Wednesday, January 28, 2009

An Anniversary of Sorts

I hope you have a nice warm mug of tea handy because this is a long one!!

January is such a cold, long month. The snow keeps piling up around my house, a familiar sight in West Michigan. I snuggle down with my blankets and my books and my tea and try to make the most of it. Hibernating has it's fun points. Somehow my daily activities like knitting, baking and reading are even more enjoyable and add to the cozy feeling of being home.
Each winter is a bittersweet time for me. I can't help but remember what life was like last winter and the dark days we were brought through.
December 19, 2007 we welcomed Sam and his chubby self into our family. He was perfectly healthy and beautiful. The delivery went remarkably well and our first few days together were just as they should be.
However, my body does not like having babies.
After delivery the estrogen levels in a woman's body drop. That is when most women experience the "baby-blues". When my estrogen levels drop like this it sends me into severe Post-Partum Depression. After I delivered John, the depression hit almost immediately. With Sam it struck a day or two after we came home. Some women can experience this kind of depression up to a year after they deliver.
My depression, as with most women, began with anxiety. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I was in the middle of a panic attack. My heart was racing, I couldn't catch my breath, I was nauseous and my thoughts were racing. I had experienced a panic attack before but this was different. The panic was constant and inescapable. This made rest and sleep impossible.
Both of my babies were great sleepers but while they slept the night away, I was up pacing the floors. With John, I went an entire week without any sleep. After too long without sleep the body begins to shut down. I began to hallucinate and my immune system weakened so I came down with all sorts of odd issues that I won't get into.
Anxiety led quickly into despair that was a living hell. I can only describe it as putting on a pair of dark colored glasses. No matter what you look at, you see it through a dark shadow. There seemed to be no way out. Soon I was run down by the physical and emotional effects of the anxiety and I lost the strength and will to fight.
This was when we sought medical counsel. My Doctor took swift action to get me sleeping and on the way to feeling better. There are many opposing opinions on the use of anti-depressants. All I will say is that I am confident that the course that God enabled us to choose saved my life.
It was a month or so before I felt consistently better but the relief came quickly with a few nights of good sleep. I was soon able to enjoy life again. I loved every day I got to know John and all his little ways. He was a wonderful baby and I was so grateful to be able to enjoy him.
When we discovered that we were expecting again we were excited but nervous about the possibility of a similar experience. My Doctor assured me that we would be taking the proper precautions to prevent anything like what had happened before.
So I prayed that God would make this experience completely different and that he would allow me to enjoy the first few months of my baby's life.
He did not choose to answer my prayer the way I wanted Him to.
When things began to go down hill after Sam's birth we were quick to seek medical help. This time around I was a mystery to the Doctors. My body didn't respond as quickly to the medication they had prescribed and they began switching medications with every phone call. I was sleeping a few hours each night because of the medication but the sleep was not restful and as soon as I opened my eyes the panic was back. Because of the medication I had to give up nursing which was something I had really enjoyed with John but there seemed to be no other choice.
My days became long and very dark. I obsessed over every little thing. I was so afraid of doing something wrong as a mom and I felt like such a failure. Life was stripped of its hope and joy and the future was a tunnel of inescapable darkness.
It was many long months before the cloud lifted.

In each experience my faith was tested in ways I never thought possible. I knew God was in control. I knew His plan was what was best for me. I knew that He would never leave me or forsake me. But every feeling within me cried out that I had been abandoned. I was all alone and there was no hope. But in those moments all I could hold on to was the Truth. And it was enough.
God was there. He held me every step of the way. One morning the only thing that kept me going was repeating the phrase "I have hope in Christ. I have hope in Christ.". God showed up in many ways.
Chris was the greatest demonstration of the love of Christ that I have ever known. He held me, prayed with me and reminded me of what was True. He took care of the boys and made sure I got the help I needed. He never let me down. And I thank God for him every day.
Our families took such good care of us during these hard days. They made meals, listened, took care of the boys and lifted us up in prayer. We never knew how blessed we were until the bottom fell out and they were there. We are so grateful for our families and our friends.

It is so wonderful to feel joy again. You never know what a blessing that is until the ability to feel joy has been taken from you. Every day I find myself being grateful for a laugh or a smile or a ray of sunshine. The blessings of each day are breathtaking. God is so good.
I find myself now in a time of rebuilding. An experience like this has a way of stripping everything from you and building something different in its place. I had always thought of myself as a fairly strong person. I do not like asking for help. I like to be the one giving help. This experience took away any confidence that I had in myself. I truly know now that anything good that is in me is because of God. I am now well aquainted with my own weakness. You cannot be the same person after walking through valleys like these.
I found a quote that captured that thought while watching Lord of the Rings. (I freely admit to being a Tolkien nerd).

"How do you pick up the threads of an old life?
How do you go on when in your heart
you begin to understand,
there is no going back.
There are some things that time cannot mend.
Some hurts that go to deep,
that have taken hold."

I am trying to move on from this experience in a way that does not dwell in the past but instead, uses it to shape the future in positive way.
God has been so faithful.
I know this is an abrupt departure from my usual posts of crafts and the boys. But I want to be more real and open about what God is doing in my life. And writing this tonight has been somehow theraputic. Reliving the pain of the past and dwelling on God's faithfulness throughout gives today more beauty and purpose. Each day has become a gift because of these experiences and I wanted to share that with you.

"For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may recieve mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
Hebrews 4:15&16

Monday, January 26, 2009


My latest quilt square.
For this work in progress.

Art in Motion

Sam got a hold of some markers one day and decorated his forehead.
As this was his first artistic endeavor I thought I would commemorate the event with a photo shoot.
This was the result.

Friday, January 16, 2009

...And we're back!

"I don't say we ought to misbehave,
but we should look as though we could."
~Oscar Wilde