During the waiting days, you may have lined up tiny newborn diapers in drawers and stretched a clean sheet over the crib mattress while wrapping your mind around what it would be like to bring your first baby (or maybe your fourth baby) home. Oh yes, we moms are great at making plans around what baby needs in those first days. We often don’t spend much time thinking about our own needs. Right after bringing my baby home, I felt tired and emotional. I figured that was totally normal, right? But as weeks and months passed, I felt more out of control. I raged about small things and felt like I hated myself sometimes. I rocked the baby, fed the baby, changed the baby, took pictures of the baby. Meanwhile I did not recognize this irrational monster I felt I had become. If you feel alone, beyond tired, and like some of your days are spinning out of control, you aren’t alone!
Listen, sweet, tired mom, you aren’t defective and you are not bad at motherhood! Maybe there’s something else going on with you, like there was with me. I found out I had postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is when you struggle for longer than the typical “baby blues” period, and with many different symptoms that can interrupt your ability to function day to day. Could this be what’s going on with you? If this is resonating with you, then it’s probably time to make an appointment and see.
When I found out this was what was going on with me, I actually felt such a sense of relief. Knowing my hormones were taking my brain and heart up and down and back up again helped me understand what I was fighting. Your sudden battle with rage doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom. Your anxiety over small tasks doesn’t mean you’re not cut out for this job. Postpartum depression is relatively common, yet one of the main symptoms is feeling you are alone! So, let’s address that one head-on first.
You are not alone!
Isaiah 43:2-3 promises: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lᴏʀᴅ your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior …” This verse lifts my hopes on the days when I still struggle. I have great days of clarity, motivation, and confidence. Then a few days hit hard and I feel like a different person, isolated, and want to cancel everything on my calendar. I have felt alone in my house changing diapers and meeting all the baby needs wondering if I’m safe to be alone with this little person when I feel like crying and I just can’t sleep. Even walking through completely cloudy days, I know I am not alone in the dark. I have heard the whisper in my heart, “You will get through this,” and, “You are just what your kids need.” When the dark thoughts clear away, I can always see how my God, my family, and my closest friends have remained close and helped me move forward.
You are not worthless!
Look at the first part of that verse from Isaiah 43 in The Message version this time. “But now, God’s message, the God who made you in the first place … the One who got you started … Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine.” Before God told us we are not alone, He told us we are not alone because of who He is and who we are! He made you and named you. Okay, so are the hormone shifts, mood swings, hot flashes, emotional highs and lows too much to completely understand? What is going on in our brains when fears of dropping the baby or crashing the car flood our thoughts? We panic—something is wrong with us. We feel broken. But God created women and understands how we work even when we don’t. He is not daunted by lies we believe and fears we experience when hormones are quickly changing. Postpartum depression does not define you and the rest of your days. You can mother well because you were made well.
God designed you!
He planned for you to be the mother for your sweet child. When you’re worried you might not be everything your baby needs, fear not! You’ll never be able to meet all the needs perfectly—no one can. But you were designed for this, and God is not leaving it all on your shoulders. He will provide you with resources (friends, doctors, Scriptures, or a much needed sunny day) along the way. I wrote down Ephesians 1:11-12 MSG on a piece of paper and hung it above my kitchen sink:
It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.
You may feel like you’re failing miserably because you feel emotionally detached from your tiny baby, forgot a feeding, aren’t sleeping or eating well, or yelled at your husband for days straight. Good news for us moms: God is working out His overall purpose in everything and everyone, including you, your family, all the wins, and every single mistake. He will not stop working in us, and He does it with purpose. When He made those designs for our lives, He knew then that we would need Him to work His design out. Like any good parent, He loves to come through for his kids—and He does it perfectly.
So—what does Mama need?
All of us moms need help along the way. As the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Don’t believe another lie that says you are worthless, failing, or toxic to your family because you need more breaks and help right now. Start thinking of yourself in simple ways today. Taking care of yourself might look different from what someone else needs. Embrace what you need right now, Mama! On the hard days, focus on reaching out for help from others and small wins, any short and simple goal you can accomplish that will help you celebrate yourself. You can make your own list or use a few of my favorite ways to stay healthy. (I have to make myself do some of these daily!)
Some Ideas to Keep Mama Healthy
1. Hang up truth. Write down a favorite verse from the Bible where you will see it often. (Try above the changing table, kitchen sink, by your bed, or on the bathroom mirror.)
2. Write. Keep a simple journal of your prayers to God. Write out your fears. Write in His truths.
3. Breathe. Take at least 20 deep breaths. Try looking up some breathing exercises.
4. H20. Try drinking extra water today.
5. Ask for help! Then take the help guilt-free! From God, your spouse, a friend, or your doctor.
6. Eat well. We give such careful attention to when, how, and what our babies eat. Don’t forget we need proper nutrition too, mamas. And don’t forget to enjoy! Maybe you can find time to savor a morsel of dark chocolate today.
7. Visit friends. Whether you could use company, conversation, prayers, babysitting, or simply to hear a grown-up voice—call or visit a close friend who knows you and loves you!
8. Sleep! Take a nap when baby naps or whenever possible! Yep, the chores can wait.
9. Love yourself. Look at yourself in the mirror and say, “You were made for this, and you are doing well!”
10. Read. Try reading a day of a YouVersion Bible Plan for moms. The Hiding Place Devotional is a good place to start.
11. Nature. Step outside if you can and enjoy your yard, front porch, or even a glance at the sky.
12. Feel clean. Take a shower, put on a refreshing face mask, brush your teeth (or maybe just take a second nap)!
13. Seek professional help. This one takes courage. First step: schedule an appointment. You may want to ask your doctor some questions or confide in a professional counselor. I have always found it worthwhile to take this hard step.
Sweet Mama, maybe one of these self-care ideas resonates with you or sparks some of your own. I pray you’ll have renewed strength and confidence in who created you, how He made you, and that He never leaves your side. I pray you would see yourself through His eyes and not believe the lies that postpartum depression can spin up in your thoughts. May you take one step at a time toward loving yourself instead of feeling self-loathing. May the family and friends around you support and help you in your time of need. And may you know that you, Mama, were made for this.