The Fog Has Lifted

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No mom wants to suffer from postpartum depression. Most moms experience it in some degree. Few moms will openly admit to. We don’t want people to think we don’t love our babies or that we’re not grateful for them. We tell ourselves that moms everywhere are successfully having and raising babies, and that we should be able to as well. We tell ourselves it’s just a phase and that it will pass, but we do few things to aide it’s passing.

I don’t know if this is standard practice or just something with the hospital I delivered at, but when I went in for my 6 week postpartum checkup I had to take an evaluation for my risk of postpartum depression. It wasn’t an official psych evaluation, but it would serve as a red flag if something could be wrong. A score over 10 meant that I was at risk for postpartum depression. I scored a 22.

For 6 weeks, I suffered but thought it was normal. The exhaustion, the fight to keep going, the crying; I thought this was just part of being a new mom. Then I took the evaluation and had an open conversation with my doctor. Yes, it was normal in the sense that most moms experience they same highs and lows after giving birth. But no, it was not healthy and should not be ignored.

After leaving her office, I had to have more candid conversations with my husband, our parents, and my boss. Until I could take the depression evaluation and score a 10 or below, my doctor would not clear me to return to work. I would need to enlist the help of friends, family, and yes medication to get to that point.

It was a struggle to get better. I had to learn boundaries; what I could handle on my own and when I needed to ask for help. I had to learn to ask for help. We would have my mother-in-law over just so I could go for a 30 minute run and take a shower.

It took another 6 weeks and multiple appointments with my doctor before I finally “passed” my evaluation. Even then, my doctor said she wanted to keep me on the current dosage of Zoloft for a year. She said we needed to be realistic; there would be more challenges over the course of the first year and we needed to keep me functioning.

It hurts to think about that experience. To remember the mornings that I would wake to Milo’s cries and would be frozen in bed, I didn’t think I had the strength to get myself up and face another day. To remember the days Nick would come home from work and I would desperately tell him I needed him to take Milo from me. I’d go in the bedroom and sob. It was all so hard. And it’s hard to think back on it and not feel guilt and shame.

It wasn’t until this week that I realized the fog has finally lifted. I’m no longer treading just trying to keep my head above water. I’m actually thriving!

Sure, I’ve run 2 marathons which could be a measure of my postpartum success. I’m managing my household; making dinner every night, baking bread, cleaning the bathroom, etc. They’re all wonderful accomplishments.

But the real mark of achievement has come from our church family. On multiple occasions they have commented to me on how well I handle Milo on Sunday mornings. (For those who don’t know, Milo is the only child in our church. We don’t have a nursery, so I have to entertain Milo every Sunday while trying to also listen to the service.)

Nick had a Church Council on Monday, when he came home he told me that more people were talking about my parenting skills. They were impressed with how well I kept my cool on Sunday mornings. I do my fair share of complaining about the situation; I sometimes feel cheated that God would call us to a place that offers me no support as a mom. But as I thought about it this week, I realized that I get frustrated with the circumstances, not with Milo. And more importantly, I don’t take Milo’s mischief and wandering personally. The fact that he likes to explore does not make me feel like I have no control over my child.

A year ago, this wouldn’t be true. A year ago, I would have been frantic. A year ago, I would have been visibly distraught. A year ago, I would not be able to emotionally handle this situation. Thank God that time and the fog have passed!

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There’s Still Hope

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The tattoo on my inner bicep says “Love Always Hopes.” It comes from 1 Corinthians and is my daily reminder to not be afraid to keep hoping. That in times of doubt and dismay, hope can still remain.

I’ve had several years of bad running. Three years ago I had gained so much weight I was not in racing shape. Two years ago I had two foot surgeries that kept me from being able to run for 3 months. Last year I was pregnant and sick as a dog. This year I’ve been recovering from labor and deliver, trying to rebuild what was damaged.

Throughout all of this, I’ve kept running. Even though I was overweight, I trained and showed up to the races. The surgeries prevented me from running for months, but 2 weeks after my return to running I ran a half marathon. My pregnancy left me weak and discouraged, I had to take an 8 week break from running at the end of my first trimester and into the second. But that didn’t stop me from running 5k’s at 20 and 26 weeks pregnant, and even a half marathon at 31 weeks. I thought my big break would come once my son was born, but I didn’t realize how much labor and delivery would decimate all of the muscles in my abdomen and surrounding my hips. It was a long, slow, tedious process getting back into running. But that didn’t stop me from completing my 11th marathon at just 5 months postpartum.

I’m proud of those accomplishments. I’m proud that, in the face of struggle and doubt, I showed up. I put in the work to the best of my ability. But I’m tired of just showing up. I want to race; I want to compete.

And so I’ve started training hard again. Getting out to the track and running repeats, logging the miles, signing up for races. And while my body is getting back in shape, I’ve struggled mentally. My mind has been holding me back, telling me to be careful. Saying lies about how I’ll always run, but never be fast again. I’ve believed the lies. I’ve let myself think that the hard years have done me in, that there will just be more setbacks, that I need to just settle for mediocre. But that all changed this weekend.

I ran the We Care Twin Cities Half Marathon in Bloomington on Saturday. It’s the same half marathon I ran last year at 31 weeks pregnant. My goal was 1:45, an hour faster than last year. Granted, 1:45 is still not great for me. But it’s a lot faster than I’ve been in the more recent years. I felt like if I could get out of my head and push myself, I could at least come close to my former self. That’s all I needed, a glimpse of what used to be.

It was a really tough race. I forgot what it’s like to pace myself for such a distance. The course also goes on a bike path and there are other runners using it at the same time. I would find myself trying to race them only to realize they weren’t even participating. By mile 4, my mantra had become “run your race.” Quit worrying about everyone else and just do what you came out here to do.

It was a straight out and back. They had a clock set up at the turn around. As I made my way around it, it read 51 minutes. I could do it. I could reach my goal. A few miles later, back on the bike path, I stepped on some kind of shell and rolled my right ankle. Fortunately I didn’t injure it, but it did leave me more cautious and I slowed down until I got off the path.

When I was down to the last few miles, my mantra was “give it all.” Don’t hold back, don’t doubt, just go. I crossed the finish line at 1:43. It was an amazing feeling to see the clock as I crossed the line. Plenty of runners finished before me and I wasn’t an overall winner for the day, but that didn’t matter. Because for the first time in years, I had hope. I believed in me and I believed my best wasn’t behind me. That I could keep moving forward and improving with every run.

So I’m going to keep heading out there, putting one foot in front of the other. There might be setbacks and I might not ever be as fast as I once was, but there’s still hope. And that’s all I need.

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