Archive | April, 2013

Moms, young children and Godly vision

28 Apr

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Son #3 heading home from the hospital on the Eve of Christmas Eve 2009.

“If you see a young mama today please encourage her. Don’t say things like, “I am not sure how you get out the door every day,” or “I can’t imagine how hard your life must be.” Help her carry her bags, buy her a Starbucks, encourage her and let her know that she is doing one of the best things possible… raising her babies.
Psalm 127:3″

My oldest friend (hmmm…maybe I should re-word that!) My friend that I’ve known the longest (30+ years!) posted this as her Facebook status today. Going along with the theme of my blog—this was too good to keep to myself!  I loved this quote because I’ve been on the receiving end of those comments in the past. It grieves me to encounter persons who apparently view children as a bother, nuisance or inconvenience. However, if I’m honest, I, too, view my own children as a bother, nuisance, or inconvenience at times.  I love the verse that my friend quoted,

“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.” (Psalm 127:3 ESV)

Children are a precious gift from God. What a wonderful corrective the Bible gives us in light of what the world tells us. So, as I move forward today, I’m asking God to help me refocus my view of my children in light of how He views them. He views them as a heritage and blessing from Him.

Lord, forgive me for my own rebellion against You as my heart is often filled with every thought about my children except that they are a gift and heritage from You. Today, please enable me, God, to  give grace, rather than judgement, to the Moms that I encounter. These women are in the trenches of the noble calling, occupation of motherhood. Lord, fill my heart with an eagerness to serve mothers that I encounter. Motherhood is not easy, so make my words Your words–life giving, filled with truth, encouraging. May I not spew venom or cast discouragement on them by uttering words that are unhelpful, defeating, and critical. Today, grant me Your eyes for my children and each child that I meet. Allow me to see them as a blessing from You, a human being made in the imagine of You, our beautiful Creator. Thank You for entrusting these little souls to our families; they are a precious gift from You. 

Spring time FUN–a LIVE butterfly garden!

23 Apr

I’ve been posting some heavy things ’round here this past week. Thanks to everyone who contacted, supported and encouraged me as I shared about my experiences with postpartum depression. So, moving on from heavy things…to some fun, fun things–like watching caterpillars transform into butterflies!

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My boys got the Insect Lore Live Butterfly Garden for Christmas last year. We couldn’t wait for the dreariness of winter to pass! We were eager for spring’s arrival so that we could order our caterpillars and witness God’s amazing process of metamorphosis–from caterpillar to butterfly.  Our adventure with the caterpillars and then butterflies was astounding! To read in a book about the process of a caterpillar being transformed into a butterfly is one thing (and thank you Eric Carle for writing one of our favorite books about that!), but being an eyewitness to this wonder-filled, jaw-dropping, marvelous process was worth every penny. I don’t know who enjoyed it more–the boys or me!

When you buy the Insect Lore Butterfly Garden, you receive a butterfly tower as well as a coupon/voucher for FREE CATERPILLARS! You just mail in the coupon and a few days later, your caterpillars arrive in your mailbox. I kid you not! As I got our sweet little caterpillars out of the mailbox, visions of car-sick caterpillars   danced in my head. Seriously, did you ever think it possible to receive LIVE CATERPILLARS in your mailbox?!?!? Anyway, I digress….

The caterpillars arrive with instructions (don’t you wish babies did?!?!?), which we followed. Being the good students that they were, the caterpillars did everything they were instructed to do via the instructions. We watched them eat, eat, and eat some more, spin their cocoons, and then wait while being transformed inside. One by one they “hatched” out of their cocoons (is “hatched” the correct terminology?) and present themselves as amazing butterflies! My boys truly marveled at the process (and their mother did too!). We got quite attached to the butterflies and kept them for about a week before letting them go. We were all very sad to see them go, but it was time.
IMG_3204Son #1 prepares to let them go! I don’t know how I managed to take this pictue AND dry my eyes with my kleenex. Sad to see our little “children” go. (If I’m this emotional over butterflies, what am I going to be like when my sons go to college?!?! Again, I digress…)

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All of the butterflies–save one–quickly vanished when their dreams of freedom were realized with the unzipping of the butterfly garden. This was our BFF butterfly that stuck around for a while after we granted the butterflies independence. I love that he didn’t want to leave us. 🙂 He even sat on Son #1’s hand for a while. Precious.

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So, if you’re looking for a fun family activity to tackle this spring, my vote would be grow-your-own-butterflies! Our entire family enjoyed watching part of the butterfly’s life cycle before our very eyes and in the comfort of our own home. There are a million ways to use this activity for homeschooling or general learning-at-home with your children. You can study the life cycle of a butterfly and read a plethora of books about butterflies. The exciting climax of your butterfly study can be this real-life science experience! After our caterpillars arrived, I had the boys draw a picture each day of what they observed about the caterpillars. My boys enjoyed the opportunity to draw, and Mommy loved that they were honing their #1 required skill of science–observation. 

The Insect Lore Butterfly Garden was truly a win-win for our whole family! It was a memorable, entertaining experience. My boys didn’t realize that they were learning (for school purposes), which is always a homeschooling mom’s delight. We will probably do this each spring for the next several years. Also, if you have little kiddos in your life, this would make an excellent GIFT! (As a parent, wouldn’t you rather your kiddo receive this instead of their 100th baby doll or Lego set?!?!)

Now, to stop writing and to start ordering caterpillars! I need to order our 2013 crop of caterpillars so that we can do this again. 🙂 I apologize in advance, little caterpillars, that you’ll have to make the trek across the U.S. to my house. I hope that you’ll not be nauseated, car-sick, and (most of all) bitter towards me since I’m the reason you’re being transported cross-country.

Would love to see pictures if your family decides to do this fun little science project at home! Enjoy!

Beauty from Ashes: Postpartum depression, conclusions, encouragement (part 2)

22 Apr

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Thanks for joining me this week as I share my experiences with postpartum depression. This is the seventh post of the series. If you missed the first six, you’ll find them herehere hereherehere and here.

Today I share concluding thoughts and encouragement for 2 others impacted by PPD–a friend to someone with PPD and a caregiver to someone with PPD.

Person #3: A friend to someone with PPD:

Give them grace-If you have a friend fighting through PPD, I praise God that she has YOU! Depression can make you feel like all friends have left you in the dust. Remain steadfast and present in your friendship with her. Pray for her and her family. Tell her how you are praying for her–write them out via email or a text. Know that your friend some days (probably MOST days) may not have it in her to respond.  I remember those first days of being diagnosed and people from church beginning to contact us, bring meals and love on us. I was so thankful for their help, yet I could not “pull it together” to respond to their acts. (On a personal note, that was sooooooooooo hard for me! I was so thankful for what they were doing, but the depression had me immobilized.) I felt guilty, but now I know that my friends did not expect that of me. They beautifully lavished love on me while expecting nothing in return, which is the true definition of servanthood.  They extended grace to me, and those acts marked me for life.

Depression is paralyzing on so many levels. You probably will listen to what she is overwhelmed by or experience her inability to do something that she easily had done pre-PPD and think, “Why can’t she just do what she knows she needs to do?” Just know that your friend is asking herself that same question and coming up with no answer! I would get frustrated with myself when I was still transitioning out of PPD and wonder why I couldn’t do simple tasks that I preformed previously (and feeling mounds of guilt about it!). Give her grace in those moments. (AND encourage her to give grace to HERSELF!) Your unwavering love and support is helping her to make it through each new day.

Watch her like a hawk-Our family and closest friends, both of whom we were in constant contact, were in my life intimately enough to discern that I was improving. If they thought that I was sliding back down the slippery slope, they would indicate that to my husband.

If you have a friend who is struggling after the birth of a child, take it seriously. If she says that she is struggling or feels depressed, encourage her to call her doctor immediately. I would also share with her husband and/or family what she has shared with you. It may or may not be PPD, but it is best to seek help to rule out things. If she is being treated for PPD, continue to watch her behavior and listen to what she says to you. If she continues to struggle, there may need to be an adjustment to her medication or further medical evaluation, testing and treatment. Never, never assume that she’s better simply because she’s on medication. Be her advocate and fight tirelessly on her behalf until she   has gotten the help she needs and is improving.

Follow the examples of our church family-In this post I shared practical examples of how our church ministered to us during my PPD experience. You’ll find some great examples there. Know that a meal brought, an encouraging note,  a night of free baby-sitting to allow for a date night are all marvelous ways to serve your friend. Most of all treat your friend the way that you always have. She already feels weird and alien-like. Your steadfastness and non-judgmental disposition towards her will minister to her deeply, profoundly.

Person #4: A caregiver to someone with PPD:

My husband prepared this list. (So thankful that he was my selfless caregiver!)

Ask how he/she is doing-The husband and family members providing intensive care to a wife/daughter/sister with PPD is probably close to burn out or exploding most days. A simple, “How are you doing?” can allow the caregiver the opportunity to process through what he/she is experiencing. The caregiver is an often overlooked victim in the wake of PPD. Proactively seek opportunities to support, love, and encourage the caregiver.

Pray for him/her-We are quick to pray for the doctors and nurses caring for a loved one who is hospitalized. With PPD, we are quick to pray for the woman walking through the valley that is PPD. To intercede on behalf of the caregiver for stamina, encouragement, patience and grace would be welcomed and cherished.

Arrange for him/her to have a break-As my husband shares here, there can be little to no respite for the caregiver to someone with PPD. Offer to sit with his wife for an hour or so allowing him to run errands, refuel himself or to simply breathe.

Arrange for date nights-There will be some needed time for the husband and wife be alone following the “fog lifting” from PPD. The stress of PPD causes strain leaving most marriages negatively impacted. There are conversations to be had and a relationship to be mended, renewed and healed. Arranging a date night for the couple would be amazing. We had friends who did this for us, and it was exactly what we needed. Jamie and I had aspects of our relationship to reestablish, renew, evaluate. Free baby-sitting was the greatest gift ever! We were given a precious gift–time and space together to process, heal and move past our PPD experience. Who knows if our marriage would have made it without that time!

Thank you for journeying with meThank you for swimming in the abyssal waters with me, for listening to my journey through PPD, and for your encouraging words accompanying each post. I pray that the Lord uses this series to encourage women who have or had PPD, their caregivers and friends. I pray that there will be no more women suffering silently with PPD as I did. This is my new mantra–No More Suffering Silently. If you know of someone experiencing or caring for a woman with PPD, please share these posts with them.

I want to close with quote one of my favorite books, To Kill a Mockingbird,

You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”  

As followers of Christ, may we seek to walk around in the other person’s skin before slipping into judgmental mode or saying “tisk, tisk, tisk” when we see someone struggling. May we show our scars to one another, to the world so that they can know the God who has delivered us from them. Instead of acting like we have it all together, may we quickly show each other our weaknesses so that His greatness–not our own–is shown. May we allow Him to use our hardships for His glory and the good of others. May we allow God to do what only He can do–make beauty from the ashes of our broken lives.

Beauty from Ashes: Postpartum depression, conclusions, encouragement (part 1)

21 Apr

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The 5 of us post-postpartum depression! We made it! There were some days that felt like we were upside down and crazy, but the Lord sustained us and replaced our mourning with lots and lots of laughter. 

Thanks for joining me this week as I share my experiences with postpartum depression. This is the sixth post of the series. If you missed the first five, you’ll find them herehere here, here, and here.

“For if He causes grief, then He will have compassion according to His abundant lovingkindness. For He does not afflict willingly or grieve the sons of men.” Lamentations 3:32-33

The verse above was this week’s Sunday School memory verse for my oldest son. I got out his verse pack to work on the verse with him for the first time this week. I almost teared up as I read through it. I had just been working on one of the posts in this series, and it was as if time stood still, rays beamed down from heaven, and His presence was showering down saying, “For if I cause grief, Suzanne, then I will have compassion according to my lovingkindness, and I do not afflict willingly.” I do not remember reading these verses before–EVER! It was like He was showering down this beautiful summary of what He did in my life through PPD. There was grief in my journey, my husband’s journey, our family’s journey, but there was also infinite compassion from God that rushed in and sustained and enveloped us during those days, weeks, months, and now, years.

As I bring our swim in the abyssal waters to an end, I wanted to leave you with some encouragement and concluding thoughts for 4 different persons impacted by PPD–the woman wondering if she has PPD, the woman in the throes of or coming out of PPD, a friend to someone with PPD, and a caregiver to someone with PPD. These concluding thoughts and  encouragement will come in two separate posts due to length. I will include the first two in Part 1 and conclude with the last two in Part 2.

Person #1: A woman wondering if she has PPD:

Ask for help-If you think you might have PPD, please, please, please seek help. The greatest help to me came from my doctor and counselor. There are gifted individuals trained to help you discern if you have PPD and to walk with you through PPD if that is your diagnosis. When I met with my counselor during the intervention staged by my husband, I was extremely resistant to taking anti-depressants. She looked me square in the eyes and said, “Suzanne, you’ve suffered long enough.” I think the floodgates opened when she said that to me. I knew that her words were true; I had suffered long enough and was oh-so-tired. never, not for one second, regretted getting help. I shudder to think of what would have happened to my son or myself had I let it continue even one more day.

You are not alone-I know that I’ve said this over and over and over during this series. However, it bears repeating again: you are not alone. Although you may think that you are the only one who has or is suffering in the way that you have, that is not true. Although I had never met someone with PPD before my diagnosis, I met a plethora after I began sharing that I had PPD. As I have continued to share my story over the past 7 years, I’ve met even more. Depression can be isolating. I pray that you will courageously reach out in the midst of the isolation and darkness so that you can find your fellow PPD kindred spirits. They were my cheerleaders in my journey. I could not have made it without them.

Post #2: A woman in the throes of or just coming through PPD:

Allow yourself to be served-When I had PPD with son #1, it truly “took a village” to help our family come out on the other side of it. We were surrounded by friends, family and church family who held us up-literally and figuratively-during the weeks and months necessary for me to get back on my feet. I learned during those days that I had to do something that was uncomfortable, foreign and arduous for me–receiving help from others. Why was this so difficult for me? You see, I love helping others. I enjoy taking a meal to a family with a new baby. I love sharing a meal with a friend to listen to a hardship that she’s experiencing. I feel such joy when I have the privilege of helping or serving others.

However, the roles were now reversed for me. When I was in the throes of coming out of PPD, I was on the receiving end frequently. Prior to PPD, my life had been relatively easy with no major hardship or difficulty. I had never had to receive from others during a time of weakness. I would like to say that I was one who received “well.” In actuality, I didn’t–at least in the beginning. Having others do things for me felt unnatural. I was always the one serving others–not the other way around. I took great pride in my service to others. Thankfully, the Lord snapped me out of my pride.

One night I had this epiphany (dare I say, from the Lord?): As much as I love serving others, why should I rob others of the joy that they would receive from serving me? So, I began receiving from others, begrudgingly, at first, yet it turned into joy. (So thankful!) If you’re experiencing PPD, allow others the joy and privilege of serving you. I PROMISE you will be able to return the favor in the future! Just relax and enjoy the beauty of the body of Christ loving and serving you.

Forgive yourself-Once I had come out of the fog of PPD, I began learning from Jamie about things that I said to him (OUCH!). I also had the wherewithal to begin processing what I had been through, how I had behaved, and how I had felt towards my son. The guilt came rushing in, overwhelming me and often being so weighty that I felt crushed, decimated by its weight.

I remember Jamie recounting something that I had said to him pre-PPD diagnosis. I, honestly, had no recollection of it, and it was p-a-i-n-f-u-l to hear an account of what I’d said. (Let’s just summarize it by indicating that my words were not nice!) I remember grabbing his shoulders, looking him straight in the eyes and asking him to forgive me for all that I had done (most of which I did not remember) during those dark days. He forgave me. I had to remind myself often that he had forgiven me. I had to train my brain to STOP thoughts of guilt about the way I had treated him. He had forgiven me, and it was over.

How in the world do you ask a one year old to forgive you? That question haunted me. Much of my guilt hovered around my son. Had I successfully warped him for life? Should we start a counseling fund rather than a college fund for him? Did I scare him? Did I permanently scar him? Would I ever be able to bond with him? Thankfully, our son, now 7 has no memories that he’s verbalized of his first year of life. He is a well-adjusted, sports-loving, all-boy kind of guy. He and I have a strong, we-may-not-have-bonded-his-first-year-of-life-but-we-have-made-up-for-it relationship. I look at him and marvel. I marvel at God’s gracious gift of a son, and I marvel at God’s grace for shielding and protecting him from permanent harm while I was not well. Writing about that first year of his life has been therapeutic for me, albeit difficult. Yet, it has given me astonishing perspective on how far God has brought us, what He delivered us from, and  God’s mighty, incomparable ability to redeem broken things. So, when those tinges of guilt start creeping into my heart and mind, I discipline myself to stop them. I preach to myself that I’m forgiven, and I don’t blame God for making me walk through PPD. He has made this ugly time of my life so beautiful that I’m actually thankful that I had PPD.

Never, never, never stop your anti-depressants “cold turkey”-I have known of men and women struggling with depression quit taking their anti-depressants cold turkey, and there were devastating tragedies that ensued. This is very, very, very, very dangerous. If you desire to stop taking your anti-depressants, please do so under the supervision of your doctor and counselor. There is a necessary weaning process over an extended period of time when coming off anti-depressants. When I started this process, I went back to weekly meetings with my counselor so that she could help monitor my progress. With son #1, I slowly weaned off the medication and had no problems. When I had PPD with son #3, I got impatient and tried to quickly wean myself off. Whew! Let’s just say that wasn’t a good idea! Thankfully, my husband and I were in daily communication about it and were able to remedy the scenario by successfully slowing down the weaning process.

Show your scars-I had a friend comment on one of my posts from this week, and I loved her words. “As Christians, we need to stop covering our scars. Even Christ showed His.” This was so fresh in my mind since I taught a Sunday School lesson to my sweet 3 and 4 year olds this week about the disciple, Thomas. Christ showed His scars to Thomas, unashamedly and lovingly. Why? Jesus was spurring Thomas on in the faith. Thomas said that he would not believe unless he saw Christ’s scars. Christ knew that. Loving Thomas as He did and desiring for Thomas to love God more, He showed Thomas His scars.

We are encouraged to do likewise in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 as another friend reminded me this week:

“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 may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”
(2 Corinthians 1:3-5 ESV)

The Lord is a Redeemer. He redeems the broken, shattered lives, experiences of His children for His purposes, which always includes their good. Your hardship, your scars are not to be kept to yourself. They are, according to 2 Corinthians 1, to be used to comfort others in their affliction just as He has comforted us. Whatever you have gone through or are going through, I pray right now for courage for you; may you show your scars for the glory of God and the good of others. Your story will be an encouragement and help to someone–I can promise you that! I pray that you will share it.

In light of sharing (which is what my blog is all about!), I wanted to leave you with 2 friends who have written about their struggles with PPD. My friend, Rebecca, too, is a church planting wife who has taken anti-depressants. 🙂 My husband and I had the privilege of walking with Lance and Rebecca during their PPD journey. I can still remember where I was when I got the phone call from Rebecca wanting to talk about PPD and trying to discern what she was experiencing after her daughter’s birth. Rebecca’s blog is hilarious, honest, and a treasure. You will benefit from reading her story. You can find it here and here. Also, my friend, Jenny has written about her experience with PPD as well. Her journey is an important one to read and hear. Her PPD symptoms led her along with her doctors to unearth a problem with her thyroid.  You can read her story here.

Beauty from Ashes: The post-postpartum depression edition

19 Apr

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Thanks for joining me this week as I share my experiences with postpartum depression. This is the fifth post of the series. If you missed the first four, you’ll find them herehere here and here.

No, that’s not a typo in the title. 🙂 I wanted to write a post about what has happened after walking through postpartum depression–as in post-postpartum. 🙂 (I knew we all needed a little humor this morning!)

Epilogue-There is a happy ending to my story. I’ve shared pieces of that in previous posts but wanted to include a little more detail (since I’m a girl and the “girl version” of things is always better, right??). My doctor and counselor encouraged me to take anti-depressants for a minimum of six months, evaluate things and see if I was ready to wean off the medication or continue. Under their supervision, I was able to fully wean off the medication after about a 6 week period. I had many fears about weaning off. Would I “lose it” again? Would I need to be on medication forever? What would I be like post-postpartum depression? Would I ever be “myself” again? Thankfully, I was able to feel like myself again. There were continued struggles as my husband wrote about yesterday, including PPD again with son #3. There were residual effects from PPD on our family as my husband wrote about yesterday. However, I, personally, prefer the A.C. Suzanne to the B.C. Suzanne. The A.C. Suzanne will never be the same person (in a good way!), and I am grateful to God for that. It wasn’t all neat and tidy after I got off my medication, yet it was so much better. The Lord was faithful and sustained us.

As I think back on our journey, I am thankful for these lessons that I learned along the way…

Lessons learned:

The body & PPD-I have had several comments this week that they also had PPD only to discover that it was linked to their thyroid. When PPD or depression sets in, it can actually be a symptom of something else going on with your body. When I bottomed out, I had a complete physical with my internist to rule out any physiological problems that may be causing symptoms of depression. I got a clean bill of health, which confirmed the PPD diagnosis.

If you are experiencing PPD, depression, mental illness, there are amazing doctors who can help you unearth what is going on with your body. I am not a “pill pusher” desiring for anyone and everyone to take anti-depressants at the drop of a hat. So, after reading this series, don’t walk into your doctor’s office and declare that you have PPD. It could be, or it could not be. Get yourself checked out fully. Remember, if you need medication, there is no shame in taking it. Be proactive and advocate for yourself with your doctor (remember, you’re the consumer) until you feel like you get the answers and help that you need. You have options, so I would encourage you to research any and all of them. Help awaits!

Pro-counseling-My counselor helped me in unfathomable ways during both of my experiences with PPD. My friend, Beth, commented this week that she likes to think of anti-depressants as a band-aid. A band-aid prevents further damage to your body while allowing your body to heal. She, also, took anti-depressants for a period of time and saw them–not as the solution–but a help to her healing. I loved her description! For me, anti-depressants helped even my brain out so that I could process through, learn and move forward with my life; they were my band-aid. There were a whole host of things that I needed to learn and process through, and I thank God for my counselor and being  able to do those things with her. I have had friends with PPD take anti-depressants only without seeing a counselor. I’m happy for them, but in my experience, I can’t imagine only medication, no counseling. She gave me tools and training (many that I still use to this day!) that have helped me keep record of my moods, which allow me to track my hormones. I still have a couple of days a month where I feel like I’m going down into “the pit” (as it’s affectionately called here at the Mosley home); a simple glance at the calendar reminds me that it’s temporary and just my monthly cycle.

With PPD, I also quickly learned that I couldn’t trust every thought that would run through my brain (which is one of the scariest and saddest realities to me regarding PPD and mental illness). During a session, I would often verbalize something that I was thinking or feeling, and my counselor would look me straight in the eyes and say, “That’s the depression talking, Suzanne.” I was always blown away by this! It was often something that I had run over again and again in my mind and would be worked up over. It was so refreshing to be able to let that thought go, and if it ever returned, to preach to myself, “That’s the depression talking, Suzanne. That is not real.” Once my brain was stabilized during my second bout with PPD I had some of the most productive sessions with my counselor. She helped me work through some issues that had plagued me for years–some OCD tendencies and being a perfectionist–that often work to fuel, feed depression. The “heart, mind and soul” work that my counselor led me through has resulted in living through PPD (I say LIVING THROUGH because who knows what would have happened if I had gone longer with it untreated!) and also aided me in coming out on the other side of perfectionism and a bent towards OCD. So thankful!

Come back tomorrow for some concluding thoughts and encouragement related to PPD. Thank you, again, for reading along with us this week.


Beauty from ashes: My postpartum depression caregiver (A post from my husband)

18 Apr
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Celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary last February. We have survived much together, and God has graciously strengthened our marriage through it.
Thanks for joining me this week as I share my experiences with postpartum depression. This is the fourth post of the series. If you missed the first three, you’ll find them herehere  and here.

I asked my husband to write a post about his experience caring for me during my journey through postpartum depression (PPD). In the years that have followed my PPD, he has shared candidly with me about the challenges he faced as my caregiver during those months. It was heart wrenching for me to hear but necessary. I have encouraged him to write a book because we have not found an abundance of resources available for caregivers of loved ones with postpartum depression or mental illness. 🙂 (Maybe one day….) 🙂 The other victims who are left in the wake of postpartum depression and, also, suffer silently are the caregivers. If you are a caregiver or know of someone who is, this post is for you (and feel free to pass it along to others.) Now, I turn it over to my hubby…..
Suzanne has been sharing her postpartum depression struggles over the last few days. I am extremely thankful for her risk in sharing this hard story with the world. I pray and long for God to use our struggles for the sake of His glory and His purposes in the world. Before I begin, you should know a few important facts about Suzanne and me. I love my wife deeply. Our marriage is strong and healthy. We communicate directly and openly about struggles, faults, sins, and weaknesses. In this post, I will say some hard things regarding my wife’s PPD. These statements are things we have discussed. We do not feel the statements belittle either of us. We feel that sharing with openness and honesty is worth the risk of being misunderstood.
When it comes to PPD, what do you call the spouse who is walking through the struggle and giving much care to the person with PPD? We have not landed on a satisfactory term to date. For our purposes here, we will call this person the “caregiver.” My goal in this post is share my experiences as the caregiver during PPD.
My Journey as a PPD Caregiver
I remember subconsciously thinking, “Did the hospital send me home with the wrong woman?” The hospital had extreme measures to ensure we went home with the correct child. No one every checked to see if I was taking home the correct wife. After a few weeks, the Suzanne I knew and loved was not the Suzanne living in our home and caring for our child. The before children (B.C.) Suzanne was fun-loving, outgoing, strong, persevering, initiating, and independent. The after children (A.C.) Suzanne was fragile, withdrawn, almost anti-social, void of initiative, and highly dependent. There was no doubt that the woman in my house was not Suzanne. One question haunted me. Will she ever return?
The Vise: A vise is a strong, metal clamp. When tightened, it prevents an object from moving. For 8 months, Suzanne’s PPD went undiagnosed, and I spent every day feeling like we were stuck in a vise. These are the factors that were trapping us:
  • I had no experience with childbirth, childrearing, PPD, or anything related to it. So, I did not know how to explain or process what was taking place in our home.
  • We were also new to our town and our church. We needed friends. I found myself longing for people to know the B.C. Suzanne. Because I did not want our new friends and acquaintances to form wrong opinions of her, I attempted to cover and hide the truth of A.C. Suzanne. We withdrew together. Accidentally, we shielded ourselves from the help we really needed. No one was allowed in our world to show us that Suzanne needed help and that help was readily available.
  • Since we did not know that help was readily available, I took it upon myself to fix the problem. I bore the weight and fear of Suzanne’s PPD while she battled for sanity by the day. This was a desolate existence for me. I had withdrawn from the world to fight for my family, and my home was breaking by the minute. My wife needed my care and assistance virtually every minute of the day. Our infant son needed my care and assistance virtually every minute of the day.
If you have read the previous posts and wondered how Suzanne went 8 months without being diagnosed, this is the answer–I was caught in the vise, and I did not how to best help her. I spent 8 months attempting to serve and hold the family together until things got better. In the process, I was unintentionally denying Suzanne the better solution and care she needed through diagnosis, counseling, openness, and love within the body of Christ. The vise grew tighter by the day. We finally sought help when the vise broke me.
No Reprieve: PPD overtook my wife. Think about the worst day of PMS ever experienced, increase its intensity by 50%, add a needy infant, and stretch it over 240 consecutive days. Her actions, decision making, thought life, belief, disposition, and desires were altered. (The only thing unchanged was her love for Mexican food. For eight months in 2005, Nashville Mexican restaurants made a bundle of money off our family.) There was no element of our marriage or our home  unaffected. There was no realm within our withdrawn world that felt normal. Everything was new and more difficult than it used to be.
Help Wanted: As days became weeks and weeks became months, I knew that we needed help, but I did not know what that meant. Because I was scared and hurting, I was paralyzed. It took a series of meltdowns and interventions from old friends to see that we could get help. Once I shared openly with my pastor, the help came quickly and overwhelmingly. We were served and loved. If you hear anything from these blog posts, please hear this: Help is available. PPD is brutal, but it is curable. Your wife will return to you. Yet, do not wait for postpartum to “run its course.” Seek help. Love her by getting her the help she needs.
The Hangover: Suzanne was able to get much needed help. My wife was back. With equilibrium she was again herself, and she was a phenomenal mother. After a few months she was connecting, serving, loving, and impacting our new community. It took me almost four months to recover from walking as a caregiver during postpartum. No one ever gave me any medicine. No one gave me retreat to recover from the stress and tension of postpartum. No one sent me to counseling.  I do not say these things with angst, but they are a fact. Being a caregiver during PPD is prolonged survival mode. It is prolonged adrenaline dependency. There will be a let down. There will be some low, hurting days after your spouse is healed. There will be a hangover, and it will take time to heal. Give your body the time it needs to recover from existing, surviving on adrenaline.
The Residual: About one year after her recovery, Suzanne looked at me and said, “Jamie, I am not sick anymore. Please stop treating me like I am still that person.” PPD is behind us, but there is still residual fallout. It is a chapter in the book of our life, but the book is not closed. Postpartum depression is caused by a combination of hormonal changes and new life stresses. Remember the PMS reference above? As my wife goes through the hormonal cycles as all women do,  there will be brief windows in time (at least monthly) where I notice an attitude, a response, a thought pattern, or an action reminiscent of our PPD days. Every time it startles me, scares me, and causes me to overreact in some way. My overreaction is not fair to Suzanne and who she is, but it is something I will always battle. Brief momentary residual is expected. Don’t overreact like me.
I am not a model husband for sure, but I have walked this line. I hope these thoughts help you as you love and serve those battling PPD.
Join us tomorrow for some concluding thoughts from our PPD journey.

Beauty from ashes: My church’s response during postpartum depression

17 Apr

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Son #1, 7 years later. The Lord is good; His love endure forever. (Psalm 106:1)

Thanks for joining me this week as I share my experiences with postpartum depression. This is the third post of the series. If you missed the first one, you’ll find it here. Click here for the second post.

As I shared yesterday, I have first-hand experience with mental illness, specifically postpartum depression. The Lord has graciously used this heart-wrenching experience for His good in my life; I love how only God can make broken, ugly things beautiful. This has been my experience with God in the midst of and following postpartum depression.

I felt that one blog post about my experience was insufficient. I feel like yesterday’s post was the ‘Debbie Downer’ version, and I wanted to share some of the beautiful experiences that came a midst my journey through postpartum depression. I was inspired by this post from Ann Voskamp, author of New York Times bestseller, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are and blogger at A Holy Experience, where she encourages Christians to be aware of and embrace those battling mental illness. Her post led me to reflect on how Christians responded to me when I found myself in the midst of mental illness, postpartum depression. The responses that I received were not what I anticipated. There was love, support, encouragement, acceptance. There was no judging or shaming.

My husband and I were incredibly blessed to be a part of this gracious, loving congregation for 5 years prior to being sent out by them to plant a church. Jamie was on staff there during that time, which paralleled the 5 most difficult years of our personal lives. What a privilege to have a loving, body of followers of Jesus surrounding us during those dark days of our lives. In the midst of Jamie and me walking through postpartum depression, I can look back with thanksgiving and joy as to the way this congregation related to us during this time.

So, if you find yourself in the midst of a friend, family member or church member experiencing postpartum depression, here are some ways that our church lovingly encircled–and not shunned–us:

Permission granted: We are forever grateful to the pastor, Scott Patty and elders of Grace Community Church who shepherded us well during that period in our lives. As a church staff member, there could have been a mandate from the pastor and elders to keep quiet for the sake of protecting the “image” of the church. However, Jamie and I were actually encouraged to do the exact opposite. They encouraged us to be honest with our congregation about what we were experiencing. We were, in essence, given permission to struggle, to show our frailty, our weaknesses. They knew the dangers of the plastic facade of acting like we had it “all together.” They knew that the best thing we could do was to open ourselves to receive love and support from the congregation. We didn’t realize the benefit of their wise advice, but we trusted them and did as they encouraged. We were the better for it.

Unselfishly served: At the encouragement of our pastor and elders, Jamie and I decided from the beginning of my diagnosis that we would be open to any and every one about what we were going through. My entire life I have been an “open book,”  never wanting to hide where I have been or what I have experienced. We decided that this circumstance was no different. As those in our congregation learned what we were experiencing, there was an outpouring of tangible unselfish service towards us. There were meals brought to our house, restaurant gift cards appeared in our mailbox, free baby-sitting was offered, emails and phone calls indicating prayer and support were received (with no expectation of a response or phone call in return). Jamie and I never sent out an “email chain” asking for help; these things just appeared before us. These beautiful tangible acts of unselfish service were life-giving, and they made us feel so loved! There were no expectations from the congregation for us to respond to their service towards us in any particular way (the very definition of “unselfish!”). We were in a difficult time, and they were there to serve simply because we were their brother and sister in Christ. Humbling, to say the least.

Lovingly embraced: As I said in yesterday’s post, I had never met another woman with postpartum depression prior to experiencing it myself. However, after we shared what we were experiencing, it was as if women came out of the woodwork who had experienced PPD!

Shortly after my diagnosis, I attended a women’s retreat with our congregation. At the end of the event, they closed with a season of prayer for people walking through different situations–job loss, illness, a wayward child, family members who did not know Christ, etc.. The leader would call out the situation and then women would stand up who were in the midst of it. Women, who were sitting around those who stood, would encircle and pray over them. It was a beautiful experience for me until the leader said, “Those who struggle with depression.” Ugh! An internal battle began raging in my heart. I asked myself, “Should I stand or stay seated? After all, I only have postpartum depression. I’m not a life-long depression- struggler.” (Can you see the pride in my heart?)

The battle ended as I decided to stand up, publicly, fully exposed for everyone to see. My tears immediately flowed uncontrollably, and I began to regret this over exposure. However, the next few minutes were a foretaste of heaven for me. Woman after woman after woman surrounded me prayed over me, prayed Scripture over me, wept with me. There was solidarity amid my over exposure and pain; there was love and acceptance as I had never experienced previously. With the closing, “Amen” offered, I had several women come up to me and say, “We need to talk later.” Or, “we need to get together.”

I did talk with them, and I did get together with them. The result was what I call an engulfing embrace by our congregation. There were play dates with other moms where I heard stories of postpartum depression and clinical depression. There were stories shared and tears released as other women and couples identified with our struggles. There were no “tisk, tisk” or “shame, shame” fingers pointed our way. There was love, hope, and a nudge to cling to Christ a midst the struggle.

Not that I’m glad that I experienced PPD (well, maybe I am!), the outpouring of love that we received from our church, fellow followers of Jesus was truly glorifying to God. They demonstrated Christ’s love to us; it was beautiful and pure. If you, yourself, are in the midst of PPD, I pray that your church is reaching out to you in the same manner. If you’re in a congregation and know of a family experiencing PPD, I pray that you will courageously pursue them with the same vigor as our dear friends from Grace and and that God will use you as an ambassador or his love, grace and mercy.

SIDE NOTE–Also, this is the audio from a recent sermon by Scott Patty, our pastor during my postpartum depression days. He shares his experience with a recent period of anxiety and how the Lord sustained him (and can sustain you). It is wonderfully honest, real, and filled with hope. (You won’t regret the time it took you to listen to it!) The sermon was a source of great encouragement to me this week as I listened to it before posting this postpartum depressions series.

Beauty from Ashes: Postpartum Depression and Me

16 Apr

0John Martin's Birth.2005

Leaving the hospital after son #1’s birth. I kept this picture on my refrigerator for several years as a ‘stone of remembrance’ to reflect on how far He had brought us.

Thanks for joining me this week as I share my experiences with postpartum depression. This is the second post of the series. If you missed the first one, you’ll find it here.

When our first son was born in 2005, we experienced almost every major life stressor–except death and divorce–in a span of 3 weeks. I quit a job I loved, we moved to a new town for my husband’s job on a church staff, we left a strong community of family and friends, and our first child was born. Whew! Having never experienced any of those things previously, I wasn’t aware of the stress I was walking through. I was just rolling with the punches and moving forward. All of these changes were positive so there was much excitement on my husband’s and my part.

However, once our sweet baby boy arrived, I plummeted. I didn’t realize it at the time; neither did my husband. Both of us had very limited experience with babies (as in–NONE!) previously, so we were trying to figure things out as all first-time parents do. Having a newborn can be challenging, so we just chalked it up to our first-time-parents-know-nothing-about-babies reality. Yet as we moved forward, my Dr. Jekyll personality reared its ugly head all too often in the days and weeks following our arrival home as a family of three. I would have moments of peace and serenity holding our son (enter Mr. Hyde). Within 5 minutes of elapsed time, though, Dr. Jekyll appeared. There were fits of rage, ANGER, screaming, hair pulling, uncontrollable crying, reclusive-never-leave-the-house behavior. It was not pleasant nor pretty. This roller coaster of good moments-followed by bad moments-back to good moments continued for weeks, which turned to months.

Looking back now, I also realize that I never truly bonded with my son. (This reality still makes me tear up every time I think about it!) If anyone offered to hold him, I quickly (and happily!) obliged. If anyone offered to baby-sit him, my response was, “When can I drop him off? You’d like to keep him several hours? Even better!” You probably could have heard my tires squealing in the driveway as I fled the premises. I was home all day with our son, so I somehow managed to take care of him. (Thank you, Lord! Such a testimony of His grace!) Grant it, I probably called Jamie 5 or 6 times a day at his office (NO LIE!) in order to make it. I remember feeling out of control anger and rage when he didn’t nap as long as the “baby manual” told me he should. (Remember, I knew nothing about babies, so I literally was going by the book!). Jamie calmly coached me through those moments; I don’t know how he managed to get anything done at work during those months. When Jamie came home from work, it was his time to “deal with” our son. After all, I had been “dealing with him” all day. Jamie’s entrance home was my opportunity to pass him up and have no responsibilities for the rest of the evening. Freedom! I was a mess…and clueless about that reality!

Finally after 8 months, I hit an all time low. I remember the day very vividly, March 8, 2006; it was my younger brother’s birthday. I called my husband at work, and I had just had it with our son. (And now, having had 2 more sons after him, I realize that he was our easiest baby. You would never have convinced me of that at the time.) I was at my wit’s end, so I told Jamie that we needed to give our son to someone. Yes, I was ready to give him away. In my mind, I had the perfect plan. I said, “Jamie, let’s just give him to my parents or your parents because they love and enjoy him. Or, if that doesn’t work out, I know we could find someone else who would love him.” Yes, those were my words. (It’s almost too painful to even write this.)

As I’m thinking, writing and reliving this, I can see clearly now what I could not see then; I was very sick. Thankfully, the Lord graciously intervened on my family’s, my son’s and my behalf  that day. My husband was an associate pastor at the time, and immediately went to our pastor’s office–literally down the hall from his own–as soon as we got off the phone. The rest of the afternoon was a whirlwind. My beautiful, gracious husband with the help of our pastor staged an intervention. Jamie did for me what I could not do in my own strength–he got me help.

A few hours later, an amazing, godly counselor, who also attended our church, showed up at the door with my husband. I love this dear saint, and I’ve told her on more than one occasion that she saved my life. Well, the more accurate depiction is that the Lord used her to save my life. After talking with her for a couple of hours, she helped me see that there was a problem and that what I was experiencing was not normal. With her experience and expertise, she revealed to me that postpartum depression was what I had been experiencing, battling through for 8 long months.

I had further conversations with my primary care physician, also a godly man from our church, and his conclusion was the same. Kicking and screaming (more figuratively than literally), I started anti-depressants immediately. I felt ashamed and like a big ol’ loser because I was on anti-depressants. I’m a Christian, right?? Christians don’t take anti-depressants, right? We’re just supposed to pray harder and get out of the pit by pulling up our boot straps, right?? I said these things to my counselor and to my doctor; they quickly disagreed with me. My godly physician friend reminded me that if I was diabetic, I would–without thinking–take the needed insulin. My brain was sick, he reminded me, and by God’s grace, there was medicine to help me.  So, I begrudgingly took that tiny blue pill. Within 48 hours, I could feel the “cloudy-ness” and “brain fog” (as I called it) beginning to dissipate. I was not back to normal, but I could feel a difference. I continued on with the anti-depressants, minus the kicking and screaming reluctance, and with regular appointments with my counselor. Within a few weeks, I was night-and-day different. There were still struggles as my brain continued to even out, yet there were so many good days with my husband and with our son. God was gracious and mighty; He had saved my life.

Before being diagnosed with postpartum depression (PPD), I had never met a single woman who had experienced it. After my battle through postpartum depression, I vowed that I would be open with my personal experience with it. I had suffered silently for months, and I did not want that for any other woman. My husband and I both believe that we would have acted sooner to seek help if we had known more about PPD or known someone who had PPD. It’s still somewhat taboo to discuss, which saddens me.  If I meet someone in person who is expecting (particularly if it’s their first child), I somehow manage to sprinkle into the conversation that I had PPD following our first son’s arrival. I never want other women to suffer silently as I did due to a lack of knowledge about PPD, its symptoms and how to get help. My new mantra is, “Stop the silent suffering.”

The beautiful ending to this story is that the Lord used PPD to cement our hearts and lives to our new congregation. We experienced Christ’s love and acceptance in a way that marked us forever. I will share tomorrow specifics about how they loved us well in hopes that it will offer ideas for relating to loved ones in your family, friends or church when they experience PPD or mental illness.

Beauty from Ashes: I’m a pastor’s wife, and I’ve taken anti-depressants

15 Apr

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My favorite pastor and me

There’s been much swirling in the media this week related to mental illness. Much of this chatter is stemming from the news of the suicide of Rick Warren’s son, Matthew. In a public statement to the media, Warren bravely shared of his son’s lifelong battle with mental illness, depression. As I read those words this time last week, my heart was filled with grief for the Warrens, yet my heart also ached as the all-to-familiar memories of my own struggles with depression resurfaced.

Yes, you read that correctly. I am a pastor’s wife, and I’ve taken anti-depressants. If you’re a faithful blog reader, I’ve often written that I don’t have it all together. When you only see snapshots of someone’s life through a blog, the appearance seems otherwise. I realize that, so I try to reassure you differently. Now, that I’ve shared this with you, you can really know that I’m telling you the truth when I remind you that I don’t have it all together. 🙂

It’s hard, painful to walk down memory lane and revisit my journey with and through postpartum depression (PPD). I like to file this journey into a filing cabinet deep, deep, deep in the abyssal recesses of my mind. I don’t like to revisit it often. Ironically, I’m very open when talking with people in person about my experience with PPD. However, blogging about my experience, well, I’ll just be honest–my pride shifted into overdrive and wanted to keep this “deep, dark secret” in the abyss.  In those moments of wishful-forgetting, the Lord {thankfully!} snapped me out of my denial and pride-induced illusion. He reminded me that His purposes are for redemption and restoration of broken things, making all things new. He did this for me; may I not keep to myself the story of His redemptive work in my life. May I not fail to tell of His wondrous works in my life and the life of my family.

So, for the glory of God and the good of others, I will walk down memory lane. I will swim in the unending abyssal waters and will relive the memories. I will share with the world wide web what I have experienced (although my knees are shaking as I feel very exposed). I pray that the Lord will use it to encourage others who have experienced PPD or a woman who is in the throes of it to get the help that she needs.  Know that you are not alone in your journey. Know that although there is pain, your story, like mine, can be a story of joy, hope, love–broken things restored anew. This is what I wish to share, remember.

I will be sharing several post this week related to my experience with mental illness, PPD. I would love to have you journey along with me. To read the other posts in this series, read herehere herehereherehere, and here.

Live each day as if it were your last–literally!

14 Apr

Will and Jamie.Wills Wedding

It’s been quiet on the home front here @ Suzanne Shares for the last several weeks. With finishing our first year with Classical Conversations, a FUN Spring Break VBS with our church, and LIFE, blogging has been placed on the back burner. Part of LIFE that we have been experiencing as of late is the news that our dear, dear friend, best man in our wedding, the brother my husband never had, Will Gray was sent home from the hospital with hospice care. Will was diagnosed on Halloween–5 1/2 months ago–with a rare, aggressive form of cancer. After surgery, chemo and radiation ending in March, we were hopeful that the cancer was gone and that Will would be able to return to his work as the amazing songwriter that he is.

Three weeks ago we received the news that the cancer had returned, there was nothing the doctors could do, and that Will would be under the care of hospice nurses in his home with only weeks to live. We grieved, cried out to God for healing and hoped. My husband was able to travel to California two weeks ago to spend time with and serve Will and his wife, Angie. My husband was excited for his time there with Will and Angie but most of all to find that Will was feeling well, better than anyone had hoped. Jamie watched his friend LIVE, not die. The Lord was truly and is continuing to sustain Will and Angie. They are both fighting with every fiber of their being for LIFE. Their faith in Jesus amid their reality is real, hopeful, strong.

When Jamie and I were married 11 years ago in February, we never imagined our best man, Will Gray would have cancer and be in the fight of and for his life. We were young, and when you’re young, you feel invincible and immortal. Fast forward 11 years down the road, and I’ll admit it, most days I do a marvelous job of taking life for granted. I assume that I will live to a ripe old age, that I will see my son’s married and that I will meet my grandchildren. Over the last few months as we have journeyed with Will and Angie, I have realized the false hope that I’ve put in my future. I no longer assume that I’ll have another 30 or 40 years on this planet. I find myself stopping in the midst of my day, looking around at my children, memorizing their faces and sounds of laughter, verbalizing my love for my husband and children to them, and most of all, offering constant prayers of thanksgiving to God for the hundreds of blessings that He allows me to experience each day. I’ve always heard people say to live each day as if it were your last. I don’t know how well I’m doing it, but this is my new goal now. Lord, help me to take nothing for granted. Help me to, as I see our friends Will and Angie doing, receive each day as a gift from You. Lord, remind me that my goal in this life is to glorify, make much of You, that you are my only hope, and that this world is not my home.

For an amazing, inspiring, honest blog post from Will’s wife, Angie and her fight to live each day well, go here. (You will be challenged and won’t regret the time it took you to read it!) If you’re a music fan, go here to read about where to hear and purchase Will’s music. Or, support Will by purchasing his song that he co-wrote, “Do You Remember?” on Blake Shelton’s new album. Most of all pray for Will and Angie that God would bring healing to his body and that He would give them faith and strength to live each day.