Hello Out There! Surviving Postpartum Isolation
We welcomed our first child with all the joy one could imagine. Family came to the hospital to visit and we felt the surge of happiness that comes with having a baby. I felt “on top of the world”, doting on my little bundle of joy.
Within hours after the delivery, my husband received a call from his boss asking when he could get back to work. Our joyful revelry was short-lived. I was 23 years old, lived 80 miles away from my parents and hadn’t made any friends in our neighborhood.
Whisperings from my past flooded my mind, “no one likes you” and “no one wants to be your friend.” I was isolated and felt alone. More than that, I felt like I couldn’t share my feelings with anyone. My sense of self-worth was so wrapped up in my past that I didn’t feel like I deserved to reach out. Depression settled in and made itself comfortable. I was stuck in a cycle of sadness, guilt, isolation and fear.
The hormones rushing through my body compounded my sadness. I had wanted to be a mom since I could remember and kept telling myself that I should be happy, so this led to guilt. I said very little to anyone causing isolation. And then there was the fear—could I be a good mom?
I reflect on that time now as we are all in some form of mandated physical distancing. My heart aches for those who are being mentally and emotionally drained by our current circumstances. Lack of human touch, a hug or whispered encouragement face to face, takes a toll. As our technology has dramatically improved in the past two decades, I pray that there is no one who feels alone. If you do, please know that you are not. If you find yourself in a circumstance in which you are not feeling particularly worthy of the attention or love of others, allow me to offer the lessons I learned in my dark time:
- Keep contemplating on good thoughts; tell the bad ones they are not welcome anymore. This may be a mental exercise, or you may need to write the bad thoughts on paper and tear them up, disposing of them in the garbage. A powerful statement and reminder to the negative thoughts that you are still in charge. “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into His most excellent harmonies.” (Phil. 4:8 MSG).
- Keep in contact with others. YOU are worth it. Make the phone call, write the text, send the email; FaceTime if you can. Those who love you care about how you are doing; if someone doesn’t hear from you, she may be thinking that means you are doing alright. Don’t allow your head to spin on the merry-go-round of self-doubt. I know this is hard but hold on and reach out. “So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Rom. 12:5)
- Keep your eyes on Christ. During my time of self-isolation, I recalled a talk that was given by a woman at a church retreat. She spoke of the time in her life after her husband died. Her comfort during that time, was to draw nearer to Jesus. She spoke about the growth in her prayer life and study of The Word; even through the tragedy she found peace and joy. It was a powerful message. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom 12:2)
Let not your heart be troubled. Perspective and what you allow into your mind are most important now; more than ever. Let us not be a people that are held captive by fear and uncertainty but even in the midst of fear and the unknown, may we lift our eyes and hearts to God and by comforted by His promises. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Tim. 1:7, KJV). Grace and peace to you all!