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POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION—HEALED

From the June 2008 issue of The Christian Science Journal


AFTER THE BIRTH of my first child, I found motherhood to be overwhelming. The labor and delivery were longer and harder than I had expected. When I took my new baby boy home from the hospital I was completely exhausted, but unable to sleep. I had no appetite, would often sob uncontrollably, and I became very depressed. My mother told me that she had had such an easy time giving birth and making the transition to motherhood, so I expected my whole experience would be peaceful. That's why these feelings surprised me.

Early in the pregnancy, I had called a Christian Science practitioner to pray for me and our child throughout the labor and delivery. As any mother knows, there is a great deal of focus on the physical development of the baby and on the mother during pregnancy, and I felt that prayer would help me stay focused on the true, spiritual origin and heritage of my child—and of me. My husband was supportive of Christian Science and my desire to have this help from the practitioner, but we agreed that I would regularly visit a doctor for prenatal checkups and have a hospital birth.

Yet, when our baby was still a newborn, I felt so overwhelmed by what I viewed as my inadequacy as a mother that one evening I came up with a plan to kill myself just before my husband was expected home from work. Thankfully, a few minutes later I recall coming to my senses and thinking, This is not me! It was completely out of character for me to think this way.

Over the years that I've studied Christian Science, I've learned that every thought or feeling that comes to us isn't always from God, and therefore not something we should act on. Thoughts that are unkind or destructive are clearly not good. They are simply suggestion of what the Bible calls the "carnal mind" (Rom. 8:7), and we have the ability from God, the only Mind, to detect and resist them. But while I resisted the suggestion to hurt myself (and I'm grateful to say that this thought never reoccurred), I still struggled with depression and exhaustion. I was very ashamed of these feelings and hid them from friends and family. However, at my six-week postpartum checkup, I attempted to talk to the delivering doctor about my sadness. She quickly dismissed it as fatigue.

I felt I needed help, so I called the Christian Science practitioner who had supported me throughout my pregnancy and afterward. She was someone I knew and respected, and once again I asked her to pray for me. She was incredibly patient and loving during the next few months. She encouraged me to turn away from the false idea that I was separated from God and instead to realize God as my eternally present Father-Mother, caring for both me and my newborn son.

One day I remember reading this passage from that week's Christian Science Bible Lesson: "(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (II Cor. 10:4, 5). As I thought about the different "strong holds" in thought, I concluded that one of them was the belief of fear that I might have postpartum depression, a condition that had recently begun making news headlines. I became more diligent about immediately rejecting every morbid and depressing thought that came to me, and to turn my thought to knowing that God was divine intelligence and the source of every thought I had. That wasn't always easy, but within a few months, I started feeling like myself again.

The weekend of my son's third birthday, I discovered I was pregnant with my second child, much to my surprise. I felt absolutely no fear at all, only deep joy and peace. The pregnancy was easy, and I had plenty of quiet time to study the Bible and Science and Health and to pray while my son attended preschool. Yet I felt I should tell the new doctor (we had moved to another state) about my previous experience with depression. I explained to her that I did not anticipate a recurrence, but wanted her to be aware of it. The doctor told me that based on her experience with cases of postpartum depression, it was likely to occur again with the birth of another child.

She suggested that I begin taking some type of medication to prevent depression even before the delivery. I didn't feel that was necessary, and I was grateful that the doctor seemed to accept my decision to decline the medicine. However, she did ask that I contact the local postpartum depression support group leaders. I agreed. They kept in weekly contact with me by telephone to check on my status before and after the birth, which I happily reported was good.

After returning home from the hospital with my newborn son, I continued to pray, again with the help of the practitioner, to guard my thoughts from the medical prediction of depression. During the periods when I was awake with the baby during the night, I used the time to "rest in Truth" (Science and Health, p. 387), knowing that God was the source of my energy. I came to look forward to those precious nighttime feedings instead of dreading them. My mother even remarked that I stopped complaining of being tired despite lack of sleep. Only on one occasion did I start to feel a bit emotional and tearful—but just for a moment. I thought, Oh, no, I'm not going to fall into this trap again. Immediately, I felt divine Love embrace me and mentally lift me up. I rejoiced! That was the end of the depression.

Today, now three years later, I can honestly say that I love being a mother, with all its joys and challenges.


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