Thursday, July 10, 2008

Seventeen

Seventeen years ago today I gave birth to my second born, whose name is (really) Rebecca. It was my only homebirth, and it was smooth, and swift and golden in my memories. I had stayed up until midnight bleaching the kitchen and bathroom from top to bottom, and washing every single thing in the house that was washable. After I hung my last load of laundry "op zolder" I fell into bed at exactly midnight. At exactly 1 am I woke with a contraction and the contractions stayed regular and steady as I sat there on the edge of my bed watching the night sky until the sun came up, and then I woke Steadfast who called the doctor (doctors make house calls in the Netherlands) and his parents to come get our firstborn and whisk her away until the excitement was over.

Dr Siersema arrived with her gentle ways and quiet voice and said yes, it was time to call a nurse to assist, and to have a baby. The nurse arrived and made tea and Steadfast and the two women sat and drank tea in front of me and made small talk, which I found greatly annoying because I had reached transition by this time and just wanted to concentrate alone in my bubble... facing backwards on my knees in a rocking chair rocking in a beam of sunlight through each wave of pain... I asked them if they could please be quiet and Steadfast said I was being too serious, and I said "because I have to push" - and at this tea cups were set hastily aside and the work began.

She was a girl. And I was shocked. She had been so active and felt so much longer in utero than her older sister. I was sure she was the wrong baby and Dr Siersema said "I can't put her back, she's yours to keep"... and obviously, born at home, she could not have been switched. I don't remember really meeting her. I don't know where she was while I got the 14 inner and 9 outer stitches where I had torn from ship to shore. The "kraamtijd" was not restful, as the nurse was new and inexperienced and I had a 1 yo to take care of. The nurse was there for a week and when she left, I found a dirty coffee cup she had left and I just laid on the ground and cried for an hour.. how was I going to take care of two babies and wash a coffee cup?

Little did I know that was the beginning of a long bout with post-partum depression. My life became a joyless monotany of changing diapers and feeding babies and making dinner and doing dishes. I wanted to sleep forever.

I had no friends in that strange land. I had a father-in-law who believed real Christians don't get depressed and so Steadfast was ashamed of me. It was a long dark tunnel of hopelessness. And I was isolated and alone.

My first memory of Rebecca is of when she was about nine months old and she was sitting on my bedroom floor crying and I was staring emotionless at her thinking "why doesn't her mother care for her"... I probably watched her cry for a good five minutes and then I realized, I was her mother. I picked her up and comforted her, but I still did not *feel* I was her mother...

When she was around 15 months old the sun broke through the darkness and I looked at her cute chubbiness and adored her... love was born that illuminated the darkness of that despair and chased it away into the far corners of my heart.

For years after that, she was one who often needed hugs and cuddles. I try to remember if I did cuddle her in that foggy time. I hope I did. I can't remember.... in those months I operated out of habit and routine... I functioned as a robot. Was it in my habit and routine to hold her a while after I had nursed her? Did I ever smile at her? Did I ever smother her with kisses as I have done her sisters?

Writing this causes a waterfall of tears to stream down my face. I so miss those lost months. Here is my tall beautiful girl whose babyhood I barely remember. A couple of weeks ago I could look at my first born on her 18th birthday and say "here's my grown girl, I remember when she was born and her hair curled from the damp and she looked up at me with those great eyes and I was smitten". I grieve that I don't remember meeting Becca.

I hope over the years we have made up for those lost first moments. She is a gem of a girl. Quick to help, level-headed... probably the most level-headed of all the womenfolk in this household. While I have been her teacher, and the teacher of her sisters, she has often been the one to teach me... she has taught me everything from being honest with myself ("I can't say that" "you can, Mama, you just don't want to") - to how to crop a photo in Paint... I treasure the moments she allows me to see the world through her eyes, because they often bring an "a ha!" moment with them that illuminates something that was once hidden... but should not be.

Just as Christ illuminates our souls and reveals what is there, that should not be. Where was Christ in Becca's baby years? I felt much abandoned by God in my first years of marriage. But I know He was there. I think without Him, I would have fallen much further from hope than I did. Without Him, I don't think Hope would have ever returned. Since Becca I've had a couple more brushes with post-partum depression, but none as deep and dark or as long as that bout was.

Dear Becca. I love you more than a mother's heart can contain. I am so immensely proud of you. I love the pretty pictures you take. I love your wry sense of humor. I love having another Jane Austen fan in our home. I do cherish the memories I do have of your childhood, and I admire the woman you are becoming. You were an adorable baby... your smiles broke through my gloom, and they still light up my life... even though now it is filled with joys overflowing... the joy of being your mother is one of the greatest gifts God could have ever given me.

12 comments:

Mamalama said...

wow. Wow. WOW. (((sigh)))

:) HaPpY bIrThDaY BeCca! :)

{{{hugs}}} to you, Mama.

Teresa said...

Dear Hind's Feet,

I am not sure of your real name. I am Teresa and I have left a few comments. I, too, suffered from PPD. I didn't have a f-i-l who thought what yours did and my husband was not ashamed, but I was ashamed for so long - ashamed of myself and what I couldn't do and how much I slept and how much I cried. My heart just went out to you. I can't imagine being condemned for the state of my mind after pregnancy. I loved my firstborn so much and yet I did so many things the wrong way because I was in such a fog. I agree with you, I felt so alone and abandoned by God. Now, looking back, it seems that without HIM, I would have given up. I have had PPD with each child and thankfully my doctors have been pro-active. Thank you for your story and your sweet blog.
My blog (if you want to read about me is www.reflectingplace.blogspot.com

Lovingly, Teresa

Miranda said...

AWW *tears*

EuroMom said...

Thank you for sharing your heart. What lovely young ladies you have over there!

Anonymous said...

I always read your blog, but I have never commented. Thank you for your honesty. I remember some of those same feelings and I have felt guilty, too. My daughter is an adult now and I'm proud of her, but I always wonder, too, what she missed. With God's grace, we do the best we can.
Sincerely, Canadamom (at RGT)

truth said...

Thank-you for sharing such a tender, touching story. It's a wonder how we, our children and all even survive at all. What what a lovely story of redemption.

Happy Birthday to your second born. My second born turned 24 today.

noelle said...

I have read your blog for a few months, but I don't think I have ever left a comment. I have such a similar story to yours. My postpartum depression began as prenatal depression finding out I was pregnant while my baby was 6 months old and we had just moved 8 hours from all our friends and family. I struggled with depression after the birth too. I remember just wanting to lie down in the road and have someone run over me so I could die. That was with my oldest son. He too is the one that always needs a hug, always needs to embrace. He's only 11 and I often wonder if I have done some damage to his little soul by my mood disorders in that time.

I was also in a church where I really felt that my depression had to do with my lack of spiritual discipline. I really don't believe that anymore. I believe that depression is just one of those things that happens in a fallen world, like disease and death.

Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for reminding me that I am not alone in this.

Jenni said...

Oh Heather, I can well imagine you cried while writing this! I am all choked up for you too! What a dark time that must have been for you...I wish you had had more support, but I think you are a wonderful mother, and you express your love for your children all kinds of ways, not the least of which is here, in your writing, and in your pictures. The Lord has been, and will always be, the restorer of the years that the locusts have eaten. I never had PPD to that extent, but the locusts came in other ways in my life, and I take comfort in that verse.

(((HUGS))) and Happy Birthday Wishes to Becca!!!

Mommyswanson said...

A beautiful & honest post. Much love & hugs to you & your girls.

Laura

4Js4HIM said...

((((Heather)))) I was crying throughout your post. I also was prasing the Lord that He brought you out of your PPD to enjoy your sweet blessing.

Happy Birthday, Rebecca! You are a lovely, talented young lady!

~Kathy

Persuaded said...

My dear this is an absolutely beautiful-beyond-words post. It has helped me to understand PPD- something I have never experienced and has always bewildered me. I think that it needs to be read by more than just your own circle of blog readers... if you don't mind my saying that.

Would you consider submitting it to the Ladies Against Feminism site for publication/sharing? It's just basically link sharing, but the site has a very wide readership circle.... I think this piece could bless so very many people.

warmest thoughts and ((hugs)) to you and your sweet girlies, my dear.

Anonymous said...

I struggled/still struggle with post partum depression with the birth of many of my little blessings. I'm glad that several christians speak out on this now. It is so easy for people who don't struggle with this to point a finger hastily and say you must not really be a christian or such and such. It wasn't until after my fourth child that I felt comfortable to even mention that I had struggled.
I am thankful for what you mentioned about 'missing' your second childs babyhood. I did the same with my second born and have felt guilt all these years until reading what you wrote. Thanks for letting God use you to write that post (almost a year and a half ago, now).
My heart has been heavy as we face the possiblity of future pregnancies, but now I can rest assured that for my part, I can't go back, but look forward and try to make up for it in the future.
Thanks,
Jen