Depression is ugly. Depression, when you’re pregnant and should be ecstatic (especially after a loss), seems especially cruel. I want you to know that you’re not alone and that there is hope.
We had our first ultrasound last week for this pregnancy and up until then, I was more than physically sick from hormones; I was heart-sick from stress. This huge burden looming over the life of our newest baby consumed me, and I didn’t realize how effectively it was deconstructing my well being. The incredible fatigue, overwhelming all-day nausea, and fits of sobbing seemed extreme, but I attributed it to the hormonal changes.
Seems reasonable, right?
The Good News
Baby number four looked perfect on the ultrasound, was measuring right on track, and we saw that wildly assuring heartbeat flicker on the screen. The immediate relief I felt was glorious. Since last Wednesday, I’ve been a different person. The cloud that’s been following me around has been replaced by sunshine and I physically feel better.
I’m no stranger to the effects of mental health on our physical bodies, but I’ve never been one to get stressed easily. I do the best I can with what I have, and let the pieces fall where they may. You can only do so much to guarantee success in anything, right? So that’s been my mindset with most things in life: exams, athletics, relationships, interviews, etc. My best effort is all I can give, and the rest I need to entrust to God.
The Helpless Mortal
This is different. There is no real effort I can contribute toward making this pregnancy successful. Sure, I can eat the right things, avoid the wrong ones, and be physically active. I can take my prenatals, get myself to the doctor for checkups, and get plenty of rest (ok, that was a joke—toddlers and stuff). But we all know that you can be the portrait of pregnancy perfection and still have a bad outcome.
That knowledge sunk me into despondency, and I didn’t truly realize the extent of the darkness I’d plunged into. My whole being was a mess because of it. I was mentally depressed, physically ill, and spiritually exhausted. I was doing everything I could to treat my physical symptoms so that I could function while being blindsided by my off-kilter mental health.
So what gives? What should I have done differently?
I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t. I wasn’t in denial: I knew I was depressed. But I also knew that it was situational and not being a stranger to the beast, I was aware of the steps I needed to take in order to stay level. We were fed, clothed, safe, and satisfactorily clean. It was still a bit yucky to be outside much and O was fighting off a cold, so lots of cuddle time on the couch happened. And on weekends when I knew we could get out as a family, I took advantage of it—nothing will lead a depressed person down the rabbit hole faster than giving in to the temptation to sequester themselves.
I was aware of my situation, I acted on it, I talked about it with trusted loved ones, but all of that didn’t dislodge the demon clawing at my psyche. Time did that. Knowledge did that.
Could God have done that for me? Certainly. Did I ask Him to? Of course. He chose not to right away. This seems to be a thread in the tapestry of my life—God allowing hard things so that I can better see His power and glory. I can’t say that I like it, but the sun after the rain sure is dazzling.
The Reluctant Confessor
And so I’ve been slow to write. I’ve been dragging my feet because I want this place to be one of joy and encouragement and these words feel full of angst and heavy with accusation.
They aren’t meant to. They’re only meant to be honest. Vulnerable. Maybe I’ve made myself too emotionally accessible here in amongst these posts, but misery loves company. And I mean that in a positive way: we aren’t made to suffer alone. It’s not healthy. Sure, there are aspects of pain that need to be personally dealt with and suffering can be an intensely intimate experience. Sharing these sorts of things brings discomfort and uncertainty.
But burdens are lighter when they’re spread over many shoulders. And so that’s why I share. That’s why I tend to overshare. I know that I’m not capable of carrying these hurts by myself. I’ve learned that when I bottle, I implode, and that doesn’t look good on anyone.
The Hard Things
These hard things? These thorny brambles in our lives? They’re treacherous. They momentarily ruin us. But it’s the ruining that presses us deeper into Him and clears our foggy vision to see the mattering things in life. To use a biblical metaphor, the fire burns away the chaff, refines us, makes us into pure gold.
But that knowledge doesn’t always make the suffering easier. It doesn’t even make it more bearable most of the time. In that pit, those words feel hollow and out of reach. The words that do help me?
My husband gently encouraging me to keep pressing on, one more day babe. Him telling me that I’m doing a great job when the house is a mess and ignoring the unswept floors and dirty carpet. The unexpected boost I get when he encourages me simply and extravagantly—it makes me feel like a warrior mama. He reminds me of all we’ve been through and understands and listens and checks in.
This is how God is taking care of me. Through my super-man of a husband, my darling little boy cuddling with me while I cry, the rest of my family stepping in and stepping up to be there when I need them and even when I don’t know that I need them.
It would be easy to walk away and choose not to trust Him with this new life. That would be simple, mindless, and emotionally safe-guarded. That is what my humanness desires. I won’t lie and say otherwise. But without Him, without His sustenance and encouragement and giving of daily gifts and beautiful people I would be nothing. I would be ground to fine, fine dust because I am weak on my own.
So each day, each moment, of this pregnancy, of this life, I make a choice. A cognizant, purposeful choice to trust Him. To surrender my hopes for His. Because with Him I am brave and strong and a warrior. With Him, I will conquer. So can you. Maybe you don’t have a good support system and you’re drowning in your own despair. I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to go through this alone. Reach out to a friend, someone you can trust. And if there’s no one, reach out to me. I would love to encourage you through this dark time.
There is a great light to come, friend. Hold on, cling tight to His promises no matter how empty they may seem, and persevere into tomorrow. You are strong, you are brave, and with Him, you can weather this storm.