The other day I did something I’ve been wanting to do for months, possibly even a year or two. But fear and lack of technical understanding kept me holding back; and you know how I feel about holding back. You see, I’ve been hiding behind the written word for the past couple of years. In a way, writing was a wonderful way to allow my voice to emerge, but it’s time to up the game.
I do not consider myself to be a writer. I’m a thinker. A strategic activator. I want to share ideas and begin or further the dialogue. I want to call out your deeply authentic voice because I want to hear it and I believe it matters. A couple of months ago I started offering more videos, and I will continue to do so. But I also want to try audio. So I started recording audio and today I’m going to share with you an edited transcript of that audio, along with the opportunity to listen. Just press play – or read – or both. Whatever works best for you. Then let me know what you’re going to bring to 2017!
I understand why so many people are discouraged with 2016. It’s been a doozy! Between the bloodshed around the world, the US presidential election and the loss of so many pop culture icons, let alone your personal pain and loss, I completely understand why you might be ready to move on.
But if you are ready to kick 2016 to the curb, please don’t throw your hands in front of your face, turn away and then say, “I hope you treat me well, 2017 because 2016 sure didn’t.”
I get it. Truly, I do. Some circumstances can leave us feeling frozen as victims to our circumstances. But I would be remiss if I stayed right here and didn’t call out the deeper, stronger YOU.
Who Are You?
In 2016, WHO YOU ARE didn’t change. WHO YOU ARE came out more powerfully because of what happened in 2016. That’s what’s going to happen in 2017, as well. Whatever happens in 2017, it is going to call out the depths of who you are and ask, “How are you going to meet me?” 2017 doesn’t have anything to say about who you are, but it will definitely call you out.
Most likely, you’re not a victim to 2016. Because WHO YOU ARE doesn’t have to change based on your circumstances.
We put the blame on 2016 – circumstances – other people – God – whomever. And we say, “It’s your fault that I feel so crummy.” And there is some truth to that because we are effected by one another. But we have a choice about how we’re going to respond to our circumstances.*
There is something really critical about the moment that you realize that you feel oppressed. Because in that moment you can’t be complacent anymore. It’s that moment that you look at yourself in the mirror and say, “Am I going to fall to my circumstances or am I going to rise up? Am I going to let other people tell me who I am or am I going to tell other people – show other people – who I am?!”
Are you going to let other people and tell you that your voice doesn’t matter – that your contribution doesn’t mean anything? Or are you going to look at them and say, “But it does. And I’ll show you how.”
Find Your Grit
Grit says, “Ya, knock me down, but I’m going to get back up and keep going.” You can choose to lay down and give up. I’ve certainly done that before. But the thing is that most of us have a choice. There are people in this world who are seriously oppressed. But that is not most of us. Most of us have choices. Most of us could rise to the occasion. Most of us could get up and look at our circumstances and say, “I’m going to keep going.”
I look at 2017 and I’m nervous. But I’m also excited. I want to keep pressing on and moving forward, no matter how many people pay attention.
What does it mean for you to show grit in 2017? Are you going to blame 2016 for everything negative thing that happened to you and to your ideals? Or are you going to look at 2016 with grit in your teeth and say, “thanks for the experience. It’s time for me to show 2017 WHO I AM.”
Remember who you are. Own it. Keep moving forward and build momentum as you head into 2017. How? Be sure to listen to the voices that help you do so and use discernment to tune out the ones that don’t. Subscribe to this blog, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and/or SoundCloud. I plan on being a voice that helps you remember WHO YOU ARE.
*If you truly have no voice in your circumstances, whatever they may be, I want to encourage you to seek out help from someone who will listen to you and possibly help you move out of them. I know it may be complicated, but know that I’m for you.
As a team, we declare that every woman, man and child is valuable, no matter their socioeconomic status, culture, race, age or gender. Every voice, every life, every heart matters. We do not speak for others, we can only hope that our voices (what we say and do) will turn our ears to hear the voices that are hidden, diminished and abandoned.
The boy sent out on the small boat to fish 14 hours a day.
The girl whose manipulative relative visits her room at night for his own pleasure.
The man who is told he must work or his family will be killed.
The woman who gives herself away to pay for the medical needs of her young child.
What you can do:
- Recognize the power you have and use it to empower others.
- Refuse to use other people to make yourself feel more valuable.
- Don’t blame victims.
- Believe you have dignity so you can recognize the dignity of every other human being and help them recognize it.
- Support – through prayer, relational interaction and finances.
What’s better than raising $1,000 for a cause? Doing it arm in arm with others. Donate through our Dressember team to International Justice Mission and A21 here: #YourVoiceMatters team page.
If you are inspired to donate to another organization fighting human trafficking (there are many!) or to act/think differently, would you let us know? It would be so encouraging for us to hear that our advocacy is making an impact.
Stephanie Sutphin, Wife/Stay-at-home Mom/Lover of crafting
I saw a blog post about Dressember through a friend. I wanted to join in right away! Human trafficking has always been something that deeply bothered me, and learning more about the injustices people are enduring daily made me want to fight for them, do anything I could. I rarely wear dresses and am nursing my baby girl so I knew it would be a challenge for me. That made the choice to participate even more meaningful. I choose to put on a dress every day because there are millions out there who don’t get a choice. I am also making decorating glass candle holders to raise money that are available to buy here: Etsy Candle Holders.
What does the phrase “your voice matters” mean to you?
It never seemed like my voice could matter. I’m not on the front lines with IJM helping people, or even a writer who could raise awareness. Recently I learned that sex slavery is happening in the United States, not just the rest of the world. That really hit me, but I still didn’t see how I could change things. Participating in Dressember has made me feel empowered. My voice does matter. I can make a difference by being an advocate to people who are treated wrongly, by valuing myself and others, and by raising my family to treat every single person they meet with dignity and respect.
Rosanne Moore: Homeschooling Mom of 4, Reading Instruction Specialist, Writer/Editor/Spiritual Director
I think I grew up with the wrong belief that women involved in the sex trade did so as a matter of choice. As I became more involved in ministry that allowed me to sit with women of a variety of backgrounds and hear their stories, I learned about the realities of human trafficking and have prayed for opportunities to do something about it. Since becoming a single mom about 4 years ago, I live with a strong awareness that single mothers in other parts of the world – women who are without my family support and educational opportunities – are incredibly vulnerable to sex trafficking. And as a follower of Jesus and the mother of a daughter, I want to intervene on behalf of victimized girls and women with the same passion that I would want shown by others toward me and my daughter, if we were being harmed. Dressember offers me an opportunity to support my sisters around the world actively.
Andrea made me aware of Dressember last year, and this year, I decided to participate as well. Seeing Andrea’s daughter Amelia involved made my middle school-aged daughter decide to join me. It’s been a stretch for us both as she’s active kid and I haven’t worn dresses much since my kids were born. (I spent too much time on the floor w/ little ones!) However, we’ve both unexpectedly discovered a new freedom to embrace and celebrate our own femininity during this time of solidarity with our sisters around the world.
What does the phrase “your voice matters” mean to you?
There have been some dark seasons in my life during which I surrendered my voice, both with God and others, because I felt powerless and discarded. Believing my voice matters is tied to a greater hope – that no matter what the result of speaking truth looks like in the short-term, in the long-run God hears and answers our cries. He is always at work to make all things new, and when I refuse to be silent in the face of injustice or deception or the status quo of self-interest, I affirm the truth of His character in the midst of circumstances would otherwise call for despair.
Living in the US and having spent some time in a 3rd world country also gives me a sense of responsibility to use the place of blessing that I’ve been given as an opportunity to serve those in far more challenging circumstances. All that we have, both in terms of material possessions and of options unknown to most of the world, are gifts that we can steward for God’s eternal purposes. What a privilege that is!
Apparently, I have a new superpower.
My daughter has been sad a lot lately. She is entering that delicate tension between child and teen, running toward independence while simultaneously mourning the loss of naiveté. I rejoice with her and hurt for her. This is, what seems to be, the second in a series of transitions into what we eventually come to know as “real life.”
I don’t blame her for having a difficult time with it all. Everyone was in awe with her when she was little. Two tiny pigtails atop her head and words like they came from an adult, she had everything a two year old needed to get all kinds of ooo’s and ah’s and wow’s. It’s hard when a little girl’s years catch up with her cuteness. Precious as she is now, she also has a lot more responsibility. It will never be the same. I totally get it.
I know she’s sad because she gets angry. The kids love each other so intensely that they drive each other crazy with the expectation to be honored and loved and considered. It’s hard for kids to do all that for each other. It’s hard for any of us to do that for each other, regardless of how much we want it for ourselves. So several times a day they are offended and angry – especially after 4:00 in the afternoon. And in those times it is hard for them to do anything but scrutinize my favor.
You NEVER make Grant…You ALWAYS let Grant…He got more…Oh of COURSE he gets that!
I stopped rationalizing with her in these moments a long time ago. It doesn’t matter if she’s right or wrong, it matters that she isn’t feeling loved. We have no intention of changing her consequence or our decisions; but when this happens, the girl needs help.
One night a couple of weeks ago I realized that my little gal needed some extra sweet love – the kind that reaches the sadness under her anger. Right after an angrily offended outburst I followed her to her bed…
Hey babe. Look at me. Right here – look at me.
Her eyes wandered over for a brief second and met my adoring whole-face, gentle smile.
I love you, Amelia.
She immediately turned her head and hid the smile she couldn’t keep off of her own face. I didn’t joke this time. No arguing. No giving in. I just told her I loved her and I said it with my entire being. And I’ve been doing it periodically ever since. Then last night it happened again.
“How do you do that?”
Do what, honey?
“Make people smile.”
I don’t know. I guess it’s just my new superpower.
…a superpower we all have when we put on our super-deep goggles to see past surface-anger and find deep-pain. There’s no need to be afraid – no need to rationalize it away. Just meet it with deep-love.
Last weekend I had one of my favorite dates ever – with our 5 ½ year old son, Grant. After a quick trip to Burger King to devour his cheeseburger and strawberry-banana smoothie, we headed home to watch Planes Fire & Rescue. I brought three baskets of laundry out to the living room but when the he invited me to sit next to him, I decided not to multi-task the little guy.
He snuggled into my arm for a while until the heat from the fire got to him. Not long after that the intensity of the movie heightened and the date became epic.
Oh my! What’s going to happen?! This is kind of scary!
I melted into my son. He held my heart in his sweet hands and we connected deeply. At the tender age of five, the kid saw me in my distress and reached out to comfort me the same way I often comfort him. He knows instinctively what most of us push away by the time we are adults: tender touch and acknowledgement of distress is comforting, lessoning our experience of pain.
I’m not sure when it is that people begin to resist giving and receiving physical expressions of comfort. At some point it seems we get the message we need to be tough, not letting physical or emotional pain get to us. Shake it off. Deny it’s presence. Use distraction to keep from feeling it. Stay away and I won’t cry.
I suppose each of these strategies has its merits. The fact is that neuroscience is making interesting breakthroughs in understanding pain as a perception translated in the brain. Both physical and emotional pain are processed similarly and thus intimately tied. I hate to admit it, but the more I learn about it, the more I realize that pain is indeed all in my head.
But one fascinating aspect of physical and emotional distress is that their relief is also intimately tied. When I comfort Grant by kissing his wounds, he literally feels better! When I deny him my attention, his experience of physical pain is apparently worse. It is a lot easier to see this in a child. Young children still want to be comforted by a person.
Stay away! I don’t want you to touch me!
Why? Because I don’t want to cry in your presence. If you offer comfort and I am actually comforted by you, you hold my heart in your hands – and I’m not sure I can trust you with my heart, so I’ll just scare you or push you away.
Is it possible to be deeply connected to another person if we refuse their comfort?
Here are a couple of things I’ve learned from our kids and my own experience needing comfort:
- The gruffest reaction comes from the most tender heart. See tears under the refusal of comfort and under the anger.
- Ease your way in. When I am overwhelmed and throwing a grown-up tantrum, I need some perspective. But I won’t be ready to receive that perspective until you reach out. I often rub lotion on the back of a child throwing a tantrum. It is a physical reminder that we are not fundamentally and irreversibly screwed up in each other’s eyes.
- It is easiest to receive comfort from someone who isn’t afraid of being comforted themselves. If you aren’t comforted in your own pain, you won’t be able to truly comfort someone else.
I hope Grant continues to use the movie move – to comfort others with the same kind of comfort he receives.
Like Andrea Joy Wenburg on Facebook for additional information about pain perception and sensitivity.
Grandparents have a way of making you believe you really are something special. It’s a glorious magic they possess – the power to be utterly delighted with the grandchild in their presence. They don’t wave a magic wand and make you fabulous. They just believe you really are fabulous. And in that moment, you believe it too.
I don’t think I realized how powerful Grandparent Magic was until a couple of years ago when my Grandpa was in the hospital. Although he was fully aware, his body was failing him. The Moomey kids and grandkids all made their way to Grandpa’s bedside. My sister sent a video for me to play for Grandpa to let him know she was on her way. I had the privilege of sharing it with him.
“Hi Grandpa! I’ll be there soon!” Her enthusiastic voice called out from my phone.
His whole presence lifted him up in his chair as delight radiated from his weary being. He lifted the oxygen mask off his face so he could talk to her.
“Hi Honey! How are you?!”
For a split second I felt taken aback and a little jealous at how pleased he was to be in my sister’s presence. But as quickly as that feeling came, it was replaced with the most profound concept I may ever realize.
He delights in every one of us as though we are the only one. His heart has room to believe each one of us is fabulous.
There are no favorites, we are all his favorite.
All of our grandparents and people who have the souls of grandparents (even without grandkids) possess the potential of this magic. They offer it unreservedly and increasingly as the years wear down their own need for approval and build up their capacity to love. It is so strange to be with our grandparents when they use their magic on people who are not family and we realize that they delight in every single person they greet.
There are no favorites, we are all his favorite.
Delight. Love. Magic.
I hear it is discouraging to get older. Retirement can make people feel useless and less valuable than they once were when they were working. Bodies are capable of less. Minds begin to forget. If we continue to measure ourselves by our former productivity, we may not realize that the most impacting years of our lives are upon us.
Dear Soul of a Grandparent, please soak this in. You have the potential to be more powerful and productive and effective in your twilight years than all of your youth and working years combined. We do amazing things when you believe we are fabulous. We live into the vision you have for us. We believe in ourselves when you believe in us.
If we continue to measure ourselves by our former productivity, we may not realize that the most impacting years of our lives are upon us.
That’s why Grandparent Magic is so dynamic. It empowers and inspires and supports. You can change hearts with your magic, making an exponential impact on the world through each person in your presence, simply and profoundly because of your delight.
Dear Soul of a Grandparent, unlock your Magic. You are fabulous.
I invite you to share what your grandparents or what being a grandparent has meant to you in the comments below or on my Facebook page – add a picture if you would like!
This post is dedicated to my Magical Grandparents: Homer & Aileen Rohde and Bill & Doris Moomey.
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Depression may be emotional and spiritual, but it is also practical and physical. ~From When I Should Feel Joy #5
In my series When I Should Feel Joy, I tell of my heart-level experience with and transformation through depression. But depression is not just spiritual. So in this post, I want to offer hope and practical advice for people wanting to prevent or cope with depression. If you know someone who is struggling and you want to help, you may find this list helpful. I think through many of these items on a regular basis, even now.
Though I have checked with professionals to be sure I’m not suggesting anything harmful, *this is NOT advice from a doctor or psychologist. It is simply what I would say if we had a chance to sit down and talk, friend to friend. If you want to pass this information along to others, you are welcome to send them a link to this post or walk them through it.
- Name it: Depression. Naming it is the first step in grabbing ahold of it rather than letting it hold and drag you around. If you acknowledge you are feeling or beginning to feel depressed, you can do things to adjust thought patterns and work to create a safe and stable environment for you and your family. But don’t stop here. Conquer the fear in depression by taking steps toward getting back to your life.
- Talk about it. You, your doctor and people in close relationship with you need to take your mental state seriously so you can work together to create and execute a plan (which may include antidepressants, counseling, etc.). Tell them and let them know you need help. Your spouse or others close to you may be struggling too, so working together is vitally important. Think and pray through these things with someone you trust, then take action.
- Assess and adjust for your sleep needs. How much sleep are you getting? Too much or too little sleep can affect your mental health. If you are sleeping more than usual, it’s time to get out of bed and get dressed. Come up with an incentive or goal that gets you out of bed. If you are sleeping less than usual, what steals your sleep? Is it something you have control over? If so, what can you do to keep from robbing yourself of sleep? If not, is there something others could do to share the nighttime responsibilities or give you a chance to nap during the day? Do you have a friend you can regularly swap kids with? Can you afford a sitter for 3 hours a couple of times a week? Does your doctor suggest sleep meds?
- Assess and adjust your food intake. Are you eating a variety of healthy foods? Are you eating enough? If you go to food for comfort, what alternatives can you opt for when you really want that sugary carbohydrate? I know from experience that they might be helpful in the moment but eating too much of them can do serious harm to your long-term physical and mental health.
- Identify and plan for overwhelming factors. When did you feel overwhelmed in the last few days? What was going on during those times? What sensory stimuli were you experiencing in that moment (sight/taste/smell/touch/sound)? What changes can you make or what help can you ask for in order to avoid or cope with these emotional and sensory stimuli that make you feel overwhelmed?
- Identify and plan for current stressors. How are your relationships? Do you feel disconnected with your spouse? Are there situations in your life that you are dreading or anxiously awaiting? Do you avoid thinking about a situation or person for some reason? Is there someone in your life (trusted advisor, spiritual director, counselor, pastor, etc.) you would be willing to talk to about these things?
- Identify and utilize your stress-relievers. What inspires you or reminds you of a deeper truth than you feel in the moment? What do you enjoy doing? How do you like to exercise? Find time every day or so to work on something you enjoy. What time of day could you do that without neglecting kids? If sensory stimuli overwhelm you, fight back with positive sensory stimuli. What do you enjoy looking at, smelling, touching and listening to? (The feel of a basketball, music with a strong and deep beat, a hot bath, sugar scrub for your hands and body, etc.) Perhaps you could put inspiring scripture or quotes up in strategic places with sticky notes. Write your stress-relievers down and take action to add these things to your home and daily existence! If you have other stress-relieving ideas, please share them in the comments below.
- Prepare for productivity. What time of day is your “up” time when you feel the best? Use this time for active endeavors that are difficult when you feel down. Prepare meals ahead of time, vacuum or de-clutter. (Clutter can have a negative effect on our brains. Get rid of things you don’t need or really want.)
- Plan ahead. In a good moment, think through your family’s practical needs, preferably with your spouse, roommate or trusted friend. What needs to happen this week? What is on the calendar? Create a plan of attack for potentially stressful events coming up. Think ahead about your meal plan at the beginning of the week so you don’t have to spend energy consumed with it three different times a day. What do you want to do for fun this week?
- Do not over-spiritualize when you have serious physical needs. I want to reiterate that if you are suffering in deep depression, this is not a good time to let your mind think of what might have been or what you might be missing out on or your deep doubts about God. This IS a good time to say “it’s not as bad as my brain chemistry is telling me it is. It won’t always be like this.” And then go ahead and distract yourself with a healthy stress-reliever. Give yourself the grace to feel crummy without trying to analyze it. I have been there and I know how quickly those thoughts can lead you into a really dark place. Your family & friends need you. Don’t go there, friend.
It won’t always be like this.
- Seek help immediately if you have thoughts of suicide. You are Loved and your presence in the world absolutely makes a difference. It may not feel like it in this moment, but what you feel or think right now may be skewed by brain chemistry. Please ask for help.
Is there something you would add to this list? Feel free to comment below. To read about my experience with depression and lessons learned through it, click on the following links:
…One nurse caught me in a weak, tearful moment and gruffly asked, “Are you depressed?!” I pulled it together enough to sternly pronounce, “No. I am a counselor. I would know if I were depressed.”
She backed off.
And I backed into my shell…
An excerpt from my previous post: When I Should Feel Joy #1: Unprepared.
When one clams up, whatever is inside will find its way out, one way or another.
At first my insides came out as tears. They weren’t tears of joy or tears of sadness or tears of sentiment. They were tears of pain. I tried not to think about my time in the hospital when I felt helpless and invisible. But inevitably one thing or another would catch me off guard and I would be right back in the pain and embarrassment of giving birth. My mind and body’s natural inclination was to cave in on itself when this would happen. I couldn’t always curl up in a fetal position to protect myself from the outside world, but I wanted to. Nothing I did could really fend off the feeling of pain. And other than my averted eyes and the occasional admission that I was having a tough time adjusting to having two kids, most people had no indication I was suffering.
And then I started fighting.
I got better at preparing for the certain reminders of my helplessness and invisibility by scanning my environment for threats. That’s when I took up verbal boxing. After throwing a couple of punches, I realized boxing felt WAY better than laying down and taking hits. Adrenaline-anger made me strong. And anger kept people away – especially my family, the most likely people to touch the black and blue inside of me. I’m not typically a mean person, but blame allowed me to validate my anger. I began to believe that I was the center of a deep conspiracy: Everyone – do everything you can to make life hard for Andrea. It didn’t make sense, but it didn’t have to make sense. It just had to be a reason to thrust me out of helpless tears into powerful anger.
My internal equilibrium was incredibly fragile, so anything unexpected threw me off. Anyone asking something of me felt like a jab I had to dodge.
How DARE they ask anything of me! I can’t take it. Make it STOP! And so I would verbally jab back:
PLEASE go back to sleep!
I’m sorry I’m such a horrible cook!
I hate thinking about it. I loved my husband and kids, but the joy I expected to feel after having a second baby felt like a pipe-dream. It’s not supposed to be like this!
If you only saw me in the boxing ring, you would have no idea that the only reason I was fighting was in order to access a strength that pushed back on the hits that threatened to knock me out. It was all I had.
It certainly felt that way.
Praying you might tuck these in your heart today:
- (from When I Should…#1) Joy is what I felt I should feel after giving birth, so I hid my pain. But honestly, most women struggle. My expectations for what “I should feel” made it harder to accept the pain and sadness I experienced.
- Clamming up did not help me, my kids or my husband because: When one clams up, whatever is inside will find its way out, one way or another. And usually someone gets hurt.
- Every loud sound and every sudden movement felt like an attack on my entire being. I felt every tear my babies cried and every posture of confused defeat when my husband came close. That’s why it seemed like a conspiracy. I was completely overwhelmed and fragile. I had no buffer to absorb the blows that threw me off. I have come to know this fragility as sensitivity. Do you ever feel that way? (I have much more to say on this topic. Please come back for more.)
- I didn’t feel better when I was angry, but the adrenaline that pumped gave me energy. I have since come to believe that: SAD IS UNDER ANGRY. I have not yet come across an exception. I was definitely angry, but I put anger on top of my sadness. I chose it over tears. I don’t have to choose anger. You don’t, either. There is Comfort to be found but it is not found while boxing…unless you come across a beautiful soul who will let you beat on their chest until you collapse into their arms. I believe God does that. Probably a better choice than taking the fight to the people we love.
This picture is my wink-nudge-nudge. Know where I took it?!
This morning our sweet Grant (5) came into our bedroom at 5:30.
Is it morning yet, Mom?
Are you kidding me? I just put this kid in bed. How could he possibly be up?
No. You need to go back to your room and play quietly. I need to sleep.
But I want to BE WITH someone!
But I want to be a happy mommy! THIS ISN’T FAIR!
I sent him to play with the dog, hoping he wouldn’t wake his sister up. He did.
After more of my own frustrated tears, smacking my pillow on the bed a few times and mentally rehashing the list of the horrible side-effects of us all not getting enough sleep, I felt a shift. Anna asking Elsa if she wants to build a snowman came to mind. No matter how much I want to blame him, Grant isn’t to blame for his internal clock. He doesn’t deserve my wrath.
And I have a choice right now. Am I going to celebrate the kids’ friendship and enjoy what opportunities I DO have with them or am I going to be angry and blame them for my bad mood and resent them for not having enough energy to do what I want to do all day?
And with a little grace, I said out loud:
Andrea, no matter how much sleep you got last night, you can be kind.
Praying for a little more grace to live it out the rest of the day.
After my initial post “Frozen Top Ten”, a few beautiful people asked me to share more about my experience with depression – specifically, post partum depression. My reflections on this story are too long for one blog post. This is not just for women. It is not just for parents. I offer this series in honor of anyone who suffers and feels alone. And I offer it to those who might have experienced or have loved ones experiencing difficulties as young parents.
Our experience having our first child was joyful. Yes, we went to the hospital and were sent home and then induced the next day. Yes, I had back labor and eventually had an epidural. Yes, the epidural helped half of my back more than the other half. But, YES! We were rested and ready! We were very excited to welcome Amelia into the world to the tune of “Testify to Love.” Happy. For a long time, there was happy.
Then around December in our second pregnancy, I was incredibly uncomfortable. The demands of my body and a 1 ½ year old were wearing on me. Looking back, I believe this is where depression set in. Five months later, it was time to have our second baby. We went in for a check up one morning and were told to come back to the hospital around 5:00 p.m. so they could induce and deliver that night. We didn’t think much of the request at the time. Our doctor would conveniently be on call and my body was indicating that it was a good time. We started the process around 6. I settled into the whirlpool and Aaron settled into the Lakers game. What came next was fast and furious. I realized very quickly that I wanted the pain meds I had previously hoped to do without. And I wanted them BAD. They never came. I will spare you the details.
Here’s what I felt I lost in the next few hours:
- My voice. I had plans for how this birthing process would work, but when things got rolling, nurses were (what felt like) dragging me to the bed and telling me what to do. I felt like they were making decisions for me. They acted like the epidural would come, even though they knew it was too late. I felt like a child.
- My emotional stability. It took me a few months to realize this, but I discussed it with a friend-psychologist and we determined that I likely had a panic attack during labor. I literally thought I would AND thought it would be better if I would just die in labor. I feel bad even saying that. But it’s true. I’m going to say it because maybe I’m not the only one.
- My dignity. I felt incredibly exposed and ashamed of my volume, tone and word choice as I cried out and writhed in pain.
- My self-respect. When all was said and done, I felt I had failed this natural birth thing. I didn’t overcome anything or feel empowered like some women do. I felt dragged and beaten and terrified and discarded. That is also really hard to say. *Big Breath*
- My ability to move. For a long time (maybe an hour, I don’t really know) after birth, I couldn’t relax my awkwardly positioned body. I continued to experience pain after pain and I didn’t have the wherewithal to ask for pain medication for quite some time.
- My husband’s respect. This is a tough one, but it is real. I felt my loss of control had embarrassed him. I couldn’t look him in the eye for fear of the disappointment I was sure I would see.
- Sleep. Grant was born at 11:45 p.m. They took us to our room around 1:00 a.m. and I did not sleep. I lay there tense and in shock, all night long. No one knew. I didn’t sleep well for months.
The next couple of days in the hospital were a struggle as I attempted to feel and act like I felt as joyful as I did when Amelia was born. One nurse caught me in a weak, tearful moment and gruffly asked, “Are you depressed?!” I pulled it together enough to sternly pronounce, “No. I am a counselor. I would know if I were depressed.”
She backed off.
And I backed into my shell.
I pray you will tuck these insights into your heart:
- I rejected help. I think I was so embarrassed from the experience that I refused to accept or seek help. I closed up like a clam – hard and tight. But I was a wreck on the inside. If you feel as I did, please open yourself to help. Reach out to someone you trust in your head – even if your heart feels it can’t trust at all.
- I was unable to be my own advocate. Sometimes people break down and are unable to speak for themselves – even “strong” people. We were not prepared for this to happen. If you know someone who is closed like a clam, be curious! They may act like they don’t want your help, but if you offer it tenderly, confidently, respectfully and consistently; they just might let you in.
- Joy is what I felt I should feel after giving birth, so I hid my pain. But honestly, most women struggle. My expectations for what “I should feel” made it harder to accept the pain and sadness I experienced.
Our beautiful, worth-every-bit-of-it kids (a few years back).
Working on this piece reminds me how troubling this season of our parenting experience was. It has been a while since I shared this intensely personal and vulnerable story with anyone. I believe that is why most parents do not share their emotionally traumatic birthing stories or the pain they experience afterward.
I believe that is why I must.
I do not claim to be an expert in the area of depression. I share my reflections of our experience but if you are concerned that you or a loved one is depressed, please inform your doctor (or encourage them to inform theirs) – especially if you are pregnant.
When I Should Feel Joy #1: Unprepared