By Brooke Nates
In the fall of 2016, we took a family trip to Georgia to go apple picking. This is me, Brian (my husband), Brandon, Bryn, and Brycen… not pictured are our dogs, Bosco and Barkley.
Yes, we are that cheesy “B” family. It’s okay, you can laugh. We totally own our cheesiness.
I don’t know about you, but all my life the only thing I ever wanted was to be married and have babies. I wanted four children, a dog, and a white picket fence – the whole nine. I was going to stay home with my children and make sure they all had warm cookies waiting for them when they get home from school, sew all of their Halloween costumes, be on the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), and live happily ever after.
I told you I was cheesy.
And guess what? My dream did come true!
I married a wonderful man, had three beautiful children, two dogs, and even the white picket fence. No joke. So, you may be wondering why I am even writing this. Well, let’s go back in time to four years ago.
There I was, sitting at the end of my hospital bed, holding my brand new baby boy, bags packed, waiting on my nurse to get the wheelchair… crying.
I felt feelings I had never felt before after having a baby. I wrote it off in my head as hormones. To make matters worse, when the nurse finally came with the wheelchair, she looked confused.
She barely said a word to me as she helped me down to my car. I managed to pull myself together before my husband could see me.
That was it – the beginning of my downward spiral.
That picture you see of Brycen and I was the last happy memory I can remember for almost two years. I look at that picture with joy and sadness all at the same time.
It started with this fog. It was almost as if I were watching myself live my own life. Day after day, just barely getting through. I was exhausted, but more exhausted than I remembered being with my other two babies. Sleep deprivation, I told myself. That is all.
Then, I started to feel overwhelmed all the time. I couldn’t figure out the whole mom-to-an-infant plus two other children routine. And I had to be a wife too – make dinner, take care of the house – it was all just too much and I didn’t know why.
Then, I started to feel like a failure.
I tried talking to my family and they reassured me this was all normal. “All moms feel like this right after having a baby, especially when you have other children.”
Then, something else hit me.
Women: You know when your husband gets on your nerves? I mean really, really gets on your nerves? Like when your husband just being in the room annoys you?
Yep, that happened, but multiply that feeling by a million.
Just his presence started to tick me off. So much so that I literally started to think those dark thoughts. I was that crazy girl that started plotting her own husband’s death. I never figured out how to do it without getting caught, though. Thank God! Brian is thankful too.
Things got much worse.
I started to feel trapped in my skin and in the house. I started seeing things that weren’t there. I would cry and ask God to take my life.
Every time these things and thoughts would happen, I would shake my head, come to my senses, and talk myself back. I had myself convinced that I had this all under control. I could stop all these thoughts. I could snap myself out of it.
I would pray and pray and pray, but I just got worse and worse and worse.
Until one day…
I was standing in Brycen’s room holding a crying baby while my then 2-year old daughter was crying because she wanted me to pick her up.
I picked up the phone to call Brian for help, but there was no answer. I left a message: “I can’t do this anymore.” I put the kids in the car and drove.
I drove to a friend’s house, but she wasn’t home. I was lost, alone, hopeless, and crying hysterically. I wanted nothing more than for it all to end.
I thought of driving off the bridge, but the kids were with me. So, I decided to go home. I would leave them in the car while it ran, call my husband to come get them, and slit my wrist. My plans changed when, as soon as I pulled into the driveway, Brian pulled in after me.
I fell into his arms and told him everything.
The next day, I was at the doctor’s office. I was diagnosed with PPD, which was borderline Postpartum Psychosis. I was text book crazy.
I was so embarrassed, and, to add insult to injury, I was now on suicide watch.
So, my husband took a week off from work, my mom took the next week off, and my sister took the next week off… all just to babysit me. We even had to hire a nanny. I was a stay-at-home mom with a nanny.
I was a failure at being the only thing I ever really wanted to be.
Luckily, God sent us Heather – a true angel for our family.
Heather helped with the kids, took care of me when I couldn’t get out of bed, cooked, cleaned – basically picked up where I literally couldn’t.
Unfortunately, it took almost a year to find the right dose of medicine, and each time we found out I needed a higher dose was right after I took another attempt at my life. The last time, though, I would have succeeded.
If God hadn’t intervened, I would not be writing this to you.
It was a stormy, rainy night. The kind where you can barely see anything in front of you. I went to the store, bought a six pack of beer, and drove to the beach. I sat there staring blankly at the rain. I was relieved that it was almost over. This was going to be the end. I was going to get drunk, and walk into the ocean.
Never to be seen or heard from again.
As I reached for my first beer, there she was. “Lambie.”
Where did she come from? She wasn’t there when I put the beer there. Bryn can’t go to sleep without her.
I slowly picked up “Lambie,” hugged her tightly against my chest, and began to cry. I sat there crying for an hour before running home to bring my sweet girl her stuffed animal.
At that point I had no one stopping me, but God. I truly believe that he put “Lambie” there for me to see. To remind me of Bryn – my only daughter – and how much she needed her mommy.
The next day I had a long talk with God. I thanked Him for always bringing me back. For not letting me take my life into my own hands.
At that point, I realized how much my relationship with Him had suffered. I had given up on praying because it didn’t seem to help me with my PPD. I tried taking Bible studies, and I would barely get the homework done, if at all.
Then, the following Sunday during church, a song hit me like no song had before. It brought me to complete tears. The words of the song felt like they were written with me in mind.
“You are good, you are good, when there’s nothing good in me. You are light, you are light, when the darkness closes in. You are hope you are hope you have covered all my sin. You are true you are true even in my wandering. I am running to your arms, I’m running to your arms. The riches of your love, will always be enough. Nothing compares to your embrace. Light of the world, forever reign.“
So here I am, four years later, and finally off of my medication. The fear is there of a relapse and that I might have to be on medicine for the rest of my life, but the hope is also there that I am ready to do it on my own.
Postpartum Depression is real.
As someone who is usually a happy-go-lucky person that can always find the positive in life, I had to learn first-hand.
As many as 1 in 5 women worldwide experience some type of perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD). PMADs include postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder, postpartum bipolar, and postpartum psychosis. These statistics do not include women who did not report or get treated for PPD.
As mothers, we are told to take care of ourselves so that we can better care for our children. What if we don’t know how to take care of ourselves? What if that oxygen mask we are supposed to put on never comes down?
I was lucky. My husband and family saw the signs and got me help.
Not only that, they continued to keep an eye on me, being there whenever I needed them. But, what about those who don’t have an oxygen mask? Those are the ones who take their lives or, even worse, their kids’ lives too.
So, before I’m done, I ask one thing of you. Please, when a mother comes to you feeling anything other than joy, please listen to her. Don’t dismiss her feelings as just being “baby blues.” Look into her eyes and ask yourself: Does she look lost? Does she look helpless? Is she screaming on the inside for help?
Spend time with her. Don’t just offer; tell her you will come over and hold the baby for a few hours, drop off food, clean the house, etc. If she is postpartum, remind her that these are just her symptoms, not her.
Tell her you are there for her, then be there for her, however long it takes.
Brooke Nates is a wife and a mother of three who also works as a Ministry Assistant at her church. She shares her testimonies to show God’s unwavering love and grace through the loss of a husband, an unborn child, and severe Post-Partum Psychosis.