My hands pressed against the shower tiles while sobs erupted violently from my core. This is not what this was supposed to look like. Giving birth to a baby and increasing our family to four should feel marvelous and wonderful. I shouldn’t be hiding in the shower, cringing from everyone’s touch.
The irony of this month’s writing prompt pricked my skin with every drop of water. Days ago I had been mulling over the theme, “Order,” as a sommelier mulls over a beautifully aged wine. Now that word furiously slapped the harsh reality of the other words I hated–postpartum depression.
The first two weeks after giving birth felt like an endorphin high. I remember walking out of the bedroom one morning with my newborn, seeing my husband making pancakes in the kitchen and listening to our two-year old play with his Rescue Bots. I was riding the waves of ecstasy and life could not be more perfectly in order. Warning flags popped up in my head. I have experienced joy many times in my life, but this didn’t feel like joy. It felt like a crazed, emotional high I could easily get addicted to. It felt vastly different from the intense fear I experienced while in labor just a few days before.
The day our baby boy was going to make his entrance into the world started off with us feeling calm, cool, and collected. Order reigned on this special day. But as the day progressed, my body became weary from labor, and the pace abruptly slowed down. I remember wanting to honor my body’s need for rest and offer it the opportunity to labor at its own pace. I also remember feeling worried that my hope for a quick delivery and the plans I had carefully crafted for the care of my two-year old were about to unravel.
Each hour ticked by with a new complication until I was in tears, gasping for breath, feeling unable to make any decision. Hooked up to oxygen, I watched as my labor and delivery nurse slammed her hand on the code button for baby and yelled for nurses to come in immediately. Terror knocked the breath from my lungs as the nurses changed my position in bed and called my doctor to see if they should prep me for a C-section. Tears coursed down my cheeks as I wondered if this somehow was my fault.
My family held my hands and comforted me with sweet words, assuring me that a C-section was not the end of the world. “As long as you and the baby are okay. That’s all that matters,” they whispered. I could not respond. Terror squeezed my lungs as a single thought consumed me: What if this new life is cut short, and I must leave the hospital without my baby? Chaos reigned where order had once stood.
Shortly after, my doctor and her team wheeled me into surgery to cut my womb open, unwrap the cord twisted around my baby’s body, and pull him out. Everything happened so quickly and orderly–a stark juxtaposition with what was occurring in my heart and mind.
Standing in that shower, weeks later, all the chaos, disappointment, and hurt my heart had been clinging to so tightly came pouring out like burning rage in the heat of steaming water. I had tried so hard to keep my life in order, to keep my emotions in order. The words “just power through it” had replayed in my mind night and day. In stubbornness, I had refused to admit I was depressed. Out of shame, I denied myself the right to be depressed because there was so much joy to experience.
But the truth is, depression doesn’t politely wait for your life to turn upside down before it plagues you. You can’t power through it, and you can’t snap out of it. I’m learning through the dis-order it has created in my mind that all I can do is try to love the broken places in my heart and bless them. I can grieve the fear and disappointments I experienced on my son’s birth day, grieve the loneliness I have experienced in relationships while being at home, grieve the inability to write, read, or have any alone time as I adjust to being a mom of two, and find compassion for all those places.
I am craving order in my messy, beautiful life right now.
I keep asking myself, “Can I love me where I am at right now? Can I kindly embrace the dis-order and ask those around me for what my heart is longing for even when it feels scary?”
Mal Arnold is a passionate Latina wife and mother who is a chaser of dreams and believes in living life with abandon. She writes to pour some of herself out for any who care to experience her heart, but is also an avid reader, lover of old movies and going on journeys with family as well. She has seen heartache and trauma in her past and is learning to let her Maker heal her broken places.