Postpartum depression… that’s what they call it. I think I was scared to say those words until just recently. After all, Christians aren’t supposed to be depressed.
Well, I was. I was severely depressed.
My daughter was born a little over two months ago, and for the first month I suffered what I now recognize to be a pretty severe case of postpartum depression.
If you’ve ever been pregnant you probably recall hearing or reading something along the lines of, “if you have feelings of hurting yourself or the baby after it is born talk to a doctor immediately”. Who really thinks about that? Who believes that would be possible? I know I certainly didn’t.
Before she was born all I felt was joy and excitement. The idea of not wanting my child seemed purely ludicrous. I couldn’t wait to hold my baby. I couldn’t wait to be a mom. I relished the idea of motherhood… both the good and bad parts.
The day she was born was honestly wonderful. Despite the intense labor (see previous post) I will consider that day and that labor process one of the most defining moments of my life. But, when she came out and I lifted that little form onto my chest I did not feel the immediate overwhelming attachment I expected. Instead, I felt empty. It was like an instantaneous switch was flipped… and the joy was gone.
The feeling did not go away.
That first month I loved Micah with the part of your brain that is logic based. I loved her because I chose to love her. Passion and emotion wasn’t a part of it. I desperately wanted it to be.
People would say, “Isn’t it the most wonderful feeling in the world? Aren’t you so in love?” And I would say, “yes, of course” because that is what people want to hear.
No one wanted to hear what I really felt. “No. It feels awful. I want to feel emotionally connected to my daughter but I don’t. She cries and I get mad because I don’t know what to do. I wish I could walk away from the whole thing but I can’t. Breastfeeding sucks… it hurts… I hate it. I worry about hurting my daughter unintentionally in my anger. I wake every hour to a baby who screams unconsolably (I later found out food intolerances were a contributer). I feel like a failure because Christians shouldn’t be depressed and I worry about the spiritual effect on her in the long-term. And overall, the only thing I have ever wanted to be… a mom… is the most miserable and difficult thing I have ever done and I don’t know if it will get better.”
I didn’t say those things. People don’t want to hear them really.
I told my husband and he was my lifeline. My mother gave me a few hours of sanity a day and provided some extra cuddles for my daughter when I just couldn’t seem to give her that kind of love.
Throughout all of this I knew there was a spiritual element. I’ve heard all of the medical reasons for what I experienced… but what followed showed me that there was much more to it.
I began to recognize the spiritual attack underway when random bloodwork came back positive for a thyroid condition. This to me was an obvious sign of something greater awry than hormone fluctuations. The two biggest family curses, depression (from Luke’s side) and sickness (see my post on my Lyme Disease experience) both against me at once. Both seemed to be direct attacks on my position as a mother (thyroid conditions often alter fertility).
So I did what most Christians would do… I became afraid. I went on the defensive. I began praying the type of prayers that begin with “please” and end with “I’m just so worried”. I certainly did not act like the daughter of the king that I am… but in those moments my environment and emotions began to dictate my identity in my own eyes.
A month into this not much had changed. Micah was sleeping better due to the elimination of wheat and dairy from my diet, so I at least had some more energy. However, my heart and emotions were not much different.
Then, God stepped in.
I chose to go to hear an incredible prophetic speaker, Bob Hazlett, who was speaking at a church near my home. He had already been one of the most influential teachers in my life in the arena of evangelism and prophecy, and I had developed a friendship with his daughter who I met on a missions trip. I had never met him in person, but followed his ministry and was excited to hear what God had to share through him.
That day I almost backed out of going. My husband was tired and chose to stay home and I felt overwhelmed at the prospect of bringing my fussy baby to such an event. He sensed my obvious distress and volunteered to babysit, giving me the most unusual night to myself.
When I arrived I went to find Bob and give him a birth announcement/thank you note for his family who had sent me a beautiful lullaby CD early on in my pregnancy. When I approached him he immediately knew who I was (because his daughter told him I’d be there) and greeted me with a warm hug. Any anxiousness I felt at being away from Micah melt away and I knew this night would be a good one.
Worship was wonderful and I felt more connected with God than I had in months. Immediately following worship Bob began to hand out a few of his teaching materials. People stood, waving their hands, hoping he would give them something.
Months previously I had been to a large conference where Bob spoke and went way out of my comfort zone to run to the front and ask for his “prophetic school” cd set, and for the first time at any conference a speaker gave me something. That conference, and that experience, worked together to cement some major spiritual path decisions in my life.
So, when Bob presented his second “prophetic school” cd set I thought to myself “I need to buy that”. Then, as people stood and waved for attention Bob stopped and said, “This is for someone special. Is Maggie still here? Maggie just had a baby and I want to bless her with this”.
I was kinda stunned, but very excited and gladly received my blessing. Then, Bob offhandedly commented about how he knew I was moving in these things already and this would help me continue. What he probably meant as an offhanded comment sunk deep into my soul and spoke to another fear that had been lingering since Micah had been born… that fear that I would not be able to continue moving in spiritual things the way I had before she was born.
Then, Bob began to speak. From the beginning I felt an atmospheric shift. I don’t know if it was just my heart and mind, or the whole place, but something was happening. He started off by prophecying over just one man in the crowd… one random man… one random man who happened to be my neighbor. We sat nowhere near each other, and this man didn’t even attend the church but had come because I suggested the speaker. His prophecy over my neighbor was incredibly accurate and it felt like I was just as blessed as he was.
God kept throwing little indications that he was at work my way. It was like a setup. Funny how he works that way.
During the message God pointed a floodlight at the depression issue. Bob was speaking on spiritual battles. He began explaining how all too often we look at spiritual battles as though we are trying desperately to hold up against the enemy, when in all reality the enemy must move in response to our choice to take over ground. When we feel opposition it just means we are getting ready for a spiritual promotion and taking over more ground. We are on the offensive, not defensive.
Wow. I had heard it before. In fact, I had probably counseled others using that example before. But Holy Spirit smacked me over the head with revelation that day.
In that moment God laid it all out for me. He said, “Maggie, this is an opportunity for promotion. You are not “bearing up under” the attack of the enemy. You are on the offensive. You are taking back lost ground in your family. What they struggled with you are now breaking. You are destroying this enemy stronghold and it will not continue on in your family.”
What a revelation!
My immediate family has never dealt with depression of any magnitude, but Luke’s family has struggled with depression in both minor and major ways, in multiple generations. The thing is, now we are one, his family is mine, and his battles mine. We had made a point of declaring that depression would not continue on into our children… and here we were… moving onto that enemy inhabited plateau. But I was not stepping onto that land to cower in fear but to conquer! I would take over precious land and never return it to the enemy! I would be able to see depression end once and for all in our family line. I got to be the conquering hero!
I jumped in my car after the night overflowing with joy. I began speaking out all these things that had been revealed to me, and layer by layer of depression dropped off. By the time I returned home everything had changed. My feelings toward Micah had already softened and strengthened. I felt both joyful for motherhood and attached to my baby girl.
Satan’s plans were foiled because I was aware of the ruse. He was trying hard to convince me he had the upper hand, but I was trampling him underfoot.
Since that night the depression has been gone.
But that wasn’t all. Remember that bloodwork?
Well that Sunday I received prayer for healing. I went to the doctor who sent for new bloodwork. She called me three days later and with a voice that sounded quite puzzled she said, “your bloodwork came back normal”. She didn’t have an explanation and sounded legitimately confused. The type of thyroid condition I had was not one that is post-partum related, and all my other bloodwork numbers were the same (cholesterol, iron etc), but the calcium levels and levels related to my thyroid condition were now normal.
The fight is over. I am victorious.
Now, I can say, I had postpartum depression. I’m not afraid of that phrase, because I no longer have it.
I feel for women who are struggling with it and joyfully say, “There is hope! It can get better!”
I am now more in love with Micah than I felt possible. I know my depression only lasted a month, but that was the hardest month of my life. When I look at my daughter I can’t even fathom how I felt the way I did, but I am so thankful to be on the other side.
I will never look at life the same way again, and I hope that I will be able to remember that I am a conqueror through Christ!
*God is a healing God, but please do not try to handle depression of any type alone. This is my testimony, but every journey is different. Do not hesitate to seek help in both the medical and Christian community. Be blessed!