At The Heart of It All, Part 1
Just over 11 years ago, we became parents, when Jed was born into the world. After nearly a year of trying to get pregnant and not succeeding, through what seemed like endless fertility treatments, appointments with the doctor, and all kinds of different tests, we finally became parents. It was all the things that being a brand new parent was: thrilling, scary, mesmerizing, exhausting, funny; all of it. The first two weeks were a blur of bliss and naïvely telling myself “I got this”.
Two weeks nearly to the day that he was born, Jed developed some kind of protein allergy that impacted his digestive system. And I spiraled downward into postpartum depression. I don’t think the two are related; I think the timeline just coincided. What had been blissful turned into dreadful. It didn’t help that he was a terrible sleeper. And a lazy eater. God bless him, he’d fall asleep almost as soon as he’d start eating, but couldn’t - wouldn’t? - fall asleep for naps or bedtime.
I wasn’t prepared for how hard it was. How utterly physically, emotionally, and mentally draining all of it was. Mothers had been having babies for centuries, right? Why wasn’t it easier? Why didn’t it just click? The days were interminable, but the nights were worse. Around the clock feedings, then walking laps around the house, rocking him, shhhshhhing him, pleading with God for him to just GO. TO. SLEEP. I loved my child. He was truly a gift. Someone suggested that I try to be more grateful. It wasn’t that I wasn’t thankful for his little life. But I couldn’t figure out how to be a good mother. I was dying inside. I cried nonstop. My anxiety was through the roof. I couldn’t think straight. I couldn’t make simple decisions. I was terrified of leaving the house with him and even more scared to return home with him where that was nothing to do and yet, allll the things that had to be taken care of.
I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror. I didn’t like who I saw looking back at me. I began to be very angry at God. Why in the world would he have let this happen??? Where was he? I used to spit my prayers at him in the dark of those long, unending nights. A hymn that I used to love played over and over in my mind and I twisted it into an ugly prayer: O God, our help in ages past? Yeah, right. Where’s the help now, God? Our hope for years to come? I don’t think so. My most favorite scripture from Deuteronomy 31:6, He will never leave you nor forsake you. Lies. All of it. How naïve had I been - I was an ordained pastor at the time, for heaven’s sake. How naïve had I been to believe in the goodness of God, when I was suffering in my own personal hell without him? That sounds so harsh; I know what it sounds like. But I’m trying to express the gravity of the situation that I found myself in. I was embarrassed and ashamed of being in that situation. And I didn’t know how to get help. I didn’t even know that help was possible.
I’m pretty sure that Jake saw that there was a problem, but I don’t think he knew what to do with me.
But Ruthie did.
Ruthie was an angel; a member of Jake’s church at the time. (We were serving different churches back then.) She was a vital member of his congregation and had recently retired from her job. She saw how I was not handling new motherhood well at all and invited me to her house one morning at 10:00am. She took Jed from me, sent me upstairs to her guest bedroom to sleep and took care of Jed for almost 2 hours. As I was leaving that first day, she told me to come back the next day. And to stay as long as I wanted. In those last couple weeks of my maternity leave, I spent nearly every day with her. She talked to me about all things baby and mommy. She encouraged me. She helped me. She understood. She loved me. Slowly and gently she brought me back to myself.
After I had returned to work, Ruthie continued to watch Jed for me during the day a couple times a week. I went to pick him up one day when he was about 5 months old. She showed me a picture she’d taken that day. It was of him sitting up all by himself….for the first time. She felt terrible that he’d done it for her instead of me. But I felt something inside me shift and begin to right itself. The more time went on, the more Jed grew, the more I grew as a mommy, the more I could look back and see that God had, in fact, not abandoned me. He’d given me Ruthie. God bless Ruthie. And may she rest in eternal peace.
To be continued...