Hot tears covered my hands. I brushed my wet hair from my face and looked up from the table and into my husband’s eyes. Some noise blaring from the television kept our children entertained while I stepped away from dinner prep and tried to get my bearings. The two plastic sticks on the bathroom counter had flashed “pregnant” but I couldn’t believe it. Couldn’t accept it. This was impossible. Well, obviously not impossible, but it seemed so unlikely. More than that, I had some kind of unspoken deal with God. I would work on getting better, and He would give me time. I needed time and lots of it. I needed space, distance, a great arm’s length from the darkness that had been the year before, and I was just coming out of the fog.
For months and months, I had been struggling with postpartum depression. I’m no stranger to depression, but this was a new beast. It wore a different mask, and it took me almost a year to realize that I needed help. For the sake of my marriage, my children, and my own sanity, I needed help. It peaked during some naptime battle in the bleak days of February where winter was dragging its heavy feet, and the end just wasn’t in sight. I sat there on the edge the tub, crying and thinking “if only something happened to me and I could leave this place.” I immediately texted a girlfriend of mine who has been a lifeline for me on more than one occasion. She talked to me until my face stopped tingling and the panic had subsided. That week I had to call my husband home from work and we made a plan. I would get help, and I did.
My therapist was a true God-send. Together, she helped me work through the muck that I had been dragging myself and my family through. On my second to the last session, we were doing some wrapping up. I had started exercising, we moved into a better place for our family, and I was really started to do a lot more living and less surviving. So on that day, she asked me what were some last few things I might like to discuss. I mentioned that NFP (natural family planning) had been a real challenge for us during the last year, and this was a first for us. My first three pregnancies were planned. Even though we lost our first baby to miscarriage, we were fortunate in that the months we were ready to expand our family, I got pregnant right away. And after my first was born, my cycles returned within a couple of months due to breastfeeding not working out, so charting my signs of fertility was a breeze. My second son was able to nurse, so my cycles had not returned for several months, and I felt like we were in no-man’s land. His birth has hard on me both physically and mentally, and with the depression on top of it all, I was just not ready.
#nobabies2016 I jokingly said to friends.
But she encouraged me to talk it through. What would happen if we were blessed with another baby right now? My immediate reaction was something along the lines of “it would not be a blessing.” She reminded me that nine months is a long time to prepare for a baby. I left feeling less freaked out about the prospect but confident that I wouldn’t need to worry about another pregnancy any time soon. Shortly after that session, I was at the grocery store and, while gazing lovingly at a package of chocolate donuts, the pieces started to fall into place. The wall of exhaustion that I had been hitting every day for a couple of weeks now. The weeping over shows in the last few days. I turned around from the checkout lane and threw a box of pregnancy tests in my basket.
That night, sitting with my husband at the table, I cried. I cried for days. I just couldn’t go through the wringer again. I felt trapped. And for the first time in my life, I was mad at God. Hadn’t we been faithful? We were good Catholics who were open to life! We had two children, and I was still nursing one! It wasn’t like we didn’t want more children, we just didn’t want another one right then.
By the end of the summer, after spending weeks feeling like I had to defend our personal choices to continue to use NFP, but feeling afraid to reveal that this wasn’t exactly an intentional pregnancy, I was in a much better place. I wasn’t so angry anymore. My heart was softened, and that was a good thing because I needed a real “come to Jesus” moment. We were on our annual pilgrimage to the Shrine of our Lady of Guadalupe in Wisconsin with good friends of ours. I was kneeling in the confessional, and the sweet priest reminded me of something that I had truly forgotten. While my husband and I were involved in the creation of this new human being, we were still merely co-creators.
Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you -Jeremiah 1:5
And there I was, crying again. God had ordained this little life before he ever started growing in my body. While we had a perfectly good reason to postpone a pregnancy, God knew better. So my new goal was to shift my attitude from one of a victim to one of gratitude. Because even then, no life is guaranteed. It wasn’t a sure thing that I would even get to meet this baby, or wake up the next day. I don’t know the whole story yet, but I do know that this sweet baby has been such a delight for our family and a joy to my heart. His disposition is so mild, and he’s just started smiling. That gummy grin lights up my heart, and it’s been such a reminder that the rainbow comes after the storm and I can trust my Lord to stand through it all with me.
Written by Jacqui Skemp. Find out more about her here.