Let your smile change the world, but don’t let the world change your smile.
A song of ascents.
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
Over the past few years I have lifted my eyes toward the heaven to plead for help. He has thrown a lot at us in a short seven years. Two episodes of Postpartum Mood Disorder, depression during pregnancy, relocating, a daughter with a cleft palate, an unexpected pregnancy, a totaled vehicle, jail, addiction recovery, and then there’s regular life on top of all of those extreme issues.
We have managed to come through all of it. Not unscathed, but still together. As a family. It is because He has carried us. Through all of this, He has been teaching us. Perhaps we are a bit slow to catch on but with each new challenge a wisdom from our previous situation has been applicable. Through Him, we have learned that God is truly our “shade at your right hand.” He is the reason we have been kept from true harm, the reason we have been safe even in the midst of what has seemed like hell.
Along the way, He has allowed us to witness the beauty of our daughter’s growth as she overcomes the challenges faced because of her cleft palate. The strength our five year old holds within her is more beautiful than anything I have ever or ever will witness. The determination she shows as she speaks each word with deliberate precision is more determination than most people ever hold within them in their entire lives.
Within the past few weeks, Sheila Walsh has been promoting her new book, The Shelter of God’s Promises, on Twitter.
I realized that the past few years have literally been lived within that shelter provided so unfailingly by God. Yes, it’s been hard. Yes, there have been times when the wind has whipped at us, when the rain has driven through us and chilled us to the bone, but we have had shelter. We have been safe. Fed, comforted, loved, carried, and protected even when we have not been able to feel His presence. We have not been alone. God has been there, always. He always will be there. He will never forsake you, even if you forsake Him. And that? Is a very powerful realization.
I have only read the introduction of The Shelter of God’s Promises but it struck home. Sheila talks about a trip she and two friends took into a mountain. In the middle of the night, a mountain sheep decided to sleep on top of her tent, causing her to seek shelter elsewhere in the middle of storm. But in the morning when she awoke, she was greeted by a gorgeous sunrise and day. God put her there to see the beauty he created, to show her that no matter what, He was her shelter. I am blessed to have the same shelter in Him. Grateful, beyond belief.
Where is your shelter? Do you feel comforted by His presence even in the face of all that swirls around you? Is there something you could do to move closer to living in the Shelter of God’s Promises? What one thing will you do this week to move closer to the shelter He offers you?
Today, for the first time in years, my toes and the Atlantic Ocean made contact.
I grew up on the Jersey Shore (NO, not THAT Jersey Shore – mention it again and I’m a send someone with a whole lotta vowels in their last name your way) just mere seconds away from the ocean. I suffered from perma-tan as a result of spending almost every waking minute on the sands of the beach during summers at my grandmother’s house.
We had a routine – we’d hang out, then eat cream cheese and jelly sandwiches on toast while watching The Price is Right (with Bob, not this new guy, Drew). We’d pack up the station wagon after the show was over to glide the 5 measly blocks to the ocean. Hot metal car seatbelts do NOT feel good against young skin, lemme tell you what. Then, we’d slather on sunscreen and go running smack dab into the ocean.
The afternoon always passed too quickly in squeals of delight, screams of fear after stings of jellyfish, and whoops of joy as huge waves carried our brave bodies toward shore, hurling us unfailingly into the hard sand underneath the soft water. We’d laugh, get up, and run smack dab back into the ocean all over again.
The grandmother with whom I spent all that time with at the beach, at the Atlantic Ocean, is now a part of the ocean. She passed away well over 10 years ago and her ashes were spread in the Atlantic.
Today I said hello.
Tomorrow I will run with glee smack dab into the ocean to give her the biggest damned hug of my life.
I am home.
What I love about books, especially my favorites, is that each time I read them, I am struck by the power of some new phrase. Some new something in the novel speaks to me as if I were reading it for the first time. I’m finishing up my non-fiction unit with my freshmen. We’ve just read Night by Elie Wiesel.
Wiesel is a Holocaust survivor and his story, sparse in the telling, is powerful. Moving. Emotional.
I’ve probably read this novel 15 times, but never through the lens of postpartum depression.
Until this time.
“Eight short, simple words. Yet that was the time when I parted from my mother… Tzipora held Mother’s hand…my mother was stroking my sister’s fair hair, as though to protect her…and I did not know that in that place, at that moment, I was parting from my mother and Tzipora forever” (Wiesel 27).
Wiesel and his father spent a year in the concentration camps and their love for one another is often seen as the thing that drives them both to continue living. Mentions of his mother are infrequent as she does not survive.
But the memories he does share are of her strength. Her determination to care for and love her children. To not let them see her struggle with what she knows may happen to her family. To protect them from the cruelty in the world around them.
As I read this passage to my students, I thought of postpartum mothers, desperate to seem “normal” in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Wanting nothing more than to hide their struggles from loved ones. And as I read that passage, tears crept into my throat, causing me to choke just a little bit on the words.
I’d been that woman. Sometimes, I still am that woman. That mother trying so hard to show the world that I have it all together.
Monday night in the #PPDChat, we talked about what postpartum looks like for us. When it’s more than just tears. The conversation drifted away from the topic as it sometimes does and some of us began chatting about what those early days had been like.
The moment Joshua was placed in my arms in that recovery room, my love for him was immediate. Fierce. Never ending and unconditional. We didn’t bond right away, but I knew that I loved him more than I loved myself.
Now as I re-read that passage, I think of how Wiesel’s mother must have felt as she walked that path. How her bravery wasn’t really for the rest of the world. It was for her son and daughter. Had she been alone, she likely would have wept bitterly.
And then I find myself thrust from my musings back into today and I realize that this struggle to save face isn’t so much for me as it is for him. I fight so that he may never have to know what it’s like to live with mental illness. I fight because I love him. Because I want him to have a mother who is healthy and whole because that is the least that he, in all of his innocence, deserves.
I keep walking this path of recovery for him. I battle against the darkness, the despair, and the pain for him.
I have survived this not so that I CAN love him. But because I DO love him.
Miranda is a wife, mother, teacher, daughter, friend, and NOT a super mom. At best, and worst, she’s average. But with a cape and tiara? She could probably save the world. She blogs about life as a mom and wife and PPD/A survivor at the blog Not Super…Just Mom.
Through #PPDChat, I have met a wonderful new mama, Yael Saar. You can find her at PPD to Joy.
Tomorrow night marks the first of what we hope will become a series of calls for blogging mamas with Postpartum Depression.
Bring any questions you may have with you. In fact, go ahead and post them over at Yael’s place so we can better answer them during tomorrow night’s call. The call will be at 830p ET. Instructions for signing up are also at PPD to Joy here.
I am so very excited about this call! I hope you can join us. If not, still go ahead and sign up as we’re recording the call and it will be available to listen for those who are unable to make it or get called away by motherhood in the middle of the call. You can sign up as late as 700 pm ET tomorrow night!
Hope to talk with you tomorrow!
Lately, I’ve been getting this question more often than any other question.
“Do the thoughts ever go away?”
A close second is “Does it ever get better?”
Every time I hear these questions, I tense up. I don’t know how to respond more often than not. So I take a deep breath and answer according to my experience. Thing is, not everyone’s experience’s are the same, a point I try to emphasize. With Postpartum, we all drag our own history to the table, our support access, our thoughts, our demons. We don’t all look the same in the mirror at the end of the day.
My youngest child is three years old.
The daughter I had my last Postpartum OCD experience with turns 5 on Monday.
I still have thoughts.
Not so much about harming the children. But “What if this or what if That” or “What if I…”
Many of these thoughts are remnants of my over-extended stay in Postpartumville.
And that’s the key to realizing that I am no longer there… the ability to recognize these thoughts as remnants, not recorded loops intensely playing over and over and over and over and over in my head.
Now? I can stop them before they even get past “What if….” most of the time.
Sometimes they sneak past the “What if…” and I get into what I call the “meat” of the thought. The event, the horror, the THING of which I should not be thinking. The thing which would make a good mom turn ghost white if I were to share this thought with her. This dark thought which, right now, is swirling about in my head, how do I sit next to another mom and try to act as if everything is okay? They spring into my head everywhere. At church, in the car, at home, outside, at the grocery store.. everywhere.
How do I make them stop?
I physically shake my head back and forth and say “NO!” outloud. Seriously. Sometimes I’ll just shake my head back and forth and tell myself NO silently if I were with others.
Some women aren’t able to stop things so easily as that though. Many women find it helpful to start listing state capitols, colors, states, the alphabet, or a list of any sort. Doing a challenging puzzle like Sudoku or a word search has helped some. It’s also interesting to note here that Tetris has been proven to be a valuable resource/therapy for soldiers with PTSD. It may also work for moms struggling with OCD and intrusive thoughts. Others may knit or read a book. But it’s important to really engage your mind and distract it from the negative thoughts flowing through it so if you choose something to distract you, be sure it fully engages your mind rather than just part of it.
It’s hard for me to tell a mom that the thoughts never completely go away. But they get easier to corral, easier to stop before they carry you down to the depths of hell as they once did. When you’re in that very dark place, the thoughts are like a swarm of flies. You can’t make them go away with just one swat. You have to cover yourself in all sorts of things to get them to dissipate. But once you’ve moved even further away, the thoughts get to be like the random housefly. If you ignore it, it’ll go elsewhere and no harm is done.
I sincerely hope this helps some of those who have been asking this question lately. It may not be what you wanted to hear but I sincerely hope you find some solace within my answer.
Take care of you, always.