Can I Tell You a Story?

Can I tell you my story? I don’t think I have ever told this story before. Most moms spend their pregnancies in exciting anticipation, eagerly checking off the days until their due date—and my first pregnancy started off that way. 

You need to know that I am well aware that I have a “chipper” personality. I can’t remember the first time someone told me that, but I know I was young. 

As I look back to a decade ago, it’s unclear to me when the anxiety and depression began, but by my seventh month, I was crying daily. I have very few pictures or happy memories of being pregnant for the first time. In fact, it’s mostly a blur. 

I spent much of the last ten years believing that my horrific experience was based on the circumstances that occurred during that time. But I no longer believe that narrative. There was something worse going on. 

I craved mashed potatoes the most when I was pregnant with my son. It was grapefruit with my daughter, my second pregnancy, and I had never cared for grapefruit before—but even now, I love grapefruit. Anyway, I ate bowls of mashed potatoes like it was my job, and maybe, in a way, it was. I read all the books. What to Expect, Dr. Sears’ books, books about the Bradley method. I had decided on a birth plan, and shared it with my midwife. My husband and I were saving money for a down payment on a house. 

And then, around my fifth month, we found out we were moving to Mississippi. House-buying plans were put on hold as we packed up and held yard sales in the slush of melting snow. March and April in Maine can still feel a lot like winter. In fact, there was still snow on the ground on the day we moved in late April. 

Mississippi, however, felt like summer by that time of year. I swelled up like a hot air balloon and mild (normal) pregnancy discomforts grew worse, but then I didn’t know any different; it was my first time having a baby. 

The weeping began sometime in my sixth month, but at first I probably thought I was just lonely and a little homesick for my friends and familiar places we had recently left behind. Money was tight, and our hard-earned down payment savings had dissolved with moving expenses. In the move, I had left behind my midwife and began seeing a doctor my sister in law had recommended in our new city. I don’t remember telling him how I felt until it was really bad. 

Looking back, I realize now that I needed a community more than ever before. We had left behind our church, the place I had grown up, all the people who had known me my whole life. My “tribe,” as they call it, was over a thousand miles away. My husband’s new work schedule had him working Sundays and I was reluctant to visit churches without him. Facebook was new, and I definitely didn’t have a social media community of moms. I needed something like Not Quite SuperMoms because, in many ways, my life depended on it. But I didn’t have it. I didn’t know where to turn. The only people who really even knew what was happening to me were my parents and my husband. And God. But I wasn’t talking to Him much back then. I didn’t know what to say. My mom knew that my depression-like symptoms were normal for postpartum, but I hadn’t had my baby yet.

Even as I type these words, I know why I haven’t told this story for all these years. I feel the familiar prick of fear; that you’ll say, like I did, that it was nothing, that it was just circumstances. That everyone goes through tough times. That you’ll box it up like my doctor did and say I was just anxious about delivery and the pain and that I just needed to rest. But why couldn’t I stop crying? I felt like hiding under the covers and never coming out.

I remember one day in particular when my sweet, patient husband took me for a drive. We visited an old state park that he had been to many times as a kid. When we arrived, he was disappointed to find that it was like a ghost town; the buildings were falling apart and the place was abandoned. The place looked exactly like I felt and I remember arguing with him about nothing and crying the whole way home. My only hope was that my spirit would lift when the baby finally came. 

I think the doctor prescribed me anti-anxiety pills. I know I felt patronized and childish as I sobbed in the doctor’s office. No one was used to seeing a very pregnant woman cry so unrestrained at every appointment. The sweltering heat didn’t help matters, and I spent hours watching television and sleeping and crying. I begged the doctor to induce me early. He kindly explained that he could not, under almost any circumstance, induce me at 32 weeks. Or at 34. Or at 36. It simply wasn’t safe. And the more I begged, the more adamant he was. Week after week, visit after visit, I wept in his office. I remember thinking that I should be so embarrassed, but I truly could not help myself. They asked me. “Why are you so upset? You have so much to look forward to!” But I didn’t know why I was so upset, and I could not answer their questions, and that made me cry harder.

Finally, at 39 weeks and 1 day, my doctor agreed to induce me.  I spent the day before my induction celebrating my birthday by walking the malls with my mom, hoping the movement would bring labor without having to be induced. It was fruitless, but I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Or so I thought. 

He was a beautiful, plump baby and I don’t remember the pain of delivery—just like all the books said I would not. It was somewhat shocking that, after the whirlwind of labor and first baths and hearing tests, they sent us home two days later. The first 24 hours at home saw us back at the emergency room with a screaming baby who refused to eat. It was a small foreshadowing of the endless tears to come. He was perfectly healthy, but perfectly unhappy.

At times, I think we all cried. I felt so completely alone for the first time in my entire life. My mom was there, and she had experienced a fussy baby as well as postpartum, but her best tricks seemed to fail when it came to her new grand baby. I had no idea what was normal; it was my first time. I had no close friends who could assure me that something wasn’t right—with me OR my son. We thought it was colic. The pediatrician prescribed infant probiotics, something I had never heard of before. They were special ordered from Europe at that time. Nothing helped.

We could hardly put our screaming infant in a church nursery, so church took a back seat yet again. I tried to connect with a local moms group, but their kids were older and I was terribly shy and embarrassed that I could not help my baby stop crying. Nothing I did helped and he slept in tiny increments. I slept even less. My parents took shifts rocking him in the night, but we all tried to let my husband sleep so he could be rested for work. I wasn’t the only one crying anymore.

We could hardly put our screaming infant in a church nursery, so church took a back seat yet again. I tried to connect with a local moms group, but their kids were older and I was terribly shy and embarrassed that I could not help my baby stop crying. Nothing I did helped and he slept in tiny increments. I slept even less. My parents took shifts rocking him in the night, but we all tried to let my husband sleep so he could be rested for work. I wasn’t the only one crying anymore. 

It took me months, but I finally found help. It was scary and embarrassing, but I admitted to a family doctor that I thought maybe I had a touch of postpartum that had maybe started before my son was born. Maybe. She understood. She told me there was such a thing as “PREpartum depression” and suggested that I start taking walks with my baby. She thought the fresh air would do us both good. She gave me some medicine. I took it for a few months, but the walks eventually became enough.

Then we moved away, to a new town with a church full of moms, and suddenly, I had the community I needed desperately. I had friends who helped point me to Jesus, and I slowly began to see my spiritual walk restored. We’ve moved again since then, and once again I found myself alone, this time in a season of homeschooling. It was there that I began to crave community once more. I was isolated again, and I knew it wasn’t good for me. It took time, but the idea for Not Quite SuperMoms was born.

Motherhood is isolating. I know it firsthand. Moms go through struggles no one sees. My second pregnancy was the exact opposite of my first in almost every way, but I had no experience to compare my first one to—and no other moms to stand with me, cry with me, or pray with me. My heart for moms is that they would find hope for motherhood in Jesus. My heart for women in general is that they would find hope for LIFE in Jesus. When we feel isolated and alone, He’s there. When we cry, He collects our tears. He never abandoned me, even in my darkest hour—when I couldn’t see Him.

My prayer for this page is that encouragement would reach ONE struggling mom. She might be you. She might be your sister or your best friend or your pastor’s wife. She may need a word, a post, a laugh, or just…a community to know she’s not alone in everything she’s facing. Would you share this post with a mom friend and encourage her to subscribe to this blog? Hope and love and encouragement may not be able to reach through to her without your help. God put His love and hope in my heart; He rescued me. I know He wants nothing more than to rescue every struggling momma. I intend to shout it from the rooftops and I hope you’ll help me. ️

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