I came across this photo recently when my husband was clearing off the pictures from his old phone. Instantly, I was back to that day, and I felt ill just looking at this picture.
What you may see is a tired mom holding a two year old on her lap. The toddler is eating junk food. The mom doesn’t care, because just a few floors up, her newborn baby is in ICU.
I see my name tag with the hospital logo. The teal Honduras Mission trip T-shirt that was one of just a few things I threw into a suit case on short notice the night an ER doctor told me my newborn had a lung defect called Congenital Lobar Emphysema. When I packed my bags, I knew I was flying on a jet with my newborn for “treatment” in Dallas, Texas, but I had no idea how long I would be there or even what the ER doctor meant when he said “treatment.”
I didn’t know it meant removing half a lung. I didn’t know it meant immediate surgery. I expected consultations, discussions on what was best. I didn’t know we had no options or that our time was limited.
Right about the time this photo was taken, I got up the courage to talk to one of our doctors during his early morning ICU rounds. I asked him about time. How much longer could my baby have made it in this condition? I expected to hear days, but I knew everything about my son’s condition was incredibly critical. Part of me wanted to know just how critical it all was.
His answer? Hours or minutes.
It was that critical.
I almost lost my newborn baby.
The moment you see in the picture is me, sitting in the hospital cafeteria with my 2 year old, who wasn’t even allowed on the ICU floor. I got to see her on weekends while my newborn was in the hospital. Isabelle was shipped off to various family members who cared for her sweetly while we focused on our newborn, Andrew.
We got through that awful time by putting one foot in front of the other, doing the next important thing we had to do. I pumped breast milk on a strict 3 hour pumping schedule, breast milk my baby couldn’t even eat yet. He had IV fluids only for a few days, then breast milk through an NG tube. My husband and I slept on a small couch in ICU, more narrow than a twin bed. We wore paper isolation gowns over our clothes, even while sleeping, and at some point during the night, our nurse would cover us with lead vests while they zapped the day’s x-rays to see how Andrew’s lungs were healing. During the night, we would often wake up hearing our baby scream in pain.
It was hard.
We prayed. I spent time reading my Bible and praying every single day. I needed strength from God so much. Family visited us from out of town constantly, and so did our church family. Some days I would exercise by going on walks around the perimeter of the hospital grounds, wearing sunglasses because I wasn’t used to seeing daylight. And the whole thing felt impossible sometimes.
But in some ways, the worst part came two weeks later when we were discharged and sent home, where no x-rays were zapped. No professional nurses cared for him 24 hours a day. It was just us. Just me. Making sure he was doing OK.
And the emotions that flooded in were more than I was prepared for.
I experienced depression.
The dreaded D word.
It’s that topic we don’t want to talk about; it’s a topic that I don’t want to talk about. I’m too blessed to be depressed, right? Maybe.
But maybe it’s a normal response to life trauma, and maybe if we talk about it, we’ll know that we’re not alone.
Yes, mama, you can be grounded in the Word of God and still experience depression.
I used to think this was impossible. Now I know better.
Was mine postpartum depression? Since I’d just had a baby, I fit the definition. Life felt hopeless on many days, and getting out of bed felt impossible. Once a day, my two year old would ask “Why crying Mommy?”
Was mine post-traumatic stress disorder? I really fit that definition as well. In addition to the hopelessness and other emotional issues I was having, I continued having flashbacks of the events for more than a year after the ordeal. Sleep was the biggest challenge. I asked a couple of medical professionals and they said it would be normal to experience either or both after all we’d gone through. The definition didn’t matter; what mattered to me was that symptoms were so tough. I’d never experienced anything like that before.
I’m going to share what it was like, how we dealt with it, and how I came out of it with more joy, a deeper love for Christ, and even more in love with the Word of God.
Because that’s how I got through it. No Pollyanna-isms. I promise. Just a real life struggle with a real life problem, with a God who is bigger than all of this.
I’ll also share with you how I fight this battle on a regular basis, how I handle thoughts and situations that I know could send me back to Depressionville in a heartbeat. Because I don’t want to go back.
Quite frankly, in many ways, I don’t want to talk about this.
It’s hard, it’s brutally honest and real, and I also know that some women have had it worse. Far worse.
But one of my goals is to write authentically and transparently so that others can be encouraged by my challenges and struggles.
And I’ve had enough women say How did you get through it? to know that I need to talk about this. We need to talk about this. So let’s do it.
Your turn: Have you walked this journey too?