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Author: coen4835

Does My Vote Count?

Does My Vote Count?

I used to watch world events closely with a quickened heartbeat, holding my breath and waiting for the world to end. It was what I had been taught growing up, that we are in the end times, and I still believe it. However, somewhere between being a teenager and becoming an adult, I had a crisis of faith. The result caused me to be disciplined and shunned.

I have struggled most of my life being able to come to terms with what happened. I had mistakenly believed that my relationship with God could be dictated by those who had authority in the religious organization. How dare they? How could they claim to be Christian while behaving the opposite of how I believed Jesus would have responded? My strongest argument was, if baptism is an outward expression of an inner commitment, how can another group of humans take that commitment away?

To be honest, I just realized a few months ago in prayer and study, that just as baptism was a symbol of my desire to obey, the act of disfellowshipping was a symbol of my desire to stray. I could have changed, but I didn’t want to. Instead, I became a victim who blamed my difficulties on others. The shock value was helpful in creating sympathy. The harsh nature of the discipline usually guaranteed my receiving support. Of course, I failed to mention to these people that I knew the rules before I began, I knew the consequences of my choice and whether they were right or wrong, it wasn’t unexpected.

I had nothing and I had no one. When the option of suicide was presented, I became obsessed with it. I didn’t care where I went when I died, it just had to be better than living like a ghost in my own life. The thought of peaceful slumber was too enticing to pass up. I was admitted into a psychiatric hospital for two weeks until they were able to convince me that suicide was not the best option. One of the doctors began talking to me about my future, something I never really thought about. I always assumed I would get married young, have children and spread the word of God until the world ended.

I began to drown my guilt, anger and frustration with alcohol. As long as I was drunk, I didn’t have to care or at least I could be better at pretending I didn’t care. I even went so far as to blame God for my troubles. “Look what you did to me!” I would shout to the night sky during a drunken self-pity session.

And that is how it went, until I had no one else to blame but myself.

I chose to get behind the wheel of my car when I was drunk. I drove nearly head-on into another car on the highway. I almost ended a life. Me. I did those things. It was difficult to accept. Through a period of self-examination and discovery, I began attending meetings for recovery. I wasn’t on speaking terms with God at first because I still had the notion that He started it. I tried everything I could not to have to turn to Him. But as time went on and I realized how completely incapable I am of self-discipline, I only had one avenue left to try.

As with any relationship, I knew things couldn’t stay the same if I wanted them to be different. Seeing as how God never has to change “for us,” it looked like I was the one who might be in need of the new perspective.

The question that changed my life, “Do I believe, or am I even willing to believe, that God is different than I thought?” Our first conversation after several months of silence began with me saying, “I don’t know who you are and I don’t even know if you care, but something has to change and I’m willing for that to be me.”

In that moment, I felt his attention on me, as if he had only been waiting for me to ask. Even if I didn’t ask nicely.

Whatever this new relationship was about, I loved it and was afraid of losing it. I’d been told about the “pink cloud” and I was not looking forward to falling off. One day, I asked God, “Please, don’t ever let me forget you like this.”

I was concerned about following the suggestion in recovery to form a bond with a higher power “as we understand him.” I was only human. Couldn’t my understanding of God be flawed in so many human ways?

For a time, I went back to what I knew. I was accepted because once again, my actions matched my words. However, the more rules I was reminded of, the further I felt from God. It wasn’t until I was advised to stay away from the very people who had reintroduced me to God that I began to question once again. When scripture failed to change my first husband and it was time for me to leave him, I received no support except from those I had been warned to stay away from.

Thankfully, my second marriage was to Chris and he had a religiously spiritual background. He wasn’t actively attending a church, but I loved that his lifestyle closely resembled a difference between religion and spirituality. His family was patient, kind and loving in all the places I needed it.

When our nation was attacked by terrorists, my insides froze. There I was, perfectly content in my complacency with God and suddenly I was shocked into remembering, I am mortal. We all are. I was reminded that this life and this earth are temporary. My mind became a jumbled mess of mass confusion trying to process past teachings with still developing beliefs.

The anger and hatred expressed toward those who attacked us felt justified in the beginning. As people cried out for revenge and a reckoning, I joined in. However, I then realized, this wasn’t an idea or an invisible, intangible enemy. These were people. People who were once babies, whose mothers or caregivers had held and tried to quiet them. These were people who were being taught at a very young age some very hurtful beliefs. Whether I thought they were right or wrong, they believed as strongly as I did. No, even stronger than I did. They were willing to die for what they believed in – was I? They were so certain that what they were doing was right that they gave up their lives for it. The only other people I could liken that to was our military and missionaries.

Terrorists set out to terrify and while the nation was saying, “Don’t give them the satisfaction,” I could do nothing but be terrified. I was not concerned that they would attack, not that it might be the beginning of the end, but I was terrified that I would perish without ever believing in something so strongly that I would die for it.

Those who raised me were experiencing heightened anticipation for the end of this system of things, thankful for the promise that they could be resurrected on a paradise earth with no more death, sickness or sadness.

Those who had raised Chris were resting assured in the belief that if anything happened to them, they would go to heaven and see the face of Jesus and live forever in His glory.

If I died, I trembled inside at the thought that I had absolutely no idea what would happen to me. I wasn’t “good” enough for paradise and I didn’t “believe” enough for heaven. I had never bought into the Catholic teaching of purgatory but almost imagined that was where I would be if I were to die, in some kind of suspended middle place, wandering forever with unanswered questions.

I didn’t know how to explain my angst, but I tried. My friend Brittney and I had many spiritual discussions. I deeply envied her. Despite her difficulties in life, she always had a firm belief in God. She trusted that His hand was in everything. She believed even when it seemed she didn’t. I couldn’t understand why, with such a strong faith like hers, she could suffer as much as she did, but I never doubted her faith. Sometimes, I even thought the reason she suffered was because she was so acute to her surroundings and felt everything.

One night, after the terrorist attacks, we were talking about my latest spiritual crisis. I was reminded of the scripture Luke 10:27 – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbour as yourself.”

My heart quieted. I knew I loved God and I knew I had always tried to treat others the way I would want to be treated. For a while, I was calm and my mind stopped chasing itself in circles.

Then, we decided to have children. I had severe postpartum depression and anxiety after my daughter was born. I can remember thinking, “What kind of person would bring a helpless baby into this rotten world? How selfish am I?” “I can’t save her from molestation, rape, murder, heartache, hurt feelings, I don’t even know how to introduce her to the one who can save her from those things or at least help her through them should they occur.”

I have never felt so full of and so lacking in faith in my entire life. I had faith that God was there through all of it, but I didn’t have faith that He would keep us sane and alive.

I knew I had to start somewhere, I needed to be able to connect with God on an even deeper level than ever before, but I didn’t know where to start. We began going to a church in Whitefish of the same denomination as Chris was raised. I was guarded and apprehensive. I didn’t feel like I fit in, I was constantly questioning and comparing teachings in my head. People would raise their arms and hands during worship and I was terrified one of them was going to be struck with a spirit other than the Holy kind and then what would I do?
The pastor at the time was KEY to helping reconnect me at a deeper level with God. Not only in the way he articulated his sermons, but in the way he and his family worked to be servants to God’s people. This pastor could have let it all go to his head, but there were times when even he would kneel at the alter to pray after a sermon had revealed to him truths about himself.

I slowly began to follow the actions of those I saw who seemed happy with their walk with God. I began singing during worship but couldn’t seem to get through even one song without bursting into tears. It was embarrassing. I felt like a baby, immature in my understanding and relationship with God. I couldn’t understand why I was crying so much. Singing to God and feeling his presence so strongly in those moments opened up storehouses of grief, anxiety and anger that I had held onto for nearly all my life. This worship wasn’t about being conservative and proper, this worship was meaningful, raw emotion and connection. I had begun to see him in a new light; I began to feel his hand guiding my steps.

One day, when the pastor asked if anyone wanted to make or reaffirm their decision to turn the steering wheel over to God, I found myself walking down to the alter and I was baptized, again. This felt like an affirmation of the commitment I had made years before.

Today, I am able to enjoy a loving, free, close relationship with God. I wish I could package it up with a pretty bow and give it to people, but it’s personal, for everyone.

Yesterday, I was watching Micah trying the bottle flipping challenge. It is something he’s seen other people do online. He watches in admiration as people throw plastic bottles with limited amounts of liquid in them and sees them land straight up or sometimes gets to witness the even more exciting event of “capping” it.

He begs to go to the park to bottle flip. He would bottle flip all day if we let him. Why? Because of the intense feeling of satisfaction that comes with “landing” it even once! He becomes so intensely excited, he has to make sure everyone around has seen it before he’ll pick the bottle up again.

As I watched, I thought about words our current pastor used today. He spoke about how hard it is to explain to an unbeliever the joy it brings to have a life filled with the Holy Spirit. I was like Micah. I would watch others with admiration of how close they felt to God and how much they wanted to obey his word. I was in awe of the sense of peace and happiness that seemed to go along with it.

I went out into the world and threw myself around a bit trying to “land” it. The few times it worked, the sense of fulfilment, gratitude and satisfaction made all the effort worth it. The only difference is now, I “land” that feeling more often because of all the practice I’ve had.

I felt prompted to write this because of the political uneasiness our nation is currently experiencing.

We were watching the news at my mother’s house the other night and there was a story about a woman who is accusing Trump of misconduct. A clip showed her saying, “and he reached up my skirt and touched my vagina.”

Micah laughed because he is a seven-year-old boy who still finds bodily functions and words for private parts funny. I knew that was why he was laughing, but I couldn’t let it slide. I said, “Micah, there is nothing funny about that story. It is never okay for anyone to touch someone else’s body without their permission.” He nodded his head sheepishly. I said, “You got it?!” He nodded again.

My children watch the news and hear about a candidate for the President of the United States making vulgar comments about women and people who weren’t privileged enough to be born in the right place at the right time. They hear about the other candidate for President of the United States who didn’t help those who needed her and who has lied and had her misconduct swept under the rug. I have seen Christians telling other Christians, “If you are truly a Christian, you will vote for this person,” or asking friends to delete themselves from social media outlets if they have a difference of opinion.

Here is the truth as I’ve seen it set out in the Bible. No human deserves our vote. This world is temporary. God has been, is, and will forever be in charge. This smoke and mirror show the enemy revels in is to distract us from the only one who can bring permanent, lasting and meaningful change – God! I’m sure the enemy is loving the way his illusion continues to tear people apart, especially delighting at the hypocrisy in those who call themselves Christians. This election doesn’t matter in the long run.

Mark 8:36 says, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”

Romans 14:13 says, “Therefore, let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.”

1 Corinthians 2:6, which says, “We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.”

People are starving and dying for a spiritual answer to a human problem, whether they realize it or not. Yet, we keep shoving more imperfect human behaviour at them.
It is incredibly sad to see how cruel we can be to each other.

So today, I choose to leave the election behind and focus on things that can be changed for the better and forever.

Do You See Me?

Do You See Me?

It is strange, I have so much to write about, but no words.  Normally, when faced with a crisis, I am able to talk or write myself out of it, but this one seems too big.  I have dealt with a lot of death in my life, I am not a stranger to it, however, this one felt different.

I didn’t know Lauren well, but over time I became very close to her mother, Kathleen.  Kathleen and I worked together and enjoyed similar topics of conversation.  Although I hadn’t met all of Kathleen’s family, I felt as if I knew them well from updates I received.  When a daughter moved or had a child or got married, I was able to celebrate from afar and watch as Kathleen’s joy spread from her heart to her smile.

Two weeks ago, I received a text from a mutual friend of ours letting me know that Kathleen was at the hospital with her 24-year-old daughter, Lauren.  Through a series of events that seemed divinely inspired, I was finally able to have a chance to visit Kathleen at the hospital and I saw her beautiful Lauren who was being kept alive by machines.

I’d been having conversations with God about my willingness to help others.  The night before I saw Kathleen, God presented me with the idea that anyone can throw money at a problem to solve it, but the kind of help He wanted me to provide was much more time intensive and required effort.  I had no idea what He was preparing me for.

To hear my friend’s strong and fierce voice break down into intermittent squeaks and attempted wailing hurt my heart.  She had lost her voice partly from a cold she had developed and partly due to her screams.  Screams for recognition, screams for help, screams of frustration and anger and so much sorrow her human frame couldn’t contain it.

At one point, Kathleen was certain if Lauren could see her – if she could stand in Lauren’s line of sight, if Lauren saw how much her mother wanted her to come back, she was certain Lauren would.  I watched helplessly watching as this mother, who’s body had formed Lauren’s desperately sought recognition from empty eyes.

I watched in despair as Kathleen looked at me and asked, “Did you notice any changes?  Do you think she saw me?”  I had to truthfully answer, “I think she sees you – but from a different place.”

I honestly told her,  “I wish I could take it all away.”  I believed her when she said, “I can’t do this!” and I knew that even though it felt impossible, she would make it another day.

I’m sure if it could, a mother’s grief would cause earthquakes, would rip the sky in two, would cause a downpour of rain short of a flood.  I imagined how Mary might have felt, mourning her son who was first beaten and then humiliated in front of hundreds of people before he was slowly murdered in front of her.  I stand in awe of her capacity to suffer and grieve.  Even knowing what she knew, she grieved.  Even knowing what we know, a mother still grieves.

That evening, when I reunited with my own children, I instinctively held them a little longer and a little tighter.

Shortly after visiting Kathleen, I received a text from another woman I hold near to my heart.  She explained there was going to be an intervention for her son and she was wondering if Chris and I would be willing to pray for them and participate if needed.

We love this friend like a brother, he is considered part of our family so we didn’t even have to think twice.  Of course we would help in whatever way we could.  It turned out our physical presence wasn’t needed, but she would text us to let us know the outcome.

I never considered that he might refuse treatment or help.  I believed if he were confronted with people who loved him, if they stood in his line of sight – he would come back.

I received a text from his mother saying he refused treatment.

I began seeing flashbacks of Kathleen, standing in her Lauren’s vision, begging her daughter to come back.  I could see my friend’s mother standing in his vision, begging him to come back.

Lauren couldn’t even if she wanted to.  He could, but he HAD to want to.

I think that was the deep wailing that began to emerge from me.  The seemingly unfair state of it all.  A body that would come to life if it could and a life that would become a body if it could.

The irony of it all sometimes consumes me.

I want to know.  I want to look at these two situations and figure them out.  I want them to make sense.  But they don’t.  Just like hundreds of thousands of unanswered questions in the universe and the world, our communities and our homes.

Although my heart is in complete shambles because I can’t heal either one of these people so dear to me, I have never felt hopeless.  Helpless, perhaps, but not hopeless.

The night that Lauren passed away, it stormed.  Thunder, lightning, pouring rain.  On Saturday, the sun broke through the clouds and warmed the window Kathleen had escaped to after finally acknowledging Lauren was gone.  On Sunday, when her family gathered and removed Lauren from the machines that had been sustaining her, rainbows appeared in the evening sky.

I was reminded God can turn storms into rainbows.

Rainbow Connection

I Can’t Hear You

I Can’t Hear You

I know that not everyone may relate to this, but I am hoping someone will.

A couple weeks ago, I said, “God, we’re thinking about selling our house, what do you think?”

God answered, “Not right now.”

I responded, “I think I might have understood you to say this isn’t a good time, but I’m not sure that’s the answer you meant to give.”

So, I went to get boxes to start packing up extra stuff around the house. First of all, I couldn’t find U-Haul. When I finally found one, there was a sign on the door that said, “If closed, call this number or that number or walk next door, turn around three times and ring the doorbell twice. You will then be given a secret code and a riddle – if you can answer the riddle and remember the code you will be delivered a package at midnight with the address of where to meet.” I had no patience for that, so Chris called the U-Haul number and found out they were in the old WalMart.  I went to get boxes after Micah’s play date and they were closed.

Persistent as I am, later that night, I decided to go to Lowe’s to purchase boxes.  I walked to the appropriate aisle and this is what I found:

Lowes Boxes

You will notice, there is a random cart sitting right in front of ALL the moving boxes.  At this point, I mentioned to Chris, jokingly of course, “Maybe we aren’t supposed to be doing this.”  But, I didn’t stop.

The next night, I began to get sick.  Fever, sore throat, exhaustion – but we had someone who possibly might have been interested in the house even though it wasn’t on the market yet and we wanted to get it ready for Monday at 4:30.  We pushed through.  I went to Urgent Care Sunday morning and got a prescription for Tamiflu.  Our family joined together to help us meet our goal.  My mom helped watch the kids, Chris’ dad washed windows, walls and appliances.  Our friend Joe swept away cobwebs and entertained the children with his ramblings.

Then, my mom sent me this:


Yeah.  Right in front of our house.  But, we kept moving forward.  I just knew God would want me to take the next indicated step.   It was my hope that Monday the city would still be preparing the road for asphalt and might not be such a disruption.  Monday, we arranged for Chris’ dad to take the dogs, they moved the kennel out of the house and Grace (who had begun feeling sick herself) and I went to my mom’s house.  I could NOT WAIT for 4:30 to be over!

And then, 5:00 came around and we received the call that the people had to cancel because they weren’t feeling well.  They rescheduled for the next day at noon.

Grace was sick and had to stay home from school.  The city was getting closer and closer to our house with their tearing up of the road and at 11:00, they began tearing up the chunk of road directly in front of our house.

Grace and I gathered the dogs and walked to my mom’s house because we couldn’t get out of the driveway.  The wind was bone chilling and we were both sickly.

The buyers arrived, looked through the house real quick and decided it was not for them.

My mom drove Grace, the dogs and I to the corner and we walked back into the house.

Later that night, I said to God, “I guess I should stop pretending like I can’t hear you or can’t understand what you’re saying.”

I can picture God looking at me sometimes, shaking His head and loving me anyway.

When Wishes Don’t Come True

When Wishes Don’t Come True



It is difficult sometimes when going through a crisis to realize all the help we are blessed with.  Or, perhaps we are able to realize the help but aren’t able to express our gratitude sufficiently.

After writing this experience, I have asked myself, “What would I say to someone if they asked me what they could do to help someone in this situation?”

I’m not a doctor or a counselor or a psychiatrist.  I am a mother who has suffered through postpartum issues and my suggestions are simply based on my experience.  I am sure there are many other options and suggestions that could be made by others or found online.  I don’t ever want to be seen as an expert in these issues.

First, I would suggest being someone safe.  Sometimes, I only felt comfortable at my mom and dad’s house.  My mom let me sleep over several times, she drove me to stores, she came over and sat with me or sat with Grace.  She listened without judgment and she was one of my biggest cheerleaders, supporting every new attempt at normalcy.  She stepped in and changed diapers or made a bottle or rocked my baby girl to sleep.  My mom was one of the reasons I believed I could pull through.

Second, share your experience (or mine) to help the person know they’re not alone.  If I was able to talk to someone who had experienced similar symptoms and saw that they came out the other side relatively unharmed, I had hope.  Out of respect for their privacy, I won’t name all the beautiful mothers who shared their experiences with me while enduring my unending questions and conversations, but I am eternally grateful for them.

Have the person talk to their doctor.  I am so grateful for the team of doctors I had in my corner.  They may not have had a solution, but they tried their best to get the help I needed and I appreciated their effort.  After my second delivery, the doctor allowed me to stay an extra day in the hospital just to be sure I felt comfortable going home.  She also set me up with a group called, “The Miami Project.”  They would visit me at my home once a week for about six weeks after Micah was born.  The woman who visited shared baby care tips, recipes and health suggestions.  I looked forward to her visits and was grateful for the extra bit of help.

Suggest seeing a counselor.  I would like to think all counselors have been trained in this particular area, but I know they haven’t.  My first counselor was extremely nice, loving and caring, but I didn’t feel like I was moving forward in my recovery.  Call me a glutton for punishment, but I enjoy a challenge in psychology – it is what works for me.  I need a counselor who won’t coddle but also won’t condemn.  Of course, each person is different.

Dovetailing off counseling, it’s possible a psychiatrist could help as well.  My psychiatrist was assigned to me in the  psychiatric hospital and I never changed because I trusted him.  Like many in the mental health profession, he is often busy and overworked.  He was trying to rush me through an appointment once and I stopped and said, “I need you to listen to me.”  From that day on, he did.  Either encourage the person to advocate for themselves or be an advocate for them.  Sometimes I couldn’t express things for myself; Chris was great help in that area.

Just be there.  Sometimes, I just needed someone to be in the same room with me.  No conversation, no chores, no expectations.  Just knowing someone else was around was huge.  Chris’ mom, as I mentioned, read scriptures to me while holding my hand and let me cry my heart out without skipping a beat.  Friends came to see me in the hospital, a couple even brought huge planters with flowers.  Friends came to see me at home and asked what they could do to help.  I asked one friend, Dave, to visit with Chris.  I felt horrible seeing everything he had to deal with, I wanted someone to be there for him since I wasn’t capable.

Allow them to do what they can.  There were times when I wished someone would come in and take care of it all for me.  While it was true I needed help with the majority of things, there were some things I needed to do on my own to feel accomplished and significant.  However, if a mom doesn’t feel comfortable or safe being alone with her baby, don’t force her.

I reviewed this information with Chris and he added for spouses, don’t blame the mom.  Postpartum issues are out of her control.  If she could be different, she would, but don’t expect too much before she is ready.

My final note is for my beautiful daughter, Grace:

My sweet girl, I hope you know that none of this was your fault – in fact – there is no fault.  We were all victims of the cards that life dealt us.  The day you were born, I was ecstatic and complete.  Sometime during that first night, we lost each other.  I spent the next several weeks trying to get back to you.  I had a lot of obstacles, but I refused to stop looking.  You, my amazing Grace, were worth fighting for.  Once I found you, I never let you go.  I love you beyond words, beyond thoughts, beyond feelings.


If you or someone you know is experiencing postpartum issues, please reach out and find help:

Postpartum Support International

Happily Ever After . . .

Happily Ever After . . .

I struggled to find my footing.  I went back to work a little early and my boss graciously helped me work out a deal in which I could work part-time and use the rest of my maternity leave sparingly.  Work brought back a sense of normalcy, but once again, I was faced with the realization that things would never be the same.  I could no longer simply go to work.  I would always and forever be missing my baby girl.

It took approximately six weeks for my body to return to a somewhat “normal” type of state.  My road to recovery, mentally and emotionally would continue for years.

Grace nursed for around a year and was supplemented with formula a lot of the time.  I continued to pump while I worked and nursed her when I was home.  My milk production wasn’t as much as it probably could have been if things had been more consistent, but I was thankful I had stuck with it.  Once Grace was weaned, we were able to explore different medications.

Medications have been a part of my life since 2004.  Trying to find the right one has often cause upheaval and disorder in our home and lives.  Once, I was on a medication that gave me nightmares.  I had a dream about the devil, dripping with maggots.  I was afraid to go to sleep after that and my psychiatrist prescribed something that was supposed to help me forget nightmares.

I unknowingly became addicted to anti-anxiety medication, taking much more than the recommended dose.  My friends said I was a zombie, showing no emotion and having no in-depth conversation.  I was constantly sleepy and I couldn’t remember things.

I eventually left my job and found a new one that I thought would allow me more time with Grace.  I spiraled into an even deeper depression, resorting to self-injury, a form of coping I hadn’t used in years.

I blamed every normal developmental difficulty on my inability to be the mother I thought I needed to be when Grace was first born.  The first (and last) time Grace told me she hated me, I thought it was because she somehow knew I had failed DSC05401her at birth.

It took my self-injury and darkest moments to bring me to ask for help once again.  My aunt got me in touch with a counselor she had heard good things about.  This counselor made me work hard at recovery.  It was REALLY hard sometimes, but I stuck with it and she stuck with me.  None of my sessions were used to sit and discuss the problems of the day.  She reviewed the week with me and then we set to work digging into the past and using techniques that literally saved my life.  Chris came to a session or two and things started  going fairly well.

Approximately four years later, I started thinking I might want to have another baby.  I never thought Chris would agree to the suggestion, but after careful consideration, he did.  When he saw how emotional I was after holding my niece’s baby, he believed he had no right to deny me another opportunity, especially since we were getting to the age where we wouldn’t want to have any more children.  We also figured we wouldn’t be blindsided this time.  We knew the possibilities and could stay on top of it from the get go.  We talked to my psychiatrist who began to ween me off my medications.

I found out I was pregnant again after a trip out of town that Chris and I took together.  I had just been hired back on with my position at the Clerk of Court’s office and my father had been admitted into a nursing home.  I had horrible morning sickness with my second pregnancy.  I drove around with a  bowl in my vehicle so I could stop and throw up if needed.

The anxiety attacked me during the first couple months.  I began to have the thoughts of, “Why are you bringing another child into this horrible, nasty world?”  My psychiatrist worked with me on trying to use the smallest dosages possible of the safest medications.  I didn’t want to take medication while I was pregnant, but my mental state wasn’t healthy for the baby either.  I began to level out after the first trimester.

Six weeks before Micah was born, my father passed away.  My labor started at a baby shower when I couldn’t get comfortable on the couch I was sitting on.  My water never broke.  We went to the hospital after my friend said she thought the contractions were fairly consistent and Chris and I stayed for a couple hours and were then sent home until things began moving a little more rapidly.  I was able to sleep through a large portion of the contractions and when I wasn’t able to sleep, we knew it was time to go to the hospital again.

The hospital offered epidurals and I gladly accepted.  I requested the smallest dosage of Pitocin necessary.

When Micah was born, he swallowed amniotic fluid on his way out and he didn’t breathe on his own for a period of minutes.  My sister was trying to take pictures and the nurses told her to stop; they had to rush him to the nursery.

Micah was born in March, so it was cold outside and he was jaundice which meant we had to pick up bilirubin lights for him to sleep on.  He was to stay on the lights at all times except when being fed.  Once the jaundice was gone, the doctors were concerned about his kidney and we had to take him in for several ultrasounds.  Yet, from the moment I laid eyes on him, I felt exactly the way I thought I was supposed to feel.

It made no sense to me.  My first pregnancy and delivery were simple.  I had no morning sickness.  I wanted a girl, I got a girl.  My water broke so I knew when to go to the hospital.  Her delivery was flawless, in fact, she wasn’t even bathed for a period of time while everyone held her and took pictures.  Yet under all these perfect circumstances, my anxiety and depression skyrocketed.

My second pregnancy was filled with anxiety, my father passed away, I started a new job, I was sent home from the hospital after thinking I was in labor, when Micah was born, he wasn’t breathing, he was jaundice and he had a questionable kidney, yet I handled it like a professional mother.

I have to give some creuntitled-13dit to Grace for helping to create a smooth transition the second time.  I had to pick her up from school every day which created routine.  I never felt like I was alone.  I didn’t rely on Grace to keep me company, but she really was good company and a good distraction from the hundreds of things I could have fixated on.

I’m still on medication.  I’ve tried not being on medication and things didn’t turn out so well.  I’m okay with being on a small amount.  It’s a small effort I get to put towards helping us have a healthy family.  I still wonder sometimes if what happened was a completely physical reaction to hormone fluctuation and lack of sleep, or if it was my depression wreaking havoc or if it was a little of both.

For a long time, I was worried it would happen again.  While I have had different types of attacks, none have ever been the same as that six weeks after giving birth.  I worry that talking about it or writing about it will bring it all back, but it doesn’t.  If anything, it makes me extremely grateful.  Every day that passes without having to experience that hell, is a good day.  And my children, both of them, are the second best things I’ve ever done.  (The first was saying “yes” to Chris.)

Darkest Before the Dawn

Darkest Before the Dawn

My doctor told Chris that if there ever came a time when I didn’t feel safe or he didn’t feel safe, he needed to take me to the Emergency Room.  They would do an evaluation to determine whether or not I needed help.

I couldn’t stop crying; crying was the only thing that felt comforting.  On my 29th birthday, we took Grace to my mom’s and Chris took me to the ER.

I cried and cried and cried and cried.  A psychiatrist came into my room and asked lists full of questions.  I cried and cried and cried and cried.  They gave me a warm blanket to cover with because I couldn’t stop shivering.

After a few hours, they decided to admit me into the psychiatric unit.

I cried for my reputation, for my daughter’s self-esteem, for Chris’ abandonment, for my parent’s disappointment, for my sister’s lost baby.  I had a reason to cry about anything and everything.

When Chris left, I thought I would die.  I laid down on top of the bed covers and let the pillow begin catching my tears.  I knew they would be making rounds for dinner and I didn’t want to eat.  I closed my eyes to pretend I was asleep.  I heard one nurse walk in and then another.  I heard them whisper to each other, “She’s sleeping, we need to let her sleep.”  As soon as they left, my eyes popped open.  How was I supposed to survive this?

The psychiatric unit had never had a nursing mother in their care before.  They provided my own room until they didn’t have room.  I needed privacy for pumping and wasn’t allowed to have an electric pump, so I had to manually pump my milk in the bathroom.  I usually ended up with about four ounces.  They allowed Chris to bring Grace for one extra visit per day which I used to nurse her.  If I took any medication with side effects I had to pump and dump my milk.  Chris had to supplement some with formula but I knew I was contributing and doing the best I could so I wasn’t as upset as I was at the prospect of quitting nursing all together.

My family was allowed to visit in the evening.  Everyone joined together to help Chris.  He boldly took on the tasks of parenting as a single parent.

I was assigned a counselor and a psychiatrist.  I knew I had issues with depression in the past, but this felt different than that.  We were all hoping that what was happening to me was the result of hormonal imbalance and once my hormones leveled out, I would be back to normal.  The scary things was, we didn’t know what it would take for my hormones to “level” out.  Some people thought time, some thought medication, some thought sleep and food.  We didn’t have any more answers in the hospital than we did out of the hospital.

At the end of the day we were required to share with each other a summary of one happy thing and one sad thing about our day.  I wanted seeing Grace to be my highlight and I knew it was what everyone expected of me, so it is what I used as my highlight, every day.

After a week in the hospital, they deemed me well enough to go home.  They were fairly certain I was no longer a threat to myself or anyone else.  They had me commit to seeing a counselor at least once a week and I was to stay in contact with my psychiatrist to monitor my medication.

I still didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere.  I didn’t feel like I was ready to go home, but had no indication of how long it would be until I did feel ready?  We couldn’t afford for me to stay and it didn’t seem like there was anything they could do in the hospital that we couldn’t do at home.

I kept hoping the next pill I took was going to be the solution.  Most of the medications made me even more anxious, some of them made me nauseous.

Chris’ mom came to stay with us for a week.  I was grateful for her help, but it was also stressful to go crazy in front of other people.  Judy had a beautifully calming way of reading scriptures out loud to me; scriptures that assured me God would not leave me during this crisis.  I wanted to believe the words, almost as much as I wanted to be better.  Judy offered to watch Grace while Chris and I went out to our first dinner together alone.

I had weird separation anxiety surrounding Grace.  When I was with her, I couldn’t stand it, but when I was away from her, I couldn’t stand it.  My past-self thought this was the perfect opportunity to give her two cents.

“Look at you, pretending to be normal.  Pretending you can have dinner like you used to.  But you can’t.  Nothing can ever be that simple again.  If you’re not with her, you’ll always be missing her.  Look at all these people.  They get to continue with their lives, no problem.  They don’t know her and they can’t miss her.  Not you.  You will never be okay.  You will never not miss her.  You really should just end it all now.  Why keep suffering?  Why try to continue this way when you know all it can bring is misery?  You’ll have to say good-bye someday, why not now?”

It was that familiar feeling again of pleading with my eyes and not being able to speak.  I looked at Chris, “We have to go,” I said.

“Um, okay.  Can we wait until we get our food?” he asked.

I thought maybe I could last that long.  As soon as the waiter brought out our food, we asked for boxes.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” I kept saying.

Chris never once acted condescending or judgmental.  As soon as we got out of the restaurant, I started to feel like I could breathe again.  Chris and I went to a nearby store and walked the aisles.  It seemed if I could keep my past self’s focus off all the changes and just focused on the moment, my sickness eventually passed.DSC04210

Unfortunately, things got worse instead of better.  My anxiety was through the roof.  I couldn’t sit still, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat.  My mom came over to help take care of Grace while I lay on the couch dry heaving and Chris was on the phone with my psychiatrist.  I was on yet another new medication that I insisted wasn’t working before anyone could know for sure.

Chris was on the phone with my psychiatrist and he told Chris to give me enough anti-anxiety medication to knock me out.  He insisted the medication needed a chance to start working and it seemed the only chance I would be able to give it was a sedated chance.

Chris was at the pharmacy as soon as it opened to pick up the prescription my psychiatrist called in.  He rushed home and gave me two or three.  It took a short bit, but suddenly, it was as if someone turned the electricity off in my body.  My chills turned into warm liquid and my mind stopped talking.  I went to sleep in one of the best slumbers I’d had in weeks.

I Did Not Wish For This

I Did Not Wish For This

Picture 749I was exhausted.  I just wanted to sleep, but I chose to leave Grace in our room instead of the nursery because I figured, “What kind of mom wouldn’t want her baby in her room with her?”

I drifted off for a short bit and suddenly, my body jolted itself.  It was similar to having a dream about falling but jerking awake just in time.  My heart was pounding quickly and my breathing became rapid as I braced myself for a contraction –  only, the contractions were over.  My body felt electrified and the possibility of any deep sleep escaped me.

I needed to try nursing Grace every couple hours and I soon found myself in a puddle of tears and exhaustion.

It seemed like physically giving birth had also caused my brain to give birth to another person living in my head.  She was my past self, pre-baby.  She was angry and mourning.

“Nothing is ever going to be the same,” she told me, accusing me of making her life miserable.  “You can’t make any decision for yourself anymore.  You always have to consider the baby.  Everyone else will get to do whatever they want, but not you.  Not. Ever. Again.”

We were having central air installed in our house and had been hoping to have it done by the time we brought the baby home, since it was the middle of summer.  Because Grace was early, Chris was still in the middle of the project and he needed to help the installer dig a trench at the house.

“He’s already leaving you and the baby alone,” pre-baby me said.  “No big deal to him.  You just have to take care of, well, EVERYTHING.  It’s not up to him to keep her alive.  It’s up to you.”

I had thought when I saw Grace, I would feel instant and automatic love – a feeling I was sure every mother had for their baby at first sight.  I had read books that said not all mothers felt that way but I didn’t believe them.  I looked at her and I wanted to want to hold her, but I was terrified.  When I looked at my baby girl, I saw a stranger; a stranger who knew every one of my weaknesses and was set to expose them to every single person I knew.  She had now taken the place as the dominant female in our family and she was just a baby.

I sat in the hospital room, sobbing.  Once the tears began, they wouldn’t stop.  People came to visit and I cried.  I told everyone I was sure it was hormones and would pass.  I was hoping it would pass.  Please, oh please, just pass.

My Aunt came by to visit and we joked about her aversion to babies.  She was having fun with it, but secretly, I understood, related to and agreed with everything she said.

Chris was ready to go home with the new member of our family, but I was doubtful.  If I felt this unsure about my skills in a hospital with trained medical personnel, how did I think I could take care of her at home?

My sister came home with us to help me organize Grace’s room.  As soon as we pulled into the driveway, I became nervous.  I didn’t want to walk through the front door.  Chris was excited, but I was terrified.  Everything was different, even my relationship with my dog had changed.  I didn’t want to face my new life.  In fact, I would have much rather turned around and run away, but I knew that was the wrong thought and the wrong feeling.

My sister busied herself with putting clothes and blankets and diapers away.  I sat in the rocking chair Chris bought when I found out I was pregnant, crying and sobbing and sobbing and crying.

My sister didn’t know what to do.  She had been pregnant once and lost her baby to a horrible, unexpected accident when she was eight months pregnant.  I knew she would give anything to have a baby to hold, rock, cuddle and snuggle.  Here I was, blessed with a  healthy, beautiful baby girl and all I could do was cry about it.  I imagined she must have thought I was incredibly ungrateful and pathetic.  At least, that’s how I felt about myself.

I didn’t know what to do with this baby outside of my womb.  I wanted to rewind.  Everything was happening and changing too fast.  Every minute that went by, she was another minute older and I mourned for every one of those minutes that passed.

That night, I hoped that a good night’s sleep might help make everything better.  We had Grace’s bassinette next to my side of the bed.  As night came, Chris slipped easily into a deep sleep, snoring as proof.

I couldn’t stop looking at her.  I was certain if I went to sleep, she would stop breathing.  What if she died unexpectedly?  What if she somehow worked her arms out of her swaddle and covered her face with the blanket causing her to suffocate?  What if the swaddle was too tight and she couldn’t breathe.  What if she woke up and I didn’t?  What if she starved to death because I was sleeping and couldn’t hear her crying?  What if she spit up and choked on it?  What if the central air was too cold for her?  What if her blankets were too warm for her?

The electrified feeling came back.  I was scared.  I wanted to sleep but I couldn’t and Chris’ snoring only reminded me of how truly alone I was.  Something was wrong.

I woke Chris and told him I couldn’t sleep.  I couldn’t stop crying.  Someone needed to do something – I felt like I was going to lose my mind.  I was holding on to the thin string of a helium balloon containing my sanity and if I fell asleep, the balloon would float away or pop.

I called the nursery and the on-call doctor prescribed a sleeping pill.  He suggested I take the lowest dosage possible since I was breast feeding.  Chris, bless his heart, got up in the middle of the night to pick up the prescription.  I took the pills and still didn’t sleep.  It was a pattern that would follow for the next couple weeks.

I cried for at least 20 minutes of each hour.  I didn’t want anyone to leave me alone with the baby.  When she would start crying, my stomach turned into acid and began churning itself back and forth.  Waves of energy caused me to shiver and I had a rushes of adrenaline so strong they made me sick.

I cried at every postpartum appointment and checkup.  I couldn’t eat.  My mouth was dry which made chewing and swallowing almost impossible.  If I did manage to choke something down, my acidic stomach chose to expel it one way or another.  I began drinking “Ensure” just to “ensure” I had enough nutrients to continue producing milk.Picture 789

One of the doctor’s I saw said if they had known I was that bad before I left the hospital, they wouldn’t have discharged me.  He wrote me a prescription for Paxil, which created a whole new set of shaming statements to myself.

When I was a teenager, I had become suicidal and was put in a psych unit for two weeks.  My dad was a chemical dependency counselor and he refused to allow them to prescribe me anti-depressants.  There hadn’t been a lot of research done at that time and he was skeptical.

I was nursing, so anything I took would transfer through the milk to Grace.  I didn’t want to stop nursing.  It wasn’t because I was a naturopathic mother who was against the secret evils of formula.  It was because nursing Grace was the only way I felt I was able to provide for her.  It was the one thing my body could get right.

It can take up to a couple weeks before discovering whether a medication will be effective or not.  I started to worry that finding a solution was going to take too long.  What if I wasn’t better in a couple weeks?  Then would I have to try another drug for two more weeks?  And what if that one didn’t work either?  All the while, my baby girl, who I wanted to want more than anything was growing older by the minute and I couldn’t enjoy her.

It didn’t take long to find out Paxil wasn’t going to work.  It made me more anxious and on-edge, which of course, once again meant, no sleep.

Chris had to start thinking about going back to work.  He had taken a couple weeks leave but he was the only one who knew his job and it was getting to be month end.  I had a checkup with my OB/GYN, so Chris thought he would go into work to get a few things done while I was occupied.

As soon as my doctor walked through the door, I broke down.  The never ending tears began once more.  She asked questions and I could hardly answer through the sobbing.  I could tell she didn’t know what to do.  She was genuinely concerned, but didn’t know what to suggest as the best solution.  She told me she was going to make some phone calls and asked if I would be okay for a few minutes by myself.

She returned shortly after and said she had called Chris to come visit with us as well.  She was concerned about my lack of sleep and lack of nutrients.  It was the opinion of many, that if I got at least one good night of sleep, things might look brighter.  My doctor had arranged with the nurses to let me stay for a night in the hospital while others cared for Grace to allow me to get some sleep.  At first, it was very appealing, but when Chris and I arrived, it started to feel all wrong.

The nurse that was helping us happened to be the teacher from our labor and delivery class.  It was nice to see a friendly, familiar face, but I was still doubtful.  After she spoke with us for a little bit, we explored the idea of bottle feeding with formula instead of nursing.  Logically, it made sense.  More people could help with Grace if they didn’t have to depend on me for milk.  Chris could let me sleep at night and could make a bottle of formula.  I could experiment with more meds without having to worry about it affecting my milk.  Again, logically, it made sense.  However, emotionally, it felt as if I were severing the one and only connection I had to my daughter, and it was almost unthinkable.

When Grace became hungry at the hospital, the nurse showed us how to make a bottle and fed it to Grace.  Grace guzzled the formula and began screaming when it was gone.  My heart sunk and I felt sick.  I thought Grace was screaming because she was angry at me for giving her formula.  She was exposing me, once again, as the inadequate mother I believed I was.

Chris and I knew we couldn’t afford a night’s stay at the hospital and I had a feeling it wasn’t going to help anyway.  It seemed like a lot of money to pay for one night of something that would be undone the next night.  Since we were going to try bottle feeding, I thought I would be okay going home.  I didn’t want to stay in the hospital because I couldn’t be away from her, but I also couldn’t be around her.  I was lost.  I didn’t belong anywhere.  I didn’t belong in the hospital, at my job, at my house.  I didn’t know who I was anymore.

Chris and I went home and he tried to feed Grace a bottle one more time.  I went into the other room so she wouldn’t associate me with the bottle, but one bottle was all I could stand.  My body was crying out for my daughter; it was too sad to think of my milk drying up.  I trashed the formula idea.

Picture 857I was desperate for relief and we tried every possible remedy we could think of or was suggested.  We tried switching the bassinet to Chris’ side of the bed, we tried going for walks outside, we tried sleeping in the basement because I had developed a strong aversion to our bedroom.  Everything seemed to have a new smell and feel to it.

I felt like I was literally losing my mind.  I became obsessed with how much sleep I got.  As soon as I woke, my brain was in high gear, calculating the hours and minutes.  It was several weeks in before I managed to sleep a consecutive four hours.

I became obsessed with the baby stages.  I had to know what to expect next from Grace.  The only problem was, it would have taken a fortune teller to calm my fears – the books were never specific enough.  “Most babies,” this and “some babies,” that and “not all babies,” will experience the “norm.”  I was never satisfied.  I kept reading through my books several times to see if maybe I missed something.  (Reading actually only consisted of skimming through the chapters I was interested in because I couldn’t concentrate long enough to read a whole paragraph.)

I found statements like, “If you are experiencing extreme sadness for more than a few weeks, talk to your doctor about it.”  I talked to my doctor about it!  Nobody knew how I felt, the extent of my despair or how to make it stop!  Nobody understood that the smell of blood when I went to the bathroom turned my stomach, or that there was a small, tiny sliver of time when everything was okay.  It wasn’t a time I could pinpoint on the clock, it was just a feeling.  It couldn’t be filled with too much light of day or darkness of night.  There was only one hour and when that hour was up and darkness began, I grew cold and couldn’t warm up again until the next day at the same hour.

I longed for someone to say they could relate.  I found women who said they had struggled after their babies were born, but they went for walks and got better or switched to bottle feeding and got better or took medication and got better.  I felt defective, alone, inadequate and hopeless.

Family came over and said, “Go take a nap in your bedroom.  We’ll take care of her.”  I went to lay down on top of our comforter and my thoughts wouldn’t stop racing.  I didn’t even have time to decipher them, I only knew the thoughts weren’t good.  I repeated to myself, “God, please make it stop.  God, please take this away.  God, please make it stop.  God, please take this away.”  I was laying on the bed, pleading to God with my eyes, like someone who’d had their mouth taped shut.

One morning, I woke from a restless night and went into the living room.  Chris and Grace were still asleep.  I was doing my first daily check of my child development books to see if there was an answer I had missed.  I was shivering even though I wasn’t cold and suddenly I was overcome with the feelings and the thoughts that I was never going to get better.  I had visions of shredding my flesh and punching holes through walls.  I was supposed to be alone with Grace part of the day.  I couldn’t trust myself to be alone with myself, let alone my baby girl.

I felt nauseous, my heart was racing and I had so much energy that I didn’t know what to do.  I woke Chris and told him I needed to go to the psychiatric hospital.  I couldn’t take it anymore.  Once again, the flood gates broke open.

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