When the heaviness does not lift – My personal story of Post Natal Depression

When the heaviness does not lift – My personal story of Post Natal Depression

We knew our little boy was going to be a fighter because he got through a pretty rough rollercoaster pregnancy perfectly fine – oh man was he a fighter!  Being a first-time mother I had images of cuddling my sleeping baby, giggles, cute burps and being able to watch replays of K-drama whilst he was sleeping and feeding.  Little did I know…

Baby Blues or PND?

The following excerpt is from an article by the Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (https://panda.r.worldssl.net/images/resources/Resources-Factsheets/Anxiety-And-Depression-In-Early-Parenthood-And-Pregnancy.pdf), and it sums up ‘Baby Blues’ and ‘Postnatal Depression’ very well:

It is not uncommon for women to experience the ‘baby blues’ in the first few days after birth…symptoms of teariness, anxiety or irritability usually resolve in a few days with understanding, acknowledgment and support.

When anxiety or depression begins in the year after birth, it is referred to as postnatal anxiety or postnatal depression. More than 1 in 7 new mums and up to 1 in 10 new dads experience postnatal depression each year in Australia.

It’s hard from the get-go.  Having a newborn who doesn’t speak, constant feeding, cleaning and sleep deprivation…I even had the signs of a tired and hungry baby made into an infographic which was washi-taped to the wall of every room! Don’t get me wrong I absolutely loved my little boy, I just didn’t love motherhood yet.

I can’t get away. I can’t breathe. I am overwhelmed all the time.”  The feeling that I just could not cope with life.  I still got out of bed and cared for my baby, ate, drank and cleaned; because when your husband walks out the door to go work, you have no other option. However, everything felt impossible.  Day to day tasks were heavier, harder, and I was crying all the time.

Post Natal Depression (PND) is not something you can simply go to the doctor, get a blood test for diagnosis, walk out with a prescription, and carry on.  Emotions and thoughts on how you bond with your child is so open to interpretation and personal.  There are so many biblical verses about not being anxious or afraid, and all I thought was “I’m doing all of the above!”.  I would sit by my Bible and listen to podcasts, but my soul felt dry.  Previously I would feel saturated with the Word and refreshed, but in this season of PND, I would read the Word and feel completely void and unable to retain any thought or verse.

This is when I knew I had more than the ‘baby blues’, and that the despair I felt was more than normal hormonal changes and sleep deprivation.  I made appointments with healthcare professionals, opened up, and consciously sought out friends who were in the field for advice.

Honesty and community

For those who ask about my Post Natal Depression (PND), I always say that it was one of the darkest times of my life – emotionally, mentally and physically.  It took some time for me to open up my heart with full honesty to the people around me.  I had mothers from church force visitation, some even with their own babies and toddlers in tow.  They prayed for me, they stayed the whole day holding, butt-patting and rocking my sleep-fighting baby; they shared their stories, and found every resource they could to carry me through.

By God’s grace, we can be honest with our husbands, open with our friends, seek appropriate counsel from professionals, and boast all the more gladly of our weaknesses, because it is in these situations that the power of Christ rests upon us.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

Identity & self-worth

We as women typically do not like to be weak.  A lot of the time we find our identity in being strong, reliable and able – especially mothers.

I soon realised the motherhood imagery that I had accumulated over pregnancy was an indication that I was seeking joy and worth in all the wrong places.  True joy cannot be found in motherhood but only in Christ.

At the same time, we as a couple were also mourning the freedoms we once had.  No longer could we duck out to band practice, pull an all-nighter to decorate the church hall, watch tv together or sit at a café.  We couldn’t even flush the toilet without being concerned we’d wake the baby!

PND cannot separate us from God

There were so many days and nights whilst holding our screaming son in the darkness with feelings of hopelessness, I physically and emotionally cried to the Lord in prayer.  It was through these times of despair the phrase “Where else have we to go?” rang true.  There is no hope anywhere other than in Christ.  PND cannot separate you from the love of God (Romans 8:39). So even when I was hurting, knowing God’s nearness was a comfort.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” – Romans 8:38-39

Clinging to His Word – when you don’t feel like it

Eventually, I stopped guilting myself about my emotions and hung on to whatever biblical verses I could, listened to worship music whenever I could, drowned my boy’s cries by singing every hymn I knew, and constantly prayed.  (Fun fact – it’s really hard to sing “Jesus loves me” without a smile).  Even though it didn’t change how I felt, I knew I couldn’t do anything without God.  I admit depression is discouraging.  You do what you can and turn to what used to make you feel better, even though emotionally it doesn’t lift you out of the fog at all.

This journey has and is still teaching me a lot about faithfulness and obedience.

  • Choosing time for the Lord – despite how I feel;
  • Obeying the Lord – despite how I feel;
  • Being confident in what God has promised – despite how I feel.

Reminding myself that my worth and identity is not in how I feel, but in the fact that God loved me enough, in my brokenness, to send His son to die in place of me.  I have a new identity not because of how I feel, but because of God’s grace.

Final words

To the mothers…

You are not alone.  There’s a saying ‘It takes a village to bring up a child’ – it’s true. Allow people to help, give them opportunities to care for you.  Be honest and open with sisters you trust and don’t discount your emotions or how you feel.  Remember that your identity is not found in how well you ‘mother’ your child, but in Christ alone. Cling on to the Lord and His word even when you don’t feel like it.  Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you.

Our church family was a gift for me when I was down and exhausted.  God met my needs through my brothers and sisters in Christ, through my loving husband, through the meals that were prepared and delivered, through the offers to come and babysit my baby so I could shower. All of these acts of love reminded me of the Gospel and pointed me back to the Lord.

To the church family…

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” – Romans 12:15

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” – Galatians 6:2

Look out for the new parents at church – and not just the first time mums. Don’t forget the second, third, and fourth time mums as well. Recognise the signs of PND.  Does she look lost?  Does she look helpless?  Is she screaming inside for help but has no idea what she needs?

Hold on to her when she sobs, do not try and ‘fix’ everything, encourage her, talk about things other than the baby, and if she needs to seek professional health advice, go with her and walk with her as she recovers.

The first year of motherhood is now a blur and to be honest, I cannot remember a lot of it.  However, one thing I clearly remember is that God, my lovingly patient husband, and my church community carried me through. I never finished a full course of treatment, but time has given me much healing and by the grace of God, He is slowly stitching my frayed ends together.

by Janice Koh