Tuesday, August 16, 2016

How Postpartum Depression Changed my Life

The day my second daughter was born was one of the most wonderful days of my life. She was healthy, beautiful and safe.  My pregnancy with her was filled with angst worrying that she wasn't safe.  I had a miscarriage just 1 month before she was conceived and bled from weeks 5 to 14 while pregnant with her.  I went to the ER at week 9 convinced I had miscarried I was bleeding so much. So, the day she was born was a celebration to say the least!  She was finally here.

When I started crying profusely the first week I was home, I knew it was postpartum.  However, the crying spells passed after the first week, and I thought I had a very mild case.  I was pretty exhausted taking care of a newborn and 2 year old.  My husband changed careers shortly after the birth, and I stopped working.  I had always wanted to stay home with my children, at least while they were young.  This should have been a dream come true, right?

Wrong.

I became more and more miserable as the days passed.  I became more angry and frustrated, especially at my 2 year old.  My husband was home 2-3 days per week.  I felt alone and so very tired.  I just thought I was reacting to the lack of sleep due to breastfeeding during the night.

As months passed, I became more angry.  I often took this out on my 2 year old by screaming at her when she wasn't listening.  I smacked her when I could have talked to her.  My behavior caused immense guilt and shame especially since I had worked with children with behavioral issues for a decade.  I knew I wasn't reacting the right way to her, but I just didn't know how to give her what I knew she needed from me.  It seemed we were stuck in the Bermuda Triangle, destined to repeat a dysfunctional pattern.

I had terrible thoughts.  Some were about harming the baby.  Some were about harming myself.  I would just tell myself to stop it and try to think of something else not wanting to acknowledge how I felt.

I also had unrealistic, horrendous thoughts.  I would often have the thought that an airplane was going to crash into our house when I heard one flying over.  I also thought, almost every time I went down them, that I was going to drop the baby down the stairs, and she would die.  I was lethargic and always exhausted.


I told my husband my concerns about my behavior when he wasn't around, but we both chalked it up to sleep deprivation, stress and hormones.  When he was home, I wasn't treating him well either.

I have a history of depression, but this was different.  I just didn't realize what was going on, and I had the mentality that I needed to keep everything together.  I needed to take care of the girls without complaint, because my husband had sacrificed so much so that I could be home with them.

It wasn't until the baby was about 9 or 10 months old that I woke up one day, and I felt more like myself.  That's when it clicked.  That's when I realized what had been happening.  That's when things started to be pleasurable again, like taking care of my children.  That's when I started to laugh again.  I don't think I had really genuinely laughed until my baby was almost a year old.

It took another few months to completely be free of the wretchedness of postpartum depression and anxiety.  I hate that the early days of my baby's life and time with my 2 year old was marred by something so ugly...something that resembled me but was not me.  It's like I was replaced by a robot version that did what she needed to do, but her heart was somewhere else.

Looking back, I see how difficult it would be for others to realize what was going on.  I appeared the same.  I even acted about the same.  I didn't want to admit to myself how bad it was.  I didn't want to spend every day and night with my children.  I wanted to go far away where no one needed me to feed them, change them or give them attention.  I wanted a cave or a shell to hide in.

There were subtle differences in my personality.  I got irritated a lot more and didn't have as much patience.  I needed to get away more.  I was more negative than usual.  I often felt numb.

I was drowning, and no one knew it.  Reaching out for help is kind of impossible when you can't keep your head above water, and you're holding two kids.  My saving grace was God sending me a piece of driftwood so that I could start to catch my breath again.  Eventually, there was a boat to save me...to save us (myself, children and husband) from the storm of postpartum.

Now, I thank God for this time.  Without it, I would not cling as tightly to my kids now.  I wouldn't make as much time for them or stop myself as much before I yell for something inconsequential.  I'm far from perfect, but I'm not the frazzled, falling apart human being I was 6 months ago.

I still struggle with guilt for how I acted towards my oldest daughter, but I pray she will learn from me what it means to ask for forgiveness.  I learned that I will never be the perfect parent I had always hoped to be.  I will fail miserably, and I will ask for forgiveness.  Though I struggle, I will always strive to do better.  I will point my children to the cross, the only perfection they need.  We will always disappoint one another, but Jesus Christ never will.




Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Prostitute and the Farm Boy

Many years ago, there was a farm boy that ventured to the city.  He came from a family that filled his life with love and laughter.  He always felt safe.  He knew they would always be there for him.

He had no money.  He had nothing but the clothes on his back and a small sack of food he'd packed, but he wanted to do this on his own.

The boy decided to spend his nights on the street until he could find work.  He found a warm spot near the center of the city, and the heart of the night life.  He saw things that he'd never seen before. He saw the worst in people.  Greed, violence, prostitution and deceit that piled up on itself.

The boy was disgusted by these things at first.  He wondered how people could ever treat others or themselves in such a horrible way, but then, he saw something that changed everything.

He was hiding out in his handmade home watching as he usually did at night.  He saw a woman loudly calling out to a man to invite her back to his room.   When the man yelled back a profane insult while laughing, the boy turned back to the woman.
Her face dropped.  It seemed she just couldn't take anymore insults. She slid down the concrete wall in the dimly lit alley until she was sitting on the damp street.  As though a floodgate opened, there she was...sobbing, wailing, with her face buried in her hands.  She started shivering and tried to pull down her snug dress that wouldn't give past mid thigh.  As she continued to try to pull down her dress, she became angry hitting her thighs screaming out into the brisk evening, "I hate you!  Why?"  She continued to scream between her agonizing cries.

The farm boy was mesmerized.  He felt his heart begin to break for her.  He continued to watch as she seemed to tire from a pain like he'd never seen.

The woman stood up.  She pulled her dress down.  Pushed her breasts up higher, straightened her hair and wiped her eyes.  She took a few slow, deep breaths and as though becoming someone else, she stood up straight lifting her head high into the air.

A minute or two passed while the farm boy peered around a dumpster still watching.  Then, a man exited a nearby bar, clearly drunk.  The woman set her gaze on him and started jogging in her high heels to catch up to him.  She was all smiles while she grabbed his bicep complimenting his physique.

As they walked off in to the misty evening, the farm boy realized he'd never be the same.
He'd never look at a prostitute the same way again.
He'd never judge the person based on the sin.
He knew now.  He knew just a little bit about that woman.
He knew a little bit more about mankind.
He knew a little bit more about himself.
And he was ashamed.

He had judged so harshly before.  He did not love first.  He was unlovable, just as he had judged the prostitute to be unlovable.  Yet, Jesus loves us anyway.
He asked God to forgive him, and he thanked God for showing him the reality of human depravity.

The farm boy found work within a week and got an apartment in the city.

He went back to his street home a few weeks later to find the prostitute at her regular corner.  When he asked her to go get a cup of coffee instead of have sex, she started laughing.  After convincing her he'd pay her anyway, she agreed.

The farm boy explained over coffee how he'd seen her a few weeks ago crying in the alley.  The woman immediately became defensive and suspicious.  The meeting ended with the farm boy giving her information for a shelter and his coffee card.  Though hesitant to accept, she did...making sure he knew this didn't mean she was leaving her lifestyle.

Years went by.
The boy turned into a man.   He married and had two girls.

One afternoon, he passed by the coffee shop where he had met with the prostitute so many years before.  He passed by it often and would pray for her each time.  This time, he glanced inside, looked away and immediately flung his head back to the window.

In line staring up at the board holding her coffee card-was the prostitute.

He casually walked in, but inside there was a whirlwind of emotions swirling around like a tornado out of control.  He was nervous, excited, curious, and hesitant.  He waited for her to get her coffee and stood a few feet away looking at her, hoping she would see him and instantly remember.

She glanced up, but walked away.

His heart sank, but before he could decide whether he wanted to chase after her or let her go, she turned around walking determinedly towards him with her gaze fixed.

"Do I know you?"  she asked with a concentrated furrow.

"Yes!"  he said with a grin on his face almost laughing.  "I bought you coffee here a long time ago."

Her mouth dropped.  Tears welled up in her eyes.
"It's you"  she said as though seeing someone raised from the dead.  "It's you!"

They instantly hugged laughing and crying all at the same time.

They two sat at the coffee shop catching up for an hour or so.  The woman told him how she decided to go to that shelter after all.  She was able to get on her feet, get some counseling and get off the street.  It turns out she was pretty good at public relations.  She went back to school, married and had a son.

The two promised to keep in touch and set a time for their families to meet.  But before they left, the farm boy said, "You know, I never did get your name."

"It's Hope" she said.
"Even when I didn't believe it, it was always Hope."



Wednesday, April 13, 2016

How a Baptist Preacher's Daughter Became a Lutheran

If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be a Lutheran by my early 30s, I would have given you a blank stare and probably thought something like, "Okay, crazy person, aren't Lutherans like Catholics?"

That's kind of embarrassing since I grew up in a very religious environment.  It's embarrassing that I didn't know enough about what I believed to have any idea what the difference was between Catholics and Lutherans.  Sadly, I grew up knowing religion but very little about the grace and true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 I grew up in Baptist circles where my life was touched by some very kind people.  Some of them truly showed the love of Christ to me and my family.

However, the message conveyed to me for 3 decades was not really the Gospel.
Even the call for salvation is to ask Jesus into your heart.
Where is that in Scripture?  Which disciple asked Jesus into his heart?  Which sinner did this?  Did the thief of the cross?

I've never found anything to support this.  Yet, I believed it, felt the pressure as a very young child to pray the "sinner's prayer" and get other people to do it, too.  I did become a Christian as a young child, but I never knew what that truly meant until recently.

I learned at the age of 31 that I don't have to do anything.  No, it's not about me!  It's about what Jesus has done.  I grew up hearing this at times, but the expectation was that I do something.  I had to hear God's prompting.  I needed to walk down to the altar.  I needed to feel my sinfulness and ask Jesus to come to me.

Guess what?  He's already there.  He doesn't need us to parade our pridefulness with a cloak of so called humility.

There was always a big to do about knowing the exact time and place when you asked Jesus to be your Savior.  I find this kind of comical now, because Jesus already was my Savior!  Why did I need to do anything in order for that to happen?

It's silly when you think about it.  It's like my daughter asking me if I will be her Mommy. Well, of course I'm her Mother.  She can reject that fact and turn away from me, but that doesn't make it untrue.

I also grew up feeling that I had to validate myself to those in the church.  I felt I had to keep doing things right in order to earn their approval.  I grew up always doubting.  I was always guilty and never felt like I had done enough.  Yet, I never realized I felt this way.  All I knew was that I carried an immense burden around that I couldn't seem to shake.

I believed that I could somehow be a "better Christian" if I didn't smoke, curse, drink, do drugs or have sex before marriage. Be as abstinent as possible basically.  I didn't get the memo that I wasn't going to hell if I had a beer.  I thought I was good if I gave to others, was at church all of the time, and associated with other "good" people.

So, I tried, and of course, I failed.  When I failed, I hid it.  I hid it because the message had been received since I was a small child that good Christians don't do bad things. 

That is an oxymoron.  What Christian is good?  Isn't that why we need Jesus so desperately?  We are all filthy sinners, but by his grace and sacrifice on the cross, we are made whole.

I knew how to be "good".  If the church doors were open, we were there.  If there was a choir to sing in, a team to go witnessing or a mission trip to go on, I was there.  I had scripture memorized, even chapters at a time.

I knew the rules.

Ah, but I was SO miserable.  I was chained not truly knowing the freedom that's in Christ.  Yes, there are rules to be followed, but not the dos and don'ts that I once thought would lead me to acceptance. I didn't realize I was already accepted-wholly and fully.  Only after my first daughter was born and we began attending a Lutheran church did things begin to change.

My husband really wanted us to raise our children in a doctrinally sound church where the truth was preached and taught.  I was very hesitant in the beginning.  It was extremely different.  It was very ordered and liturgical.  I found it stuffy.  Where was the praise band?  Where was the high energy preacher with lots of funny stories?

I found myself getting upset.  I didn't hear judgment every Sunday.  I heard forgiveness, and that scared me.  I didn't know how to be a Christian without that weight of judgment on me.  I didn't know what to do if expectations of my performance were not the focus of the sermon.

Time passed, and I began to accept the free gift of Christ's forgiveness as we took communion.

I remember thinking, "This is it?  My sins are forgiven?  But God, I did the most terrible thing this week.  I said something horrible to my husband."

It didn't matter.  My sins were forgiven.

That is a truly humbling experience.  To be knelt down at an altar taking the body and blood of Christ knowing that he died so that my sins could be forgiven.  The sins I blatantly commit.  The sins that I defend.  The sins I don't even acknowledge.  He's forgiven them all.  He sees me.  He sees the need of me and the rest of the world.  How desperately pitiful we are!  How we need a Savior!  He loves us without strings attached.

That's why it's so amazing and you find so much freedom from hearing ALL of the gospel.  Not just the law.  Yes, we are utterly condemned, AND we are eternally saved.  Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God...not just certain verses that suit us but the entire Bible.

I have never been less guilt ridden and felt more freedom.  Thanks be to God.  I think I'll go have a glass of wine. :)

Monday, February 8, 2016

What it's like to be a Truck Driver's Wife

Being a truck driver's wife is something you can't comprehend until you are in that position, but I guess that's how it is with just about anything in life.  I know I will learn valuable lessons from this time in our lives.

Right now, this is my life.
The life of a truck driver's wife...

It's waking up, looking over and putting your hand on a cold pillow.

It's counting down days, hours and minutes until he returns.

It's praying with your kids every night that he stays safe.  That he is alert.
That other people don't put him in danger.  That he comes home in one piece.

It's thanking God for his sacrifice while simultaneously asking God if there is anything else he could do to provide for the family.  Anything that would keep him home at night.

It's being glad to see him but finding it hard to change up a routine that has kept you sane while he's gone.

It's burning inside from sadness that he has to go again.

It's loneliness.  That he's gone.  That you have no friends that can relate.

It's being a single parent day and night while he's gone.

It's trying to be positive and strong when your are exhausted and missing him so much.

It's a yo-yo of the heart as he comes and goes in the blink of an eye.

It's feeling guilty that you don't make enough money to keep him home.
Or that staying home with your kids means he sacrifices time with them.

It's short phone calls and video chats that become the highlight of your day.

It's anticipation and dreaming of him walking through the front door smelling like diesel fuel.

It's disappointment and let down when traffic or mechanical issues delay him another day.

It's little presents he brings home, because he's been thinking of you.

It's a surprise early homecoming that gives you a long weekend.

It's a man doing the best he can to do his job to provide for the family that he loves.

It's tears in his eyes as he leaves and wiping them away before he pulls out of the driveway.

It's being loved by a man like that.  One that has long days and short nights.

It's knowing that his job is not driving his truck.  It's being a good husband and father.
That's what it's like to be a truck driver's wife.  

Monday, January 18, 2016

God, I Don't know if I can do this; The Pressure of Parenting

I was standing in front of the dishwasher assembling sippy cups yesterday when the most pleasant warm feeling, like a ray of sunshine from the inside, came over me and erupted on my face in the form of a smile.  What was so amazing about those sippy cups?  Nothing, really.  They are just your ordinary princess cups that are similar to those used by 2 year olds everywhere.  But the 2 year old living in my house uses them.  That makes them special.

I can honestly say that nothing else in the world- no job, no good or bad experience- nothing has taught me more than parenthood.  I'm still a novice, but the years I've spent caring for little lives has changed me.  There's no more me, really.  Not the way there used to be.  Parenthood has freed me from the sentence of self in so many ways.  Of course, I'm still human and selfish in many ways...but after being given the title of "parent", the self I once knew is no more.

The journey really began 6 years ago when I found out I was pregnant with a baby I would miscarry a few months later.  That's when it all began.  That's when I started loving someone God mysteriously created.  That's when I realized the heart wrenching pain of loss that only a parent understands.  From then on, I started learning how to love more completely and fully.  It's a love that differs from that of a spouse.  This love cannot and does not give back the way a spouse can or does.  Yet, this love gives back just because it exists.  This love needs you.  This love depends on you.  This love literally cannot survive without you.

I was talking to my husband a few months ago about the adjustment we've had after the birth of our second daughter and my new role as full time stay at home mom.  I told him how much I love being with our girls, but how stressed I had been.  I realized that underneath the mom face, deep down, I was really scared.

I felt this immense pressure.  If they didn't eat, it was because of me.  If they didn't feel safe, it was because of me.  If they got hurt, they needed me to help them.  They needed me to help them to take a bath, to help them watch out for cars when crossing the street, to help them with toileting...they needed me.  And for most of the time, day and night, Mommy was heralded to fix every problem-from a dirty diaper to a meltdown over not having the kind of lunch that was expected but never voiced.  I said aloud in tears several times, "I don't know if I can do this."

Having a baby and a 2 year old to care for most of the time by myself taught me more than anything else in my life.  I have cried more, prayed more and had more temper tantrums.  I have also loved more, laughed more, and felt so much satisfaction and peace.

I read something recently that reminded me to cherish this job I have been given.  The article discussed how we always want to know what God's plan is for our lives.  What career should we try? What person should we date and marry?  The point of the article was that we should just live our lives without worrying so much about those decisions, because what God wants for us is salvation. Live satisfied with that knowledge.  His salvation is the point of life.  It's not a box we check off.  It's a way of life.  His love.  Himself.  We have been given his eternal gift of life, and he wants us to live!
I am at home with these two miracles every day, and I need his salvation!  I need him more than ever, or I will become completely overwhelmed raising these little humans that require so much from me.  I want them to see that their mommy is human, yes flawed, but forgiven.  I want to extend the same grace to them that God gives to me.  They bring me joy that I never knew existed.

There is always room to grow.  No matter how old you are.

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Letter from the Mom I am Now to my 50 Year Old Self

Dear Me,

I'm writing this letter to you to remind you.   I want to remind you of what it's like to have young children that you are home with 24 hours a day.  Right now, your younger self often hears people your age say how they've forgotten what it's like.  I want to refresh your memory, so that you are able to help those moms you encounter with tiny, precious ones-primarily your own daughters.  Hopefully, this letter brings back memories of the days you lived 20 or 30 years prior.

Do you know how it is when you're really tired?   It's hard to concentrate, pay attention or even be friendly.  Well,  that's what it's like for you every, single day now.  You haven't slept through the night in years, really.  Once the first started sleeping through the night better, you were pregnant again getting up to pee every few hours or just too uncomfortable to stay in one position too long.  So, when those mothers of little ones don't give you a warm smile or seem zoned out, give them a break. Better yet, go over to her house and entertain the kids while she gets a nap.  Even 30 minutes makes a huge difference.

Right now, your younger self often hears older people say, "If you ever need a break, let me know!" Well, you do need a break, but there is way too much for you to keep up with to try to coordinate another person's schedule.  You have two little ones with appointments every week while you try to run a household pretty much by yourself while your husband works.  You don't really want another person telling you that you need to call them.  A better option would be to ask the mother what day of the week and time you can come over to help her by watching the kids, cleaning or bringing her a meal.  She will be so grateful that someone is helping her with something...anything!

It can feel completely overwhelming and lonely to be home all of the time with small children.  Don't forget that.  Don't get so caught up in your life that you let your daughters get to a point where they feel they might break.  It is hard for your younger self to admit right now that you need more help.  Your daughters or other young mothers will most likely feel that way, also.  That doesn't mean you take over, but give her the opportunity to vent and talk to you about how she is doing.

Here's a biggie older self...don't judge!  Yes, you may have done things a certain way with your babies, but things have changed.  Let others raise their children, as long as they aren't harming them, the way they see fit.  Be supportive!  It is not just physically exhausting to have young ones.  It is mentally and emotionally taxing in a way that nothing else ever will be!  So, give words of encouragement and be her biggest cheerleader!  Let her know you are there for her, and let her come to you with questions if she wants.  Your job isn't to raise her kids.  It's to be a support for her.

The most important thing you could do is pray for her.  She has the weight of the world on her shoulders.  Everyone needs her 24/7 right now.  Pray for her and with her.  This is a season, and yes it will go by quickly as many people your age tell me right now.  However, it doesn't always feel like that.  Not on days when the 2 year old disobeys all day long and the baby has been crying nonstop because another tooth is coming in.  Saying it won't last long doesn't make her feel any better.  It makes her feel like she's not allowed to say she's had a rough day.  Remember to be a cheerleader.

Let her know that if she wants to go out of her way to make super cool cupcakes and decorations for a birthday party, that's okay.  If she has a house that has unfolded laundry and toys all over the place, that's okay.  She shouldn't feel guilty for either.  Often, your younger mom self reads articles subtly bashing moms who want to be creative and also making it seem like their kid's rooms need to look like something out of a catalog.  There's a lot of pressure on us moms from society, too.  If she seems stressed that she needs to do what everyone else is doing or not doing, give her words of affirmation and point out everything she's doing right.

It's taken me weeks to have the time to write this to you.  Both kids are actually napping at the same time.  Yeah, a miracle.  I'm sure you will have great wisdom to bestow having raised kids.  Remember to give your adult children space to raise their own families, but the closeness and love they need to make it through the rough days with your help.  It's all about balance.

See ya in a few decades. :)


Jenn


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Musings of a Guilty Mother

I'm guilty.

I'm completely and utterly guilty.

As a mother...

I'm guilty of losing my patience, yelling, complaining, pushing my own agenda on my children, wishing they would just sleep and leave me alone...

I'm also guilty of loving my children with a ferocity that only motherhood birthed.  I'm guilty of having an innate need to protect them from harm and lead them to know the Truth.

My children have changed my life.

I'm no longer able to go out with friends whenever I'd like, or even my husband for that matter.  I can't go sit in a coffee shop and relax while people watching.
I'm no longer able to get up in the morning, before I talk to anyone, and have the quiet solitude that my personality thrives on.  I don't always get the luxury of a shower every day.  I'm always tired.  I can never seem to catch up to all of the work that needs to be done.

I'm not able to live the life I once did.

Now...

I wake up to coos and calls for mommy.  The highlight of my day is gazing into my children's eyes and hearing them laugh.  I play with dolls and toys that move and light up.  I'm often cleaning up bodily fluids and wearing them, too.  I watch purple dinosaurs and princesses on television.  I read stories about going potty and how to share.  I often have a baby strapped to me and spend my days and nights feeding and cuddling with her.  I reheat my coffee 3 times in the morning, because I'm kissing boo-boos, rocking a little one and squeezing in housework.

I try to teach lessons I often feel I fail at myself.  I apologize to my 2 year old almost every day for my failures and pray with her daily that we would both learn to love one another better.

I'm guilty of being human-of having a sin nature.  And I want my daughters to know that none of us are perfect, but we don't have to be.  We serve the God that is our perfection.  I want them to see a mother that will fail miserably, but repent, to God and to them, and keep pressing on so that Christ's transforming power is evident to them.

I look at them, and it astounds me.  It astounds me that I had something to do with their existence.  God allowed me, an immensely flawed and sinful person, to be a part of the creation of two of the most precious beings I've ever laid eyes on.  Granted, there are days when all I want to do is sit in that coffee shop by myself, but overall, I can't help but give God the glory for the immense mercy he gives me.  And even beyond.  He uses the fire of circumstances and people, good and bad, to refine me.

I can't help but be grateful tonight.  For the way my life has turned out.   I can't help but praise the God that I continue to learn about.  My God.  Jesus Christ.  The one and only Son and maker of all.