Thursday, March 6, 2014

Lenten Project: Day Two

You've probably seen the news about a pregnant mother, Ebony Wilkerson, who drove her van full of kids into the ocean.  My Facebook feed is filled with posts and reposts, some offering compassion, most offering judgement.  If you go to the news articles online, the comments sections are horrifyingly filled with calls for the woman to be "locked up, and throw away the key," or for her kids to be taken away from her, or for her sterilisation, since "people like her shouldn't get to be parents."

All I can feel for her is sadness. It seems obvious that she was under the influence of a serious illness when she did this. I feel this sadness profoundly, because I am an Ebony.

Next, 2010

In the Spring of 2010, I attended Sovereign Grace's NEXT Conference in Baltimore.  With my sister Joanna, I rode the packed-full chartered bus from Greenville, SC, to the conference center.  Almost immediately upon setting out in the very early morning, I started miscarrying a baby.  It was my third miscarriage.

At that point, I was in the early stages of severe postpartum depression, brought on by my son self-weaning a couple months before.  I had sunk deep enough into my depression that my libido was completely gone.  For several months, I'd been saying no.  Thus, when I began miscarrying, I was shocked.  Somewhere along the way, consent lines had been crossed, and I couldn't even remember it!  I knew that my marriage was not a safe place, but I hadn't understood how unsafe till then.

The shock and sudden grief of discovering an unexpected pregnancy, only to simultaneously realise that the precious little life I'd unknowingly carried was already gone pushed me over the edge.  I was pretty depressed, but that event caused me to totally lose my will to live.  The next day, after settling in the hotel and attending a couple conference sessions, I wasn't at all better.  The bleeding had stopped, but it seemed my heart was hemorrhaging.

That afternoon, I attempted to step out into heavy rushing traffic in downtown Baltimore, right by the Inner Harbor.  My sister Joanna stopped me.  She didn't know exactly what my intentions were, but she could tell that something wasn't right, even though I wouldn't talk to her about it.  She stuck to my side, as only an annoying little sister can do, making sure I didn't try to hurt myself anymore.

In the evening, before the conference session (if I remember correctly, it was on Scripture, by Kevin DeYoung), one of the young men who came with our church group approached me and told me he felt led to pray over me.  Perhaps he'd noticed how I stared blankly at the ships in the harbor while at dinner.  I'd been wishing I could swim underneath those ships and intentionally fill my lungs with harbor water.  Maybe he just felt a leading from the Lord.  I don't know.  What I do know is that when he prayed, a peace came over me.  I knew that I would make it back home to Greenville alive.

I didn't know that I'd continue this struggle with postpartum depression for quite some time, or that I'd have to take medicine to feel half-way normal again.  I couldn't have imagined that my marriage would simply disintegrate and end up having heavy consequences that I'd have to live with forever.  I didn't realise that I'd keep my lost baby a secret till today, when Ebony's story would prompt me to tell mine.

What I did know was that I had hope for the next day.  That's it.  Just a day's worth of hope.  And I kept getting days' worths at a time, until, in October of 2010, I got that theme tattooed on my arm.

Ironically, I was required to cut off my NEXT 2010 wristband in order to give the tattoo artist access to my whole arm.  I felt as though I were cutting away the darkness of that past and fixing my eyes on the future, with my daily allotment of hope.

The rest of the story is crazy and imperfect and quite a winding tale (other parts of which I may yet blog about during this Lenten project), but suffice it to say, my ex-husband and I have reconciled, as much as a divorced pair of people can be, and have both affirmed our forgiveness for each other many times, for many different failings on both our parts.  I talked to him before even posting this, because I respect him enough to not want to be heartless and unkind to him anymore.  My past is my story.  I can only tell what I experienced.

However, the point is that I now look at my past through the lens of hope.  That hope gave me time to heal, time to grow, time and distance to learn to forgive.

PPD sucks.  I know how Ebony feels.  Abuse is horrible (and there's some indication from news sources that she may have been experiencing that as well).  Loss is terrible.  But there can still be forgiveness and healing.  There is still hope in redemption.  Hope for tomorrow.

If you or someone you know is acting strangely soon after having a baby or weaning, please know that there is hope.  You can't feel it, but it's there, waiting for you.  Please let someone know that you need help.  Talk to your doctor, a neighbour, a friend from church or your community, or contact someone at Postpartum Support International.  You are not alone.