Let me preface this by saying that this post should probably have chapters. It is quite long and I apologize in advance.
I have been away for a little while and not writing. The first few weeks were because of covid and pneumonia. I was honestly just too sick and exhausted to put my thoughts to paper. I continued with that narrative as the excuse to why I wasn’t blogging. But that was only a portion of the truth. My anxiety was slowly escalating since the new year. My mind knew that some big anniversaries were coming up, and I think fear came in. So while my goal is to capture the last year – the story really does start the year prior. So please bear with me.
January 21st was the one year anniversary of the day that my life should have ended by my own hand. Let’s be real and honest in the ugliness here and say it, “suicide”. My mind had convinced me that I was such a burden, that my husband and baby deserved so much better, that their lives could be better if the weight of who I was disappeared, that there would be a sense of relief to everybody I knew from being done with me, that I was worthless, useless, incapable, disgusting, a monster, undeserving, ungrateful. And on top of all that was such hopelessness. My mind was clouded in such oppressive darkness. There was no way out. Every day was pain. So. Much. Pain. And I was exhausted. I couldn’t do it anymore. Except my mind realized there was a way out. That it could really all be so easy to end it. Nobody knew how bad it was yet. I did a great job keeping up the façade of a happy Mom. My mind was in such darkness that I didn’t even believe death would save me. I prayed constantly and believed very much in God’s Kingdom and I begged him to still accept me if I took my life. Yet, even in that, I didn’t believe that my mind would be whole again. I thought that I wouldn’t just feel that way for the rest of my physical life, but that I was destined for an eternity of such depression, despair, and darkness. This is how irrational my mind was that I believed in the promises of eternity, but not as they applied to me. I didn’t feel that God would find me worthy of healing in the afterlife. But the amazing thing is that God did, and does, find me worthy of saving.
I have shared details of the 21st, and the subsequent days, as well as inpatient and my Zulresso treatment in previous posts. So today, what I really want to do, is talk about all the miracles, mercy, and grace God has poured out over me and my family.
The only time I recall God speaking to me in my adult life was in the summer of 2018. There was a really bad situation at my place of employment occurring, and it resulted in some retaliatory and boxing out behavior directed at me for my unwillingness to look the other way. I was crushed, but still would not give in. And my mind suffered a bit. I remember lying facedown on the ground, crying out to God for direction and peace over it all. And in the midst of my hysteria, I heard very clearly, “Sarah. Sarah. All will be well”. Instantly my tears dried and the crying ceased. There was no denying who had spoken to me. I just needed to trust in Him. My husband and I would be baptized that November and then follow the path God had laid before us in moving to Idaho.
Our move to Idaho was only possible because of Him. He opened doors and made a way when none seemed possible. The only place my husband could transfer to within his corporation had no need for him. Within a matter of days, his exact position would become vacant and they would truly need his help. The start date was what we hoped for. My sister and her family were also able to move at the same time. A rental home became available that we all could share until our houses were done. Blessings upon blessings.
And then another miracle happened. Six weeks after moving to North Idaho, we became pregnant. We had discussed adopting after getting settled in up here because I was told over a dozen years prior that I wouldn’t be able to have children. But God had other plans! Olivia was perfectly healthy throughout the entire pregnancy despite the health challenges I endured. Praise God!
Our new home fell through shortly after learning we were pregnant. And the rental was up in June (2019). So we had a very small amount of time to figure out what to do. Being an emotional, hormonal disaster, I wanted to have our own home, and to set up a nursery for Olivia, and nest – all the things!
We began looking at homes and so many were out of our price range. And if they weren’t, then they were gone before we even got a chance to look at them. It was so frustrating. So as the end of April rolled around, and nothing set up yet, we prayed without ceasing. Shortly thereafter, a friend would call and tell us that somebody on their street had placed a “for sell by owner” sign in their front yard. We immediately got in touch and saw the home that night. We weren’t the first to walk through it that day, and they had several more inquiries and offers. But their choosing us was an answered prayer. It was under value which kept it in our price range. More miracles from God! We moved in that home in June and had almost 5 months to get everything set up for our little sweet pea.
In the midst of all this, I was doing a lot of reading. All things pregnancy and postpartum. And during the spring of 2019, I happened to read the clinical trial information regarding brexanalone (Zulresso). I was intrigued, but never heard anything else about it. I filed it away in my mind as useful information for future patients.
November 2019 Olivia was born completely healthy. During the last few weeks, I had developed borderline cholestasis and had temporarily dipped into heart failure. Both of these items pose an increased risk for neonatal death. But God, in all his goodness, kept her safe throughout it all! She was perfectly healthy and feisty from the get-go. My mind didn’t let me see any of the beautiful light that lived within her, and it certainly didn’t let me recognize her as my daughter, or that I was a Mother. I was in a very strange, dissociated state. I started going through the motions.
A few days later, severe postpartum pre-eclampsia developed and I was re-admitted for a few more days (http://mypostpartumstory.org/may-23-2020/) (http://mypostpartumstory.org/postpartum-preeclampsia-and-ppd-lies/). This would be the first time God would save my life in the matter of a few months. Symptomatically, everything I was feeling I just assumed was part of being a new Mom. I was exhausted and dizzy, had a headache, shoulder pain, and chest pain. But I honestly wrote it off as the discomfort of being a new Mom. Even when I started shivering uncontrollably while bundled up in front of the fireplace, I still didn’t think anything was wrong. My temperature was fine, so I wasn’t dealing with an infection. I wasn’t bleeding outside what they said was normal, so that was fine as well. My plan was to just go to bed, try to get some rest. Following what I can only imagine was God’s prompting, my sister asked me to check my blood pressure in case it was low (as it historically can dip fairly low). It wasn’t. It was 190/110. Had I gone to bed with that pressure, I likely would not have survived until the morning. Praise the Lord! Another very important aspect of this is that my PPD was documented for the first time while being treated for the preeclampsia. And because of the complications, I got a 2 week follow up where we again discussed and documented PPD. This will be important later.
During those first couple months, while recovering from childbirth and preeclampsia, as well as trying to fight a fragmenting mind, one of my sisters would take Olivia for overnight visits to her house in an effort to let us rest. I didn’t sleep. But I didn’t tell anybody that. Because the truth was that I just wanted to be away from Olivia for a little bit. I wanted her “real Mom” to come and pick her up because I was tired of babysitting her. I know that is a horrid thing to say, but I said we were going to be getting into ugly truths here.
Olivia’s first Thanksgiving and Christmas came and went. For me, I again just went through the motions. My husband and her Aunts, Uncles, and cousins all made sure to dote on her and make her “firsts” beautiful. I’m grateful for all the pictures they took throughout this time period as I have no memories. I feel like I missed this huge chunk of her life despite being her primary caretaker. My mind was so detached from this beautiful little being. God made sure others filled the gaps for Olivia and loved her fiercely. He also made sure that there would be plenty of photos and videos of this time, so when I am ready to look at them all, I can.
Gabe was born to be a Dad (http://mypostpartumstory.org/a-letter-to-my-husband/). He is such an amazing Daddy to Olivia, and has been from the moment she was developing in my womb. He made sure that although I was struggling, he would try to carry on with the holidays for us as a family.
The darkness of North Idaho in the winter, coupled with snow, made it very difficult to get outside much with a newborn. So I isolated at home with her, not really granting anybody access to come help out, slowly dying on the inside as I cared for this sweet child that was reliant on me.
New Years Eve/New Years Day 2020. I wrote a note to Gabe letting him know I was leaving. But God stopped me from giving it to him (http://mypostpartumstory.org/january-1-2020/).
At this time our insurance also changed. We were previously on a Kaiser PPO, which had been great for our out-of-pocket expenses. However, we were now being switched to BCBS PPO, which would involve much higher out of pocket expenses. But God. God knew what we would face in 2020. He knew that we would need this insurance in order for me to receive the inpatient care and Zulresso. Kaiser does not utilize brexanalone yet. So just by switching our insurance (which we were upset about until we realized the long game), God saved my life.
On January 21, 2020, I stood with the knife pressing into my wrist, waiting for the first droplets of blood. Suddenly there was a big “woosh” of air inhaled by me, and the thought, “you’re just tired”. I felt defeated in my ability to even find enough energy to kill myself. But the reality is that God breathed borrowed breath into me to allow me a long enough pause to hear Him basically tell me to go to bed (http://mypostpartumstory.org/it-all-came-down-2/).
The following day, I was on the phone with one of my sisters about some family issues that my Dad had just vented to me about. I won’t lie, at that point I was wishing I had followed through the night prior because how could I keep pretending that I care about other people’s issues, when I couldn’t even care about my own. So when my sister called, I was sobbing and just couldn’t hold it together anymore. I had Olivia in my arms, sleeping so sweetly, and I am wrecked with depression. In our conversation I told her that I was just tired and overwhelmed. And then I told her, almost while laughing (because that would somehow make it seem less serious *insert eye roll here!), that while opening Olivia’s formula can with the knife, I became transfixed on how easy it would be to just end it all in that moment. The knife was already at my wrist, I just had to push in a little bit more and this could just be done. She asked if I was suicidal. Of course I told her I was not. She asked why the knife then. I’m sure I told her something about self-harm, or just to see if I could feel anything. All lies. And she knew they were. She said she was going to call Gabe, which I resisted. But if that meant I could go lay down and he could take the baby, then that was fine. So Gabe came rushing home, and while I rested, he implemented a safety plan and Olivia went to stay at my sister’s house. The other sister was concerned about Olivia being there should I need to be committed, or if I did follow through with suicide. They all just thought it best for her not to be there so Gabe could focus on babysitting me. This all sounds ridiculous, I know. But this was our life in that moment. This particular sister flew up within the next couple days to help with Olivia and myself. The amazing movement from God through all of this is that my sister happened to be off work for a period of time. She is never off work. Ever. But had taken some time. So she was available to come help out. Gabe’s bosses didn’t bat an eye when he told them he would be gone the remainder of that week and likely for a few weeks to come. God just really placed some key people around us.
In speaking with my sisters, one of them mentioned Zulresso. She was friends with a psychiatrist affiliated with the clinical trials, and so knew all about it. This sister wasn’t sure if it was something for me to pursue, or that I even qualified for, etc. When she mentioned it to me, I recalled the clinical trials and data sets I had read. I remembered how well it worked for severe postpartum depression. I told her that I wanted the infusion. And that I also needed to go inpatient while waiting because I was not safe. So she spoke to her friend to figure out how we could get that going. I also reached out to anywhere online, or through FB, that I could find it mentioned. Mind you, it hadn’t even been FDA approved for an entire year at this point. But God sent me an angel. Her name is Lauren and she runs Better Beginnings LLC in Florida. She talked me through the process of how to get enrolled with Sage and recommended for Zulresso. But beyond that – she called me every single day to check in on me until I made it into inpatient care. She didn’t know me at all. And I wasn’t going to be able to do my infusion at her facility. She literally had nothing to gain. But her grace and kindness just washed over me. She understood. She had walked the depths of postpartum mood disorders and could relate. She made me feel less alone in it, even from opposite ends of the country. I know God placed her in my life at the exact moment I needed her. Lauren saved my life (http://mypostpartumstory.org/may-7-2020/).
With new information in hand, our first appointment was with my OB. I like him as a provider; however, his knowledge of perinatal mood disorders was clearly lacking. Here I was, 10 weeks postpartum, depressed, anxious, suicidal, and he says, “So this isn’t even postpartum depression anymore; this is depression depression”. Oh, we have so much work to do in this area. But I digress. He had never heard of Zulresso. And after explaining what it was, he felt that it would be a last resort type of treatment and wasn’t very confident we would be able to get it. I told him that I felt otherwise; that this should be a first line treatment, and that I would be getting the infusion regardless of him filling out the paperwork or not. He is such a kind man, and was a fantastic OB – we just adored him. But I get it, this was out of his wheelhouse. Prior to this, Zulresso has only been addressed with psychiatrists as opposed to OB’s who are really the front line doctors in catching spiraling Mamas. Anyway, after taking some time to research it, and understanding the portion we needed him to fill out was strictly a referral to meet with a psychiatrist approved to administer Zulresso (and they would make the decision), he signed and faxed everything over for us. We were now in the Sage (Zulresso’s pharmaceutical company) system and could call their navigators at any time for help on the next steps.
The following appointment was with my primary care provider. He, unfortunately, has suffered severe depression and SI his entire life. So our discussion was very triggering to him and everything I think he intended to say and do went out the window. Poor guy. But I didn’t really need anything from him anyway. I just wanted to touch base so he would know what was going on and what the plan was.
I would have an appointment with a psychiatrist who agreed to squeeze me in the following day (1/29/2020). But on the in-between, we had been getting out of the house every day to walk and what not. We walked down the street and around the corner in our neighborhood to an area that was being developed. The street was now in place and we could see it was an “L” shaped cul-de-sac. We walked to the end of it and stood on the different lots, analyzing how much natural light we would get (the more the better), what the views would be, how big the lot was. And as we stood there dreaming, we stayed on one particular lot and decided that would be a dream come true for somebody and began walking back. On the return trip, my sister noticed the model was open and wanted to go in. I was already beyond irritated with it all and was so annoyed by her wanting to make this extra stop. When you are actively suicidal, everything is a big deal. I did what they asked and went for a walk, but now this? I was over it. So we go into the model and my sister is walking around admiring it. Then she asks the agent about the lot we were standing on. The agent tells us there are 50 people on the list for that lot. My sister tells us we should put our names on it. Mind you, we had just purchased our home several months earlier – moving wasn’t exactly an option. But, in order to get her to stop talking, I put our names on the list so we could go home.
That evening I found a little bit of energy and got the house cleaned and all the bills paid for the entire month of February. I just knew God was working something out. Sure enough, the following morning, we received a phone call that there was a bed opening on the perinatal psychiatric inpatient unit at UNC. So we booked our red-eye flights out there, all the while praying that no other Mom needed that bed prior to our arrival. Flights booked, bags packed, we headed to my first psychiatric appointment. He knew about Zulresso and was hopeful for me. He also agreed that he would continue my care upon my release and return home. That in and of itself was huge because I had called over a dozen providers in the weeks prior. Informing them that it was urgent, I either got no call back, or was put on a 6-8 week waiting list. Even the PSI coordinator for my area didn’t get back to me for three weeks. It was horrible.
We left from the psychiatric office and headed straight to the airport. We were scheduled to fly into Chicago, and then from Chicago to Charlotte. With a 10 week old. During flu, RSV, and we would later learn, covid. My anxiety was not managing well. As my last post discussed, my mind thought of many creative ways to end my life along the way. I had to be babysat in everything I did because my mind couldn’t be trusted. Despite all these thoughts running through my mind, and my deep longing to end my life, I was paralyzed by the weight of my sadness. God didn’t let me further act out any of the ideas running through my mind.
I will skip to actually being inpatient now as my last post covered the arrival in detail (http://mypostpartumstory.org/red-eye-reflections/). But as we walked into the unit, despite the shock of the situation, I specifically remember telling my husband and sister, “If I survive this, I will make something good from this and I will advocate for other Moms”. God doesn’t waste a hurt. He truly turns beauty from ashes. I know those words were from Him and I intend to follow through on them. I was being broken all the way down to be refined into something different, into someone different.
Because I checked in on a Thursday evening, there wasn’t much to do the next few days. Friday had minimal groups, and the weekend had none at all. I just laid in my bed and cried those first few days. I would go out for mealtime, because I had to while they were monitoring my food intake (I hadn’t been eating prior to arrival due to having no appetite). Then I would return to my room, hopeless and full of shame. During this time, however, my family was able to visit. Typically, visitors aren’t allowed on psychiatric units. But because this was the perinatal unit and time with baby to work on bond is encouraged, there were times set apart for visitation. Also, during this time there were signs everywhere of a “terrible flu season”, which we now know was actually covid, and children were not allowed in the hospital to visit at all. Again, the exception was the perinatal psychiatric inpatient unit. So God really ensured that we could stay connected despite my needing to be in there. My family didn’t miss a single visit, regardless of what else was going on in their hectic days.
In the background, behind the scenes, my family was diligently working on the Zulresso approval. Countless hours were spent on the phone daily with BCBS, UNC, and Sage. I had to speak to the insurance company once, while tethered to a phone with an 8 inch cord, out in the open so the nurses could monitor what was happening. I had already given them the okay for certain family members to speak on my behalf and have access to my information. But BCBS was such a disaster, they couldn’t ever find it in their notes. So for 45 minutes, neck awkwardly tilted to use the phone while sitting in a plastic chair, I reiterated that I was inpatient and unable to advocate for myself. I also told them, quite frankly, that if I did not receive the infusion, I would die. There was, and still is, zero doubt in my mind that I would take my life otherwise. But God was working on things, and I tried to lean into that faith, but absolutely was falling short. One piece I want to share regarding the insurance approval for Zulresso, is that many insurance companies require documentation of severe PPD symptoms within the first four weeks postpartum in order to be eligible. Had I not become ill with preeclampsia, none of the documentation would have existed until 6 weeks postpartum when follow-ups usually occur (another area that needs massive treatment guideline changes).
Finally on about day 4 or 5, I decided I would try the groups. Nothing particularly helpful emerged, but it did allow me to open up to the other women on unit. And when new women arrived, I was able to immediately speak to them and try to get to know them, reminding them they weren’t alone, and hoping to make them feel more comfortable in that place (my provider heart never stops). I even participated in two different clinical trials while on unit. Anything that might possibly help other Mamas in the future to not suffer as I did, I was willing to do.
Overall, the UNC Perinatal Psychiatric Inpatient Unit (PPIU), was nothing more than a holding place to try to allow medication to stabilize you. Everything they claimed to be, and all the good interventions and strategies they discuss on their website never came to fruition during my time there. In 12 days, I didn’t once speak with a licensed therapist or psychologist. And when I questioned why all the other women had and I did not, I was given excuses, and promises that he would come the next day. He did come the next day, saw somebody else, and snuck out without seeing me. This is actually quite damaging to somebody who already thinks they are a worthless burden, because it just reinforces that belief of not mattering enough. The one licensed mental health person I did speak with was a “bonding expert”. I requested a session with her as I had serious concerns regarding my lack of a bond with Olivia. I didn’t want to keep feeling like her babysitter and wanted to know how to fix it. So, here we are on a maternal mental health unit, and all her solutions had to do with ensuring the baby was bonded to me. She was. That wasn’t the issue. It just totally missed the mark and reinforced the idea that Mamas don’t really matter once baby is born. And to have even an inkling of that feeling while in a place that is supposed to be focused on the Mom’s wellness was really disappointing. But what did happen on unit, was my connection with God grew as He spoke life into me, making his presence known (http://mypostpartumstory.org/september-13-2020/).
The inpatient experience at UNC PPIU was not what I expected, nor what it was said to be by their staff. However, I was able to see my family multiple times each day. Truth be told, and a very hard truth this is, I didn’t really care if I saw Olivia. But God absolutely knew what was best and I am really grateful that I was allowed those visits, and that time with her. I also met some of the most amazing, strong, big-hearted women while there. Some have become my dearest friends that I just love so much. Going through something like that and helping each other survive and endure creates a very unique bond. God put us all there at the same time for a reason, and I am so grateful to have made it through with these warrior women.
After 12 days on the peri unit followed by 60 hours on the Zulresso infusion, I got to go home. We got to go home as a family. This day last year, Valentine’s Day 2020, Olivia’s first Valentine’s, God showed us the power of His love. We were truly a healthy, loving family for the first time since Olivia’s birth. Truly, “…because He first loved us” (John 4:19) made it possible.
Going home was surreal. To be honest, I was terrified. What if the bubble I was in was the only reason my mind was doing so much better? What if the Zulresso did not actually heal the suicidality and deep hopelessness? What if?
God is so much bigger than my “what ifs”. He had shown Himself so much throughout my journey that I really had no reason to fear. Even when we got home and found out that the little church we had been attending was shut down. Even when the entire country came to a halt due to covid, and we were forced into isolation (an historically dangerous thing for me). Even when things seemed to spiraling in this world. My Father reminded me of the fire we had walked through, and none of that would ever hold a candle to it.
In the midst of this, I decided that I would be honest with people about my disappearance over the prior two weeks. One of the people I was very honest with had gone to church with us at our now-closed church. I talked to her to ask her what happened with church, covid, all the things I had missed in my absence. And during this conversation, I told her my truth. And you know what happened? She told me a very big, private truth about herself as well. Then she invited me to Moms Connect at Heart of the City Church. Her vulnerability, invite, and checking in was so important at that time (and still is).
Moms Connect has truly been life-saving. But I would be remiss if I told you that I was excited to go to some Moms group at a church I had never stepped foot in. I tried to get out of going and this friend wasn’t having it. She knew how important it was going to be for me, even if I didn’t yet know it. She offered to drive me, watch Olivia while there, whatever it was going to take to ensure I attended. I was so nervous, to be honest. I was worried about the judgement or the whispers that I clearly didn’t have a strong-enough faith if I went through that (as some churches claim). But what I found still moves me. I found the most loving, convicted, accepting, prayerful, life-giving group of women I have ever met in my life. They moved me to tears that day, and do most Tuesday mornings. It didn’t matter where I went to church, or if I even did. It didn’t matter what I had just endured – it didn’t signify anything regarding my relationship with the Lord or the character of who I was. What I went through was exactly that…. Something I went through. To be loved and reaffirmed by these perfect strangers was such a gift from God. These women are gifts from the Lord.
Also during this time, God would bring another friend closer in my life. We had never really spent any time together prior to my hospitalization. But when she found out what had happened, she asked me to set up weekly get-togethers with her. She had never gone through any PMADs herself, but she knew that I needed to schedule things and leave the house. And when covid shut everything down, she persisted, and we would meet at parks in the parking lot, backing the cars up to one another and sitting in the backs several feet away. There were times I hated having to go. I didn’t want to leave the house with Olivia and all her things. It made me so anxious. But this gem of a friend kept on me, and we did this for a couple months. I didn’t know I would need this friend. I tried not to be her friend! She will tell you the same. But God knew and worked through her.
Somewhere during spring of last year, we found out that the beautiful wooded property behind us (the reason we bought our home), was going to be torn down for a new development. I told Gabe we needed to move. I didn’t want to live through that construction. And honestly, that house held so much darkness, I just didn’t want to be there anymore. I know that all sounds so drastic, but my mind just couldn’t handle the thought of that additional stress. So we discussed moving. But the reality is that we had only been in our house for about 10 months and there was just no way. We should have known God would make a way.
Within a couple days of learning about the subdivision and calling our realtor in a panic, we received another call asking if we were still interested in that property on the cul-de-sac. You know, the property that had a list 50 deep! We had gone from #51 to #2 on the list. The thing was, the builder was no longer taking contingencies, so if we wanted it, we had to be out of our house. And of course, the people in front of us would have to pass on the house. So we took a huge leap of faith.
We listed our house and accepted an offer within the first few hours (http://mypostpartumstory.org/june-3-2020/). We got a storage unit that would hold a bulk of our belongings and arranged an apartment to stay in. During this time, we still didn’t know if we would end up getting the property. The people on the list in front of us were still deciding. They wanted to go back out and look at it again and then make some decisions. So for a couple weeks, we were in limbo as to our future. But we just carried on with the process we had started. And about a week before moving into the apartment, we found out that the other people passed – the house and lot was ours! This place we had stood a couple months prior and daydreamed about – the opportunity we talked about as being a blessing for somebody else, was now our blessing. God’s goodness is limitless.
And I want to backtrack for a moment about selling the house. We knew that we could have waited and driven up the price, garnering a more significant profit. But when we received the call about a viewing one hour after listing, I set it up and got Olivia and I ready to go for a walk. As soon as we left the house, I began to pray that God would bring the right buyers to our home; that he would bring people that would be blessed by that house; that perhaps an older couple might find sanctuary there because of the accessibility. So as I was walking with Olivia, I called Gabe. I told him that I felt like an older couple would be our buyers and that we needed to accept their offer, even if it was less than asking. Gabe told me that if that is what God had spoken to me, then we would absolutely do that.
Olivia and I began our walk, and I looped around because I was really wanting to know who was coming to see the house! Wouldn’t you know that an elderly couple got out to look? My heart felt this instant peace that this was their home now. They put in their offer at asking and we immediately accepted. What we would later learn is that God was working miracles for both families. They had looked at houses all week, seeking to retire in North Idaho from Boise. They had been unsuccessful in their search, packed up the RV, and were heading south on the freeway to head back home when their realtor called them with a listing that just showed up (ours) and thought they should turn around. So they did! God knew exactly who needed to be in that home. And he brought them to us right away so that we could still make the new build work. So many were blessed in that transaction.
So once we finished all the paperwork and handed over the keys, we worked on getting settled into the apartment. Only I was having surgeries a few days after moving (http://mypostpartumstory.org/june-22-2020/), (http://mypostpartumstory.org/july-3-2020/). Once again, family just showed up to help with the move and the post-op, taking turns flying in to ensure Olivia was well-cared for while I was recovering. Like I have said before, I am so blessed by my tribe. God knew at birth how important each member of my family would be to my surviving, and placed me with them. And He also allowed for something else amazing to happen during this time. I wasn’t able to hold Olivia, and it had been almost 10 days without having her in my arms. I felt broken. My heart craved her, my daughter, for the first time ever. And her snuggles were so healing to me, not just physically, but to my soul.
Then Halloween came and we had the best time trick-or-treating with Olivia. I just couldn’t stop smiling and feeling so overwhelmed with gratitude for the emotions I was now able to feel, and the memories I could make with my daughter (http://mypostpartumstory.org/halloween-covid-and-cartwheels-oh-my/).
Then it was Olivia’s birthday (http://mypostpartumstory.org/tailspin/). I know I wrote extensively about the difficulties surrounding that time. My mind was being very unkind to me, driving darkness and anxiety to heightened levels, making me wonder if I was backtracking and would end up again where I once had been. But, God. He sat with me through my grief and tears and helped me remember what joy I now derived from being a mother to this amazing little human. That yes, the year prior when I gave birth to her, a lot of bad things would happen. But we survived. Our family survived it together, intact; all glory to God. So the next few days were a bit easier, and eventually I became excited for the holidays with Olivia. I know they weren’t her first, but for me, recognizing her as my daughter and myself as her mother, these were the first holidays we would share together. Even if it was in a cramped apartment! Lol. To be together for the holidays last year was something that could have easily not happened. I could have been absent from their lives, greatly altering the trajectory of their future. And God didn’t let that happen. He held my husband and I up and gave us strength to fight. Not with each other, but for each other and for our family.
Even when we found out that Gabe’s branch would be closing, we stood faithful that God would provide. His mercies are new everyday and He would carry us through. Even if that meant losing the house and the money we had paid into it. That would still be okay because we would all be alive and well and together. But in His goodness, the company that won the bid asked to hire on Gabe and his team. And though it has been a stressful transition, I know that it is a blessing from the Lord. That this job will provide provision and security. That it will eventually become less stressful once all the systems are worked out and implemented.
Somewhere during that time, I also attended another women’s event at the church. One of the big topics was worthlessness. It’s a lie I found ruminating in my mind frequently. Just that morning, they had asked me to close our Moms group in prayer, and I declined. I didn’t feel worthy enough to pray for and with all these women. So when they were offering prayer over this topic for women that needed it, I went up. A beautiful friend of mine prayed over me, rebuking that thought, and prophesying that it would be no more. And it hasn’t flittered through my mind at all since. The power of the holy spirit is so amazing.
So as we headed towards Christmas, we were feeling more secure about our future. And then we all got hit with covid (http://mypostpartumstory.org/covid-quarantine-and-pmads/). Myself, with bilateral pneumonia as well (http://mypostpartumstory.org/a-letter-from-the-er/). And Olivia seemed to fare well, thank the Lord! It was a long recovery. I am still experiencing some symptoms. But overall, God’s grace covered us and kept us from becoming severely ill. And Olivia didn’t really experience any of the illness, which I was so incredibly grateful for. Being home together with covid was difficult in that we were both so sick, and Olivia was still full of energy. So trying to tag-team caring for her and resting became quite the intricate ballet (http://mypostpartumstory.org/im-just-so-tired/). But we made it. And another blessing happened during this time. Olivia began walking! And Gabe got to be home for all of those early first steps. It was so beautiful and joyous to have our family together for those moments.
Amongst the excitement of the New Year coming into place, doing final walk-throughs and really looking forward to the house closing, we lost somebody so incredibly special to us. Olivia’s Grandma JuDee passed away on the 29th – the one year anniversary of our flight for help. Her transition was a flight to paradise and wholeness. And while we grieve that she and Olivia never got to meet earthside, I know JuDee is rejoicing with the Lord. She was always on “my team”. So loving and concerned, always making sure I was doing the things I needed to be doing to stay well. Her love was fierce and she is so missed.
5 days later we would close on the house. It felt a little bittersweet to be celebrating the closing of this dream home, while grieving the thought that JuDee will never meet Olivia in it. And it is the promise of eternity in God’s kingdom that has me rejoicing right now. How grateful I am to know, without a doubt, that when her soul departed her body, she was met at the gates of Heaven, a good and faithful servant. We miss you, JuDee, and are still setting up the guest room as the peacock room for you. All who stay there will learn of your life and your love.
We signed all of our closing documents and received our keys on February 3. At this point last year, I had been on unit for 5 days. I had already figured out my plan to get out by being cooperative and giving answers signifying gradual progress and improvement. Once I got out, I still planned to take my life if Zulreso was not going to be approved. And now this year, I was picking up keys to a beautiful new home that we get to build our life in as a family. Olivia gets to grow up here, building deep roots into the community. I never could have even dreamt that this could be my life one year later. But God did. He already knew. This goodness we have been walking in is truly only because of his mercy and grace. And I am so grateful.
So as we are continuing to unpack and try to get settled in, the weight, frustration, and unrest of it all has been difficult on my mood. My anxiety is higher, my sleep isn’t as good, my depression is poking its head up a bit in the form of fatigue and lacking motivation, and my bleeding knuckles can tell you how my OCD is doing. But above all else, I am healing. I talk with my psychiatrist about my medications. I continue weekly therapy visits, incorporating EMDR into sessions. I try to have a schedule of “events” every week that get Olivia and I out of the house. When the weather clears some, she and I will go for walks every day. And when the days are really difficult during this season of remembrance, I go back to the basics. Sleep. Eat. Shower. Brush my teeth and hair. Get dressed. Drink water. Etc.
So on this Valentine’s Day, I encourage you to celebrate your love with one another, but also the love the Lord has for you. He loves you, sons and daughters of the most high King. He finds you worthy, and beautiful, and powerful, and strong. Seek Him first.
I fell short of that this past week. After dropping some family off at the airport, my anxiety was increasing while Olivia was moody. So I tried calling one of my sisters. No answer. I tried one of my brothers. No answer. I tried a different sister. No answer. And as I am feeling so anxious and like I just really need to talk to somebody on the drive home, I hear, “talk to me”. It was like a gut-punch. How dare I ignore the one who desperately wants conversation and wants to help me in my times of distress. It was the wake-up call reminder I needed to always open my troubled heart to the Lord.
Valentine’s Day will probably always hold a different feeling in our home now. Flying home on that day last year as a complete family was one of the most loving gifts God could have imparted on us. So while we will dote on Olivia, of course, this day is so much bigger to us in our family. It is truly our family reunification day. And what a lovely thing that is.
2/14/2021 – exactly one year later from the time I arrived home a different version of myself, I am an even more different version of myself as God has grown and stretched me in many ways. I am grateful that He walked me through the darkness and set things into motion far before I knew I would need them. His choreography is flawless, and once you recognize what has been occurring, just so beautiful. It’s hard to say that I am grateful for what I went through. But I will say that I am grateful for who we have all become because of it. For the friendships we have gained. For the deeper family relationships. For our intentional walk with Christ as we began attending Heart of the City Church. Just for all the ways God is working in and through us. I thank you, Jesus. We will never stop praising and worshipping you (http://mypostpartumstory.org/july-30-2020/)!
And I thank you for always taking the time to read my posts. I know this one was a super long one – thanks for sticking it through.