A couple years ago, my relationship with my oldest, then preteen, son wasn’t great. Little things he did irritated me. Spilling something on the floor, accidentally hurting his brother, or him talking too much caused me to erupt in a response disproportionate to what he actually did.
My anger was a problem.
What I’ve learned about anger is that it is often tied to fear or hurt. As I sought God in prayer one afternoon regarding my anger, I asked Him why my relationship with my son seemed strained (and about what I may be fearful or angry). Immediately a memory flashed through my mind from shortly after my son was born when I dealt with severe postpartum depression. I know from past counseling experiences that sometimes the Holy Spirit works through bringing a certain Scripture verse or a memory to mind when we ask for His guidance and input. I knew not to discount the memory but believed it was significant.
“Okay God, I’m open to you working on this in me,” I prayed.
Shortly after this, my good friend Kelly told me she saw a commercial for a news special about postpartum depression that a local station planned to air soon. Being someone who deals with things being “out of sight, out of mind,” I completely forgot about it. Until a few days later when I turned on the TV to put a show on for my youngest son. And the news special happened to be starting. I quickly set my DVR to record it so I could watch it later.
Several weeks went by before I was able to watch it. Several women shared their stories, including one of the newscasters! I saw myself in the scenarios described, even the more severe cases. God brought to the surface so many painful memories of that time in my life. For the first time, I could see how incredibly sick I was after my oldest son’s birth. As I sat rocking back and forth in our rocking chair, tears streamed down my face. Could it be that I had been so sick that I couldn’t help it? This new thought conflicted and challenged deep-seated thoughts I held onto for years.
Within that week, I came across a song by Mercy Me called “Dear Younger Me.” I again sensed the Holy Spirit speaking through the words of the song, assuring me that my postpartum depression was not my fault.
In the days that followed, I expressed a lot of grief over that time in my life. I grieved what I missed with my son. I grieved feeling so alone and not having much of a support system. I grieved the hurtful things said to me during that time, some of which were from my husband. Knowing that healing often includes forgiveness, I chose to forgive what was said, with the full understanding of how I had been hurt. This, in my opinion, is the best way to forgive.
Not only did I grieve…I laid down my guilt.
I’d been believing that I had “messed up” our oldest son because of my postpartum depression. That him having a “crazy” mom had somehow damaged him. As a result, I lived in fear that he would not turn out well because of me and that any emotional struggles he dealt with in life were all my fault. I wanted my son to be perfect because if he was anything less, it added to my guilt. I responded with fear masked as anger any time he failed at something, even small things. My anxiety over him was starting to drive a wedge between my husband and me.
While the postpartum depression was not my fault, God gently pointed out these thoughts were lies, and reminded me that believing lies about myself, my son, or God is sin. In a way, through believing these thoughts, I was setting myself above God’s control over my son’s life. When I confessed this to God in prayer, He removed that lie from my heart. In true God fashion, He replaced it with His truth from Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” He also used the song, “O Come to the Altar” by Elevation Worship to encourage me to lay this weight I had been carrying at His feet (I am including that song at the end of this post).
Do you struggle with similar thoughts because of your own experience with postpartum depression? I encourage you to find the freedom only God can give.
Here is the song that helped me lay my burden down: