Many who know me, know that Matt and I struggled with infertility for years prior to becoming pregnant with Ellie in late 2013. During that time, my soul cried out to God, not understanding why He would allow us to go through yet another heartbreak in our lives. Hadn’t we seen enough pain in our young lives?
All I knew is that my arms ached to hold a miniature blend of Matt and I. I honestly didn’t think much about what life would be like once the little bundle of joy came into our lives. Now, I wasn’t naive. I knew that life with a baby wasn’t always going to be sunshine and giggles. I knew that there would be a lot of sleepless nights. I knew that breastfeeding can sometimes be very difficult. I knew there would be a lot of poop (Of course this I figured I could handle since I have worked as a nurse in an adult ICU for 8.5 years. Baby poop has nothing on a 400+ lb patient suffering from c-diff or a GI bleed.) I knew that it would be a 24/7 job. I knew that it would be tough. I knew what I was signing up for.
However, I didn’t realize that I would have such a difficult little girl. She is sweet. She is beautiful. She is funny. She is smart. And she is strong willed.
Since she was born 13 months ago, she has slept through the night once. She has stayed in the nursery at church so that I can worship and listen to the sermon less than 10 times (the rest of the time they have either called me out or I haven’t been able to leave her because she won’t stop crying). Matt and I haven’t had the bed to ourselves since she was 6 months old. When other people try to hold her she cries until her nose turns blue, especially when we are at family functions because there are so many people just aching to connect with her. She has taken a bottle less than a handful of times. That paired with her crying when others hold her means that we haven’t been able to leave her with a babysitter more than a handful of times until recently.
On top of this (and partially because of) I have been struggling with post partem depression since she was born. I wasn’t surprised that I would have some PPD, after all, I had been on hormones/fertility treatments of some sort since 2012. I went through 2 IUIs and 2 IVFs all in the course of 2014 prior to becoming pregnant with Ellie in November. So, it is not surprising that lack of sleep paired with having all those hormones go down after giving birth would cause “a little depression.”
What was surprising was that I just couldn’t stop crying. What was surprising was the way my brain shut down and I couldn’t even fathom completing basic tasks. What was surprising was how I was so tired at times that I really couldn’t care less that my child was crying…again. What was surprising was that I daydreamed of ways to hurt myself just so I could get away.
Fortunately I have an awesome support system and an awesome OB/GYN that stayed on me to take care of myself. When Ellie was 6 months old I went on antidepressants which helped me feel as if the fog lifted. My lows weren’t quite so low. I could see the good things in life again. I was able to function and not be so hard on myself.
At that point I also started letting Ellie sleep in bed with us. I know, I know…I always said that I would not co-sleep. (I also said I wouldn’t get an epidural which I did after 9 hours of natural labor with 2 hours straight of contractions shooting down my legs every minute and a half only to find out that there had been no progress made in those 2 hours.) One night I was too tired to sit up in the nursery and nurse Ellie. So I just decided to nurse her while laying down in bed. That night she nursed the normal 3-4 times, but instead of being awake for 30-45 minutes each time she nursed for 5-10 minutes and went right back to sleep. I was amazed! In the morning I woke up so much more refreshed and so did she.
I also joined MOPs at our church and found an awesome group of women that I could talk to about all the day to day stuff that brings us down. On top of that I truly began confiding in some of my wonderful sister-in-laws and friends from small group. It’s amazing how much better things seem when you have a group of women to encourage and pray for you. That coupled with giving myself permission to let others help me (like my mother-in-law coming and doing laundry and dishes for me) really changed the way I was coping with my exhaustion.
Now at 13 months I am trying to wean her (yes, I also said I would never nurse past a year). I am also trying to ease her back into her own room. And through all of this I am finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. Over the last couple of weeks she suddenly decided that other people weren’t quite so scary. In fact, this past Friday night she went to a friend and then cried when I tried to take her back from him so that we could leave. Yesterday morning my wonderful neighbor Cari knocked on the door to ask if Ellie could go for a walk with her and her son Brick. “Oh my, yes. Yes she can. Please take her!! This Momma needs a break!” And you know what? Ellie didn’t cry once! She hung out with them for an hour and a half and I was able to get things done around the house. It was heavenly.
With all of these new breakthroughs for Ellie I am reminded of a moment over this past weekend. Matt and I joined some friends for a short camping/boating trip to Kentucky. Sunday morning I woke up bright and early feeling refreshed. Ellie was still asleep so I volunteered to go check on the status of coffee while Matt stayed in the cabin. As I walked down the path towards the camper, I enjoyed the “silence” of nature. Everything seemed so fresh. It was as if my eyes had just opened for the first time in months. The words, “His mercies are new each morning” popped into my head and have stayed with me ever since.
This last year was so hard. There were moments that I didn’t see an end in sight. But all along the way, God was with me. He provided moments of joy each morning as I kissed the sleep from my sweet little girl’s eyes and heard her giggle as Matt tickled her belly. I know that there will be more difficulties in life, but moments like that Sunday morning will be there to remind me that weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.