PPD for me was often a very spiritual battle with a physical cause. All this was happening while we were also seeking to address the physical side of things.
The first weeks of Ellie’s life were not perfect, but I felt fairly stable. My body was healing quickly, and I had to keep myself from doing too much. Even so, something felt off, and I felt like PPD was right around the corner. That feeling went away at about a month postpartum, only to have it come crashing when she was six weeks old. My initial reaction was to cry out to God, and at first I knew without a doubt that He was there, listening, helping, caring. But somewhere along the way, it suddenly seemed I was alone, and instead of sensing the comfort, hope, and reassurance of my Heavenly Father, there was only silence.
Some of it was the whispering of the Devil – Does God really not crush a bruised reed? If that were true, why is He piling on more difficulty and stress instead of relieving it?
Some of it was my desperateness – C.S. Lewis writes in A Grief Observed, “Was it my own frantic need that slammed [the door] in my face? The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just the time when God can’t give it: you are like the drowning man who can’t be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.”
Some of it was a feeling of betrayal – I said “though He slay me, yet I will trust Him” – but He sent trouble and then left me alone.
Some of it was the echoes of Job’s friends. This is all because of your sin; it’s all discipline from God.
Some of it was my own idolatry, trying to make God do what I wanted Him to do, judging His love by His gifts. If you aren’t helping me in the way I want to be helped, You must not be there and must not love me.
And so in the midst of raging hormones there was also a spiritual battle being waged to reconcile what I had read and been told of God with what I was experiencing.
The words of Sing Team’s “Satisfied in You” rolled around over and over, embodying how I felt. “So when I’m drowning out at sea/and Your breakers and Your waves crash down on me…” There were days when that and other songs I sang to keep S occupied while putting Ellie down for naps were what gave me hope, but there were days when I sang them with tears running down my cheeks because I couldn’t believe it, and there were days when I couldn’t sing at all. I couldn’t pray at all. I didn’t want heaven; I didn’t want Him; I doubted He really heard or cared or could do anything to help.
But I almost never admitted this to myself, much less anyone else, until months later I read this quote in Spurgeon’s Sorrows: “Depression can so vandalize our joy and sense of God that no promise of His can comfort us in the moment, no matter how true or kindly spoken.” This unwilligness to be honest with God only continued the cycle of depression and prevented me from truly lamenting.
At the same time, I knew I needed Him, but I couldn’t trust Him when it felt like He didn’t hear my cries for relief or bring His presence. I knew I needed to be in the Word, but often there was a barrier beyond me that kept me from connecting with what I read – the Psalms that now bring me so much comfort meant nothing then. I wanted relief, but the more waves came, the more I knew relief would be great but all I wanted was for Him to be there again. I wanted Him more than I wanted deliverance.
One of the other songs I often sang to the girls was “Before the Throne.” And one day as I sat there rocking Ellie in the dark, singing more to S than anyone else, wondering where God was, there was a glimmer of hope.
Jesus knows the silence of God. He knows what it’s like to be told “no,” by God – He who the Father loves the most, to have all the “feelings” of His love taken away and have to trust in truth when life does not line up. He intercedes for me even when it seems God isn’t right there for me. He knows what it’s like to look at the future and not want to go through it. That became my lifeline over the next months as PPD continued to cycle in and out, some days very good, others very bad. No matter how I felt about God, Jesus understood.
Even with the PPD, we had many good times our last months in Japan, times I really enjoyed as a family or with friends or even just me and the girls at home. But there was always a shadow. The last few weeks in Japan were as good as I could expect, with all the stress of the move, saying farewells, and selling our car with two hours to spare.
We got on a plane and I had high hopes that with the closing of our time in Japan, the PPD would go away, too, as life quieted down.