I made it.

I had fully intended not to write about this day. I was going to let it come and go like any other day without much of an acknowledgment.

I sat down to study Hebrews, the book that my fabulous discipler friend and I have been going through the last few months.

I pressed play on iTunes as I pulled up biblegateway.com and listened to the song that has become so familiar to me, “Arms that Hold the Universe” by 33 Miles.

As the first few notes began to play, I remembered how I used to cling to the lyrics in this song during the deepest of my struggle. It became my “theme song”. (Ever watch Ally McBeal?)

Then I was smacked in the face with the realization that today marks the one year anniversary of when it all came crashing down.

I covered my face and felt so overcome with emotion I almost exploded. The tears didn’t come like I thought they would. I was instead filled with an overwhelming amount of gratitude and was literally speechless before God.

I can’t explain why the passing of 365 days since the onslaught is remarkable. I feel like I have permission to look over my shoulder at the experience of my postpartum illness, acknowledge it for what it was, and then look ahead with confidence and continue to walk away. With His grace…..

I made it.

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Love

“Dad! Tomorrow is ValenTIME’s day!” my oldest told my husband.

“Oh, yah? What does that mean?”

“Love!” he shouted with a reckless abandoment.

I could not suppress a grin. His enthusiasm for Valentine’s Day was comparable to his joy and wonder of Christmas.

We celebrated by making homemade “cupid’s arrow” valentine’s for his classmates with pretzels and gummy hearts. “Franklin’s Valentine” was read at our routine breakfast table story time. Serving as the mom volunteer for his Valentine’s party at preschool, I was able to watch the children make crafts and decorate cookies.

His face lit up with each Valentine he opened from his friends when we looked through his bag.

The boys and I met my husband at Red Robin’s for dinner; my four year old’s absolute favorite place to go out to eat. I don’t know whether his excitement over eating there or his excitement for me not having to cook was higher. (I shared with him how happy that made me). “And Mom! You don’t even have to cook!” He threw up his hands in disbelief.

I have not had a more rewarding Valentine’s day as I watched it through the eyes of my son. I never put much stock into the commercialism of it all, but when he responded with his one word “love” answer I was sold.

Lord, I cannot thank you enough. You loved me enough to allow Your Son to die for me. Thank you for showing my son how important Love is and how fully he is able to express it at such a young age.

 

On being a Mama

There is nothing more endearing as a mother of boys then seeing my four year old with a fresh haircut, in cammo shorts, shirtless, boxing gloves, beating the heck out of his Hulk Hogan pop em’ sock em’. Oh, and he’s yelling, “You wanna piece of me? Huzzah!” and throws and uppercut.

Or telling him not to pick his nose and eat his boogers….for the 23rd time at least.

Or hearing him say, “Momma, I will be in your heart forever and will always be your son”.

Or when my almost 16 month old wakes up with the worst case of bedhead you have ever seen and smiles at me with is pacifier in his mouth when we wakes up in the morning.

Then there are the moments when either of them cry and they make the same face they did when they came into this world.

There’s the determination on my youngest’s face when he is denied something he wants and is trying to figure out a way to get it. His eyesbrows furrow and I recognize that as my “concentration face”.

Throwing goldfish on the carpet for my littlest because I know that’s where they will end up anyway while I try to finish a dvd workout, and end up picking him up half way through because he wants to be held. He laughs as we spin and jump together and I fall in love just a little bit more.

And all of that just happened in a week.

The wonder of motherhood and the intensity of emotions is something that will forever baffle me. This complex gift is one that I take with a great sense of honor and gratitude. How I wish, oh how I wish, I could just hold on to these days! They slip away like grains of sand through my fingers.

Waiting

FYI: Blog written in two parts…

Part 1 (Saturday the 4th)

I am sitting in the waiting room of a radiology suite for an ultrasound. The instructions I received to fast after midnight have left me with a headache and hunger pangs. My throat is dry and I was instructed not to take any medications, so you can imagine I am anxiously awaiting this to be over with so the delicate balance of consistency doesn’t wreak havoc.

I have signed in, filled out some paperwork, sat back down, and am now back in the waiting room.  Baby steps to complete this whole process.

All that to say this parallels with the recovery process of postpartum OCD and depression.  I have touched on this before, but today I am discouraged.  The last day and a half have been “yucky” days and it feels like two steps forward and one step back.

I get so frustrated because all I want is to be content, even-keeled, and be the fun mama I was designed to be.

Part 2 (Thursday the 8th)

After I was called to go into the procedure room I was asked if I had filled my bladder. I hadn’t. Apparently I was supposed to have consumed 30 oz of water one hour prior to my procedure. So guess what? I waited all that time and had to reschedule. Annoyed and frustrated I left.

My couple yucky days have passed and I am feeling like “me” again. It can be so frustrating to think that you have “arrived” at your destination of healing only to find that you are stuck in an unexpected layover. Your brain is waiting on the tarmac before takeoff. The pilot doesn’t tell you how long the wait will be or what number plane you are. You are forced to sit on the plane, with the seatbelt sign on, and you can’t get up. Just thinking about it makes me feel claustrophobic.

Finally you taxi down the run way and soar ever so gently into the sky and feel the weight lifted away.

 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

a time for everything….

I left active duty service as a Navy Nurse almost 4 years ago.

I married almost 6 years ago.

My father passed away from a massive heart attack at the age of 49 almost 8 years ago.

I earned my commission as a Naval Officer and graduated from ECU with a BSN a little over 8 years ago.

I remember my college experience as a four year chunk of time, as well as high school.

I share these mundane facts with you because I am wondering how I will perceive looking back on this particular chapter. Will the pain that threatens to resurface at times be a distant memory? Will it seem like it was all a dream and never really happened? Will I categorize it into a block of time as I have with my past? Will I always have a dormant false sense of shame and guilt associated with my postpartum OCD?

Or will things fade as they always seem to, bit by bit, until I can recall major life events but forget the details?

Like the sound of my baby’s belly laugh. That is a song in itself that I wish to never let go. Or how at 15 months he tackles me into a hug on the floor.

If I try hard enough, I can still “hear” my father’s voice and laugh….and can almost remember how it felt to embrace my barrel chested daddy, feeling a sense of safety and security.

I don’t ever want to forget that at one time (that time being now)  my oldest often and spontaneously tells me how much he loves me and how beautiful he thinks I am.

I don’t want to lose the moments that matter. I could definitely do without fleeting memories of the horror of living through postpartum hell. The constant physical sense of panic in my chest. The heaviness of darkness threatening to consume me. The uncertainity and fear. I have never, ever felt that much fear in my entire life. I would have felt less fear being held at gunpoint than the fear I felt at the worst of my illness. Extreme? Yes. But so are postpartum mood disorders.

I praise God that I can identify the good with the bad. You cannot have one without the other. I praise Him that his sense of time is unlike ours, and depsite what may feel like an eternity is merely a proverbial drop in the bucket.

“I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end….I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.”

Ecclesiastes 3:10-11; 14

16

As I walked through 2nd & Charles yesterday, I talked to a very dear close friend of mine from college. Wandering the store for almost an hour, I shared my struggle with postpartum OCD and she shared her unexpected struggle with postpartum anxiety.

While finishing up my conversation, a new friend and I spotted each other.  She previously revealed to me that she too struggled with depression after the birth of her first child and is now expecting again. We decided to take our kiddos to lunch and had a great conversation.

While dropping off my oldest at preschool that morning, a friend from church told me she appreciated my blog and had struggled after her first pregnancy.  She passed it along to someone who was currently struggling.

All that postpartum awareness in one day! I love it!

16 – that is the number of you beautiful women who have communicated to me at least one of the following:

  • I went through that.
  • I’m going through this now.
  • I thought I was going crazy.
  • I didn’t know anyone else had those thoughts.
  • I felt alone and didn’t know what to do.

How amazing is that!!! You all didn’t know there were so many of us, did you? 😉

I want to thank all of you for trusting me with your struggles and encourage you to keep persevering. Postpartum illness does not discriminate against age, race, or which number pregnancy you might be experiencing.

I am proud of all you mamas, and all the ones out there that I don’t know who are struggling, and continue to pray for you and praise God for you. I praise Him for bringing these amazing women to my life and for giving me the means to speak for those who are too afraid to speak.

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”

Philippians 2:1-2

seeing through the fog

I found my new prayer spot this morning. Our townhouse has 3 levels, the second having a sliding glass door leading out onto a deck. The sun rises spectacularly from this view, despite the treeline and row of townhouses that dot the horizon.

I wrapped myself in a blanket and tucked my feet underneath me as I gazed out and absorbed the tapestry of colors that our Creator so lovingly designed.

At some point in the midst of praying, for whatever reason I started to “fog” up the window. If you had been sitting on the opposite side of the door you would have seen a crazy woman with disheveled hair and pink socks, blowing her hot morning breath all over the glass with a wide open mouth. I had a flashback to childhood riding in the backseat of our car and doodling aimlessly on the window before the defroster kicked in and did it’s job.

When my foggy circle was complete, I leaned my forehead against the window and looked through it. As I gazed through my “artwork”, I could only make out the shape of the deck posts and roofs of the homes behind us. I equated it to having a need for glasses and instantly felt bad for all my of friends with visual impairments. (Love you all!)

As I continued to stare, the fog slowly diminished from the outside in. I likened it to tunnel vision, except instead of losing sight, everything became clearer. It dawned on me how similar my little science experiment is from healing from a postpartum mood disorder.

When your vision becomes blurred by postpartum illness (or any difficulty) and you can’t “blink” it away as if you had a speck of dust in your eye, you panic and have a sense of complete despair that you will never see clearly again. You feel as if all hope is gone and things will never get better. But it does get better. Not overnight. Not in a week, or a month, or maybe a few months…and in some cases it takes longer than that. But it DOES get better. Day by day that circle of fog diminishes every so slowly from the outside in, getting smaller and smaller until all is clear again and hope has been restored. It is my prayer for you this morning if you are looking through the fog, you can find strength with God’s promises to look past it and know that there is clarity and healing on the other side of it.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

Psalm 43:5

all is stripped away

I stood at the kitchen sink last night peeling the skin of an apple for my oldest son. He loves apples but hates the skin. He also doesn’t like the “yucky parts” where the apple is bruised from being mishandled or past it’s ripening date. After peeling the apple, I inspect it for “yucky parts” and dig them out with the tip of the peeler. The flesh of the apple ends up with mini craters, perhaps not the most appealing to look at, but nevertheless meets my son’s approval for consumption.

As I watched the red strips fall one by one into the sink, it occurred to me that God does the same with our lives. We all walk around with a facade; our “people” face so that others may not reject us (or perhaps we won’t reject ourselves). As we place our trust in Christ, he begins to peel away this mask and uncover the bruised spots of our hearts. We all have them. Whether these bruises are caused by our own sin or the sin of another, they continue to rot us “to the core” if we allow them to. Without Christ to dig out our imperfections, hurts, fear, sin, and so on, we will remain covered in spots. The alternative is to allow Him to do what only He can do: the work of forgiving, healing, and restoration. We may be left looking less than perfect, but we now have approval in the eye’s of the Father. Despite our pock-marked appearance, we can rest in Him knowing that only He can repair the damage in our hearts.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

1 Corinthians 5:17

A New Look

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I began my blog efforts with blogger.com. In keeping with my desire to keep 2012 “simple” I have switched my blogging endeavors to wordpress.com

I hope that you will continue to read sanctified mess and find encouragement from it. My prayer is that while I will forever be connected to my postpartum illness, that my writing would begin to reflect what recovery is like and life afterward. You know, the joys of parenting two boys under 5, being a new stay at home mom, and all the hilarity and eccentricity that comes with the territory.

I am in love with the clean appearance of this particular blog template, and yes, Karen, I did “steal” it from you. Hope you don’t mind. 🙂

And yes, those are my feet.

There WILL Be a Day

My postpartum OCD set upon me like a wildfire to a forest. Out of nowhere, a blaze began and traveled rampantly, attempting to destroy all of my joy and leave devastation in it’s wake. I remember the date specifically, February 22.

As much I would like to forget this date, I will never be able to look upon it again as “just a date on a calendar”.

I shared briefly with my MOPS group (Mothers of Preschoolers) about my blog and mentioned the specificity of knowing exactly the moment my world came crashing down around me.

A fellow MOPS Mom shared with me after that she had “a date” as well. She distinctly remembered when things went awry for her as well.

My one year anniversary of my PPOCD onset is approaching quickly. I can praise God that He has graciously delivered me quickly (though not fully) from this terrifying chapter in my life, as many women do not experience the “quick” recovery I did. Many moms don’t recover from a postpartum mood disorder until 1.5-2 years after the onset of their illness.

Lately I have been struggling with the “what if’s”. What if this comes back? What if that thought I just had means it’s coming back? What if I never fully recover?

I believe this is God’s way of bringing me right back to Him. Now that “happy days are here again” when those moments of uncertainty creep in, I HAVE to turn it back to Him and say, “I am Yours. You have saved me. Your Spirit is at work in me. I can look to You during feast and famine”. I don’t know if this episode in my life will always be a thorn for me. It is so easy to praise God when things are going well. It’s also easy to take it for granted. I don’t believe God punished me with a postpartum mood disorder, but I believe He allowed it for a greater purpose. He took what Satan intended for harm and destruction and turned it into something beautiful.

To quote Jeremy Camp:

“There will be a day with no more tears
No more pain, and no more fears
There will be a day when the burdens of this place
Will be no more, we’ll see Jesus face to face
But until that day, we’ll hold on to you always”

“Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes. Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.”
Isaiah 52:8-9