It’s hard to see hope when we’re hurting. Hope seems so distant, so aloof, something almost real but we can’t quite reach out and grasp it. But the amazing thing about hope is it’s always there, chasing after us, pointing us back on the path. Hope is fluid and tangible all at once, shifting shapes but consistent, too. Sometimes hope is the warm embrace from someone who loves, you — really loves you. Sometimes hope is that stillness that lingers in the morning before the rest of the world wakens. And sometimes it’s reading the stories of others, leading you to an exhale with a, ” You, too? I thought I was the only one.”
My sweet, brave cousin (and friend) has courageously shared her story about finding hope below. If you haven’t been touched by the swells of postpartum depression, I guarantee you, you know someone who has. Her honest and simple words paint a picture worth looking at — and I hope you do:
A little over a year ago, I had no idea my life would take a major twist and change the plans I had for myself and my future. I had just completed two years at a local community college was spending one last summer at home before moving two hours away to a state university to finish my education degree. I had late nights, early mornings, sorority life, and was meeting SO many new people, looking forward to starting a new chapter.
One week before hauling all my stuff up to my dorm, I found out I was pregnant. I was freaked out for a good three months. I mean, I was 20 years old with no plans of babies for a good five years. Instead of attending sorority events, my boyfriend and I were preparing for our baby girl who was going to arrive in May 2014. But as my bump grew, excitement began to build. We were anxiously waiting to bring our precious baby girl into this world.
Postpartum depression is a very real and crippling thing that I don’t think gets enough attention or awareness. It’s not something my doctor really even talked or warned me about during my pregnancy. I had heard of it before, but didn’t really know what it entailed. I would always picture in my head what it would be like once she was finally here; her first weeks of her life being filled with sleeping at odd hours, cuddling the whole time she was awake, and around the clock feedings. Basically I had pictured in my mind just pure bliss.
It was nothing like that.
The few months of Olivia’s life for me were filled with tears, sky-high anxiety levels, a sadness that took over my whole body and mind, and an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness.
It hit me while we were packing my hospital room up and heading home. I stood in the bathroom and started crying. Right when we got home, we were going to show Olivia her room. I told my boyfriend, Jordan, I would be up in a second and stood in the kitchen and sobbed again. I had no idea what was happening. I just brought my perfect baby girl into this world and this should be such a happy time. I was overwhelmed with how I was in labor for about 16 hours running on 3 hours of sleep and an empty stomach which ended up in an unexpected + late night C-section and how I had no idea what I was doing.
The hospital really trusted me to take this tiny + perfect new baby home and just know what to do?
My mom stayed with us for the first week. She helped with Olivia and cooked us meals (so thankful for her). My sadness just got worse and worse. I couldn’t eat. All I wanted to do was sleep — and it’s not because I was sleep deprived because Olivia has slept through the night since day one. I cried on and off all day long.
It got so bad to the point of me not even wanting to hold Olivia. I told Jordan that I thought someone else would be better at being her mom than I would. My mom would force me to hold her and say, “Honey, she needs you. She needs her Mommy + you need her.”
I eventually went to my OB and got put on anti-depressants and things have been going nowhere but up since.
I was on the phone just the other day with my mom bragging about some of Olivia’s new accomplishments and how much I love her and my mom said to me, “Look at how far you two have come. Remember what it was like just a few months ago and now look at you guys. You have this Mommy thing down and Olivia is so in love with you. She’s just such a happy baby.”
While I was going through the worst of it, I honestly just wanted to die. I saw no end to this powerful and numbing sadness that had taken over me at a time where I should have been feeling nothing but pure joy and happiness. I still have days where I feel sad and not quite like myself but it’s just getting better and better. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13) is always in the back of my mind. It is definitely one of my favorite verses because it applies to basically every aspect of my life.
It is just a reminder that I am not alone and God always knows the bigger picture. Everything is possible with God on your side. When I look at Olivia’s little face smiling at me it just reminds me that she DOES need me and NOBODY would be a better Mommy to her than me.
I thank God every day for her and that He gave me the chance to be a mom, even through the rough days.
(Kayla’s note: Isn’t she brave? If you’re feeling the way she did, please don’t suffer through this alone. Talk to someone — talk to a loved one, talk to a doctor. Really — you don’t have to do this alone. Getting the help you need isn’t admitting defeat, it’s taking care of yourself. You are so loved. No matter what your story looks like right now, there is always hope.)
This is the first of 31 daily posts of living free. Living freely is something we do momentarily, but to fully live free? That’s a transformation — a total change not only in what we’re like, but in who we are. You can find all the 31 Days of Living Free posts here.