Words for 2017

As I look back on the last twelve months, three words seem to summarize the year for me – how I grew, what I learned, what characterized the year, how I will remember 2017. Much of the year I felt overwhelmed (in a good way) by things I was learning and ways I was growing, but most of that really does boil down to these three things.

2016 ended with us in transit and fighting PPD. I knew there was a lot that needed to change – so much that I didn’t want to put any sort of time frame on it, so I never said “2017 will be a year of healing” because I knew that it could be much longer than a year before I felt whole again.
But God not only healed the PPD but also so much more as He worked in me as a wife and mother, and brought to light sin that needed to be worked through and emotions from the last four years that I had swept aside instead of processing – mostly to do with all of our moves and the sadness of saying goodbye to so many people and communities in such a short time.
A lot of this healing came through prayer, the Psalms, and replacing lies with the Truth.

This started as rest connected with healing – clearing the schedule to simplify life and leave breathing room for lack of stress and to spend more time together now that Ezra’s schedule gives him more time off.  I had to learn first that having nothing to do is OK – I often found myself puttering around trying to find things to do instead of picking up a book or playing with the girls because having more to do than I was able had become so habitual after Ellie was born.
At the same time, I’m now a lot better about sensing that there is too much on my to-do list and being willing to drop things or let them take longer – loving my children is more important than being on time or getting everything done, and better a late dinner in love than on time with biting words. I realized a lot of ideals from myself or society that I was focusing on instead of what my job as wife and mommy are according to God.

But it was also realizing that rest isn’t the same as an empty schedule, but is relinquishing control and letting God be God – resting from worrying about things, over-planning, micro-managing, etc.  – and so there can be rest even when the calendar is full.
This came up again and again in books I was reading – mostly Humble Roots and None Like Him, but also Teaching From Rest and Parenting (Tripp) – resting not in the successes or abilities of me or my children but in the One who sent me, admitting how often I try to be God despite not being omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, etc, not worrying about how things will work out in the future but trusting God and being faithful now.

“Looking to Jesus” has been on my mind since before Ellie was born, but it came up again and again as I was memorizing Hebrews 12, doing the Behold  Your God study, and reading various books and kept connecting what I was struggling with to a solution of looking to God for satisfaction.
But before that could happen God had to work in my heart to bring me to trust Him again after a season of depression where it often seemed like He was turning away from my cries. Joni’s story helped much with that – faith not in my ability to accept PPD but to embrace Christ because of my problems – and a quote from Tripp’s Parenting book: “Biblical faith never asks you to deny reality, it calls you to look at your realities through the lens of the awesome glory and grace of your Redeemer.”

Then I was able to begin to learn what it talks about in 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You:
“As faithful eyes perceive the unseen glories of God and reborn hearts embrace them, all the visible glories of God in the world seem to thicken in substance. The more eagerly we embrace God, the more gratitude we express for His created gifts for us and the more clearly we begin to discern the sinful distortions and the hollow promises of free sin.”
– Tony Reinke (page 140)

Faith, looking not at the seen of social media’s pull, daily trials, fears of future PPD, but instead looking to Jesus, my Savior.

I suppose in the end all 3 things come down to letting God be God and not trying to do His job myself, but rejoice and rest in His care and power.

Saying those words characterized 2017 doesn’t mean that I have those things down, far from it! I expect 2018 will be a continuation of those three things and growth in many other areas as well.

On a more practical note, 2017 introduced me to crafting with felt, transformed my bread-baking (Thanks Laurel’s Kitchen and Peter Reinhart), and included 11 Ferling etudes and doing music for church twice a month.


12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You

“As faithful eyes perceive the unseen glories of God and reborn hearts embrace them, all the visible glories of God in the world seem to thicken in substance. The more eagerly we embrace God, the more gratitude we express for His created gifts for us and the more clearly we begin to discern the sinful distortions and the hollow promises of free sin.”
– Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You (page 140).

This idea of the life of faith being about “comprehending the whole when we can see only a fraction” (pg 141), being satisfied with Christ instead of what is seen and temporary – and that transforming our desires, has come up a number of times for me recently in books I have been reading. That tied in with the realization that in order to change phone and food habits saying “no” wasn’t what was needed – changing those desires was.

In looking to God for ultimate, lasting satisfaction –
…I let go of my kids and trust God with them.
…I enjoy my piece of cake without expecting it to be everything I dreamed it would be
…I say no to another piece of cake because I know it’s not going to satisfy me
…I put down my phone, close out of Facebook, don’t open Instagram because He, not social media, is my refuge. He, not likes and comments, is going to feed my soul.

I am still processing Reinke’s book 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, but I cannot recommend it highly enough. I think it will be required reading for our kids in the first months of allowing them to have social media (whatever that looks like in 10+ years!).
Reinke looks at ways our phones (really social media) changes our relationships with others, and most of all, with God. Even chapters that from the title seemed like ones I could skip ended up being really convicting. I read it slowly over a few months, trying to apply at least something after each chapter. Paging through after finishing it and re-reading my highlights was overwhelming, even before I thought “now that I’ve read this I’m going to be held accountable by God for my phone use even more!”
There are so many “little” comments and challenges in the book, but there is an overarching big picture. This book is about seeking satisfaction in God, and not in social media, phones, the approval of others, etc. And while there are so many rules I could set up or questions I could make myself ask before getting online, I think in the end it boils down to two questions for me:
– Why am I getting on my phone right now?
– Have I had soul-feeding solitude before God yet today?

I am also taking Sundays and vacations off of social media.

The first question often sparks many others, like am I master of these appetites? Do my phone habits show how glorious He is? Am I using my phone as a refuge from today’s trials? Is it helping or hindering my spiritual goals? Am I getting on to boast in myself? Is it keeping me from fully enjoying the moment? Am I turning to my phone to be wowed and amazed? Am I dimming or reflecting His glory with my scrolling, comments, and postings? Am I turning myself and my kids into actors on the social media stage?

Reinke asks these and many other probing questions, while always pointing towards ultimate satisfaction in Christ (yes, he works for DesiringGod) and seeing phones and social media as technology that can be a God-honoring tool, a time-sucking idol, or a place to hide sin and propagate evil. His goal is to help Christians assess their phone habits to use them to glorify God and show the world how satisfying He is.

Fitness, Pinterest, & Postpartum Body Image

After S, I lost all the baby weight and then some by about 4 months postpartum, mostly thanks to her food sensitivities. But then I gained some of it back and my weight would fluctuate up and down until I got pregnant with Ellie.
Almost the same thing has happened this time, but it’s been more of a struggle for me this time than last time, both to lose the weight and in how I think about myself.
In addition, other healing has been slower this time around, mostly with diastasis recti. After S I had a teeny one that resolved itself just by being careful for a few months. This time, my midwife said I had a small one, so I checked it myself and it was about 2 fingers and weak but not too deep. By the time we moved it seemed more normal, so I stopped being very careful, which was a horrible idea 2.5 months postpartum while carrying and wearing a baby, a toddler, and lots of stuff, and either I hadn’t been measuring it well or it re-opened to about 3 fingers. It was hard to come to terms with that, both it reopening and being there in the first place, since I had been so careful while I was pregnant. I am still glad I was careful while pregnant because not only could it have been worse, but I was still fairly connected to my core and pelvic floor so that has made it all a little easier.

I’ve slowly been working on closing it again and building strength for more intense exercise with Fit2B (in large part thanks to my sister Cait in a number of ways!), and while my gap isn’t totally closed again I still wanted to write some about it because it has been SO good for me, not just physically, but in how I view my body. I didn’t realize some of the struggles I was having until I started Fit2B and kept hearing Beth talk about being thankful for what my body has done (not bashing it in my thoughts while trying to “get it back”) and how it has been made and used for its purpose. For me that’s also been paired with being surrounded by more older women than I have been for a long time, and I have been challenged just by watching them to not be so concerned with clothes and fitness and all the latest social media fads (things that I never would have thought I was swayed by until I was surrounded by people who aren’t!). And last year I heard a lot of women talk about poor examples their mothers set for them with food and exercise and body image and am so thankful for my mother’s GOOD example of health and moderation, something I pray I will pass on to my girls even as it takes so much self-discipline for me – to eat healthily but not over analyze, to exercise but not obsess, to heal my core but not make it about looking a certain way, to dress in a way that honors God and is respectful to others (right now I don’t love a lot of my clothes, but they’re just that: clothes. If they fit, if they’re cotton, if they’re modest… right now, they stay. I could buy others, but I feel like with the world the way it is that money should go elsewhere, instead of me having a shirt that’s a little more flattering than the old one).

I still have a long way to go, physically (my gap is still about 1.5-2 fingers and deeper than it should be, and I would like to run again but want to gain some more core strength first), but even more to renew my mind to be content with my body the way it is (how it looks & what it can do), eating simple food (read: staying off Pinterest), making do with what we have (not the latest mama/baby gadget), not being so concerned with how so and so disciplines their kids and what they think of me – just generally not being so self-conscious and focused on things that will pass away.
Because as long as the days are right now and as much of a struggle as it is to say no to cravings, this season of littles is going to pass away, this body is going to just deteriorate more, and what’s left is their souls and my soul and that’s where my energy should be going.
Pray for me to be growing in that!

A couple links that have been helpful to me:
Dear Postpartum Mama, You are Beautiful
129 Times to Turn on your Transverse Abs
10 Times to Align
Bare Naked Gratitude
5 Mom Posture Tips
a few more DR links here
This recent podcast from Risen Motherhood has some good thoughts on who you hang out with!

Camping for Mother’s Day

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We went camping “for” Mother’s Day: I wanted a few days away from the pull of chores, computer, dishes, etc. to really enjoy just being together. Ever since Ellie was born I have felt a lot of tension in those areas, especially with giving both girls enough attention, and have found myself really struggling with what exactly discipline with S looks like as we move into her starting to be able to teach her what’s going on in her heart (but without her fully understanding it yet), and throw in the internet and the tension was even greater.

So we camped, unplugged, with nothing on the agenda except a hike a day and hanging out and eating, and we did a lot of that and it was nice (we also did a lot of hiding in the tent or under the tarp in the biggest downpour we’ve had since moving here).

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But even without those distractions I still struggled to give my attention to the girls and love on them in their way (ie, Corduroy AGAIN). Yes, lack of sleep and the cold made me really cranky but it wasn’t an excuse. I kept thinking of something I had read earlier in the week about not sabotaging your own mother’s day by what you expected, and here I was sabotaging my own while trying to prevent that from happening by trying not to make it about me… when it still was.

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Because truly loving the girls means showing them love even when I don’t love how they make me feel, even when she’s asking the same question again and again and again. But in the end it isn’t even about saying “no” to myself and “yes” to S, but saying “no” to self and “Yes” to God’s commands to live in peace with everyone and to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit.

If I am the center of my mothering, then I get angry, irritated, and upset when my kids don’t make me happy or act how I want them to – and then that says to them that I am god and God is not enough.

If my kids are the center of my mothering, I become irritated and exhausted trying to meet their every need and keep them happy.

If, however, God is the center of my mothering, my concern is glorifying and obeying Him, raising them in the ways of God (which do include them learning love & self control but even more in putting Him forth as a glorious Savior), and in humility considering them as more important than myself because I see my true place in Him and am satisfied in Him.

Only in that frame of mind can I see clearly, love truly, be compassionate, and direct them on the paths they (we!) should go.

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we found the “perfect” campsite – secluded but not too far from bathrooms, water, and trailheads, big but not more expensive, and opening onto the woods and not other campsites, which made it feel even bigger and meant S could explore while we cooked.

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I should have known from when we went to the cabin when S was 8 months old, but 8 months is a tough time for camping. Ellie was worn or held a lot because all she wanted to do was eat pinecones.

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So much gorgeous handiwork by our Creator.

Motherhood Lately

{a mish-mash of thoughts I’ve had over the last few months – some things I’ve been learning, some things I wish I’d known with #1, some things about some of the things we say to moms… published on my #1’s 2.5th birthday}

Some things I’ve been learning
– Learning about all of life being worship – even the putting me aside to read a story for the tenth time. “Worship is viewing the worth of God in His word and responding to that worth in every area of our lives.” (paraphrase from Behold Your God) – and when He, not I, is the center of my universe then I can joyfully choose to do things I don’t want to do… even read Pinkerton dramatically AGAIN.
– Learning to sift through my feelings, their fussing, and social media to find their (and my) REAL needs – not how I or they or pinterest or other moms perceive them, but what they really need – which is the same as what I really need – to be brought to God. Learning to ask “how can I glorify God in this situation? What is His will (not my list) for me today?”
– Learning to respect my kids and see them as whole persons with their own fears and loves – being compassionate towards them and making sure I connect with them as much as possible.
– Remembering I am parenting little people with eternal souls who are lovers & worshipers.
– Being content being “just” a mom – finding my plate full with just daily life and not having as much time for writing and music anymore left me trying to juggle everything for a while which often ended up in everyone upset after I played oboe for a few minutes. So learning to not be defined by hobbies or feeling like I need to keep up with them! I still enjoy writing (but it’s pretty much just this blog and emails!) and music (but it’s 15 minutes maybe 3x a week, though I am playing at church again which is wonderful!). That combined with a year in Japan where we could go anywhere any time because of public transport to having one car, and months of craziness for the move leading to me always having something to do so if I have time to play with the girls I often feel like I’m forgetting something and need to be doing something else. But it has been so freeing to learn to just sit and play or read or tramp around the yard.
– Feeling “myself” again – I am feeling more myself after PPD but at the same time coming to realize that my identity shouldn’t be in certain personality traits or likes and dislikes but in Christ, and that who I am changes!

Some things I wish I’d known with #1
– Your child’s sleep is not a measure of good or bad parenting (This seems so obvious now but I really did often feel like I was either failing or doing well based on how S slept).
– Pray FIRST. Root your mothering in dependence on God and His word… not googling what the best schedule is. There are times that can be helpful, but I really benefited from a while of being internetless because I realized how much I tried to find fixes for problems that were really in my heart.
– What’s “best” is what works for YOU and your family.
– Your baby is not annoying you on purpose. Life is new to them and they’re trying to figure it out as much as you are.
– Set timers and reminders! This makes such a difference for me in remembering to take vitamins, and it makes such a difference for S when I say we can do something “when the timer goes off” instead of “in five minutes,” plus it keeps ME accountable to follow through!
– Don’t suffer in silence. If you’re really burdened by something, especially if you feel like you’re the only one, talk to other moms. Everyone’s situation is unique but you may be really encouraged by sharing what you’re struggling with and finding others have been there and have wisdom to share or can at least pray!

Some of the best advice I’ve received
– Worry (or be concerned) about what you can change… do something about that and leave the rest to God.
– it gets easier if you let God get bigger
– trust in the Lord… not your own understanding of a situation.

Some things about things we say to moms
– “You’re all belly/you’re not showing at all/you don’t look pregnant” – I know people mean it as a compliment but my gut reaction to that was “so I normally look like this?” since I could tell I’d gained weight and it was obvious to me that it wasn’t just in my belly (especially when I wasn’t showing yet!).
Let’s compliment or comment on things OTHER than the size of pregnant women!

– “The first 6 weeks are the hardest.” This drove me INSANE after S was born… because the first 6 weeks WEREN’T the hardest. The first 10 days she slept all the time. The rest of the first 6 weeks she slept during the day. The second 6 weeks it was a nightmare to try to get her to sleep during the day, she was sleeping on us at night because of reflux, and I wanted to yell at anyone that told me the first 6 weeks were the hardest.
With Ellie it seemed to be more true, but even still I don’t tell anyone that.
Instead, let’s remind one another that our hope isn’t in the end of a phase but in Christ.

– “It gets easier.” Well, kind of. Nursing does become second-nature. They do sleep longer and become more independent. Their wake time will be more than just nursing them and you’ll be able to do things while they’re awake, and then it gets easier again when they are awake long enough that you can run errands during their awake time. But as all those things happen there are also a lot of things that get harder. So when S was 3 months old and it didn’t feel any easier I again wanted to yell at anyone that said that. And once more, I can feel it getting easier more this time, but I think a lot of that is that I know the light at the end of the tunnel by experience… but even still, I think instead we should say what my sister told me: “It doesn’t always get easier, just different.” There will always be hard things but they change. And I think it’s also true to say “it doesn’t get easier, just better.” They smile, and laugh, and play, and talk, and sing, and bring you flowers, and tell you stories.

– “Oh, don’t worry, you’ll love them immediately.” Or anything else that just brushes off a pregnant mama’s fear. You may have been worried about that and ended up being immediately smitten, but she may not be (I wasn’t). So instead how about we share our experience and offer encouragement in case it’s not that way for them? “You might not feel that way at first, and you might even struggle with any thought of ever being at peace with welcoming the other child in… but you will find your way, you will make new special memories with all of you.”

What are you learning about motherhood? What do you wish you had known? What are ways you like to encourage new moms?
(Noel Piper and some others share some of their thoughts in this video!)

P.S. for some of our favorite practical pregnancy and baby stuff, click the links!

How to Help Someone with Postpartum Depression

While I don’t think anyone can ever be fully prepared for PPD, I think it vital that moms-to-be and their support networks be informed about it and aware of what can be done to help a struggling mother. I share my story to help others be prepared and to show how God has worked even in the darkest of times. If you are struggling with postpartum depression or think you might be, please do not just read my blog but get help from your doctor/midwife, church, husband, and friends.

Through both of my battles with postpartum depression, I have been surrounded by good help. I couldn’t have gotten through the darkness without it, and wanted to share what I found most helpful (you can find someone else’s thoughts here).
To better understand what PPD is, check out this and this.

1. ASK.
– If she has told you in the past that she’s struggling or is worried about having PPD, ask directly: “How are you doing with postpartum depression?” Saying just “how are you?” may make her think you are just engaging in small talk.
– If she hasn’t confided in you but you’re concerned, ask less directly, but more specifically than a general “how are you?” For example, “How are you doing? You seem down.” Or “How are you adjusting to motherhood/having 2 kids?”

– Don’t interrupt, give them looks of surprise or shock, etc. Some of the feelings and thoughts of postpartum depression are shocking. They may require help and counsel, but don’t make her feel worse by your reaction: she likely already feels horrible about what she’s thinking and feeling.
– Give her as much time as she needs and don’t be bothered by her tears. You may need to ask questions to prompt further explanation, but be patient if she doesn’t talk right away and know you may need to leave it for another day. Offer to communicate via email at first if she doesn’t want to say it out loud.
– If she seems to be making light of it but isn’t meeting your gaze and is restless, then it’s probably worse than she says.
– When you do talk, make sure you repeat back to her what you’ve heard, making sure you acknowledge the very real and difficult things she is dealing with.
– Be willing to say nothing. Job didn’t need his friends’ comments; he needed them to just sit with him and mourn.

3. PRAY.
– Ask how you can pray for her and her family, whether that’s specifically regarding PPD or just generally in motherhood and life.
– Then pray aloud for them or at least let them know what you are specifically praying for. That way they know you’re not just saying you will, and it offers them extra hope and support.
– Remind her other times, in texts throughout the week, etc. that you are still thinking of and praying for her.

4. HELP.
– Don’t just ask “Can I bring you a meal sometime?” but be SPECIFIC. “Can I bring you a meal on Wednesday?” “If it would help you, when this week can I come over to give you an hour to yourself/do the dishes/watch your older kids/take the baby on a walk?”
– If you don’t have a specific way in mind to help or don’t know what would be most helpful, ask – “how can I help lighten your load this week?” or “What do you most need/want right now?”
– If you don’t have the time to go over and help yourself, suggest a mutual friend – “I won’t tell her what you’re going through unless you want me to, but I can ask so-and-so if she would come over to bring you a meal and keep you company on Tuesday.”
– Help her come up with a plan of healing, whether that’s a new routine, seeing the doctor, remembering to take vitamins, etc. She may need a reminder that she doesn’t have to constantly entertain her baby. Check back in later to see how that’s going.
– Point her to God, but know God may feel far away and she may be angry with Him. Remind her of ways God has helped her in the past, or has helped you in a similar circumstance, or of ways you see Him at work in her life right now. Give her unchanging hope (who God is, Christ, salvation, heaven, etc.) to hold on to and help her really grapple with the difficult things she’s feeling and fight them with spiritual truth and physical help. Give her scripture, but help her apply it to herself.

5. Be careful
– Of comparing : “I had baby blues so I know what it’s like,” “We were moving across town right after baby was born so I understand” (if the person is moving across the WORLD that’s way more stress and a change of community as well). That’s not to say don’t offer sympathy/empathy but just be careful. For example, it would help me to know that you’ve struggled with depression, even if not postpartum, so that I know you understand the darkness. You can share how it was for YOU but don’t assume that means you understand what she are feeling or that it’s the same for her (even if you did have PPD)… even this blog post is what was helpful for ME. Someone else with PPD may read it and have something totally different to say. An example of helpful words, from something a mother said to me this time: “I have never been there myself, but having a newborn and a toddler is hard enough without postpartum depression thrown in. I will be praying for you.”
– Of saying what she’s feeling is normal. YES, it’s normal to feel stressed and upset by some things, and she’s not the only one who has ever felt like she’s not connecting with her baby, is struggling with intrusive thoughts, etc. BUT it’s not “normal” in the sense of how it should stay for the rest of her motherhood. It’s not “normal” in that every mom feels that way and she just isn’t up to par. But it is “normal” in that she’s not alone in how she feels, there are explanations for it, and she’s not so crazy there’s not help for her. That hope can and should be offered. This article may be helpful.
– Of quoting truisms without context – instead of saying,”God is faithful” point me to HOW He was faithful, legitimize the pain and confusion by showing me the Psalms, etc. PPD is being nearsighted, unable to look beyond now, unable to look up at God, unable to connect His promises and His word. We know He is faithful in theory but can’t apply that to ourselves and to just say “God is faithful” can feel like you’re ignoring the pain.

6. Keep it up
– Postpartum depression can start any time in the first year and can last beyond that. So don’t assume that just because baby is six weeks, three months, six months… that it won’t come if it hasn’t already or that we’re “better” and that it’s not an issue any more.
– Moms can ALWAYS use extra support, especially when they have a baby under a year (especially the first 6 months), and that’s even more true if PPD is a factor as well. Even if you have young kids and all you can offer is a feeling of normalcy that you have sleepless nights and are impatient sometimes too (while not making it seem ok to be impatient!) can be so helpful (keeping point #5 in mind).
– Remember that we may not look like we have PPD or seem like we’re struggling with it, especially a bit further down the road when it seems like it has passed, but it may still be there. Some days are good days and we may seem and feel perfectly fine, but the next could be awful.

That was a bit of a novel, but to summarize, if I could only say two things, it would be: lighten her load and offer hope.

Some Thoughts on Postpartum Depression

While I don’t think anyone can ever be fully prepared for postpartum depression (PPD), I think it vital that moms-to-be and their support networks be informed about it and aware of what can be done to help a struggling mother. I share my story to help others be prepared and to show how God has worked even in the darkest of times. If you are struggling with postpartum depression or think you might be, please do not just read my blog but get help from your doctor/midwife, church, husband, and friends.

I hope to share more about my battle with PPD this second time in the future, but in the meantime I have two general posts about PPD I wanted to share. The first, this one, is just some general thoughts. The second is geared towards those watching others struggle with PPD and wanting to help.
Both are just my own musings on how it was for me and what helped me and what I wish I had known. It may be totally different for someone else.

1. What PPD Is

This website has a lot of helpful information on it, though I don’t always agree with everything on it beyond diagnosing. I found it a few weeks after Ellie was born and it was very helpful to me to read other peoples’ stories and articles that showed other people had been where I was. This list of symptoms I very thorough and includes symptoms I never knew of until I was experiencing them. Here is another good summary.
– I would categorize it under the “greatly increase your pain in childbearing” of the curse of Eve.
– While it has a physical cause, its manifestations are often spiritual.
– PPD makes it more difficult to cope with the hormones and fatigue that are so strongly present postpartum. So many times with Ellie I wondered why I was having such a hard time because she was so much easier than S was and overall my recovery and postpartum time were so much easier than after S was born.
– What it “feels” like: wondering if you’ll ever be able to have another kid, feeling like you can’t control yourself, remember a fog/darkness over the first few months, not being able to focus, feeling like you’re shirking responsibility always passing kids off when they’re hard, like you can’t even care for yourself, darkness, like you want to be upset with everyone and then have immense guilt for feeling that way, like someone shoves your head back underwater every time you come up with a breath, not being able to look beyond the difficulty of right now.
– Risk factors: See this link and this one, though these aren’t what I’d originally read, so not all the same ones are listed. I was higher risk than I thought, not knowing fear of birth was a risk factor, as is difficulty breastfeeding (after S) and not knowing or taking into account family history until after I shared about PPD after S. So ask about your family history if you aren’t sure.

2. What PPD is not
– PPD is not sin but it makes you more susceptible to temptation (temptations are NOT sin) and to sin, so be more on your guard. Difficulty coping, intrusive thoughts, lack of bonding, etc. are NOT sin, but what you do with them can be (ie, lashing out in anger when you can’t cope). Understanding this was so key for me in knowing how to deal with guilt, and prayer in general, finding a voice in a mix of the Psalms (fighting sin, and seeing “enemies” as the crazy hormones) and Job (“innocent” suffering not caused by my sin but by an outside source).
– It’s not just the Edinburgh scale used to assess it. Most of the time I have rated well on that even with PPD. I am thankful my midwife after Ellie was born asked me some other questions instead of just glancing over the scale, and that my midwife (not just the birth center, but the actual midwife) after S was born was so easily accessible by phone.
– It doesn’t have to define you (more on this later).
– While there are preventative measures you can take, it’s not simply a matter of making sure you get good rest early on.
– It’s not just baby blues or normal stress, but it can be hard to tell the difference, especially when you’re in the midst of a move like we were after Ellie. Super helpful article that confirmed for me that I had PPD with Ellie.

3. Be Prepared
– Have good support: birth provider, family, friends, husband. You need people who know your fears or history, but also people who don’t but can still help you just generally with meals, etc. It helped me a lot both times to have someone who has been there themselves and someone that was in a more mentoring position (sometimes the same person).
– Nutrition postpartum is super important. Have healthy meals in the freezer or planned. How will you ensure you’re getting good nutrition? How will you remember to take your supplements, and what ones will you take to prevent PPD? Don’t be afraid to be clear and firm about this when people bring you meals.
– Have a plan for your spiritual life postpartum. How will you read your Bible and pray? How can you incorporate that into daily life now, or make habits before the baby is born? Some ideas: have a playlist of worship music or put up verses around the house, have a Bible app on your phone to read during midnight feedings, after you feed the baby have your husband or helper watch the baby for a bit. While being disciplined in spiritual life postpartum didn’t prevent PPD for me, the symptoms were often less when I was intentional in spending time with God every day.
– How will you make sure mama is cared for? What things make you feel refreshed? Some of it doesn’t take any extra time, like nice soap, healthy treats, etc. Sometimes the things that you “don’t have time for” are the ones that help the most – a longer shower, undistracted baby playtime, exercise, 5 minutes of silence or uninterrupted reading or prayer.

4. Speak Up & Get Help
– I mentioned my midwives previously. It is so important to have a provider you trust and can get ahold of easily, and is even better when they understand your beliefs.
– Don’t worry about the time. Ezra and I have had these conversations at 1 AM.
– Don’t feel dumb about asking for help or getting an answer. Especially in retrospect it can be easy to beat yourself up – “If only I had known… if only I had done… how could I have forgotten to take my vitamin D…” etc.
– It’s so important to have the people from #3, so you don’t need to explain in the moment but can just say to pray or ask for help or don’t need to preface with “I’m terrible but…” or worry about them not understanding where you’re coming from or that you can’t even speak about it at all. All I had to say was “it’s here; pray for me.” And then LET PEOPLE HELP YOU. It’s so easy to feel guilty about asking for or needing help, but it doesn’t matter if you used to do all the dishes and think he should have a break since he was working all day. LET HIM HELP YOU.
– But even though you can just let them know briefly you are struggling, I found it helpful to really talk through it with a few people, especially Ezra, both for the relief just letting it out brought and so he better understood how to help me since so much of the struggle was internal, he didn’t always know what was going on or how bad it was.
– Medication is not “the answer” but it is not wrong if you are getting other help and support as well. It’s removing temptation/a stressor while hormones adjust. Herbs may also help. Also rule out other potential factors like adrenal fatigue, vitamin deficiencies, thyroid, etc. Don’t go crazy trying to find something but it may be helpful to read symptoms of these issues and see if it may be a fit or bring it up with your health provider to see what they think, or simply ask for bloodwork. If you are considering medication, this may be good to listen to first.
– Make a plan and stick to it. Do you need to throw out junk food and come up with healthy snacks? Do it. Do you need to deactivate Facebook for a few weeks so you spend free moments sleeping? Do it. Get some accountability for those decisions.
– For me, once all that was done, it was ultimately a battle of the mind. I had to train myself to pray FIRST, not let myself be dragged down to despair. Take captive every thought, identify the lies, and fight them with truth. Instead of wallowing/grumbling to yourself, ask “how can I change this/make this better/help myself?” Don’t let it drag you down!
– Healing is not passive. There are some things that only time can heal, but often you can’t just wait and do nothing or pray and take no steps to heal. You MUST take the initiative in caring for your body and renewing your mind to align yourself with truth.
– Share what you need to share, but don’t dwell on it or replay what you’ve felt over and over. You don’t need to remember what you felt.
– One of the difficult things postpartum is that a lot of the things you enjoyed doing before you can’t do because of time or physical restraints. This means you have to learn to not find your identity in your hobbies (or even home duties!), and also means you have to figure out other ways to relax or destress (ie, for me intense exercise and focused music practice are major destressors but I can’t do them as well postpartum).
– Make sure you are properly diagnosed. PPD is one of a variety of postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD), including OCD, PTSD, and psychosis. Proper diagnosing will lead to proper treatment.

5.Remember that it’s not who you are in Christ
– Whether false guilt from Satan’s whisperings or feeling guilty over temptation or real guilt from reacting sinfully to your situation: if you are a Christian, it’s not who you are. You are a new creature, forgiven in Christ, clothed with His righteousness.
– It’s NOT a guarantee that it will always be that way (though it might be a long time before you feel yourself again and it might happen after every birth). It does NOT define you or your motherhood. You are still YOU, created in the image of God with your unique gifts and talents. You may be in a difficult time, but if you get help you don’t have to stay there, and please, please, please reach out for help if you are struggling, whether it’s postpartum depression or something else.
– Don’t let it drag you down. You don’t have to go there in your thoughts. It can be hard to fight the darkness off, but know you don’t have to go there.
– Don’t dwell on it. It can be easy to think over all you’ve thought and been through. I think it’s good to remember some parts to see how far you’ve come and to be able to help others in similar straights – BUT constantly replaying it or revisiting your symptoms will only make things worse.

Here’s a great podcast on PPD.