Relenting the rights to my Reputation

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Has anyone ever lied about you and you’ve found yourself floundering to correct the lie?

This is a story of yes, my desire for the lie to be corrected, but also how I’m learning to surrender the rights to my reputation and trust God as my defender. It’s also my attempt to tackle this mommy shaming trend.

After a night of broken sleep, I wandered into the bathroom blurry eyed and desperate for a cup of coffee. I heard the “ding” of my phone sign off, alerting me of an incoming Facebook message. After waking up a bit, I decided to glance at my messages to ensure I hadn’t overlooked something important.

Upon noticing the sender’s name I thought, “how strange, I haven’t talked to her in years!” I opened the message and, surprisingly, a picture of myself stared right back at me. “Ugh. Another one of those scams,” I thought. I moved on, and then felt this inkling to re-visit the message and take a closer look.

Hm. It seemed that it was not a scam. It was legitimately a photo of myself plastered on a popular webpage suggesting I had made remarks about disliking my child and, also, including a false insinuation regarding my husband’s faithfulness.

What’s worse? This website oozed with mommy-shaming.

Mess with me all you want, but the bear in me will, indeed, come out if you mess with my kids or my husband. And if you shame moms who are struggling with their mental health (sic’em).

Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 1.58.44 PM^ This is the click bait photo (so if you were to share the article on social media, this is the icon that would appear in your post), but this is also the photo used for the headline of the article.

I sat for a minute and practiced every form of grounding and relaxation exercise I could think of.

“Okay. It’s okay. This can be the price of this sort of ministry,” I thought to myself, “I won’t be reactive. I’ll sit with this for a while before responding.”

I wrestled with this feeling of powerlessness, and also this fear that me and Ryan’s ministry and reputation could be compromised. After all, not all of my readers know me personally.

“Don’t you know I’m bigger than this flimsy website?” I heard the Lord ask, “I am your defender. I overcome the world.”

I had never encountered this before. The need to know God as my defender. As the defender of my precious children and my husband.

It’s so easy to try and cling to something that I willingly surrendered when I gave my life over to Jesus. When I surrendered my life to Him, I surrendered the rights to my reputation. The rights to my comfort. The rights to my conveniences. He owns these areas of my life, now. And as I allow Him to oversee these pieces, I actually experience greater freedom, and more peace.

This circumstance has brought me to my knees in a different way. It has taught me a new way of trusting God to do what He says he will do as my defender and as a shield around me.

I have written the website, Babygaga, a letter requesting that the article be revised and that my photo be removed. But, more importantly, I’ve asked that they consider featuring my series on Perinatal Mental Health from LivingUncovered.com.

I do believe God could turn this to good. I believe that this particular article can be redeemed as we educate the readers of this site on maternal mental health.

My goal in sharing this is not to correct the lie about my thoughts or my marriage that is out there. Many of my readers follow this blog closely, so even if they do not know me personally, they bear witness to my journey and would hopefully know my truth.

But, for the sake of my children potentially coming across anything false like this one day, and to address the greater lie that abounds at the root of this article: that mothers who struggle with mental health are vile, I would like to see a change made to this article. I desperately hunger to see a change in the way we approach struggling mothers in our society. So, please, advocate. Educate. And Love.

Don’t spread shame. And don’t re-circulate articles that do so.


Please join me in advocating for more gracious and educated coverage of mothers on babygaga.com, and if you feel so led, please encourage them to share my series on perinatal mental health as a springboard for education and conversation.

Here is the article I’m referencing 

Here is an e-mail address where you can send a note. pr@babygaga.com

And here is the contact form for general inquiries

“But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”

2 Thessalonians 3:3

“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

“The Lord is a shield around me; my glory and the lifter of my head.”

Psalm 3:3

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The Smeared Banana Sparkles

Grocery shopping has taken on a whole new meaning after children.

I mean, I used to run in and spend an hour browsing the aisles, reading the labels, sifting the coupons to find the best deal, pausing at the Starbucks for some coffee. I’d pick up some items for work along the way, and I’d usually be in nice pants and a blouse.

Now when I go, I feel like I’m on an episode of survival.

I’m typically wearing exercise clothes. I have the entire store mapped out, and my rout memorized. I know just what to grab off the shelf. No more label reading – if it turns out I’m allergic to the product, I just won’t eat it when I get home, the rest of the family can enjoy it instead. If I realize upon getting home that it contains more sugar than I’d like, oh well.

I consume more than enough coffee before the event, knowing every ounce of caffeine will make a difference. I know just how long I have before a kid melts down. And I’m keenly aware of how many tantrums I can mentally handle.

It was a standard grocery run. I lugged Samuel into the store and held Summer’s hand. I was ready for the challenge.

As was expected, Summer soon began to cry. Samuel followed suit.

I’ve purposed myself to smile when this happens.

I stop. I breathe. I lean in and kiss Summer’s forehead. And talk to her about her behavior, all while offering a genuine smile. I offer this smile because it is so rare that I see parents doing so as their kids meltdown in public.

Even though the grocery store tantrums are one of the more tiring aspects of parenthood, it really is a privilege to coach and grow these little humans. I want to remember that. On this day, I would be reminded of that.

I sincerely do not want to parent her out of a place of anger or rage. So, I am working to choose joy, even in the midst of feeling impatient and frustrated. I want her to know that her behavior is not going to control my emotions or choices. This may not be correct parenting. There is probably some flaw within it that somebody can find. But, nonetheless, it’s what I’ve felt led to do so far.

 

After climbing out of the grocery store trenches unscathed by the cries of my baby or the meltdown of my toddler, I approached the cashier stand with confidence. Summer was still whining for her pacifier and Samuel clearly needed to be fed, but we had collected every item on our list! A true win.

I looked up at the cashier and she was looking at me as though my breast was out of my shirt (this has happened before. Nursing + sleep deprivation = embarrassing moments).

I quickly looked down, praying I hadn’t just waltzed through King Soopers flashing every neighbor I saw.

Nope. I was clothed.

“Is there something in my teeth?” I thought. I did a quick assessment as best as I could. Nope, that wasn’t it.

Feeling self-conscious, I pulled out my wallet and prepared to pay. At this point, I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what she saw.

“You know you have something on your shirt?” She asked.

“What?” I replied, looking down at my shirt.

There was the normal amount of debris plastered across my front. Some evidence of spit up. Dog hair. And some smeared banana on my shoulder from when Summer nestled her nose into my arm during a meltdown intervention.

“Oh, this?” I looked at her and pointed to my shoulder. She nodded her head. “Oh, this is just smeared banana,” I replied with a sense of relief.

Then it hit me. Should I care about this? Do I appear unkept? Had I given up all hope of looking nice? Am I not honoring God through caring for my body and clothes? (I know. Ridiculous, right?)

The enemy began to bombard me with lies about the burden of motherhood and how life had taken a turn for the miserable.  I couldn’t shop for work items anymore, because being a walking napkin is my work. I couldn’t look put-together if I tried because the time to do so is hard to come by.

I put the kids in the car and handed Summer her pacifier begging her to “just be quiet.” My eyes watered as Samuel continued to wail. “What have I done with my life?” I asked myself. “Or worse, what have I done to my husband’s life?”

I pulled into my garage and got out of the car to breathe in some silence before helping the children out. As I closed my eyes, I felt God speaking.

In my mind, God gave me this picture of my shirt and all of the debris turned to beautiful sparkles. I felt Him saying, “This is how I see the smeared banana. This mess is true beauty. The price of motherhood is high, yes, but you get to experience a sacred love. A messy love. A love that shapes the future and powerfully ushers my Kingdom to earth.

That banana was smeared on you by Summer because she nestled her nose into your arm during a tantrum. She was scared and angry. You smiled and reminded her that no matter how ugly her behavior was, you still had My joy and strength to offer her. That’s what will change the world. Holding to joy when it’s hard, and seeing sparkles in the smeared banana.”

I opened the car door and things did not get easier. The cries got louder and demands got more ridiculous and obnoxious leading up to nap time. But, with every meltdown, with every spill, with every moment of correction, and with every hug, I remembered that it is this mess that changes the world.

So, moms, we may feel like walking napkins, but we are changing the world. One smeared banana at a time. Just look for the sparkles.

The Giraffe in the Room

Naptime was over. I cradled Samuel and walked into Summer’s room.

“Hello my dear Summershine, would you like a snack?” I asked.

“Yes!” She squealed, throwing her arms open. I’ve somehow honed the skill of picking Summer up while cradling Samuel, so I reached in and swooped her out of her crib, placing her on the ground beside me. I turned around to walk down to the kitchen and I heard her little voice.

“Wait!! My raff!!” (my giraffe).

“What?” I thought. I turned around and she was foraging through the toys that were barricading the giant giraffe into the corner of her bedroom.

Continue reading “The Giraffe in the Room”

Grace for the Broken Fan

It was a typical morning. Summer squealed her high-pitched shriek at Baylor while running circles through the upstairs bedrooms. I rocked Samuel in the glider, flashing Summer a smile each time she passed us by. Watching Baylor run from her with a goofy grin plastered all over his doggy face.

Round and around they ran, until I heard a loud crash. Bracing myself for a cry, what I heard was worse: silence.

Continue reading “Grace for the Broken Fan”

Samuel’s Birth – Part 2

As I waited for the anesthesiologist, I began to feel anxious.

This was the first and only time I experienced fear throughout the entire laboring process. I felt so dizzy and I was in such great pain.

The women surrounding me were prepping me for the epidural by telling me I couldn’t move while the needle was inserted. I thought, “There is no way I can not not move during these contractions.”

Continue reading “Samuel’s Birth – Part 2”

Samuel’s Birth – Part 1

Well, I suppose it is about time to share the story of Samuel’s birth…

The story is lengthy, so it will be shared in two parts.

It was November 17th

I anticipated my afternoon visit with my midwife because I had decided that I was going to let her check my cervix for dilation, which I never did with Summer. Knowing that women can remain dilated for days or weeks, I didn’t want to get my hopes up with Summer and become frustrated should labor take long. But this time was different.

Continue reading “Samuel’s Birth – Part 1”

To be Pulled Across the Battlefield: How to Support Someone with PPD

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I drove circles around the OB office for what felt like hours. I left 30 minutes early to drive these circles just to try and get my baby to fall asleep so that I could have a minute of silence during my follow up appointment.

Continue reading “To be Pulled Across the Battlefield: How to Support Someone with PPD”

A Thief Ignored: Paternal Postpartum Depression

Click here to view an excerpt from Good Morning America on Paternal Postpartum Depression

It had been two weeks since I started medication and two months since I started therapy. The world was beginning to look a little less blurry, and my role as mother was beginning to become not only palpable, but enjoyable. It was as if I was experiencing the newborn fuzzy feelings people told me about, despite the fact that my baby was nearly 9 months old. I was grieving the loss of those 9 months, but I was so excited to be in a different place mentally.

Yet something still was not quite right.

Though everything else in my world seemed to be bouncing back to normal, one of the most precious parts of my world remained broken: My husband.

Continue reading “A Thief Ignored: Paternal Postpartum Depression”

When Your Heart Races Away: Postpartum Anxiety Disorders and Psychosis

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I’d like to say I’ve entered into this pregnancy unscathed by perinatal depression or anxiety, but I would be lying.

Around week 11 I sensed a shift in my body and mind. Things felt heavier. Even brighter moments seemed to be dimmed by a black film that I just couldn’t shake despite prayer and moments of worship with Jesus.

My husband noticed my changing mood and demeanor, and we consulted my OB for advice. Ultimately, we decided it would be best for me, given my history, to begin taking a very low dose of my medication again and return to therapy.

Before I began re-taking the medication, we were on vacation. I was standing next to a kitchen counter overlooking the beach. Suddenly, I experienced a sudden loss of breath. It felt like my heart was beating out of my chest and my forehead was perspiring despite my standing still. I felt myself getting light headed. I tried to focus on my breath, but that seemed to make things worse. I felt utterly anxious, but could not identify why. It felt like I was physically drowning.

It was, what I presume, was the beginning of a panic attack, a symptom many people with anxiety disorders experience regularly. I quickly picked up my phone and texted my best friends asking for prayer. Having been educated in perinatal mental health, I knew this experience was likely a symptom of fluctuating hormones due to the pregnancy. Thankfully, the symptoms subsided. I began my medication shortly thereafter.

I wish I could better articulate the strange sensation that I experienced in that moment of panic. It reminded me of some fleeting moments in my postpartum period after Summer was born. Moments I would worry about going crazy and accidentally hurting her out of my sleepless rage. Fear that I wasn’t cut out to be her mother. Having the most horrendous and unspeakable pictures flash before my mind’s eye of me harming her that I knew were not only absurd, but ungodly.

My postpartum experience was much more marked by depression than anxiety, but the tricky piece is that many times women experience bouts of anxiety even when diagnosed with depression. Anxiety is a symptom of PPD. But, there are some women who more prominently identify with anxiety over depression. These moments of panic – of fear – of crushing thoughts that carry heartbeats away – are daily experiences driven predominately by hormones and biochemical imbalances for women with Postpartum Anxiety (PPA).

Postpartum Anxiety

We tend to place postpartum depression and anxiety into one group because so often the illnesses occur simultaneously in women during the prenatal and postpartum period. There is, however, a remarkable difference between the two illnesses. While PPD often manifests as a sort of agitated anxiety among other symptoms, some women experience PPA (postpartum anxiety) exclusively.

Approximately 6% of women experience prenatal anxiety disorder.

10% of postpartum women experience postpartum anxiety disorder.

Symptoms of Postpartum Anxiety:

  • Agitation
  • Inability to sit still
  • Excessive concern about the health of baby or self
  • High alert
  • Appetite changes – often rapid weight loss
  • Sleep disturbance – difficulty falling and staying asleep
  • Racing thoughts
  • Constant worry
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations

Though not all women with PPA experience panic, many women with PPA suffer panic attacks.

Symptoms of a Panic attack:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Sensations of choking or smothering
  • Dizziness
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Trembling
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Restlessness, agitation or irritability
  • An episode will wake one out of sleep

Most women report feeling a genuine fear of dying, going crazy, losing control, and an inability to return to normalcy during these episodes.

PPA is treatable with medical help. Women with a personal or family history of anxiety disorders, previous perinatal depression or anxiety or a thyroid imbalance are at risk for experiencing prenatal or postpartum anxiety.

Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder  

Postpartum OCD is a form of an anxiety disorder that includes the classic symptoms as listed above.

Perinatal women are 1.5 to 2 times more likely than the general population to experience OCD.

3-5% of new mamas and some new fathers will experience some symptoms of P-OCD, though they may not officially qualify for a full diagnosis.

70% of women previously diagnosed with OCD experience a recurrence of symptoms during pregnancy.

Postpartum OCD most often occurs with PPD.

P-OCD Symptoms

  • Intrusive, repetitive thoughts or mental images – usually of harm coming to the baby
  • Tremendous guilt and shame
  • Hypervigilance in protecting infant
  • Mamas overly focused on harm avoidance and minimizing triggers
  • Compulsions where mama does certain activities repetitively to reduce fears or obsessions (like repeatedly washing infants clothes, re-ordering items, cleaning constantly)
  • Fear of being left alone with the infant

The most important attribute of this disorder is that mamas are horrified by these intrusive thoughts or images, and acknowledge that they are unlikely to ever happen. Women with P-OCD often say these thoughts occur randomly, and they find them extremely disturbing. Because these women identify the thoughts as bizarre, they are considered as anxious in nature and not delusional.

Perhaps the most interesting research shows that women with OCD have higher levels of oxytocin in their spinal fluids. Oxytocin is a hormone that allows us to see the danger in our child’s world, which is necessary to mothering and raising a child. Oxytocin is extremely high in postpartum women, and some women have more oxytocin in their systems than others. This hormonal flood could cause our mothering instincts to go into overdrive, causing an unnecessary amount of worry, harm avoidance and obsessions.

One helpful question a woman who is experiencing intrusive thoughts and images can ask herself is, “Is this logical? Or is this the oxytocin talking?”

Another key reminder to those suffering from P-OCD is that “thoughts do not equal actions.” We have many thoughts throughout the day upon which we do not act. Allow the intrusive thought to be one of those thoughts.

Like PPA, P-OCD is treatable. Women who fear they may be experiencing this form of postpartum anxiety should consult their doctor for guidance.

Postpartum Bipolar Disorder

Postpartum Bipolar Disorder is often misdiagnosed, and misunderstood because it can look an awful lot like severe depression or severe anxiety. In fact, 60% of women with bipolar disorder present initially as depressed.

Postpartum Bipolar has one of the highest risks of suicide of all the perinatal mood disorders. For that reason among others, it is important we understand the signs and symptoms of this particular illness. Improper identification or treatment can result in a worsening of symptoms.

Many women are diagnosed with Bipolar for the first time during pregnancy and/or the postpartum period, possibly because it can be triggered by sleeplessness.

There are two types of Bipolor Disorders: Bipolar I and Bipolar II. The main difference between Bipolar I and Bipolar II is the severity of the mania. Bipolar I has manic episodes (more severe) while Bipolar II has hypomanic episodes (less severe).

The criteria for this diagnosis is that symptoms must last longer than 4 days and interfere with daily functioning and relationships. With Bipolar II, The manic episodes are less apparent and the highs and lows are not as extreme. Sometimes those with Bipolar can suffer from psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations or delusions, therefore this diagnosis can be quite dangerous.

Bipolar I Symptoms:

  • Periods of severely depressed mood
  • Periods of mood much better than normal
  • Euphoria or agitation
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Racing thoughts
  • Increased productivity
  • Noticed by others
  • Rapid speech
  • Increased energy
  • Grandiose thoughts, inflated sense of self-importance
  • In severe cases, delusions and hallucinations

Bipolar II Symptoms:

  • Periods of severe depression
  • Periods when mood is much better than normal
  • Rapid speech
  • Little need for sleep
  • Racing thoughts, trouble concentratin
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Continuous high energy
  • Overconfidence
  • Hypomanic episodes often appear as normal behavior and are not as obtrusive or disruptive to typical daily functioning

Postpartum PTSD

Approximately 9% of postpartum women have postpartum PTSD. This can be caused by a number of traumas including, prolapsed cord, unplanned c-section, use of vacuum extractor or forceps during delivery, baby going to NICU, baby having health issues or extremely difficult temperament, feeling powerless during the delivery, women who have experienced former sexual trauma, women who experienced severe physical complications related to childbirth or pregnancy.

It’s important to remember that trauma is always in the eye of the beholder. What may seem traumatic to you may not be traumatic to someone else, and vice versa. 

Postpartum PTSD Symptoms:

  • Intrusive re-experiencing of past traumatic event
  • Flashbacks or nightmares
  • Avoidance of stimuli associated with the event(s)
  • Persistent increased irritability, difficulty sleeping, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Feeling a sense of unreality and detachment
  • Persistent, distorted sense of blame of self or others
  • Numbing and disassociation
  • Diminished interest in activities
  • Inability to remember certain aspects of event
  • Isolation from family/friends/providers

 

Those who suffer from postpartum PTSD tend to avoid aftercare, experience impaired mother-infant bonding, the partner who witnessed birth also suffers PTSD, sexual dysfunction, avoid future pregnancies, exacerbate future pregnancies, and elect planned C-sections for future births.

Postpartum Psychosis

Postpartum psychosis is an extremely rare and dangerous mental illness that occurs in 1-2 in 1,000 postpartum women. This illness is what most of the general public think of when referring to perinatal mental illness due to media coverage of those who have suffered this particular disease.

Those who suffer from postpartum psychosis are at risk of committing suicide and/or infanticide. The onset of this disease sets in usually within 2 weeks after delivery.

It is important to note that postpartum psychosis is a completely different category than PPD and PPA, with the exception of Bipolar Disorder. 86% of women with postpartum psychosis met the criteria for Bipolar Mood Disorder. Many women with Bipolar Mood Disorders may experience psychotic episodes during periods of mania.

Postpartum Psychosis Symptoms:

  • Delusions or strange beliefs (usually containing religious symbolism; ex: that baby is possessed by a demon)
  • Hallucinations (seeing someone else’s face instead of baby’s face or hearing voices)
  • Insomnia
  • Feeling very irritated
  • Hyperactive
  • Confusion/disorientation
  • Difficulty communicating
  • Rapid mood swings
  • Waxing and waning (Can appear normal for stretches at a time between psychotic symptoms)

Those who are highest risk for postpartum psychosis are those with a family history of bipolar disorder or previous psychotic episode.

It is critical to note the difference between OCD and Postpartum Psychosis. Those with OCD know their intrusive thoughts are unhealthy. Women with Postpartum psychosis do not recognize their thoughts are unhealthy or abnormal.

Infanticides (the murdering of infants) are one of the most critical risks of postpartum psychosis. The homicide rate of infants is 8 per 100,000 in the United States. Infanticide most frequently occurs with psychotic symptoms rather than PPD.

Women with postpartum psychosis rarely have a history of abusing children. Infanticides usually occur as part of a concomitant suicide attempt (mother’s desire for both self and child to die). The reason for wanting to include the baby in the attempt is due to an altered state of thinking: she wishes to not abandon her baby and does not want to burden other people with her child. Typically women with psychosis genuinely believe their actions are in the best interest of the child. 

Postpartum psychosis is a treatable condition through medication and psychotherapy. Though this condition is rare, it is imperative to be educated about the disease and watch for signs and symptoms of this illness among postpartum women.

Resources:

If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, arrangements can be made (if safe) that include you remaining with your newborn and/or pumping regularly to maintain a breastfeeding relationship, if that is important to you. Do not remain silent for fear of being hospitalized, stigmatized or requiring medication. Better is possible. Happiness is possible.

If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, go to your nearest Emergency Room immediately.

Suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255.

You can also contact someone for a live online chat at this Suicide Prevention Live Chat link

Text this Crisis Text Line (Text HOME to 741741)

To Clearly See the Blur: Baby Blues and PPD

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“I started to experience a sick sensation in my stomach; it was as if a vise were tightening around my chest. Instead of this nervous anxiety that often accompanies panic, a feeling of devastation overcame me. I hardly moved…I wasn’t simply emotional or weepy…This was something quite different. This was sadness of a shockingly different magnitude. It felt as if it would never go away”

~ Brooke Shields, Down came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression


I clutched my pillow and attempted to hide my ugly cry from my baby. I allowed the pillow to muffle my noise and soak up the tears. I kept the lights off.

“This must be normal,” I thought. “This must be that ‘heavy love’ – the ‘it’s so good it hurts’ sort of love – maybe it’s just hormones…”

My husband peeked his head in on his lunch break. “How ya doing sweetie? Let’s plan to see friends tonight. This is what community is for!”

“No, thank you,” I responded.

Continue reading “To Clearly See the Blur: Baby Blues and PPD”