In the weeks leading up to the arrival of my first son, I had a birth plan. Although I never actually wrote it down, it was in my head. I would have a natural delivery. I would make every attempt to avoid an epidural. I would breastfeed. I was a strong woman who would do what we are made to do. However, within a few hours of my arrival at the hospital, I realized that my plan was falling part piece by piece.
Excruciating back labor had me practically begging for an epidural and the anesthesiologist quickly became my new best friend. Not long after the needle was successfully injected in my spine, I was prepped for surgery and in an OR. And although I was able to successfully breastfeed, an unexpected trip to the ER with symptoms of what the on-call nurse believed to be a pulmonary embolism forced me to supplement with formula for several months. A dwindling milk supply left me wondering if I was going to be able to continue breastfeeding at all.
Then there was the death of my grandmother. The day after my son’s arrival, my dad entered the hospital room with tears in his eyes and told me she had passed away that morning. Although I am usually a person who is rather in control of my emotions, lack of sleep, hormones, and what I can only describe as “shell shock” left me crying on the night shift nurse’s shoulder later that day. But a new mother does not have time to mourn the loss of a family member. She has time for two things: to take care of her baby and herself. So that’s what I did.
My husband and I had recently moved to Utah, over two thousand miles away from the place where I spent the first 28 years of my life: South Carolina. So after all of the family who was visiting went home, I was left alone with the baby. And he cried. And cried. It didn’t seem anything I could do could console him and sometimes I felt as though I was a human pacifier, since feeding him was the only way to keep him quiet. Medical jargon has a name for it: “The Period of Purple Crying.” I call it “The Period I Considered Putting My Son up for Adoption.”
In all seriousness, I loved my son. He is now almost five and I love him even more now than I did those first few months. I would throw myself in front of a moving train for him, walk through a desert, you name it. But loving him was not enough. I was lonely, depressed, and literally felt as though I was walking around in a fog every day. My husband could not help me, so he prayed. He wanted his wife back, and I longed desperately to be the wife he married, but that was never going to happen. Becoming a mother changes you, for better, for worse, and sometimes makes you grow in ways you are hesitant to change.
I tried antidepressants. They left me feeling worse than before and unable to sleep in my already zombie-like state. I tried exercise, but who has time to exercise with a newborn? Finally, after trying practically everything else, I cried out to God with a simple prayer: “Help me.”
Things did not change right away. I had to make changes in myself in order for God to heal me, to make me realize that God’s plans for my life are always better than my own. That there is a difference between believing in God and trusting him. I also, despite being an introvert, had to seek community with other moms. Being a mother is not a job you can do on your own. You need the support and fellowship of other moms who will love you and encourage you. Finally, after some very dark days, I began to feel like myself again, and although changed, I was stronger.
David writes in Psalm 40, “I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry…. He put a a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.”Although I was not always patient, God heard my cry when I needed him the most. And nearly five years later, I am still singing praises to Him for redeeming me from those days of despair.