BY: Kathleen E Frey

 

“I have made you and I will carry you. I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46:4

 

“I’m not okay,” I say to my mother over the phone, pressing my infant son tightly against my chest. This is my fifth experience with postpartum depression: four births and one miscarriage. This doesn’t mean, however, that it’s any less painful, any less wrought with irrational guilt and shame this time around. Even logically understanding the symptoms does not lessen their weight on my heart. It does not ease the concern of my loved ones, my support system. 

 

It does, however, lessen the amount of time it takes me to cope with the condition. I know the signs. I didn’t always and not all women do, regardless of how many times. Thankfully, I know not to wait before telling my husband, “I’m struggling.” I know not to wait to call my doctor to adjust my usual meds. I know not to wait to schedule a session with my therapist. It is through these measures, endurance, and prayer that I know I will feel better eventually. I know to pray for comfort and guidance rather than forgiveness for being the way that I am, the way that God made me. And that is what’s at the crux of it all—God made me this way. 

 

I am a person with depression and anxiety, and the severity of these illnesses is compounded by the aftermath of pregnancy and childbirth. On the flip side, I’m also a person of profoundly deep feeling. I empathize with people who otherwise feel misunderstood and alone. In many ways, this makes me a more aware educator, mother, wife, and friend. In many ways, this also makes me somewhat of an outsider, an introvert. I know I’m not alone in being this way, but it sure feels like it sometimes. Maybe someone reading this knows exactly what I mean?

 

When I leave a crowded room, I feel hungover from the joyful, insecure, sad, excited cocktail of vibes swirling through me. It is a lot to stomach, and so I often choose the solace of my own home over group gatherings. (Empaths know: the struggle is real. I feel ya. Pun intended.) I’m learning to hone my empathy and protect my state of mind from the influx of others’ coming at me full speed. But, not today. The happy screams, let alone the whining and bickering typical of three boys 6 and under, are too much for my system today. The people I love more than anyone on the planet feel like too many people. Hell, I feel like too many people. 

 

I try to hide my tears from the boys. Not because “we don’t cry” in our family, but because I don’t have the energy to explain after they’d inevitably ask, “What’s wrong momma?” My mom gets it and she’s on her way. The baby is sleeping soundly against me. My arms caress his back, his chubby fist lies against my chest. I can feel his hummingbird heartbeat flutter against my own pounding pulse. His sweet, soft breaths cool against my fevered skin. I’m holding him, yes, but really he’s holding me. This defies the properties of mass and the capability of his gross motor muscles. Nevertheless, he’s holding me. Like a warm, comforting, small blanket that occasionally burps and toots, he’s holding me.

 

And I ask myself, is this fair? Is it fair to put such a heaviness on his tiny shoulders? He doesn’t know he holds me, carries me through the day. He doesn’t know how I depend on him to pick me up. He doesn’t know, and yet, he never fails me. It’s not his job, and yet he never fails me. It’s not fair, and yet he never fails me…but maybe, just maybe, this is how it’s supposed to be? God works through those who make themselves available. My son has no reason to thwart grace, no pride to block good works. And so, maybe it is God holding me, holding my son, holding us.

 

I carried this child within my body for a time. He nestled in my womb, shared my life force for longer than he’s been earth-side so far. He was a part of me, and I, a part of him. Now, he carries me for a time. It feels right to hold one another, to match each other’s breaths with the tempo of our spirits, trying for a moment to remember the comfort of safety in the womb.     

 

Have you been recently pregnant or know someone who has been recently pregnant? 

Please, know the signs of postpartum depression :

https://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/mental-health-conditions/postpartum-depression

 

PPD is a taboo topic, like so many mental health conversations that go unspoken. I share a snippet of my story, hoping it will help at least one momma feel validated. Your story could be the one someone needs to hear. Even if it’s anonymous. Even if it’s just to say, “I’ve been there” and nothing else—someone needs to hear it. Please, feel welcome to share by commenting below and/ or sharing this post on social media. Help normalize mental-health-talk one word, one phrase, one conversation at a time. Thanks for being here. 

 

* I’m speaking from personal experience and am not a medical professional. If you or someone you know may be suffering from PPD, please contact a medical professional. Help is out there. You’re not alone. 

By: the Documom Kathleen E Frey

 

10 thoughts on “Carry Me

  1. Your words are beautiful …. always stay this beautiful authentic person …. I understand our souls empathic nature and how unsettling it can be at times …. just know that you are helping others by your experience …. tons of love to you always

  2. This would make for such a beautiful homily! Plumbing your experience, you’ve brought scripture alive in every day life. Every mom in the pew will not only understand, but be lifted (“carried”?) by what you share. Although I’m a guy and haven’t been pushed to understand PPD in a personal way, us guys do have moms and wives or partners we love and care for. But moreover, yours is a story of suffering, love and redemption for all of us just trying to live a life in gratitude from one day to the next. Thanks.

    • Ed, I’m glad you could relate to the under current of this piece. My husband would second what you say in every way. I believe experiences, painful and otherwise, are felt residually in strong marriages. It’s not a bad thing. It’s not always an easy thing. Thank you so much for reading and responding

  3. Charles Heil says:

    Katie that is so beautiful and im sure your knowledge will help other moms i am so proud of you as a mother and wife I think about you guys all the time and once my new store and my new company gets running smoothly we will be home to see every body love you and miss you guys ,your Dad

  4. Tami Sonnenberg says:

    “I’m holding him, yes, but really he’s holding me. This defies the properties of mass and the capability of his gross motor muscles. Nevertheless, he’s holding me.” “And so, maybe it is God holding me, holding my son, holding us.” Bingo! To hold a child is to feel God’s love in it’s purest form.
    Katie, you simplify such deep inward thoughts and emotions one carries in their heart at some time in life. Whether it’s a mother with PPD or a father with PTSD. Mental Health and the challenges it brings daily can be narrowed down to one thing. God carries us through the hardest moments in life. But if One does not have the love of another, or maybe just to love One’s self, how lost One can become. Swallowed up in this world. I’ve been there.
    “God made me the way I am.” I believe this takes great faith and lots of prayer to accept. And yet it is enlightening to think about. So all those poor traits I believed I had are actually gifts bestowed on me? Gifts God made to put my puzzle pieces together? Thinking outside of the box is needed. Being an empath is difficult. Others critique my personality traits. I don’t ask to be critiqued. I simply want to share my instinctive feelings and perspective which comes in a giant colored aura I feel bouncing off of another onto me. I may needed sunglasses to stand in a person’s presence. I hate confrontation and it burns my neck and face, exposing my emotions for all to see. Dang it! Hard not to ask why God made me the way I am. What good comes out of anxiety and recurrent major depression? Again, it takes great faith and lots of prayer. The Rosary, St. Dymphna, bedtime prayers, Scripture, etc.. Many times in my life I have challenged my mental diagnoses. As I grow older looking back, there is one thing I have found to be my saving grace, my children. When I was at my lowest, consumed by anxiety and so deep in that black hole with no way out, it hit me. My husband and I were living in our beautiful, newly built house, in Fort Bragg, NC. With my two beautiful children, 3 and 41/2 years old. I was bulimic, home sick, paranoid, lonely, and ashamed. What was there to be unhappy about? How ungrateful and spoiled of me. I spent hours hiding my sadness for my children. Crying myself to sleep. Praying myself to sleep. Realizing at age 27, I was a victim of child molestation. What? Why, was this surfacing now? My therapist told me I was depressed and had an eating disorder. I argued with her and said, “I’m not depressed! I just don’t want to be FAT!” I weighed 100lb and just needed to get to 99lb! My body defined who I was, inside and out. As I worked through each session with my therapist, the day came when she asked me to tell her what happen with my Uncle when I was 3 years old. It all came out as if it were the day in ’68! When I finished talking I found myself sobbing, my arms wrapped around myself, rocking back and forth. It was out and I just spilled my guts to someone who would not judge me! When I left that day I will never forget how physically exhausted I had become. My body was like a sopping dish rag, flopped over in the car. My husband did not speak a word and just drove me home. My children were oblivious to what had just transpired. They wanted to stop for ice cream on the way home. They wanted to go to Blockbuster and rent a movie. They wanted spaghetti for supper. I went through the motions with my husband’s help. When could I collapse and sleep, was my repeated thought for the rest of the day. My husband received a call from his C.O. He was being called to the field ASAP. His bag packed and out the door, BOOM! There I was alone with my two beautiful, innocent children. Momma, can you read us a story? Ugh!! So I chose to get out my big children’s bible, with all the colorful pictures. Scripture told in stories. I read to them with their little bodies snuggled up on each side of me. It was magical. It overflowed in me. God’s love was present all along. In my children. They were my guardian angels. We made it a tradition and read “momma’s bible from when she was little, book”. Katie, your title, “Carry Me”, is perfect!
    Love, Mom xoxoxo (please ignore my grammatical errors 😉

    • Thanks for sharing you story, mom. Very brave of you! Yes, I do believe God uses our frailties to do good works, if we don’t get in the way that is. I’ve learned much from you, which goes without saying. Perhaps most importantly, I learned to be open about how I feel rather than hiding it all away. I love you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>