After years of struggling with infertility, God finally provided His special gift of a little girl named Faith. She was the perfect child. She slept well, ate well, was not fussy and was in good health.
There was only one problem. There were days I was tempted to put her on a doorstep and leave her for someone else to take care of her. When I held her I felt no connection…it was as if I was holding someone else’s baby. My dreams of motherhood came crashing down against the waves of insomnia, the pressure to breastfeed and feeling overwhelmed by the expectations to be the perfect mom.
Throughout my pregnancy, well-meaning people had told me about the importance of breastfeeding for bonding and other reasons, even mentioning her brain cells would increase. I wanted to give my daughter a great future and struggled with the pressure of feeling like a bad mom for wanting to feed her Similac so I could get a little sleep instead of waking up every three hours to feed her. Fears of failing along with raging hormones brought tremendous anxiety.
Six weeks after Faith’s birth, my husband was on the phone with the hospital at midnight because I was shaking and felt like I was going to lose it. They recommended I go to the nearest psychiatric unit because I was likely having a panic attack. Instead of going to the hospital, I waited and called the gynecologist’s office the next morning. My gynecologist’s office asked me to come in immediately. They had the courage to say this was not their expertise and pointed me to a psychiatrist to receive the help I needed.
We frantically searched for a psychiatrist until we found someone. I went in to see him and read my diagnosis: Major Depressive Disorder. Here I was a Christian woman, who loved Jesus and led Bible studies, now clinically depressed. I had to take disability leave from my job and would not be allowed to drive or leave the house for three weeks. In the midst of this difficult diagnosis there was hope. The psychiatrist told me that, although it would take some time, this depression would go away. He gave me the medication I needed and told me that the sleep medication would not allow me to breastfeed at night (praise God for Similac!).
My psychiatrist also encouraged me to pursue counseling. I called the women’s minister in my church and she recommended a Christian counselor. She also sent out an email to some of the women’s team members in the various Sunday school classes to see if they knew of someone who had similar experiences. Despite attending a church of thousands of members, only one person had admitted to it. In my opinion, this may reveal a stigma in our Christian culture about post-partum depression. Women are so heavily expected to be so happy about being mothers that they are afraid to admit they are struggling with depression. Some even teach that depression is a product of sin and medication was to be avoided at all costs.
As I reflect on my experience, I am reminded of the words of Paul to the Corinthians, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NASB). My psychiatrist was right. This depression would end. God used my experience to co-lead a Bible study on The Lifter of My Head: How God Sustained Me During Postpartum Depression by Susan McRoberts. I saw the fruit of God’s sacred story through the years as women have contacted me to discuss their own struggles in this area. God truly used this experience to help me have compassion to comfort others who are struggling with depression.