I’ve done my best to be completely honest in the things I write on this blog. But no matter how open I am, whether consciously or unconsciously, everything I say goes through some sort of filter. These past few months that filter has been one of wanting to appear strong.
In the beginning, I was a hot mess and basically, I just word vomited onto my keyboard. But as I pushed through the early intensity of my grief and found purpose in wanting to help others through their own struggles, I have found myself posting only things that I think might be encouraging to others and give me the appearance of strength in order to give hope to those who are going through their own seasons of difficulty.
We give power to ourselves through our words. So when I say that I am choosing to be strong, that gives life to my strength. The same thing goes for others. If I tell a friend that he is courageous, that causes his courage to come to life. The opposite is also true, we can cause negative things to come to life by speaking them over ourselves and others. This is why it is so important to surround ourselves with those who speak life and not death over us.
So my choice to say I am strong and try to project the appearance of strength is not because I am trying to hide or deceive and it’s not because I want to look good for others. It’s because I get to choose to be the kind of person that I want to be and I’m choosing to be strong.
But even though the strength I’ve shown is the truth… I need to be open with the rest of the truth.
The truth is.. I’m not always strong. In fact, there are many days that I am weak, where all I want to do is lay on the couch and scroll Facebook because I don’t have the energy or motivation to do anything else.
The truth is.. I often feel alone. I thought that I had moved passed this part. I used to dread laying down in an empty bed. That nightly consuming loneliness went away for a while, but in the last week or so I have been feeling that void again. I miss falling asleep and feeling the warmth of someone I love on my back. There’s so much security in that little detail of life and it’s so often taken for granted.
The truth is.. as I approach my son’s birth, I am frightened. It might have been easier if this had been my first baby. But I know what’s coming. I’m not afraid of the physical act of childbirth. I am not afraid of the pain. I’ve done it once before completely unmedicated and it wasn’t as bad as I had expected. No, it’s not the pain of contractions, it’s not the pain of pushing or tearing. That pain I can handle. I’m not worried about that at all. It’s the emotional pain of this birth that terrifies me.
The hormones involved in pre and post-childbirth are not something to be lightly dismissed. I had an easy childbirth with a supportive, loving husband and family all around me and afterward I still found myself weeping over ridiculous little things. I remember once I was crying over something stupid. The logical part of my brain knew it was stupid, but those hormones wouldn’t let me stop crying. Jon tried to help but there wasn’t a thing he could do about it. I literally told him to ignore me and go relax and play a video game because once the hormones let up I won’t care at all about the thing that I was crying about.
It was a funny story to tell after those hormones had finally passed out of my system. But it frightens me now. If was crying over pacifiers and needing to supplement a few bottles of formula then.. how am I going to deal with the real problems, challenges, and emotions that I will face when my son is born? It scares me. Last time I had Jon to help me through it. He could read my face and know when I needed help or a hug. I didn’t need to ask. Which is good, because I am terrible at asking for emotional support. In fact, I rarely ask.
The post-pregnancy hormones only lasted a few weeks and I was back to my normal self. But there is another emotional danger for me this time. I had forgotten about it because last time I didn’t deal with it.
Today my doctor talked to me about postpartum depression. It’s fairly common, even with women whose lives are not echoing with trauma. My doctor is concerned that this might be a very real possibility for me. That I need to have people checking up on me.
Now, I am still choosing to be strong. I am not going into this birth with the belief that I will be depressed afterward. But as much as I am determined to overcome, I’m still only human. There are limits to what I can do alone.
The truth is I don’t ask for help because secretly I fear being perceived as needy, annoying, or burdensome. Unfortunately, when I was 18, depressed and suicidal I did not have a good community around me. I hid what I was going through from my family. The friends I did attempt to reach out to ended up avoiding me. They’d see me log in to Instant Messenger and immediately would log off. So my reaction to that was to stop asking people for help.
(Thankfully I have a much better quality of friends in my life now and my struggle in this season hasn’t been hidden.)
I know I need to unlearn that belief. But it’s not been a big issue because Jon had learned to recognize what I needed. He knew that if I said my pain was at a 6 it was probably a 10 and if I said I needed something it meant I *really* needed it and had probably needed it for a while.
I guess I am writing this as a heads-up to those of you who know me. I’m likely going to need more help than I ask for. So I’m asking now before I actually need anything. The months following giving birth will probably be the hardest since the months immediately following Jon’s death.
The newborn season is very hard, even with a husband. So I am most likely going to be hyper-aware of his absence every minute of each day until I get through those first two or three months. When the time comes, I might not know what I need if you ask me, but if you aren’t sure what to do, all of the things I wrote about here will apply once again.
I want to take a moment to thank you all. To my readers who continue to support and encourage me with your comments, messages, and shares. To my friends who have constantly been there for me these past 8 months, even when you couldn’t be physically present. To my family who has made this dark season as easy for me as possible. Know I would not have been able to make it this far without you. Because of you all, even though I know the next couple of months are going to be difficult, I know I will make it through.
Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
Photo credit: Angela Demsick Photography
I attempted suicide three years ago…
Depression not something fun.