Have you ever been in a forest where the trees are extremely close together? You know it is a summer day, because you were in the sunlight when you got to the edge of the woods, but now that you are in them, you’re not sure where the sunlight has gone. Every once in a while a sunbeam breaks through, but for the most part, things are dark and cold. And even the long sleeve shirt you brought is no longer enough to keep you warm. It is darker and colder in these woods than you thought it would be.
Or have you gone into the woods at one path and come out, not where you expected, but far off course of where you thought you would arrive?
I have been in both of those places, both literally and figuratively. I grew up in Northern Mitten country. And was lucky enough to grow up in a rural area on 20+ acres. Our property backed up to some woods. My mom and I would sometimes head in there to hunt for morel mushrooms. Now, neither my mom and I are terribly blessed when it comes to directions. And we never managed to come out where we planned to. Rather, we always ended up behind the neighbors, two houses down from our house.
We went in one place, and intended to come out at the same area, but in our wandering, we never quite found the same exit. So we then had to get ourselves home. We knew where we wanted to be, but it wasn’t quite that easy.
I have, as of late, been where I wanted to be, but some of the trees have gotten too close together and the area around me has grown dark. My land has been that of new motherhood. Not for the first time, no, I blessed to be here a third time. I know what to expect. I enter the woods at one place, expecting to come out at the same place, knowing myself and my family, but this time I ended up coming out a very different place. I have come out, not to the clearing, but darker and darker woods. I came out in postpartum depression.
I knew to expect baby blues. They hit me after each birth. This time was no different. Day 2, into day 3, I started crying a lot and my emotions got erratic. I also felt a little abandoned. During pregnancy I am blessed to not only be cared for by my midwife, but also a wonderful family doctor. There is a schedule of appointments, there are people making sure you are okay, making sure the baby is okay. You are never alone. All the sudden, you bring home this baby, and especially with the third, it seems now you are just out there. Alone. Yes, you’ve walked into these woods before, but never with this baby, never with this number of children. And for the first time, my baby was a good weight gainer, so where in the past we had lots of appointments with the family doctor, this time, Patrice gained well and once the jaundice resolved, our doctor didn’t need to see us for several weeks. I was terrified to be doing well enough to be this alone.
My midwife continued to be her wonderful self, but I must admit I felt a little guilty still contacting her. Like my time was up and I needed to move aside for other mamas. So I tried. I really did. But it continued to feel very dark around me. I just cried so much. For no reason. I was ecstatic with Patrice. Thrilled beyond words to have three girls. Happier as a mama of three than I had been as a mama of 2. And yet, terrified and in a very dark place.
Then week three of Patrice’s life came and I felt better. A lot better. I had found the sunshine again and was out of my woods. Yay. I felt like running in the meadow.
But what I ran into was more woods. And it got really dark. And I couldn’t tell people. They would think I wasn’t happy with my life. They would say we shouldn’t have had Patrice. They would say I was ungrateful for my three perfect children. And how could I ever explain being deliriously happy and crying all the time and feeling like I could/would fall apart at any moment. I couldn’t tell my husband. How would I explain such a thing? I didn’t understand it. And I hated it.
As hard as I tried, I couldn’t make sense of it. So I didn’t. I did find that if I was busy, I didn’t fall apart as much. I felt a little more in control. I learned to hold in my tears until I was in the basement. I didn’t want to upset my girls with my unexplained tears. Above all I did not want my girls to suffer or think they brough me sadness. So we had fun, lots of fun. We went to the park, the library, made cookies, pie. We had fun. And mommy stayed busy. And told only 3 people, including my midwife, what was going on.
I owe a great deal to those three people. They were, and are, a gift from the Lord. I am alive due, in large part, to those three people. They checked in on me via text message and phone calls. They reassured me there was hope when I didn’t see any. But they could not help me will away the darkness. It refused to leave.
Finally, when Patrice, was 7 weeks old, I consented to trying a medication. And at the insistence of my midwife, told my marvelous hubby what was going on. His reaction was loving and an amazing gift. But having told him left me feeling depleted. And during the first weeks of the medication, I continued to feel awful as I waited for the initial period to pass. But it did, just a little, but it did. So we tried a little more meds. And that did not help.
After one week of the higher dose, I was completely destroyed. I ended up at my midwife’s office unannounced, totally distraught. Begging for help. Pleading. Terrified there was no help.
I ended up in the hospital for 24 hours. That was like descending into the depths of hell. Truly. Now I was desperate for help and separated from my children, from everyone who I loved or loved me.
When I got out I felt even more lost. I felt like I had used my one chance for help, going to my midwife, and the people she trusted to help me had let us all down.
I felt abandoned, but the Lord continued to bless me through the people He had in my life. My midwife continued to be very responsive to my e-mails and told me, “I will always listen, I will always try to help you.” I asked her if I could e-mail her sometimes for a reminder that some day I would be okay. She said, yes, daily if need be. Not only did she support us emotionally, but she gave me the name of a doctor who specialized in postpartum depression. She thought he had left the area, but I set out searching and was able to find him. He got me in that day. That same day.
In the ensuing 7 weeks, I have started to improve. It is not the straight path from dark to light that I would like it to be. But it is better. I am no longer crying, much. The constant unease has lessened significantly and even the dark days are now just minutes or hours of a day.
My hubby and I have shared with more people where I have been walking. What we have found is the path is full of others experiencing the same, but none of us are talking to our fellow sojourners. We think we are all in the woods alone. Nothing could be further than the truth. It turns out there is someone who understands near every tree.
And there is visible meadow again. I now get to be in that meadow more often than not. This journey is by no means finished. Nor is my sharing, but for now, I will leave my story of a very dark woods. If you are a mama who has walked in these woods, please let me know. And know you are not alone. I am getting help with a map to the meadow and you can too. Maybe we can find it together.
I have had many great resources so far and will share more about them, but for now, please check out http://www.postpartum.net/ if you, or someone you know, is walking in these woods. Don’t continue without hope, without a lantern. Reach out. To me or to someone who can help you find a hand to hold, a lantern to light your way.