Escaping My Crib: I Blame Faithwalking

Just kidding about the Faithwalking part.

Sort of.

Okay, not really. God uses Faithwalking to make you do hard things, or so I’m learning. More on what Faithwalking is to come…

Summer is one of the most high-energy, risk-taking individuals I know.

At 8 months old, I caught her swinging from her high chair. She charged the stairs at 9 months, fully convinced she could climb up and down them without trouble. She began swinging from her mobile at 10 months. Around one year old, she began scaling up towering furniture, testing the stability and durability of our Ikea-strength furnishings. A few months later, she dove out of a shopping cart onto concrete, rendering a concussion and a nasty bruise.

And so, as Summer continued to grow and develop we waited for the day that our only source of containment would render itself powerless. We awaited the day that she would escape her crib.

Not only did we expect her to escape her crib, but we fully expected to find her downstairs juggling knives or drawing stick figures with chalk in the middle of the street at midnight.

But, low and behold, this little girl who would happily hang from the rafters without fear, never – not once – attempted to escape the crib. In fact, she would often beg us to leave her there. She would play happily in her crib for hours until we returned to lift her out. Perplexed, we waited. Why induce a level of freedom when we had a newborn on the way?

The weird thing? She never really tried to escape. One night we had an odd casualty where she launched herself out of the crib out of desperation for us to come get her, but that never happened again. We simply decided as Samuel joined our family that it would be appropriate for her to bid farewell to the crib so Samuel could begin napping in it when he was about 4 months old.

Summer was terrified. She did not want to say goodbye to the crib. It became clear that was her safe place. Her resting place. A predictable place where she knew she could play, have her pacifier, sleep, read, and sing without fear. Pulling her out of that crib was pulling her out of a very comfortable and safe space.

At first, she approached her big girl bed with timidity. But once she sat in it for a while and realized she could enjoy some of the same comforts in that new space, she was game. She quickly came to love her big girl bed and the freedom it brought. Her first nap was over 3 hours long. Her first night sleep over 10 hours.

You know what can be funny about life as adults? We can become like my daughter in her crib.

Even though our personalities lead us to experience certain types of transformation and growth, we limit ourselves by choosing to remain in our comfort zone.

We don’t always trust that a big girl bed will be on the other side, so we choose to remain in the comfort of predictability. We choose constraints in life because it feels safe.

We can spiritualize this by saying, “I am called to this specific population” or “I just love my community and prefer to focus my energy there” or “well, that’s not my gifting” or “I’ll pray for you” or “I’m called to this city.”

Well, ya’ll, God is pulling me out of my crib. And it’s terrifying.

I recently experienced an intensive our church provides called Faithwalking. At this retreat, attendees are walked through a process of allowing God to re-wire the way they view themselves and the way they engage their role in various systems.

At this retreat, I felt God really pressing me to lean into a gifting of teaching He has for me. Even typing that feels so hard. Some of you may think that is silly after all I’ve shared through this blog and over coffee with strangers.

But, the reality is, this is hard. For me, it feels so embarrassing and prideful to assume that I have any sort of gifting. I know, I know, you may say, “how can that be true?” – similar to how I thought, “how could Summer – of all kids – not want to escape her crib?” I grew up in a great family where my parents acknowledged and fostered growth in certain skills and talents. I’ve been encouraged by leaders and teachers throughout my life regarding various strengths they have seen in me. And yes, I know what the Bible says about gifts.

Though it doesn’t make a great deal of sense, it’s my reality. It’s terribly uncomfortable to put myself out there in a role as teacher and to communicate any sort of information outside of simply my vulnerable and messy moments with my children.

My greatest fear in stepping into this role is twofold: I don’t want to be perceived as prideful or presumptuous. Simultaneously, I have a deep fear that I’ll be perceived as ignorant.

The truth is, the best teachers are learners. I am learning to let God lead me out of my comfort zone. It’ll be messy and I’ll make mistakes, but I’m taking the leap.

This Sunday, on Mother’s Day, I will be launching a new website. This website will not replace LivingUncovered.com. Instead, it will be a different, more focused, space where I share on the subject of rest and motherhood with rhythm and intentionality.

The goal of this new site is to provide avenues for mothers to experience the essence of rest necessary to be good mothers and walk in the fullness of God’s calling on their lives.

Stay tuned for Sunday when I will publicly share this particular website. I have this strange sensation of stage fright (it’s more of a Video Blog (vlog) format), but I also have hope. Hope that if this doesn’t serve anyone else, at least God will use it to show me another layer of freedom.

Courage is doing things while you’re scared. So I’m going to do this, scared. Eeek!

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Beholding His Face

The fact that I pocketed bacon and a Belle dress at the airport spoke volumes of how I’ve grown into motherhood, and how often I have traveled with Summer.

Though she has been on 30 something flights, this was Summer’s first flight during which she was keenly aware of her surroundings, the airplane, and the purpose of the trip. She announced to most people, “I going to da beach!” with excitement, and continued to entertain many with her zealous approach to traveling.

With her princess roller board in tow, she charged the gate with excitement. She had developed so much cognitively since the last flight, that this seemed to be a whole different experience.

I rolled Samuel through the terminal, watching my happy girl skip along. She and Ryan share the sweetest bond, and they played all sorts of games while we awaited our flight.

After boarding, we set up all the systems for airborne chaos management within the first few minutes. This time, Summer had her own seat, which was a new (and very expensive) development in our Hudson travel escapades.

We took off, and Summer carefully watched as we lifted off the ground. She immediately began coloring and engaging in whatever activity we sat before her.

The flight attendant came on the intercom and announced that the flight would experience a great deal of turbulence, and asked that we keep our seats for the majority of the flight.

Summer jumped up and onto her daddy’s lap and they began to watch a movie. Soon, the turbulence set in. I was curious to see how she would respond, so I paid close attention to her expressions.

There truly is nothing worse than seeing the look of panic cover the face of your child. As the bumps began, her expression quickly changed from pleasant to one of worry. I wanted to reach out and touch her. I wanted to assure her that we were okay. But, she didn’t look to me.

Instead, she turned and looked at the face of her daddy.

Ryan smiled and exclaimed “weeee,” while we bumped along, as if he was riding a roller coaster. The tension in Summer’s body visibly melted away as she saw her daddy confidently having fun. She cupped his face and took in his countenance as we were jarred around. She began to giggle and join in her father’s playful noises. His confidence and peace was contagious.

When life gets bumpy, it can become so tempting to look out of the window at the potential fall. Instead of relying on evidence or science, we rely on our emotions. Instead of beholding the countenance of our Father, we look to our right and our left, and absorb the feelings of anxiety or panic that surround us. I can’t help but assume, if we truly observe the face of our Father during these moments of struggle, we would “soar on the wings of eagles,” as the Scriptures say. We would approach life’s challenges with a sanctified and unshakable confidence. We would know rest and peace when the world knows fear and chaos.

My prayer is as the bumps of life come along, whether it be political, economical, or relational, that I would not look out the window or to other passengers joining me on this ride called life.

My prayer is that I would instead behold my Father’s face, and take on His countenance as I lean into friendship with Him. Surely He is not shaken by the turbulence we endure. Thank you, all knowing and good Father, for offering us peace, confidence, and joy when life gets turbulent.

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 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”

Pulled to the Front: My PPD Journey

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I backed out of my driveway onto the rainy road to make my way to Loveland, Colorado. This was my first alone, overnight trip away from both Ryan and Summer. I was excited and nervous.

As I prepare for this upcoming birth, I began to realize that I wanted a babymoon getaway for just me and Samuel (the baby boy in my belly). Up until this point, I did not realize that was the true craving of my soul, but it was.

I wanted a space to be with Samuel, alone. To bond. To ponder. To pray. To consider all the places I’ve been and the places I may go.

Continue reading “Pulled to the Front: My PPD Journey”