Five weeks ago we welcomed home our fifth child, Hezekiah Jason Dugger (those of you who pay attention to the details: yes, we changed his name). Being our fifth child (in five years!), I thought I knew what to expect when it came to postpartum recovery. I always have had easy transitions both physically and emotionally. So you can imagine my being caught off guard as I experienced a significant case of the “baby blues.” At no point did I have true postpartum depression, but I was irritable, irrational, and incredibly emotional for over an entire month. My hormones affected everyone in our house—especially my husband.
Upon arriving home from the hospital, Jason quickly became my enemy. I found myself easily exasperated with him and irritated by him. He was not living up to the (unrealistic) expectations I had imagined when it came to how he would care for our new baby, the older children, and me during his paternity leave. I experienced a strong sense of abandonment and isolation (keywords to remember about my state: irrational and overemotional).
The reason I have been slow to blog since Hezekiah’s birth has to do more with the state of my heart than any time demands. My heart, in many different ways, began to pull away from my husband. I hesitate to publicly confess it, but I compared him to other men and even found myself getting emotionally attached to a fictional TV character. Distance crept into my heart unlike anything I have ever previously experienced. I avoided my family more than I participated with them. I was merely a spectator of my life rather than a player. To type this all out sounds bizarre even to me, but have you ever experienced something similar?
As my hormones are beginning to balance out and I am starting to feel more like my old self, I reflect on what I experienced this past month. While the baby blues were truly out of my control, I could have made better choices during that time in order to protect my marriage. I was unwise in how I handled my negative emotions, which only placed a larger divide between my husband and me. This was evident in a few key areas:
- Communication – I quickly noticed that I wasn’t myself, but I chose not to mention this to my husband. In doing so, I isolated myself and limited his ability to help. As I would randomly break into tears, he would ask if I was upset with him. I chose to barely answer, leading him to believe he was the source of my angst (even though I knew he was not). I also never clearly communicated my expectations or desires regarding what I needed from him around the house and with the children. My lack of communication caused me to feel resentful toward my husband, and I certainly can’t blame postpartum emotions for that poor choice.
- Boundaries – The vehicle I used to “check out” of life was Netflix. As the numbness crept in, I chose to escape by watching mindless shows on my iPhone while nursing. I could have chosen to use that time to pray, think positively about my husband, or even create a grocery list. Instead, I chose to become emotionally invested in a television series. As I watched one episode after another, I began preferring that alternate reality to my own. My heart would flutter when the dashing hero would enter the screen, and I would swoon as he pursued the female lead. I should have implemented better time boundaries with my phone (honestly, I should have just quit watching the show), but instead I continually clicked play. Music also played a role in the state of my spirit. For the past several years I have listened primarily to Christian music, and the positive effect it has on my spirit is unmistakable. However, in the past month I began listening to a secular radio station that played songs from my college years. These songs ushered in many memories that made me long for a different time. The words of these songs moved me, but not toward God and His truths, which is what I really needed. Like with my phone, I should have had the maturity to implement stronger boundaries in order to better protect my marriage.
- Emotions – I allowed my emotions to rule. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” I have experienced the truth of those words in the midst of these baby blues. I felt abandoned by my husband despite him being right by my side. I felt he was selfish and insensitive despite my refusing to communicate with him. I felt a distance from the Lord despite Scripture clearly saying that God is close to the brokenhearted. I felt like a horrible mother because I was irritable with my children, forgetting that my bad days don’t define me. I allowed my feelings to determine what I viewed as the truth instead of recognizing the deceitfulness of my own heart and learning the distinction between feelings and facts. This mistake on my part negatively impacted my ability to handle the baby blues in a healthy manner.
I was in the perfect storm: choosing not to communicate, becoming lax in my boundaries, allowing my emotions to rule my rational thinking, and dealing with intense hormonal imbalances and lack of sleep. The month of September was challenging for me as I battled many internal wars. I wish I could tell you that I made wise choices and honored my husband, but the truth is I caved to temptations of pride, comparisons, and apathy.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” ~ Lamentations 3:22-23
The good news in all of this is that tomorrow is a new day and I can try again. I want to overcome my bad choices by making good ones, but I must first acknowledge my shortcomings in order to do so.
Even if you have never experienced the baby blues, we’ve all been in situations that were out of our control. Have you ever worsened those times by making unwise choices?