It is the thing we never talk about, but the thing that so many mothers struggle through. And because it goes unspoken many of us wrestle through it alone. When it is not discussed we feel isolated, as if it were taboo, thus making us feel like it is our fault and we are the only ones who cannot handle the pressure of motherhood. Even in the church we so often make it seem as though genuine Christians who trust in Jesus shouldn’t have such feelings, or struggle with such emotions. It is the dreaded and scary word, the one rarely mentioned: postpartum. From postpartum depression to postpartum anxiety, or even the physical effects of childbirth on your body, postpartum is very real for almost all moms (if not all). It exists and we struggle with it — but we don’t dare talk about it . . . . . . . . until now.
So let me start the conversation. Let me confess: it is hard (and WAY harder than I thought). I never feel fully equipped to be a mother of two, and most days I feel like I am doing a horrible job. Not to mention pastoring full time with a three year old and an 11-week old (who is still far from sleeping through the night). So I am putting it out there: postpartum anxiety has struck me hard this time. I do not have it all together and things are not easy. Often I feel like “anxiety girl” in tight purple tights that are just too tight!
But how can that be? I mean I am a believer, a pastor, a strong woman . . . a type A, organized personality who can usually multi-task with the best of them and handle anything that is thrown her way. How is it possible that this beautiful little girl came into my life almost 11 weeks ago and I am still struggling with sleep deprivation and fighting anxiety? It must be me. I must be weak. I must NOT be the person I thought I was. I must not be made for this: having children, being a mom, a pastor, handling it all. Why is this happening? Where does my faith come in?
These are the questions I have been wrestling with for weeks now. And as always, God has given me a verse that I have lived with daily over the last few weeks, from 1 Peter 5:7,
Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.
And although I have found great comfort in this verse, I have also struggled to understand what it looks like to hand my anxiety over to God. I have begged and pleaded with the Lord to take it, but it still lurks in the atmosphere. I mean I thank God for this idea, it is great, he promises to care for us by taking our anxiety – but wait, how the heck does one hand over anxiety? One sleepless night with Maisie and I feel it sneaking back into my mind and body once again. So acknowledging that so many of us struggle with anxiety, not just moms but people in general, I felt it imperative to name it, to own it, to admit it. Why? Because it does not make me weak, or incapable, or insufficient; it makes me human.
Keep reading in 1 Peter 5 and you learn a little bit more about what this might look like, to cast your anxiety on God.
8 Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. 10 And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.
You see for me the important part of this section of Scripture is found towards the end: asking Christ to restore me, support and strengthen me, to establish me in Him. I realize after letting such words sink in (and praying them back to God) that it is about learning what it means to choose to be content, to be grateful, and to have peace. These things do not come easily but God grants them to us when we need them. But indeed it is a choice to live into them, to accept them – to embrace them. And to realize in the midst of such challenges, God is with me.
While I began writing this blog I simultaneously was watching Adeline play with her princesses on the floor. My 3-year old beauty is full of innocence, so care free, and has no worry in life. And my 2 month old even more so. Their relationship is pure love, and so simple right now, worry-free. How long does this last? And are we even aware of the blessing of a burden-free life when we have one? I guess I am asking my 34 year-old self the same question I wonder about my preschooler and infant. Am I aware how well I have it? How blessed I am? Or am I stuck in the anxiety and sleep deprivation?
Am I disciplined in my faith enough to keep alert and see the devil prowling around, looking to devour me? Am I resisting his efforts in steadfast faith even when I am suffering? (maybe especially when I am suffering) Am I trusting in the God of grace to support me, restore me, strengthen me, and establish me?
The short answer is that I am trying. I am realizing that growing our faith is painful and it costs us something: our pride and our control. Both of which are hard to let go of. But like I said, I am trying.
So today my prayer is honest about not only who I am, but more importantly who HE is; not only about what I need, but even more so about what he desires to give me as His daughter
Lord, in your grace grant me the peace I need to transcend the understanding I so desperately think I need (But don’t). Be my support and my strength. Restore me! Establish me! Today I sing your praises because you are good and that is enough. In your immense goodness you have shown me grace, mercy, compassion, and love beyond what I can compare. And even though you may not pull me out of this struggle right now, you stand with me. Your love is enough to sustain me. Restore me. Establish me. Fill me with contentment in knowing I am yours, and you are mine.