down for a while. Beth Moore has admitted this feeling that comes every time she finishes writing and publishing a Bible study or major project. She tweeted about how the first time it shocked her, but now, she prepares for it. Pastor Mark Jobe, who has planted many churches across the Chicagoland area, has all of his pastors across the city meet together every Monday. Pastors give their all on Sundays and many need encouraged by Monday. All that to say: should we really be shocked that a woman who just gave birth to a miracle might feel a tad down after such an awesome accomplishment? All moms have some level of this to varying degrees. I feel like I also dealt with this after huge milestones, like my first child’s first birthday!

Postlude
So how am I doing now. Is my depression healed? I’m not currently on meds (unless you count anti-nausea pregnancy meds) and I’m not opposed to them. The Lord led me to go on them and He led me to go off of them (with a doctor’s supervision)! I don’t judge others on meds. I’m doing ok. I would say I still struggle with depression and may always. That doesn’t mean I’m sad all the time, but it’s always there and I have to do stuff continually to manage it and keep myself sane. It’s like someone who at one time had cancer and has to have regular check ups to make sure the cancer is still in remission. Depression looks like it’s in remission, but it takes a lot of work to keep it there.

Thanks for reading! I’ve been encouraged by all of your comments and feedback 🙂

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org
1-800-273-8255

Focus on the Family offers one time call back basis counseling: https://www.focusonthefamily.com/
1-877-717-2898