This usually full of opinions, loudmouth on screen has been unusually quiet as of late. It's been almost a month since my last post in fact. My apologies. While it is not unusual for the blog to go silent occasionally, this time around it has not been due to my terrible abilities to keep a journal going that dates as far back as the sixth grade. Dear Diary and I did not have a steady relationship, but we have overcome our differences.
For those who have been following along on Facebook or Instagram, I have had a very rough first trimester. Beyond the physical toll of nausea and fatigue, this pregnancy has led me into a battle with some deeper emotional and spiritual demons. I haven't been able to pray - really pray - and while I'm not sure we could classify it as clinical depression, there have definitely been some very dark emotions clouding my senses.
It is sadly not the tortured artist kind of battling of demons. There is nothing creative that has come out of those moments. I am so thankful for the prayers of those who have been holding me up through this time. There is no doubt that that God has been working through them to lift me up and out for air - whether a card or a text sent at just the right time, an encouraging word about my writing or art, or just a hello from an old friend.
The only thing I can liken these last few weeks to is what it must have felt like to be tortured by dementors (of Harry Potter fame). It is as though any joy, any ability to feel, has been sucked out of me. While I am keenly aware of postpartum depression and its destructive forces, I've never experienced the effects on the antepartum side of things. I say the following with this caveat - we are happy to be having another child, even if we weren't quite expecting it. And yet...I cannot rejoice. It simply hasn't been in me. Instead, the voice of the enemy keeps screaming in the darkest places.
I am fairly certain that I am failing at all things motherhood and wifely.
The house is a disaster.
I rarely cook homemade meals anymore.
I'm barely functional during the day and pretty much out of commission after dinner.
There is no desire for writing or creating - it seems pointless.
I have no desire to hold a conversation with most people.
In fact, I'd rather just hole up somewhere and crawl under a blanket and thank you to leave me alone.
In the darkest moments, I am fairly certain that I am a waste of space.
As I spiral downward into these dark places, I am so thankful that over the last several years I have internalized the voice of the One who tells me the Truth about who I am. While the joy doesn't return, there is the knowledge that the above are all lies. All of it. Well, most of it. The house is a disaster and I rarely cook. I am barely functional. Ok, I know that last part about being a waste of space - I know that isn't true. In fact, I have a feeling this child will be another very important piece of my salvation story. Darkness doesn't fight when it's not threatened, right?
And still, when I remember that all of those feelings are lies, the guilt creeps in.
Guilt for not rejoicing over this new little life with all my heart when there are so many whose hearts continue to break under the weight of loss and infertility.
Guilt for having thought we were done having children and being okay with that - good Catholics don't do that, right?
Guilt for closing myself off to others so I can lick my own wounds (not literally, of course).
Guilt over not being present enough when I am at home.
Guilt over not giving completely of myself when I am at work.
Guilt over having to work, but also over wanting to be home more.
Guilt for dreaming about future endeavors that aren't centered around my children.
Guilt for all the extra things the husband has had to do because I'm not functioning.
So much the weight of guilt.
The darkness of disappearing joy. The crushing weight of guilt. This is not the picture painted when you hear about motherhood and pregnancy. These are supposed to be months of joyous anticipation. What happens when those expectations don't materialize? More guilt. More darkness. More self-imposed isolation. Then there is the pressure of the public face. When people know you, and you are a live-out-loud Catholic, there is no room for doubt and darkness. Being open to life must be all joy all the time. It is exhausting.
I finally researched antepartum depression because I know what I am feeling isn't the same as my last two pregnancies, no matter how much the Hubs thinks it is. While the fatigue and nausea are a constant, the emotional turmoil is very different. In reading different articles and trying to assess whether this is just hormonal or something more serious, I realized that part of what I needed to do was to stop putting on a public face. Yes, I am a live-out-loud Catholic. Yes, I will happily accept the little lives God grants me. But. . . yes, there are struggles along the road to that acceptance.
I realized that I never admitted to myself that I really thought we were done having children. I've talked about my mixed emotions at finding out about our newest little one, but there was a great release when I finally today admitted that there was a large part of me that did not want to be pregnant again. Yet, I cannot wait to meet this little bundle of love.
I've realized that I need to be more open about what I am feeling with my husband, my friends, and my doctor. So far, no one seems to think this is anything more than hormonal, and that is a little frustrating. I want to be sure we are watching for something deeper since this feels so much different.
I am coming to realize that I also have to let go of the guilt and just muddle through this time as best as I can. No, I won't get it all right. Yes, I'm going to drop the ball on more than a few things most likely. I'll have to rely on the grace and forgiveness of friends and family. My hope is that we will all survive despite the failures.
Finally, but most importantly, I have to keep my eye on Christ. One of my favorite things about Catholicism is that we have a whole army of warriors to help me through this, and a treasury of prayers that I can turn to when the prayer of my heart doesn't want to flow. The Sacraments feed my spirit when I feel distant from anything else. I am not alone in this battle, even when I forget to, or cannot, pray. I know I have a community lifting me up to the One who will pray through me and for me.
Please don't think I write this post for sympathy or pity. Partially, it is an apology for not having kept up with the writing, and for dropping the ball if I had promised you a post on something. Partially, it is an invitation to a conversation about dropping the facade of perfection and being open about our struggles to live out our faith, even in moments that are supposed to be easy and happy. It is so hard as a faithful Catholic to admit the failures of our hearts and spirits as we do the work of accepting the will of God in our lives.
Know that you are not alone. Know that you are loved. Know that there is no shame in admitting the struggle. The battle is real, and we cannot fight it alone. When my joy disappears, when my guilt begins to crush me, it is you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, whose prayers and love bring light back into my life. There is no shame, only love.
Until next time, let's lift one another up out of darkness and into the light of Christ's love.
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