My writing friend Sheila Petre, whom I love with an undying love, wrote this piece about postpartum depression. Sheila has nine children, and knows what she is talking about. Perhaps she wrote this description for Those Who Don’t Know, but perhaps too she wrote it for Those Who Do Know, because sometimes we still don’t have words for it.
I am long past postpartum depression, with my baby now six years old, but some variant of depression often clouds my months, especially surrounding difficult circumstances that don’t have a measurable end. I found her words healing in a dark time. I thought you might enjoy them too, so I asked if I could share.
“Postpartum depression is when you are walking along and your thoughts fall down little cracks and you stand over the crack trying to pull them back out, and instead you keep pulling out little thoughts you never knew you had lost.
It’s when things that were once funny are annoying and you get all snappish at people for laughing.
It’s when nothing matters, truly, and you wonder what the point of the day is, or the point of living, or what everyone else sees in being a mom.
It’s when you finally have a day that’s an okay day, not amazing but at least bearable, (you made it through without crying), but then your husband comes home and asks how your day went and his words hit an artesian well down there and there’s no sensible way that you can explain to him that the look of bewilderment on his face over this week’s worth of grief-under-pressure splashing all around you… is exactly the way your heart feels, too.
It’s when you wish for a mom. Or a maid. For a mocha latte, a massage, a mushroom-swiss burger, or maybe just a mustache. It’s when you mourn and wait for the morning, and when the morning comes, you see it’s not the right morning yet, and you wonder how long He’ll delay His coming.
Here’s what you should know about postpartum depression: It thins the membrane between the temporal and eternal, and maybe this is why God sends these seasons. But since we don’t know for sure, we mostly spend the interval looking for the way up and out, and reaching toward the things that help us get there.
These things help: Walks in the sunshine. Talks with someone who loves you. Prayer. Song. Writing. Drinking lots of water. Little breaks from being a mom. Skin-to-skin—with baby or lover. Progesterone or wild yam can help. Doing one deliberate very tiny thing for someone else every day—that can help.
If you can manage to finagle a compliment or a snatch of affirmation out of someone, that helps. And this knowledge helps: Knowing that it’s a journey. Every day, you rise and walk through it, and eventually, always, you come out the other side, slowly, slowly like waking up from a long sleep.
And you say oh! I’m back! That was worse than I knew it was, and I hope that I never do it again, but it doesn’t matter now any more, because I can see from here how He led me all the way and how I reached the light again, safe, still His. You’ll be stronger in some ways and more dependent in others, more beautifully broken than you have been yet, joyous to be wife and His, among your favorite little ones.”
Do you know what this feels like? I’d love to hear how you made it through, or say a prayer for you if you’re still in the thick of it.
Sheila recently released a poetry book entitled Thirty-Six New & Laughably Random Poems. The images accompanying this post are of Hannah Lehigh’s watercolors from the book. It’s available for purchase by emailing or writing to Sheila. (And if you haven’t yet found your way to her earlier book, Thirty Little Fingers, please do.)
Sheila can be reached by snail mail at 9711 Fort Loudon Road, Mercersburg PA 17236. Or by email at [email protected].
Yes I know this, so well. A black hole that I could not climb out of, walk away from, never. It took time, bewilderingly much of it. I found that having a maid was so helpful, we budgeted for it throughout pregnancies sowe could afford to pay for this luxury. Also-not breast feeding! And ignoring the well meaning people who thought that was a horrible choice.
Postpartum….. depression…… are companions that on some days I wish wouldn’t be so real, so close.
I’ve learned though that if I ask; Jesus carries me and God’s grace, and courage are real and powerful.
Thanks to you and Sheila for this post. It made me teary (when is someone going to make crying easily a spiritual gift?) because it fits so well. For someone who has left the bumpy road of child-bearing years and has been some miles into the winding route of the pause that follows (and doesn’t always refresh!) this article was an unexpected but delightful meeting of a fellow traveler along the way. And a receiving of hope from her gentle embrace.
…Stronger in some ways, more dependent in others, more beautifully broken than you have been yet….
Love these words. Every single one of them resonates with me. I have just recently come through the worst of it, but every once in a while it surprises me again. Darkness I never wished to experience has taken me off guard in the lowest moments.
….How He led me all the way, and how I reached the light again, safe, still His. ….Praise God!
Thank you for this!
Yes, yes, yes! Totally relatable. Thankfully, I am past that point now, but not by far. The biggest thing for me was to just give myself grace. I wanted so desperately to be free of depression. It scared me because I never experienced depression in my life before. Once I stopped trying to fake that I was ok, accepted how low I actually was, and realized I can’t pull out of it on my own, that was the turning point. Oh, so slow, but two little steps forward and then one backward. But that’s progress and that’s all that matters.
One summer I was a couple months postpartum when one of my siblings died. That was my first experience with loss of a close family member, as well as PPD. I hardly realized how low I had gotten until I came out the other side and rediscovered a desire to live! I began testing and balancing my hormones, got pregnant, had a miscarriage and felt that awful, too-familiar darkness that I could. not. shake. When I began taking progesterone cream, I immediately began to sleep better and feel some better, but it was still a long, soggy climb. So little control over my tears! I wish I could remember the reference to the scripture passage that spoke hope to me, but— brain fog. I can’t remember. It terrified me, all the things I couldn’t remember.
Most of Sheila’s last paragraph resonated with me, except the line “it doesn’t matter now any more…” Yes, God led me through and held me and was merciful beyond what I can comprehend. Yes, it’s something I’ve survived twice already. Yes, I have coping tactics in place and I know what to expect. But, oh dear Jesus, I’m very newly pregnant again, and I am so scared of another miscarriage, and of more depression. If you want to pray for me, I would so appreciate it.
These fears sound so familiar to me.I’ve had miscarriages and also after my experience with my third baby, I feared another postpartum like never before. I felt sure the depression would repeat itself. However, the next time went so much better. I will pray for you!
I will pray for you. I know the fear of facing depression.
You have my prayers. I can say that with each subsequent depression there was an element of recognition, and an ability to settle in for the long haul back to the light. But the rank fear of the first time still lingers. . .am I going crazy? Will this ever end? Will I be different forever? That is not there as strongly because every time I found God there and every time I found my way back. You will too. God is already there waiting for you
Prayers for you as you face each day with the very real fears of another miscarriage…..blessings to you for a healthy pregnancy and a further on a smooth postpartum journey!
I hope you hear the loving support in the comments of these women… We get it. We care. We will be praying for you! Thank you for sharing. ❤ Courage, brave heart!
I hear it, Shari! Thank you so much to you and Sheila for sharing on depression; it’s been helping me already.
Oh dear sister! I will pray for you.
Thank you, sisters. You’re all very kind and your words & prayers give me hope.
This is beautiful and made me cry as I sit here rocking my 8 month old baby. I’m still very much in the middle of it and grasping for any small ray of hope in each day.
Praying for hope for you, and that you’ll know when to ask for help.
You have my prayers. There is someone somewhere close by ready to help. Give your baby an extra hug from me today. . .
Whooo – deep breaths. I remember this feeling very much. Courage and light to you! When you pick up your phone while you’re rocking that precious baby, call someone you love. Just to chat. Just to hear a voice, and to share one piece of your day with them. We are praying for you! ❤
I will be praying for you, too. 🤍
My first baby was 8 months old when I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. Love and grace to you. You are not alone.
Her words resonate. And then there is the depression that comes when your child is 4 or6 or 8 and you say, “This is familiar!” And the little scoop of shame that immediately heaps on telling you that there is no reason for this. . . And you realize that you are working through the ‘Review Exercises’ once more. . . Why Lord? But the slow realization comes that ‘ God’s grace is sufficient’ and that there is no shame in slowing down for this season. . . and that the joy that comes in the morning is worth the dark night of the soul. Blessings on all of you whose skin is too thin to write, or whose words are still down in the cracks somewhere. Perhaps it is okay to let them there and find new ones when the time is right. God loves us all wherever we are!
It has got to be good when two of my favorite female writers get together. Thanks, Sheila and Sheri!
Although my depression is not the postpartum variety, I identify with many of your comments. I clung to the phrase, It’s okay to slow down for this season. I am going through an unexpected depressive episode, and many days it feels like I am just coping not thriving. I am committed to keep moving through the dark in faith, knowing morning always comes again in His time!
I love this comment. Thank you. “Review exercises.” I never thought of it that way before. I had some form of PPD with all 3 of my children, but my youngest is now nearly 3 and the darkness comes again. The words I long to write are indeed still down in the cracks. “Perhaps it’s ok to let them there and find new ones when the time is right.” This sentence you wrote is one I reread and hold on to. It means a lot to me, thank you! Reading all these comments let’s me know I’m not alone, reminds me that it’s ok to slow down in this too-familiar season, and trust in the joy that will come in morning.
I never really had postpartum depression but my pregnancies we often hard because of brain fog and sleep deprivation. After 5 children in seven years now that my youngest is two I feel like a real person. It feels amazing to have coherent thoughts and feel more like a good mom instead of muddling through my day.
I would like to highlight the brief comment about progesterone that Sheila made. The amazing grace of God along with bio-identical progesterone cream literally saved me from the mental hospital after the birth of my last baby 13 years ago! I went from not even being able to remember my children’s names to feeling hopeful within just 2 weeks, and it continued to be of great benefit until I passed over into menopause. God heard my desperate cry and delivered me from the pit, and he used progesterone as the tool.
Today my twin girls are one week old. And my two year old is very happy to be a big brother. The darkness hasn’t come yet, please pray that it never does.
I pray for you! May God hold his hands over you and your little ones.
Please note that not every woman suffers from postpartum depression!
I am one of those who have never (or not yet) experienced it. But I had problems during the first part of my pregnancies when I was sick all day long and tired.
Great post! Thanks for sharing this. I have lived a lot of this, & I survived! My prayer is to help others who are currently struggling, b/c it’s certainly something that can’t be done alone. Prayers for anyone who is feeling PPD, you are loved, valued, & you WILL get through this!
My youngest is 21 and I remember the depression that followed after her birth. Then I had a miscarriage when she was about nine months old and that added to my depression. Thank you Sheila and Shari for this post. So many of us can relate.
Oh my… This post brought tears!! I’m 3&1/2 YEARS postpartum, but oh, the darkness of those days 💔❤️🩹 for anyone going through this – beg Jesus to hold you.
You are needed.
You are not the depression.
You are not the guilt.
You are hand picked by God to be a Mama and He doesn’t make mistakes. 💜
I have no experience with this exact depression but this piece is so beautiful. It spoke volumes about the depth of pain and also the beauty of rising again. Thanks for sharing
I’m lifting you to Jesus – those of you who commented that you are in this lonely place, and I’m including those of you who did not comment, too deep in the darkness for the formation of those illusive words that have disappeared down the cracks.
For many years I was not able to look back and see how deep I was following the births of my first children. Thankfully, I was offered free mental health care during my third pregnancy. The intervention made a world of difference, especially as that pregnancy/birth/postpartum developed factors with the potential to lead deeply downward. Thank you for this piece, Sheila and Shari… and thank you Jesus that I am able react to it with feelings absent for so many dark years!
Trying not to cry while reading this, since I’m riding in a car with my husband and 3 of our boys.
This past year has been the darkest in my life, much darker than when our baby died 12 years ago.
I cannot imagine that I would be alive if it was not for the best husband ever, my relationship with God (that wicked people were determined to destroy), or loving children, and yes, the affirming friends. I’m going to thank each of them that I can think of in the coming days, because that was crucial.
I’ve never had postpartum depression, but am amazed at how Satan will attack any weak area he can, determined to destroy us.
I have also never felt the love of God like I have in the last year!
This is a rather belated comment to thank you, Shari, for creating a welcome space here for me to share my words and story. Thank you.
And thank you to each of you who shared bits of your own stories in response–and for your encouraging words. I was praying with you.
Wendy, your comment about never feeling the love of God like you have in the last year…makes me blink back my own tears. Truly, fully, He is Love–and it can be, paradoxically, easier to grasp that when our world darkens and the faces of those around us shutter with suspicion, than when everyone we love is rooting for us.
Thanks for highlighting the progesterone mention, KC. It’s true–low progesterone is linked to both postpartum depression and miscarriages. I experienced some PPD after our sixth child was born (and, like the Anonymous post above, I lost a sibling three and a half months later) and then even worse after our seventh. So it should have been a surprise to no one (but was to me) when our eighth pregnancy ended in miscarriage.
Now after two more healthy babies and three more miscarriages, bloodwork earlier this month revealed a high TSH and thyroid antibodies…and low progesterone and Vitamin D. So while these words are not intended to treat, cure, or diagnose any disease, dichotomy, or depression (ha), it could be worth looking into–check your thyroid and progesterone, particularly if you’ve experienced both PPD and the loss of a tiny life.
I like Beth’s exhortation to “stop trying to fake that I’m okay.” I was recently reading through David Bentley Hart’s 2017 translation of The New Testament, and came abruptly against 11 Corinthians 5:13: “For if we are deranged, it is for God; if we are sound of mind it is for you.”
I had to go look that up in my KJV: “For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause.” (Why have I never seen this verse?) I talked about it with our children, and we discussed what being “beside ourselves” means, and how it might relate to being “out of our minds.” I’d never explored these word pictures before.
But it all reminded me–I’m coming back to the main point!–that when I have gone through seasons in which I feared I was losing my mind, I determined that if I do, apparently there’s something God needs a mindless woman to do, which a woman with her mind could not do.
It helps! (And now I have Scripture for it, yay!) For I’m able to rest at that point…because no matter what, ever–though He slay me!–I just want to be part of whatever He’s doing.
Okay, way too many words already. But thank you Shari and the rest of you for yours. (Liz’s “little scoop of shame” is a word-picture I will not soon forget) and I pray, Shari, that you enjoy your vacation from social media as well as you did your recent, incredibly photogenic Road Trip. I’ll miss you.