(WARNING: This post is extremely honest and blunt and intended to encourage those who have been or are going through something similar)
“I couldn’t leave my baby’s side for more than five minutes…”
“I fell in love with my baby as soon as I laid eyes on her…”
“There was an immediate bond between us…”
“I just couldn’t get enough of her!…”
These are all things I had been told before I gave birth to our Kimberlee Joy from several friends who were regaling me with their birth stories. I remember them so clearly because I struggled for those statements to come true for me. The later half of my pregnancy had me excited and fantasizing about my precious little girl. I had nested to my fullest capacity and was ready to have her in my arms. When my OB told me I was showing signs of preeclampsia and might have to deliver early, part of me was happy because I wanted to meet her. Though the news was worrisome to some degree, it was like being told I could open a Christmas present early or something.
Kimberlee had plans of her own and decided she wanted to join the world on her own terms and in her own time without the help of induction. I had been battling some major contractions for two days and lost two nights worth of sleep before Thomas said enough is enough and drove me to the hospital. I had only dilated to 2 cm when my contractions escalated even more. I laid there howling in pain on the triage hospital bed waiting to hear the heavenly words, “Time for you to be admitted.” That did not happen until three hours later.
By the time I had gotten to 4 cm dilation, I was begging to know when I could have my epidural. They finally whisked me away to the birthing unit where I was given a pain medication through my IV to help me sleep so I would have energy for delivery. Soon the anesthesiologist came to perform my epidural. During the process, I fell asleep and while the Dr. was still exploring my spine, a nerve sent a shock through my leg that woke me up in a fright and I jolted suddenly with a scream. Everything seemed fine at the moment but I paid for it later.
The epidural was like a dream come true. I could feel pressure but I wasn’t in agony anymore. I could actually get sleep! I slept for about 2 more hours before I had dilated to 10cm and the Dr. came to break my water. Once that was done, I felt ready to push and take on my birth warrior title with a vaginal delivery. I pushed for 2 hours with little progress except a fever spike. Thomas could just see the top of her head when Kimberlee started showing signs of distress from the monitor attached to my stomach. I had to make the call I thought was best for her and was soon wheeled down to the OR for an emergency C-section. I was numbed to the point where I couldn’t move or even tell when they had started cutting into me. I remember feeling dizzy and nauseous halfway through and staring into the blue cover they put in front of my face while Thomas watched them taking out organs and placing them back.
I remember feeling tugs back and forth and eventually a weak little cry broke through the fog of my weary mind and body. Thomas came around the blue veil with our daughter tightly wrapped up. I could only see a bundle in his arms from my angle on the operating table. I hadn’t even seen her face completely or long enough to remember when she was rushed up to the NICU and I was left to be stitched up and transported. Thomas sent pictures to my phone from the NICU and I remember thinking “She’s so cute!” I studied the picture looking for similarities between Thomas and I.
I slept like the dead that night after all the events that had transpired. I learned the next morning from Thomas that Kimberlee wasn’t breathing right after she came out. I was eager to hold her and get things rolling when a problem developed. When it was finally time for me to get up and walk for the first time to see her in the NICU, I arose and immediately my head was filled with splitting pain. It would only present itself when sitting up. When laying flat, I would be relieved of the pain in my head. I relayed my concerns to my nurse and she suspected it was spine related. She contacted the anesthesiologist immediately to perform a “blood patch”. This entailed the implementation of yet another epidural in which the Dr. would inject a vile of my blood into my spine to clot the spinal leakage that was causing my head to split. He said that once the blood is injected that the relief would be immediate. Praise God it was, but I was ordered to lay flat for another 2 hours before getting up again.
I was discharged in the usual 3 day fashion of a C-section patient. Kimberlee remained in the NICU for five days before we took her home. The first night was as expected….Complete Overwhelm. The second night wasn’t as bad but the lack of sleep and anxious thoughts of “This is what my life is going to be like now”, “I’m never going to get good sleep”, “I’m going to be all alone during the day”, “I can’t do this”, and etc. finally broke me and in entered post partum depression like a giant wave that had taken my breath away in one second. I felt immediately trapped and panicked by my circumstances and slowly the lies that one oppressed by depression is afflicted with started screaming loudly in my mind…”I don’t want her”, “I didn’t want this”, “I miss life being just me my dog and Thomas”, “I don’t want to wake up”, “I want to sleep forever”, “I can’t take care of her”, “I want to die”.
I remember being terrified of waking up because when I did the depression washed over me as soon as I came back from dreaming into reality. I would look at my sweet Kimberlee and feel nothing. I was so detached from her and felt detached from everyone around me. During a visit to my in-laws house I had a mental breakdown and finally revealed what I was feeling. My husband and my in-laws told me to go downstairs and get some rest. I woke up the next morning with all of my clothes, medications, baby stuff, and bassinet all at my in-laws house. During my deep sleep, my husband moved our things over and we ended up living with my dear in-laws for almost a month. I don’t know what I would have done without them helping take care of Kimberlee. They were able to smile at her, play with her, and care for her when I felt I could not. The devil decided he wanted to steal this blessing away from me by putting guilt in my head. “You shouldn’t have to have help”, “You’re a lazy mother..a bad mother”, “You’ll fail when you move back into your house”, “You’re depression is making others sad and uncomfortable”, “No-one wants to be around you”, “You are the biggest burden”.
I believed these things even though no-one helping me was even voicing anything of the sort. I felt like a horrible person for not being “happy” about being a mother and for not gushing over my daughter like so many others were. I wanted to be that person, but the haze was thick and I needed help. I always knew I was pre-disposed to this type of mental illness because some of my family members struggled with it also. I found comfort in seeing how God gave them victory over it because I so desperately wanted victory in my story. I talked to my doctor about what I had been feeling and more importantly what I had been thinking. At one point I was so low I wanted to drive myself off the bridge I was going over. These thoughts were NOT me. They were not of God. They were symptoms of the depression. I told my doctor that I fought negative thoughts constantly and was feeling weary of it. I ended up being prescribed Zoloft.
The medicine takes a while to build up and I could not feel a change for many weeks. My sister, who had overcome PPD referred me to a Christian counseling service to help determine thoughts that are true and of God as opposed to those being spun by the enemy through my mental illness. Sometimes I needed people to tell me things I needed to declare out loud. “God chose you for Kimberlee”, “You are not alone”, “This too shall pass”, “You are a good mother”. I began taking every thought captive and asked God for the strength to do mind battle and take care of Kimberlee at the same time. I prayed strength for my family members and gave thanks for their help instead of letting their help make me feel guilty. I thanked God for my husband Thomas for keeping a jovial spirit in the midst of my sorrowful state. Lastly, I thanked God for Kimberlee. Even though I did not feel like I was thankful for her I did it anyway. I sought and still seek the Lord every morning and throughout the day and night.
Slowly but surely, the fog began to lift little by little. I would feel warmth in my heart when I saw Kimberlee smile. I would hear her cry and actually want to comfort her. I slowly began to embrace motherhood and let thoughts of my past life before being a mother go. I remember actually laughing genuinely at something till I cried and thinking “This is me…Praise God”. Now I feel like the proud momma. The one that wants to dress her daughter up with pretty bows and brag about how perfectly adorable I think she is in every way. I kiss and nibble her little cheeks and feel like sometimes my heart will burst because I love her so much.
God has taught me so much through this transition into motherhood. First and foremost I learned that I cannot be a mother without God. I literally do not have the strength, the patience, the selflessness, and the endurance apart from the Lord. I was foolish to ever believe I could and I believe quite differently now. The Lord allowed everything I thought I had control of in my life to be stripped away. My sleep, my mental health, my physical health, my appearance, my overall day and what I chose to do with it. I believe he allowed this to happen so that I would learn how to truly rely on him for each and every moment both good and bad wether I felt like it or not. Feelings are manipulated by depression but I was told that feelings should not dictate our actions. I felt hopeless, but I knew God would give me hope. I felt sad and sorrowful, but I chose to sing about how amazing and faithful God is.
I am still getting used to my role and still occasionally fighting thoughts I know are not true, but God is healing me and teaching me along the way. I just wanted to put this out there because I know that social media and other avenues paint a picture for us about pregnancy, parenthood, and life that is glistening and perfect. Most people will not upload a photo of their screaming child or their swollen feet. I’m not saying that we need to be complaining or being little rainclouds. Rather, I think we need to be REAL. The reality for me is that my first month as a mother was so incredibly dark and I felt incredible pressure to be “normal” by standards set by others and by myself. Well people, this is incredibly normal and if you are going through the same thing I pray this encourages you to hold on, let God be God, and to see victories in your day no matter how small you think they are.
Thank you for your prayers and please keep them coming. I know I have half of Florida praying for us right now and that boosts my spirit incredibly. Here’s to finding joy in all circumstances wether we feel up or down.
Till Next Post,
~The Mrs. & Kimberlee Joy