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September 21, 2017 / jennrudsit

Postpartum

by Abbie Smith

“In the evening, in the morning, and at noonday, I will complain and lament, and he will hear my voice.” Psalm 55:17[1]

Home in 20,” his text read. “k. love you. even tho i burnt the lasagna.”

Prior to having kids I judged parents who snapped at their kids. Now I empathize, and beg for the grace to be compassionate and slow to anger. My two children have taken me to the brink of a boiling point I didn’t know was there.

My days feel erasable so I’m writing in pencil. The long-awaited letter came. “With sincere respect, your manuscript is not a fit for our publishing house,” the editor told me in pitch-black Times New Roman. “Screw your respectful publishing house,” my flesh snapped back, spinning in rejection, questioning my worth and worthiness. I didn’t know how meaningless my life as a mom felt until opening that envelope; I didn’t know that book proposal held a convincing assurance that my days mattered. And now they don’t. Maybe I don’t. My pity party can last about thirty minutes and then two little people will wake wanting cheeks wiped and Cheerios poured in a bowl, which feels like anyone with half a brain could do.

It’s been one of those weeks. My son, Eden, can’t fall asleep. Normally his five-month-old frame would sleep till summer if I let him. This evening he’s restless, as if aware of a world not right, feeling crammed into a space not intended as home. I hold his tears, their authenticity reaching in to mine.

Postpartum depression has rudely interrupted my life. It’s been dark and scary and paralyzing, hollow and anxious, all in one breath. I went on medication. My friend Stephanie told me that was brave.

About three months after Eden’s birth, I realized it was more than newborn fog. A toothpick could lean the wrong way and I’d end up sad, scared and anxious. With few  commitments, even, my limit felt tapped, always at my edge. Removed and apathetic, I tended robotically to Elliana’s and Eden’s needs, desperate for Micah’s return from work. I wasn’t tempted to drive off a road, per se, but there were certainly times I wouldn’t have been surprised if I did. “Oh that I had the wings of a dove!” my soul empathized with the Psalmist, “I would fly away and be at rest—I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.[2] Happy, giggly, intimate moments happened, but only about 3% of the time. When I called my OB, the on-call nurse responded with a sarcastic version of, “What are the symptoms that would make you think you have post-partum?” I started crying and hung-up. The nurse who called back was a gem and applauded me for having the courage to reach out.

Eden rocks in my arms and I cry out to God for reprieve from the depression, and the spinach that’s had me down with food poisoning, and the friend who told me today of her crumbling marriage. I remember Micah talking about Isaiah 53:11 as we lay in bed last night. I imagine it was interesting, but was honestly half-asleep and don’t remember. This morning I looked it up again.

“Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.”

An astounding prophecy about Jesus and motherhood. Out of the blind anguish of my soul, Father, you are healing my sight. Tedious and stubborn though the process, you are teaching me to see and be satisfied. But Daddy, the growth feels painstakingly slow.

Gray-navy eyes searched my blue, as if for a quiet corner of the ocean after an exhausting storm. Eden’s body was calm on my chest now, forehead nuzzled in my cheek. He has set your feet in a spacious place[3], God said. Weeping may spend the night, but there is joy in the morning[4]. Moisture rolled from my eyes, as if Eden’s eyes had spoken to mine. As if they’d said, “Home is not all the way here yet, and it’s gonna be okay.”

Eden and I lay in this gaze for a while. Then I served burnt lasagna and told Micah again that I loved him.

The above is an excerpt from Abbie Smith’s new book, Stretch Marks I Wasn’t Expecting, a memoir on early marriage and motherhood, releasing this month with Kalos Press. She’s a graduate of Talbot Seminary’s Institute for Spiritual Formation and Soul Care and works alongside her husband as the caretakers of Wesley Gardens Retreat in Savannah, Georgia. They have three children, one of whom they recently traveled to India to adopt. Please visit Abbie at www.abbiesmith.net.

[1] This translation is from The New Jerusalem Bible, as noted in Phyllis Tickle’s, The Divine Hours, Prayers for Summertime.

[2] Psalm 55:6-8

[3] Psalm 31:8

[4] Psalm 30:5

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